On Tuesday, June 11, I traveled to the Capitol from my home near the city of St. Charles, Minn., in Saratoga Township to meet with Governor Mark Dayton. My home is within a few miles of seven proposed frac sand mines.
In February, I traveled to the state Capitol for the first time in my life for legislative hearings on the issue. On the June 11 trip, I was one of 11 southeast Minnesota citizens to meet with Gov. Dayton, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner John Linc Stine about the importance of the state taking action to protect our communities and our natural environments from the frac sand industry. Our group included regional leaders on this issue from Fillmore, Houston, Winona, Wabasha and Goodhue counties, including members, like myself, of the Land Stewardship Project, as well as Save the Bluffs and Houston County Protectors.
We went to make the case for tough implementation of recently passed legislation to help our communities protect themselves from the effects of the frac sand industry. The Governor told us that he wanted the strongest possible interpretation of the law and that when it came to implementing these laws and issuing frac sand permits, getting it right was more important than doing it quickly.
We discussed with the commissioners why strict DNR and MPCA permit standards are needed to make a meaningful difference. We also told them that citizens need to be involved in the process of establishing these standards. In particular, we’ll continue to work to make sure that new DNR permits for mining in sensitive areas within one mile of trout streams are rarely if ever given, and that strict, enforceable MPCA air quality standards for dangerous silica dust apply to frac sand mines, not just processing facilities.
I don’t believe that the frac sand industry has anything positive to offer our rural communities. I believe that people’s health and well-being are more important than the profits that they reap from our earth. The relatively few jobs the industry may create cannot make up for the existing businesses it harms and the air and water pollution it will cause. If all the mines proposed near me are built, there will be hundreds or even thousands of truck trips a day on a county road that now sees 50 trucks on a busy day. To better understand this, Donna Buckbee of Houston County Protectors urged Gov. Dayton to visit the affected communities in southeast Minnesota later this summer or fall, which he agreed to do.
I believe that all of us in the affected rural communities should stand up and be counted. We need to stay informed. We need to protect ourselves, our land, our children and neighbors from the profiteers that have arrived to take what we value most.
Vince Ready is a Land Stewardship Project member who lives in rural Saratoga Township, Minn.