Call it the ghost of Dennis Egan, once the mayor of Red Wing and Sandland.
As we reported in Mining & Outdoor Rec Committee invites frac sand mining industry to inform them about stuff, the Minnesota House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee will be hearing only from frac sand industry and agency representatives next week, and none of the grassroots citizen groups concerned with sand mining are invited.
The Land Stewardship Project, which has a field office in Lewiston and deep roots in southeastern Minnesota, raised a holler about that bias in Friday's action alert, Citizens Shut Out of Frac Sand Hearing at State Capitol.
Now embattled Chisholm state senator Tomassoni (DFL) is organizing a field trip for the Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Budget Division Committee to a Uniminn silica sand mine "near Mankato" (there are two in Le Sueur County, one close to Kasota and another at Ottawa).
Here's the audio of the invitation in the committee:
It's especially curious to us why the House and Senate are taking up with the industry lobbyists after both sides were so thoroughly heard out during the 2013 session and a compromise reached at that time. It's not like the state isn't facing tough questions about enforcing buffer strip laws or preserving pheasant hunting through habitat conservation (more on that discussion in Tomassoni's committee in a future post).
Bluestem hopes that this excursion will be open to the press (and perhaps the public) in accordance to Minnesota's open meeting law.
We also hope that the press does due diligence on the history of the mine, including the full history of the lawsuit which lead to the creation of the nearby Kasota Prairie preserve, as well as examining how the Uniminn mines on the middle Minnesota might be working in an area that's geologically different from Southeastern Minnesota--as well as using some critical thinking about whether one mine is representative of the entire industry.
After all, we wouldn't want lobbyists and industry to completely frame the perceptions of this industry via guided tours for the state senate and restricted testimony in the house, would we?
But perhaps Dennis Egan, the former mayor of Red Wing who resigned under pressure when he took a job leading the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council, can tag along on the tour and offer Tomassoni some advice about what to do when public service and career opportunities pull a guy in different directions.
Bluestem Prairie first raised issues about Egan's conflict of interest in Red Wing Mayor Egan leads Minnesota Industrial Sand Council; citizens wonder who he'll serve. Tomassoni is under scrutiny for a comparable situation, as Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin pointed out in Senators' entanglements do not pass the smell test.
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