Land Stewardship Project members sat down with Governor Mark Dayton for an hour last Wednesday to talk frac sand. Meeting in the River Room at Winona State University, the eight of us were surrounded by pictures of the Mississippi River from the turn-of-the- century featuring the bluffs of the region—a reminder of the uniqueness of southeast Minnesota that demands protection.
Lifelong farmer Bob Christie began with a statement that made clear the devastating impacts the industry will have on family farming, including destruction of precious topsoil. The Governor was visibly moved, as we all were, and asked for a copy. Bob’s statement is here and well worth reading.
Marilyn Frauenkron Bayer shared with the Governor her family’s history of living in Houston County for eight generations, with the latest generation now fishing in the region’s many trout streams. Marilyn has been a strong voice at the Capitol for protecting these streams. She reviewed with Gov. Dayton improvements that need to be made to the “DNR Silica Sand Mining Trout Stream Setback Permit,” including making public notice part of the process. The Governor was very supportive of these proposals.
Vince Ready of Saint Charles gave Gov. Dayton a copy of LSP’s People’s EIS Scoping Report. This document, compiled by LSP organizer Johanna Rupprecht (she also participated in the meeting with the Governor), compiles the issues that citizens of southeast Minnesota want to see addressed as part of a comprehensive environmental review ordered on 11 proposed frac sand mines.
Vince then presented to the Governor LSP’s proposal for a framework that will ensure air and water quality standards being developed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency protect public health and the environment. As a retired nurse, Vince made the point that we can’t let frac sand operations profit at the expense of our health.
In November, Vince accepted on behalf of LSP a grassroots leadership award from Governor Dayton at TakeAction Minnesota’s annual banquet. It was at this event that LSP Associate Director Mark Schultz was able to discuss the frac sand issue with Gov. Dayton, who subsequently agreed that a citizen meeting in Winona was needed.
Margaret Walsh of Winona shared with the Governor a map of the frac sand mines, as well as frac sand processing and loading facilities, that are within the city limits of Winona. Residents of Winona have experienced firsthand the negative impacts of the industry. She thanked Gov. Dayton for the air monitoring equipment being installed in the city by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Lynn Schoen, a city councilor from the City of Wabasha, knows the industry will try to bully its way into a community. A frac sand company has taken her city to court over its wanting to set limits on a frac sand transfer facility. Gov. Dayton was well informed on the issue and upset about the industry’s tactics saying, “I want to take these guys on.”
The Governor listened carefully and committed to action at the meeting. LSP will continue to engage Dayton in encouraging his administration to take executive action and ban or limit the frac sand industry in southeast Minnesota and protect air and water quality for all parts of the state.
After our meeting, the Governor spoke at a public forum focused on college debt and tuition. When asked about the frac sand issue by a mother with a newborn concerned about she and her baby’s health, Gov. Dayton repeated his belief that frac sand activity needs to be off limits in southeast Minnesota because of its incompatibility with the area’s economy and natural resources. The room erupted in applause.