Conservation Minnesota

Fracking in our Future?

Last week, the third county in Minnesota, Winona, placed a one-year moratorium on drilling or fracking sand deposits in their borders.  Goodhue and Wabasha had done the same thing earlier this Fall.

Hydraulic fracking, or using massive amounts of water with a mix of chemicals to break up rocks and sand, has been much in the news lately.  It occurs now in western states like Wyoming and North Dakota to search for oil deposits, and eastern states like New York and Pennsylvania for discovering underground natural gas.  It’s making natural gas more competitive with coal for energy, but there are serious environmental concerns.

Heavy metals are absorbed with the water and have the potential to contaminate water wells and produce methane in well water.  Aquifers could get polluted, and there are air quality concerns, along with where to dispose of the heavy metals on the mined land.

New York state is looking at new regulations to better control the fracking process, as is the federal government.  A couple of weeks ago, right after the World Series, the Sunday New York Times had an article on fracking proposals in Cooperstown, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  That’s sacrilegious!

Recently, a new waterless fracking method has been invented.  It uses LGP, liquified petroleum gas, instead of water in the fracking process.  The gas comes back to the surface of the land, along with the natural gas, not into the groundwater areas.

Sand mining occurs in Minnesota now by the Unimin company in Ottawa, a town near St. Peter.  If you drive down the Mississippi on Highway 35 in Wisconsin, you can see a sand mining operation on the bluffs near Maiden Rock.  They are loud and an eyesore in a natural area.

Let’s hope the three southeastern counties, along with our Pollution Control Agency, explore the science and all options in the rush to fracking Minnesota sand before any of the moratoriums are lifted.

About John Helland

John Helland
John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.
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