I am happy to report that frac sand corporation Minnesota Sands, LLC, failed in its latest attempt to circumvent comprehensive environmental review (see the action alert below). Thanks to Minnesotans speaking up for the land and the health of our communities, the requirement of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a proposed massive frac sand project in southeastern Minnesota remains in place.
On Wednesday, Oct. 18, the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) unanimously voted to table MN Sands’ request until at least March 2018. This means the order requiring an EIS on the company’s frac sand mining, processing and transportation plans is still in force, and no portion of the project can move forward unless and until the EIS is completed.
This successful result came about because people like you sprang into action. At the meeting, 16 southeastern Minnesota residents testified in favor of keeping the EIS in place. They spoke about it being the job of the EQB to protect the land, water and air, as well as people’s health, safety and quality of life, from exploitation for corporate profits. Huge thanks to everyone who attended, testified, made telephone calls or sent e-mails to the EQB members. These actions made the difference and turned this decision around, in spite of a bad recommendation from EQB staff that put corporate interests above people and the land.
During the meeting, it became even more clear that MN Sands has been telling one story to the EQB and another to the court in Winona County via its lawsuit attempting to undo the county’s frac sand ban. During the EQB meeting on Wednesday, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr read a quote from a sworn affidavit filed as part of the Winona County lawsuit. In the affidavit, MN Sands’ CEO Rick Frick described the company’s plans to put in place a large-scale frac sand operation in Winona County. The statement in this affidavit directly contradicted what he was telling the EQB about the company’s plans.
Incredibly, Frick responded that, in reference to his own statement from this affidavit, “I’ve never said that.” Frick also refused to disclose the identities of the other owners of the corporation. To watch a recording of the meeting, including the Board members’ questioning of MN Sands’ representatives, and the powerful testimony by southeastern Minnesotans, follow the two links available by clicking here.
Stay tuned over the coming months for more information about how we can continue the fight to protect our communities from this and other frac sand proposals.
— Johanna Rupprecht, Land Stewardship Project organizer, 507-523-3366, e-mail
Dayton Administration Poised to Let SE MN Frac Sand Mine Proceed without Comprehensive Environmental Review
Call EQB Board Members TODAY; Attend & Speak at EQB Meeting October 18 in St. Paul
Urgent action is needed to protect southeastern Minnesota from the harmful impacts of the major frac sand mining, processing and transportation operation proposed by the company Minnesota Sands, LLC (MN Sands). In March 2013, thanks to organizing and pressure from the people of southeastern Minnesota, the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) enforced the requirement of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the MN Sands proposal. In 2013, the project was known to include mines in Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties, and the company had been trying to avoid the full, public scrutiny of an EIS by acting as though each individual mine was its own separate and unrelated project. MN Sands later revealed that it also wanted to operate in Goodhue, Olmstead and possibly Wabasha counties.
The EIS requirement meant that the company could not seek permits for any part of its project until after the EIS had been carried out. An EIS is a comprehensive review of all the potential impacts of a proposed project, which takes one or more years to complete and must be paid for by the company. The EIS requirement has blocked MN Sands from moving forward for more than four years, and the company has failed to provide the information necessary for the review process to even begin.
But now, MN Sands, in a short, three-page letter from owner Rick Frick, is asking the EQB to let the company out of the EIS, claiming it only intends to pursue the Dabelstein mine in Fillmore County, which is below the 160-acre size threshold that makes an EIS mandatory. This claim is contradicted by the fact that MN Sands is currently suing to overturn the Winona County frac sand ban and regain its so-called “right” to pursue the portions of its project (including mines and a processing and transport facility) it wants to locate in Winona County. Frick is telling the EQB one thing and the Winona County judge another.
Outrageously, it appears EQB staff are taking the company’s word at face value, and have recommended that this request be granted!
In fact, MN Sands has hired the largest law firm in the state in an attempt to get back the ability to mine frac sand in Winona County, while at the same time telling the EQB it has no plans to mine there. Furthermore, MN Sands’ claims made in its lawsuit don’t confirm the story of a “business plan” involving only one mine, but instead portray a company with massive, multi-county interests, including the statement that MN Sands holds leases to mine sand from over 3,732 acres of land in southern Minnesota.
The decision will be made by the EQB Board, made up of nine state agency heads and five citizen members, at its meeting on Wednesday, October 18, beginning at 1 p.m., in Saint Paul. If MN Sands’ request is granted, it can pursue its project piecemeal, requesting permits site-by-site, so that the full impacts of the whole operation are never studied or understood. This would make a mockery of environmental review law. We know that Minnesota state agency officials have typically only taken proper actions that restrict the frac sand industry when they have faced a major outcry and pressure from the people of southeastern Minnesota.
Take action now in these two ways:
1. Contact the members of the EQB Board and tell them the MN Sands EIS requirement must stay in place.
- Suggested message: “My name is __________ and I live in _______ County in southeastern Minnesota. I’m calling because you serve on the EQB Board and on Wednesday will be considering MN Sands’ request to end the Environmental Impact Statement requirement on its proposed frac sand project. This company is trying to get around environmental review law by having the project only be considered on a piecemeal basis. Owner Rick Frick is claiming he does not intend to pursue the other mines as originally proposed, while at the same time he is suing Winona County to overturn the frac sand ban so he can operate there. MN Sands’ lawsuit against Winona County shows that the company still wants to pursue a major, large-scale project, including frac sand mining, processing and transportation in southeastern Minnesota. Please vote to reject MN Sands’ request and thus keep the EIS in place. An EIS is needed so we in southeastern Minnesota can look at the full potential impacts before any permits for any portion of this project are considered. The EQB needs to uphold its responsibility to look out for the common good of people and the environment in Minnesota.”
First, call these three key members of the EQB Board:
- John Linc Stine, Commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency, 651-757-2014, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tom Landwehr, Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, 651-259-5022, email@example.com
- Dave Frederickson, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture & Chair of the EQB Board, 651-201-6219, firstname.lastname@example.org
Then, if you have time, contact the remaining members:
- Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Commissioner of Health, 651-201-5810, email@example.com
- Shawntera Hardy, Commissioner of Employment & Economic Development, 651-259-7114, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Matt Massman, Commissioner of Administration, 651-201-2555, email@example.com
- Mike Rothman, Commissioner of Commerce, 651-296-4026, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alene Tchourumoff, Chair of the Metropolitan Council, 651-602-1390, email@example.com
- Gerald L. Van Amburg, Chair of the Board of Water & Soil Resources, 218-236-7659, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kristen Eide-Tollefson, citizen member, 651-345-5488, email@example.com
- Julie Goehring, citizen member, 218-291-0422, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kate Knuth, citizen member, 612-624-8359, email@example.com
- Tom Moibi, citizen member, no phone number provided, firstname.lastname@example.org
- John Saxhaug, citizen member, 612-713-5485, email@example.com
Note: telephone calls make the most impact. If you don’t get an answer, leave a voicemail message expressing your concerns. But if you have additional time, please also e-mail EQB Board members.
2. Attend and speak at the EQB Board meeting at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18, at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency headquarters, 520 Lafayette Road, Saint Paul. The meeting is held in the basement Board room. Verbal public comment is taken at all EQB meetings, and the MN Sands request is the only matter on this meeting’s agenda. Please let LSP’s Johanna Rupprecht know if you plan to attend and speak. Please also spread the word to others in your area who are concerned about this or other proposed frac sand projects, and arrange carpools if possible. EQB Board members may believe southeastern Minnesota residents no longer care about the severe risks frac sand operations pose to our communities — a large turnout will prove otherwise!
If you have questions or need more information, contact the Land Stewardship Project’s Johanna Rupprecht at firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-523-3366.