Township governments hit pause on frac sand at yearly meetings, wait for state legislature to act


As the Minnesota legislature mulls over bills to regulate and tax industrial sand mining in the gopher state, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports (with an unintentionally misleading headline) that For townships, silica not a hot issue at their annual meetings coming up Tuesday.

Read the article, however, and you’ll learn why that discussion has cooled:

Silica-sand mines could hit some townships hard with dust, noise and road damage, but what to do about the mines might not be a major issue at the township annual meetings planned across the area on Tuesday.

Most townships are waiting for counties or the state to give them more information and to act on moratoriums, or to decide how to collect money to repair roads from heavy mining traffic, county township officer association officials said. . . .

Instead, it’s a hot issue at the state capitol. In an earlier issue of the Red Wing Republican Eagle, state representative Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) took some heat when a reader perceived that he wasn’t being pro-active on the issues. Kelly fights back with Be part of a silica sand mining legislative solution:

Make no mistake, one of the most important issues of this area, at this time, is silica sand mining. Sen. Matt Schmit and I have been working with many individuals and agencies to ensure that we have a say in the standards that need to be met if mining occurs here.

In any situation, there will be different opinions and strategies. I commend Jim and Jody McIlrath on their approach and I look forward to working with them in helping to resolve this issue.

Mr. Sonnek is completely wrong in his statement that there is no legislation in the House. In fact, we will all be working off of that legislation as we move forward.

Kelly introduced HF1367 on March 7, a bill to provide ilica sand project regulation assistance to local governments; Schmit introduced the senate companion bill, SF1257.

A similar bill–HF0906, the companion bill to Schmit’s SF1018– includes the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) in the mix was introduced by Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), who also introduced a bill for an aggregate tax, HF1336,  that would go toward protecting wellhead and scientific and natural areas.  An earier piece of the puzzle, HF0425, defines how the areas for preservation would be defined, while authorizing bonding. 

Although Hansen represents a suburb, he grew up in Southeastern Minnesota, where he still owns farm and hunting land in Fillmore and Freeborn Counties.

in an email alert, Land Stewardship Project urged support of HF906, but also wants it strengthened to become the companion bill for SF786. From an email:

MN House to hold first hearing on the issue. House File 906, authored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-Mendota Heights), will be heard Wednesday, March 13, in the House Environment Policy Committee. House File 906 calls for the Environmental Quality Board to develop standards for frac sand ordinances that can be used by local units of government and to create a technical assistance team to help local units of government. We must work to strengthen this bill by making sure it contains the key elements of Senate File 786.

Land Stewardship Project is providing buses for local citizens to testify. Read more in MN House Holding First Hearing on Frac Sand Issue March 13.

Two senate committees have heard Senator Schmit’s SF0786, which creates Southeastern Minnesota sand board, authorizes a Generic Environmental Impact Statement to be completed in a year, and imposes a one-year moratorium.

The bill has been sent to the Finance committee. No hearing has yet been set for the bill.