Conservation Minnesota

State Government Needs to Look at Fracking

I see the Minnesota Senate has turned down the anti-local control bill, which would have prevented local governments from enacting moratoria on proposed development in their locales.  If the bill had been approved, recent county decisions by Goodhue, Wabasha and Winona to pass moratoriums on silica sand fracking until they studied options would no longer be allowed if the Governor had signed the bill into law. (See earlier post on the subject on 11/17/11).

This measure to disapprove of local control is somewhat of a puzzle because the current majority in both the Senate and the House traditionally have touted that local governments know best to govern their citizens, not state government and regulation.  The Minnesota House had passed the bill to limit local control and sent it over to the Senate.  They rejected a floor amendment that would have made silica sand mining a conditional use requiring a permit from a local county or city where it was proposed.  Additionally, any sand mining would have to include a reclamation plan for the land, along with financial assurance that the plan would be followed and completed.

Now it appears that the sand mining industry is looking in western Minnesota for possible fracking sites.  There has been some initial exploring in Renville county.

Recent news that there is serious concerns that hydraulic fracking can be a cause in earthquakes also has popped up.  More studies are being done on the environmental effects of air pollution and waste disposal from frackiing activities.  New York state has been considering a statewide moratorium.

Other news on the activity are that the Obama Administration has formed an inter-agency task force of federal departments to get a better handle on government response to fracking going on around the countryside.  Well-known ecologist and author of “Living Downstream”, Sandra Steingraber, has split from any association with the Sierra Club, because it turns out that they have received millions of dollars from the fracking industry.  There is even an anti-fracking movie coming out this year, starring Matt Damon and directed by Gus Van Sant.

So maybe it’s time that the Dayton Administration here, including the PCA, the DNR and the Health Department, form a task force with the counties that have passed moratoria on fracking, and counties that possibly will see sand mining proposals elsewhere in the state, to identify existing state tools and those that will be needed to protect our environment from the new fracking threat.

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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