Minn. lawmakers to take up silica sand mining boom

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm •  Published: February 17, 2013
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Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville and chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, said Tuesday's hearing is meant for lawmakers to get a clear idea who has authority over the industry and who's responsible for looking at the risks.

Opponents want a state-imposed moratorium to replace several local moratoriums that expire soon or have already expired. Gurley said that's important because the large-scale environmental study they're also seeking might take more than a year, so once the local roadblocks expire there will be little to stop the industry from moving ahead.

Bobby King, an organizer for the Land Stewardship Project, said local governments don't have the resources necessary to evaluate projects or conduct long-term monitoring that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency could if it were involved. He cited a proposed huge processing plant near St. Charles, between Winona and Rochester.

"It's unreasonable for Winona County to regulate the pollution of the largest sand processing facility in North America," King said. "The PCA needs to be engaged with that. And they need to be engaged in saying if it's a project that should go forward."

Red Wing Mayor Dennis Egan, who's been criticized for taking a job as lobbyist with the new Minnesota Industrial Sand Council, said his members will tell the committees about their industry and how it's working with local communities. Egan said they're willing to meet rigorous environmental and worker health standards, and that there might be a role for the state to play. He declined to comment on demands for his recall over his alleged conflict of interest.

Sen. Matt Schmitt, D-Red Wing, plans to introduce some of the legislation Marty's committee will consider when it reconvenes the following week and said it will be shaped by the hearing.

"I don't consider myself to be pro or anti. I'm pragmatic," Schmitt said. "Silica sand mining is moving into southeastern Minnesota. It's a great resource, but we have to be very careful and take the time to get this right."



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