Southeast Minnesota citizens traveled to Saint Paul yesterday and presented copies of the People’s EIS Scoping Report to each of the state agency commissioners and citizen members who make up Minnesota’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB). Land Stewardship Project organizer Johanna Rupprecht made these comments to the EQB after the report was delivered to the EQB during its regular meeting:
My name is Johanna Rupprecht. I’m a lifelong resident of Winona County in southeast Minnesota; I was raised on my family’s farm near Lewiston and I now live in Winona. I work with the Land Stewardship Project, which has an office in Lewiston. Land Stewardship Project is a primarily farm and rural membership organization with a mission of promoting an ethic and practice of stewardship of the land. The frac sand issue is of great concern to our members, and that’s why LSP is involved.
I’m here with other southeast Minnesotans today to deliver a report to you. It has been compiled from the comments of 100 citizens at a meeting held in Rushford, Minnesota, in Fillmore County, this July. Although it’s not easy for southeast Minnesotans to make it to daytime meetings in Saint Paul, many of the people who participated in that meeting are also here today.
I want to draw your attention especially to the letter on page 5; it’s addressed to you, the EQB. The people of southeast Minnesota need you to listen to them, and address their concerns.
This report contains local citizens’ assessment of what, at minimum, must be included in the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement on the Minnesota Sands frac sand mining proposal, which you are responsible for carrying out. We know that you haven’t yet published your draft scoping document on what impacts you propose to study. This is the people’s scoping document. As you’ll see in the report, local citizens have deep concerns about this project’s impacts on air, water, land, transportation, economics and quality of life. The proposed strip-mining for frac sand is a major threat to our health, and the health of our land.
Local people also need full disclosure regarding the identity and track record of the proposer of these mines, Minnesota Sands, LLC. And we need all aspects of the EIS to be carried out by independent experts with no ties to the company or to the frac sand industry.
I want you to know how very troubling it is to people that there’s been little to no communication from the EQB to the public in southeast Minnesota about the progress or status of this EIS since you became responsible for it in March, six months ago.
This EIS needs to be done in the public interest and to be a public process right from the very start. The people who are actually facing the potential impacts of this massive mining project on their lives and homes and communities need to have a say in how those impacts are studied — again, right from the very start.
We know that for you, the EQB, being responsible for a multi-county EIS is a unique and unprecedented situation in many ways, and that makes it even more important that there be good, open communication and that the affected local people have a seat at the table throughout the process.