OPINION: Silica sand mining legislation in debate
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 5:59 AM
Throughout this legislative session, I've heard from many residents of southeastern Minnesota regarding silica sand mining.
Citizens are passionate on both sides of this debate, and I have appreciated listening to everyone's input.
Recently, there was a proposal to have a one-mile setback from trout streams for any new sand mining operation.
Although I support a setback requirement, one-mile is an arbitrary number. We don't know if one mile, two miles or 500 feet is the proper distance.
Rather than simply picking a number for the sake of having a minimum standard, let's make sure we work with experts and look at the research and science before passing new laws.
After working with members in both political parties, I believe we have a practical, bi-partisan approach to silica sand mining that will ensure the protection of the health and well-being of our citizens, natural resources, infrastructure, small communities and tourism industry.
Below are some of the provisions related to silica sand mining included in bi-partisan legislation I co-authored. These provisions have been included in Senate File 1607, the Omnibus Environment Finance bill.
This legislation will create silica sand mining model standards and criteria. This means Minnesota's commissioners of natural resources, health and transportation will work in consultation with our local governments to develop model standards and criteria for mining, processing and transporting silica sand.
The standards and criteria shall be different for contrasting geographic areas of the state. The uncommon karst conditions and landforms of southeastern Minnesota will be considered unique when compared with the flat scoured river terraces and uniform hydrology of the Minnesota Valley.
These standards and criteria must also include recommendations for setbacks or buffers for mining operation and processing including requirements for bluffs, trout streams, ground and surface water quality, air monitoring and data submission, road and bridge impacts, noise testing and mitigation and dust control.
The bill includes a provision to create a Silica Sand Technical Assistance team. The technical assistance team will provide local governments with assistance in ordinance development, zoning, environmental review, permitting and monitoring as well as any other issues that arise from silica sand mining operations.
Local governments must consider the recommendations of the technical assistance team in its approval or denial of a silica sand project. If the local government does not agree with the recommendations of the technical assistance team, the detailed reasoning for the disagreement must be part of the local government's record of decision.
This legislation creates rules in regards to silica sand mining. The commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will adopt rules pertaining to the control of particular emissions from silica sand mines.
The commissioner of Department of Natural Resources will adopt rules pertaining to the reclamation of silica sand mines. The Department of Health will adopt an air quality health advisory for silica sand and the Environmental Quality Board shall amend its rules for environmental review.
Lastly, this legislation will allow local units of government to extend an ordinance or renew an expired ordinance prohibiting new or expanded silica sand projects until March 1, 2015.
Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) is state senator in District 28, serving Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties. He encourages residents to contact him with any questions, comments, or concerns on this or any other legislative issue.