To the Editor:
Minnesota Senator Matt Schmit is to be commended for sponsoring legislation that can help Minnesota avoid the damage that Wisconsin has already suffered from the frac sand industry. Senator Schmit listened to residents of his district and developed a bill that will lay the groundwork for adequate regulation.
Among the most important elements of the bill are a Generic Environmental Impact Statement and a one-year moratorium on frac sand mining. These are critical, necessary measures to ensure that local decisions are based on sound research.
Counties in southeast Minnesota are struggling to avoid suffering the same fate as residents in Wisconsin. Guidance from the state is necessary to determine how to safely regulate this industry in the form of sound scientific research in key areas such as water and air quality. Counties can use this research to determine the industry’s compatibility (or lack thereof) with each county’s unique land use goals and regulate accordingly.
During the committee meetings testimony was heard on both sides of the issue. I commend the committee for considering concerns about health and safety with the same weight as the industry’s desire for “competitive advantage.”
My hope is that our local state legislators will see the wisdom of this approach and join in to support a measured, well-researched course of action to address this new industry.
If oil and gas from fracking continues to be an important energy source into the future (although the financial basis for this is dubious), taking a year to ensure frac sand mining is safe and that the costs of the activity will be borne by the industry, rather than local taxpayers, is a sensible approach.