ACT NOW: Moratorium Missing from Frac Sand Legislation

Tell State Legislators that Frac Sand Legislation Must Contain a Moratorium
& Language Requiring State Pollution Control Permits; Legislation to be
taken up Tuesday, Feb. 26, Lacks these 2 Key Elements

 Get on the bus! A southeast bus is coming up again (details below).

 

Senate File 786 has been introduced in response to our call for action, but it lacks a moratorium and adequate language requiring state pollution control permits.

 Citizens showed up by the busload on Tuesday, Feb 19, to let legislators know they must ACT now to protect rural communities from the frac sand industry. Well over 100 people packed the Senate hearing room. Even with testimony limited to two minutes, they were not able to get through the long list of people wanting to speak about the harm the frac sand industry poses to rural Minnesota. Voices were united in calling for the Legislature to enact a moratorium while strong state permit standards are established and an in-depth environmental study is conducted.

 TAKE ACTION

 1. Call members of the Senate Environment and Energy Policy Committee. We must make sure every member of the committee hears about this issue from citizens before the hearing.

 Here is a suggested message: “I am calling about Senate File 786, which you will hear on Tuesday in the Environment Policy Committee. The bill is supposed to address the frac sand crisis but is missing two key elements: a moratorium and direct language calling for a MPCA pollution permit. To protect Minnesota we must have clear language calling for the MPCA to develop a pollution permit to protect water quality and to set air quality standards for silica sand. To protect Minnesota we need a moratorium on the frac sand industry while we do an in-depth environmental study and create a pollution permit. Senate File 786 does not contain those elements. Please, make sure these elements get added on Tuesday.”

• Sen. John Hoffman, Vice Chair: 651-296-4154 or sen.john.hoffman@senate.mn

• Sen. Matt Schmit: 651-296-4264 or sen.matt.schmit@senate.mn

• Sen. Katie Sieben: 651-297-8060 or sen.katie.sieben@senate.mn

• Sen. Lyle Koenen: 651-296-5094 or sen.lyle.koenen@senate.mn

• Sen. Bev Scalze: 651-296-5537 or sen.bev.scalze@senate.mn

• Sen. Scott Dibble: 651-296-4191 or sen.scott.dibble@senate.mn

• Sen. Chris Eaton: 651-296-8869 or e-mail form

• Sen. John Marty, Chair: 651-296-5645 or e-mail form

• Sen. David Brown: 651-296-8075 or sen.david.brown@senate.mn

• Sen. Michelle Benson: 651-296-3219 or sen.michelle.benson@senate.mn

• Sen. Foung Hawj: 651-296-5285 or sen.foung.hawj@senate.mn

• Sen. David J. Osmek: 651-296-1282 or sen.david.osmek@senate.mn

• Sen. Julie A. Rosen: 651-296-5713 or sen.julie.rosen@senate.mn

• Sen. Bill Weber: 651-296-5650 or sen.bill.weber@senate.mn

 2. Attend the Senate Environment and Energy Policy Committee hearing on Senate File 786 on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at noon in Room 15 of the Capitol. We will gather in Room 107 of the Capitol at 11 a.m. for an update and to talk through strategy . Be there in support of adding a moratorium and direct language calling for a pollution control permit to the bill. To testify, contact the committee administrator Barb Jacobs at (651) 296-296 or barbara.jacobs@senate.mn.

Let Bobby King at LSP know if you plan to attend the hearing by contacting him at 612-722-6377 or bking@landstewardshipproject.org.

Get on the Bus! Bus Route: Houston - Rushford - Winona - Wabasha - Red Wing - St. Paul

Reserve Your Seat be contacting: Amanda Griggs at 507-896-2165 or griggsamanda1@gmail.com.

Bus Schedule

7:00 a.m. leave Houston from Barista's Coffee House. (Barista's will open at 6:30 a.m.)

7:15 a.m. in Rushford —Lynndyn-Bridge Restaurant (102 West Jessie St.)

7:45 a.m. in Winona — JC Penney parking lot (Hwy. 61 and Pelzer St.)

8:45 a.m. in Wabasha — City of Wabasha overflow parking lot across from Supervalu.

9:45 a.m. in Red Wing — Target Store parking lot just off Tyler Road on the north side of town.

10:40 a.m. Arrive at the Capitol.

11 a.m. Meet in Room 107 reserved by LSP for prehearing strategy.

12 p.m. Senate Enviornment Policy hearing in Room 15 of the Capitol.

3:00 p.m. Return to SE Minnesota

 

More info on Senate File 786

We are still preparing a full analysis of the bill but here is more information and an initial reaction. The bill is authored by Sen. Schmit (DFL- Redwing) and co-authored by Sens. Sheran (DFL- Mankato), Dahle (DFL- Northfield) and Sieben (DFL-Newport). Read the bill for yourself here.

• GEIS is included: The bill directs that a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) be completed by May 1, 2014. The GEIS must include recommendations on rule changes to protect water resources, air quality, agricultural and tourism relate businesses, state and local bridges, and more. State agencies are instructed to adopt the rule changes by March 1, 2015. All state and local permits that are issued after this legislation passes must be modified to conform with the recommendations of the GEIS. But without a moratorium, frac sand operations can go forward while the GEIS is being done. This legislation also assumes that agencies have enough authority in current law already and only need updated rules. This may not be true.

• Local governments are allowed to enact or extend their moratoriums until March 1, 2015, regardless of how long they have had one in place.

• Creation of a Southeastern Minnesota Silica Sand Board. The board is comprised of county commissioners from 18 counties. The board would create a “model ordinance.” If counties and cities adopt this ordinance, then they get increased taxing authority on frac sand operations. However, there is no guarantee that this “model ordinance” will be adequate. The increased tax revenues, in fact, may create an incentive to allow more frac sand mining. LSP’s initial assessment is that this is bad idea. We should instead focus on creating a strong state level pollution permit with a moratorium in place until that is created.

• A state silica sand production tax is created.

 

More info on the frac sand issue

LSP has called for state legislation that enacts:

• Strong state-level permitting requirements that work with local control. These state-level requirements would serve as a floor and would be in addition to any local land use ordinances.

• A state moratorium in the impacted communities on any new frac sand facilities to allow time for creating state requirements and to complete an in-depth study.

• An in-depth state study, such as a Generic Environmental Impact Statement. This study would help set state permitting standards and analyze the potential impact of the industry.

• Permitting fees and taxes on the industry that cover the costs of state regulation and damage to roads and bridges.

Corporate interests are pushing industrial-scale frac sand mining into rural Minnesota. The clock is ticking and the frac sand industry wants to push into Minnesota full force before state permitting standards can be established. NOW is the time for the state to act, not after the industry has polluted air and water and irreversibly harmed our rural communities. Regulating this large and new industry has been primarily left to local governments.

What is “frac sand”?

Frac sand, also called silica sand, is a very fine and round sand found throughout the Driftless Region of Wisconsin and Minnesota. It is used in hydraulic fracturing for gas and oil. This is the process of extracting gas and oil by injecting a highly pressurized “fracking” fluid containing sand and chemicals that creates new channels in the rock. The silica sand in western Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota is the best in the world for this use because it is exceptionally hard and perfectly round. The mining and processing of this “frac sand” in Wisconsin has been devastating. Recently over 90 new mines have been established, along with large processing and transportation facilities. Water and air have been polluted, rural communities devastated and thousands of people negatively impacted. This industrial-scale silica sand mining is substantially different from the aggregate mining that has long taken place in this part of the state. The frac sand industry poses a real threat to the area’s natural resources, road and bridge infrastructure, farming and tourism industry, and more.

The industry is pushing hard to get into Minnesota. Dozens of operations are being proposed in Minnesota, including what would be the largest frac sand processing and loading facility in North America in St. Charles (Winona County), with at least six mines within a 5-mile by 2-mile area. The first two of those mines alone would generate up to 1,200 truck trips a day and cover 120 acres to start. In the city of Wabasha, a major frac sand transfer facility is being proposed that will mean hundreds of frac sand trucks coming from Wisconsin travelling through residential areas and past a nearby hospital. These facilities require no meaningful state-level permits, only local land use permits. In Houston County, a frac sand mine owner refused to abide by the county moratorium and the county was forced to take court action to get the mine to comply.

Frac sand mining threatens the health of the community and our air and water. Southeast Minnesota’s karst region is extremely sensitive to groundwater pollution. Large-scale frac sand mining will require processing of the sand, which uses toxic chemicals. Frac sand mining and processing release dangerous crystalline silica particles, known to contribute to silicosis, lung cancer and other diseases. It is not known what level of exposure is safe. Hundreds of trucks hauling frac sand daily would also release carcinogenic diesel exhaust into our air.

The industry has a track record of bullying rural communities and showing disregard for neighbors and the environment. Read this front page account in the Minneapolis Star Tribune of how a large frac sand mine played one local government against another in Wisconsin to get lax regulations: "Sand mine rules melt under pressure." There have already been two large spills at frac sand mines in Wisconsin. (Both are owned and operated by Minnesota companies.) In both caes, the spills were reported by citizens, not the companies. One was at a frac sand mine and processing facility located near Grantsburg, just 100 feet outside the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. For five days, massive amounts of silica sand and water flowed from a holding pond through a failed berm and into an environmentally sensitive area that included a wetland, creek and the St. Croix River.

Online sources of good information on the frac sand industry:

Save the Hills Alliance. Information on how the industry has impacted Wisconsin, including information about health and environmental impacts.

Save the Bluffs. Information about the frac sand issues in Goodhue County and about the industry in general.

SandPoint Times. Advocating solutions to protect southeast Minnesota from frac sand mining.

For more information on LSP's work related to this issue, contact Bobby King at 612-722-6377 or bking@landstewardshipproject.org.