In a press release, the Land Stewarship Project outlines plans for Tuesday:
Over 5,000 Minnesotans have signed a petition calling on Governor Mark Dayton to enact a two-year moratorium on frac sand mining in southeast Minnesota and to create tough state-level regulations to protect air and water quality. Southeast Minnesota residents will be traveling by bus to the Capitol on Earth Day, April 22, for a noon press conference and delivery of the petitions to the Governor.
The Capitol press conference will be in Room 181 of the State Office Building (100 Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul), with the petition delivery to the Governor’s office to follow. During the press conference, the petition drive and the results of a new statewide poll on frac sand mining will be discussed. There will also be two press conferences along the bus route -- one at 7:45 a.m. in Winona, Minn., at City Hall (207 Lafayette Street), and another at 9:40 a.m. in Red Wing at the parking lot of the Red Wing Historic Pottery Place Building (Highway 61).
The Land Stewardship Project launched this petition drive at the Citizens' Frac Sand Summit in Winona on Jan. 18. Marilyn Frauenkron Bayer was at the summit and since then has been working to get signatures from members of her Houston, Minn., community. "People in our area are eager to sign. Right now we are fighting multiple proposed frac sand mines, so people are very concerned," said Bayer. "Having a regional moratorium makes sense. We have to protect the unique resources in the karst area of southeastern Minnesota."
The Governor has the authority to enact a regional moratorium through the use of the Critical Areas Act. John Wells, who served as strategic planning director for the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board for 25 years, has described in a two-page memo how the power can be used and why the unique threat posed by frac sand mining in the fragile karst geology of southeast Minnesota warrants using it. The Land Stewardship Project presented the memo to the Governor at a December meeting in Winona.
Lynn Schoen, a member of the Wabasha, Minn., city council, believes using the power is imperative to protecting her community and the wider region.
"I think Governor Dayton has laid out a policy that makes a lot of sense. He has said he favors keeping frac sand mining out of the fragile karst area of southeast Minnesota and tough state-level regulations to protect air and water quality," Schoen said. "This petition supports that policy and urges the Governor to take action to get us there."
The Land Stewardship Project has commissioned a statewide poll on the frac sand issue. The poll found a majority of Minnesotans oppose an increase in frac sand mining and support a two-year regional moratorium on the activity in southeastern Minnesota.
The poll will be released on Tuesday.
Houston County study group to draft sand rules, while board looks into ban
Spring Grove Herald government writer Craig Moorhead writes in Frac sand ban could 'make new law':
The decision on whether or not to ban frac sand mining in Houston County has been put off until at least next fall.
County commissioners held a conference call with land use attorney Jay Squires on Tuesday, April 8. First, the board held an hour-long closed session to discuss a possible lawsuit over a contentious sand mining application, then opened the meeting while they discussed how to proceed on the larger issue of either writing a new industrial mining ordinance or initiating a ban.
A study group charged with drafting a sample industrial mining ordinance has already begun to meet. Commissioners have also approved a concurrent effort to look into legal language needed for a ban.
Squires said that both are connected. "I think, from a practical standpoint, it's always good to evaluate all of your options," he told the board.
Commissioner Justin Zmyewski suggested that Commissioners Steve Schuldt and Dana Kjome take care of laying the groundwork for a ban, which would include working with Squires. Both agreed, and the board agreed to the idea by consensus.
The "regulations" group charged with drafting an ordinance to control the industry was instructed - by consensus - to come up with a finished draft by Oct. 1.
Squires said that the findings of the ordinance committee will be what a potential ban would be based on. "If you conclude that you just can't pass (acceptable) regulations... Then that would lead you to the discussion of a ban," he stated. "That would be the appropriate time.
Read the rest at the Herald.
Transloading facility planned for North Branch
While most of the activity and controversay over frac sand mining has been centered in Southeastern Minnesota, the East Central Minnesota Post Review reports that a Silica sand operation looking to purchase 40 acres in NB ESSBY Business Park:
Superior Silica Sand, a frac sand operation, has submitted a letter of intent to purchase 40 acres of land in North Branch’s ESSBY Business Park off 400th Street.
At the North Branch City Council meeting Monday, City Administrator Bridgitte Konrad said a purchase agreement with the business is likely months away. Before that time, the city’s Economic Development Authority would hold a public hearing to solicit feedback from residents about the potential project, and the Planning Commission would also host a public meeting to discuss the division of the land.
Konrad, reached by phone the next day, explained Superior Silica Sand would be looking to set up a trans-loading station on the acreage. At that station, sand would come in on trucks, be loaded into railcars and then shipped out of town. . . .
Read the rest at the Post Review. According to the Chippewa Herald in December 2011:
Superior Silica Sands paid a $4,192.50 fine this fall for a spillage of wash water that made its way into Trout Creek.
County Conservationist Dan Masterpole said the violation involved a berm at a retention pond meant to hold wash water was breached, allowing the water to flow into a storm water retention pond and ultimately into the north branch of Trout Creek, which is classified as a trout stream. . . .
CBS News reported in Wisconsin residents blame fracking for a boom in sand mining facilities:
Oil and gas companies need the special crush-resistant sand to probe for fossil fuels in the process known as fracking.
Resident Brenda Tabor-Adams said, "The trucks drive past here, and there's sand on the road, there's sand on the ditch, so I do get a lot in my house."
All that blowing sand is a health concern for Tabor-Adams. Her farm is surrounded by four sand mines.
"After now dealing with it for a couple of years, I am starting to get some respiratory issues," she said. "Wheezing. It'll wake me up at night."
Professor Crispin Pierce of the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire has been sampling the air near 11 local plants and found elevated levels of dust with crystalline silica, which can cause cancer. He said, "Like asbestos, it's a component of these small bits of dust that's particularly dangerous and damaging."
But while the mining boom here has created concern, it's also created nearly 3,000 jobs. . . .
Read the rest at CBS News. The Great Lake Echo carries an article from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Fracking sand mines credited for fluctuating property values:
Perry Schmitt describes himself as pro-mining but blames the frac sand mine across the highway from his home for driving down the asking price by more than $25,000, to $189,000.
His neighbors made out better. Kari Curran and her husband sold 130 acres for $1.5 million to a company affiliated with Unimin Mining Corp., operator of the mine. The property was previously valued at about $225,000.
“It was kind of bittersweet,” Curran said. “That was the house we raised our kids in.”
In the three years since Tunnel City area residents found themselves at the forefront of Wisconsin’s frac sand mining boom, economic variations have begun to emerge in western sand-laden communities.
Accessible sand can bring a windfall for some landowners. Others worry that proximity to sand mines is bringing down the value of their homes. . . .
Check it all out at the Echo. And in today's dog bites man story, a former Reagan and Bush official and fracking proponent likes frac sand mines, the Wisconsin State Journal reports in Transparency, good regulation needed as Wisconsin sand mines multiply, expert says:
Wisconsin can protect its place as the leading supplier of sand for the nation’s fracking boom provided it has good regulations in place and promptly addresses any nuisance concerns raised by neighbors of the state’s fast-multiplying sand-mining facilities, according to a former EPA administrator who spoke to a business convention Tuesday in Middleton.
J. Winston Porter, now a Savannah, Ga.-based energy consultant and fracking proponent, also said maximum transparency by state regulators and the companies involved was key to minimizing much of the controversy inherent in any kind of mining operation.
“Obviously on both sides, there are going to be people who are dug in and don’t want to move an inch,” said Porter, who held the No. 2 spot at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush from 1985 to 1989. . . .
Who would have ever guessed?
Photo: Spring 2013 frac sand protestors at the Minnesota Capitol. Trout can't breathe sand.
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