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Frac Sand Brouhaha in Minnesota

KARE TV in Minnesota is reporting that the state House Energy Policy Committee and the Senate Environment and Energy Committee heard testimony on frac sand mining from an overflow group of citizens asking for further regulation and time to study the issue; and from industry advocates speaking in support of the practice and the jobs it creates. They asked lawmakers to impose new permitting standards on frac sand mining operations, to protect water and air quality and to help cities handle the heavy truck traffic connected with them.

Several local communities in that part of the state, known for its bluffs and rolling tree-covered hills, have imposed temporary moratoriums on frac sand mining and processing operations.

Opponents argued that the existing permitting process for quarries that produce sand and gravel for aggregate and concrete mixes, isn't sufficient for large scale mining operations producing fine silica destined for oil fields in other states that has the potential to cause silicosis.

Frac sand supporters said that the existing approval process for non-metal mining is stringent enough, and companies already jump through enough bureaucratic hoops to gain permits from state agencies.

Kirsten Pauley, a geologist and civic engineer who is consulting the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council, held up a thick document during her testimony.

"This is the recently issued air emissions permit for Tiller Corp.'s drying facility up in North Branch," she explained. "It's more than 100 pages of permit itself, and more than 200 pages of technical support."

She said the air-monitoring process in place for traditional sand and gravel operations will adequately protect citizens. She said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency would step in if more oversight were needed. "These types of mining operations have been operating for decades and decades successfully in Minnesota, in a regulated, effective fashion."