In Minnesota Sands Announces Intentions to Target Fillmore & Winona Counties for More Mining, Land Stewardship Project organizer and Southeast Minnesota resident Johanna Rupprecht writes:
The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) made the right decision May 21 by tabling the issue of taking a Houston County mine out of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) ordered on the multi-site Minnesota Sands, LLC, frac sand mining project. Thus, the Erickson silica sand mine currently remains under the EIS order and, under state law, cannot be granted a permit by Houston County.
While mine site owner Tracie Erickson and Minnesota Sands owner Rick Frick claim that they have dissolved their business relationship and that the Erickson site should therefore be removed from the EIS requirement, the EQB determined that the mine proposers have not provided enough information to justify such as action. Commissioner John Linc Stine of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) made the motion to table the decision, which was seconded by Commissioner Mike Rothman of the Minnesota Department of Commerce and passed on a 7-5 vote. . . .
There's video from the EQB meeting posted in a number of Youtubes posted at the Sand Point Times channel beginning here.
In an update to her post, Rupprecht notes that:
After this post was written, the Houston County Planning Commission took up the issue of the Erickson mine permit at its May 22 meeting, in spite of the fact that the project remains under an order for environmental review. The Houston County Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend approval of the permit, which will now go before the Houston County Board on June 3.
Minnesota Statute 116D.04 Subd. 2b. states: “If an environmental assessment worksheet or an environmental impact statement is required…a project may not be started and a final governmental decision may not be made to grant a permit, approve a project, or begin a project” until the environmental review requirement has been fulfilled.
Houston County staff have claimed that action on the Erickson permit is required because of the “60-day rule,” but this rule does not apply while a project is subject to environmental review. . . .
Bluestem will continue to follow developments in Houston County.
Pattison Sand Bridgepost April storm breach continues to make waves
Meanwhile, across the river in Wisconsin, citizens concerned about the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway are drawing readers' attention to an appeal that will be heard in court in June. Kathy Byrne writes in Riverway needs protection:
On April 7, a containment breach occurred after rains at the Pattison Sand Bridgeport frac sand mine. It appears sediment runoff flowed onto a neighboring property and not the Wisconsin River. The DNR did an onsite inspection a week later. This breach happening, before full mining operations begin, points to the inherent risks of industrial mining so close to an environmentally sensitive and highly valued resource, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway (LWSR). With the town of Bridgeport officials allowing mining with virtually no permit conditions and limited oversight by the DNR, many serious concerns remain.
Thousands of people enjoy the LWSR for a wide variety of recreational activities. It contains rare species, historical and archeological sites, and provides necessary wildlife habitat. In August 2013, the LWSR board denied the Pattison Sand permits for frac sand mining within its boundaries, seeking to uphold their mission of protecting this most valuable resource. Pattison Sand and the four landowners are seeking to overturn the board's decision. The court hearing on this lawsuit is scheduled for June 10, 2:30 p.m., at the courthouse in Lancaster. In the meantime, the LWSR board requested a state legislative rule change to eliminate any loopholes that seemingly open the door to industrial frac sand mining within the Riverway. I strongly encourage you to contact your state officials and ask them to support this LWSR rule change. With the LWSR celebrating its 25th anniversary we must ensure this precious gem and beautiful river continues to be protected for future generations.
Even before the creach last month, the company's operation were drawing attention. In 2013, the Wall Street journal reported Pattison Sand Scrutinized for Safety; As Fracking Fuels a Boom,Company Draws Concern From Regulators.
Bryne is on staff at the Crawford Stewardhip Project.
The politics of frac sand mining are fueling recall drives in Bridgeport Township. The Crawford County Independent reports in Another recall petition is filed in Bridgeport Township:
A recall petition against Bridgeport Township Supervisor Rodney Fishler was filed with the township clerk, Linda Smrcina, on Monday, May 12.
Fishler, a local dairy farmer and opponent of the frac sand mine permitting process in the township, was elected to the three-member town board last year.
Earlier this spring, frac sand mine opponents filed recall petitions against Bridgeport Town Chairperson John Karnopp and Bridgeport Town Supervisor Mike Steiner. Both Karnopp and Steiner had voted in favor of permits that allow the Pattison Sand Company from Clayton, Iowa, to operate a frac sand mine on leased farmland adjacent to the Wisconsin River.
The recall petitions need 96 valid signatures by law to trigger a recall election, given voter turnout in Bridgeport during the last gubernatorial election. The petition seeking recall of Fishler had 112 signatures, while the recall petition against Karnopp had 146 signatures and the other recall petition against Steiner had 138 signatures.
The next step in the process is for Bridgeport Town Clerk Linda Smrcina to certify the petitions as legally valid or reject them as defective. If Smrcina certifies the petitions, an election will be held on the sixth Tuesday after the certification. . . .
The company was involved in serious water quality issues at another location, the project noted in 2012:
In our own region, the Iowa DNR issued a Notice of Violation to Pattison Sand of Clayton, IA following a November 2011 discovery of a malfunctioning filter causing discharge of sediment into the Mississippi River in the federally designated Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, which caused destruction of native mussels.
The CSP has also filed a lawsuit against the township, the Madison Times reported in 2013.
Walker cheers industry, regardless of miners' shortcuts
Meanwhile, Governor Walker is the mining industry's chief cheerleader. Wisconsin Public Radio reports in Walker Pays First-Ever Visit To A Frac Sand Mine:
Gov. Scott Walker made his first visit to a frac sand mine Thursday afternoon near Whitehall, where he urged other companies to build more sites like it across western Wisconsin.
The governor spoke during an employee appreciation day at a brand new frac sand mine and processing center owned by Texas- based company Hi-Crush Proppants. It’s a huge facility with miles of covered conveyor belts, and will be capable of producing 3 million tons of finished sand when construction is finished next year. . . .
“We’d love to help you put four, five, six and more out here, because we know thanks to god and the glaciers we got the best frac sand in the world – and it’s right here in the state of Wisconsin,” said Walker. . . .
The sand mine wedged between the cities of Independence and Whitehall has been controversial because company officials convinced the cities to annex their property. This allowed them to begin mining, despite a temporary ban in Trempealeau County. . . .
Hi-Crush also made headlines when one of its mines was cited for installing high-capacity wells without required permits. Walker says what's more important is that the company answered for its mistakes and hasn't had any subsequent violations.
The Leader Telegram reported in 2013:
Hi-Crush Proppants has a permit to operate two high-capacity wells at its site south of Augusta, but a state Department of Natural Resources inspection in October found two additional high-capacity wells had been built without a permit.
Jack Daniel, the DNR water supply specialist who inspected the site, said the company apparently wasn't getting the amount of water they felt they needed from their two permitted wells for their sand washing, so they added a couple more.
"They panicked," he said.
The DNR allowed the company to operate two high-capacity wells at the site but limited them to 4 million gallons per month. . . .
Photo: The Erickson mine site.
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