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Guest Commentary: Legislature must pass Senate File 786 to protect rural communities from frac sand rush

Fri, Mar 15th, 2013
Posted in All Commentary

Vince Ready

By Vince Ready

For the first time in my life, I travelled to the State Capitol from my home in Saratoga Township in Winona County. I was there with many of my neighbors and concerned citizens to let the Legislature know that they must act to protect our community from the frac sand industry.

In my township, seven frac sand mines have been proposed within an area that is approximately two miles by five miles. The first three frac sand mine proposals comprise a total of about 130 acres. Each mine would generate about 600 truck trips a day. The frac sand mining process is basically strip mining, and involves blasting, earth moving equipment, lighting, washing, and sorting from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. year round for the next twenty years. What is now a scenic, safe farming community will become a heavily industrialized polluted area.

I have visited frac sand mines in Wisconsin and I have seen how the industry has run roughshod over local communities. I saw how these companies have no respect for neighbors who are now forced to live with polluted water, polluted air and constant semi-truck traffic. There are now 70 active frac sand mines in Wisconsin and nearly a fifth of them have been cited for environmental violations. The smokey, dusty traffic does nothing to improve the local community.

In Minnesota the frac sand industry wants to push in before strong state permitting standards can be established. The need to regulate this large and new industry has been dumped onto local governments. However,our rural communities don’t have the resources to analyze the impact of the industry or the expertise to monitor and limit pollution and are asking for help from the state.

In Minnesota, we are known for our quality of life, eductional opportunities, world class medical care, one of the lowest unemployment rates and tourism. This is the kind of state that people want to live and vacation in. Unfortunately, we need to now take an active role in protecting our precious way of life. The industry is promoting itself with a propaganda statement that makes it sound as though we are lucky to have them come in to our area even right next to schools, day cares, family residences. However, notably, not one of the mining companies addresses the health risks of silicosis, diesel pollution etc.

Senate File 786 authored by Sen. Matt Schmit of Redwing effectively addresses the frac sand issue. His bill has the key elements needed to protect Minnesota from the corporate interests that want to push the frac sand industry into our community. His bill calls for:

1· An in-depth Generic Environmental Impact Statement to help set state permitting standards and understand the full impact of the industry on our region. (State-level permits addressing air and water pollution would be in addition to any local land use ordinances.)

2· And most importantly, a one year moratorium on any new or expanding frac sand facilities in order to do the study and improve the state permits.

Please, call or email your legislators today. Urge your Senators to support and sign onto Sen. Schmit’s Senate File 786. Urge your Representative to push to get something similar passed on the House side.

Please take the time to protect Minnesota.

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