Frac sand debate on pause - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Frac sand debate on pause


Frac sand mining has become a booming, yet controversial industry.

Frac sand is pumped into wells and is used to extract natural oil and gas.

It has recently become a hot topic of whether the sudden rush of mining will be helpful or hurtful to the economy.

Tuesday, many Winona County residents were pushing for a one year moratorium on the mining, asking the county board to put a hold on any proposed mines in order to study the possible negative effects the Frac sand mining could have in the county.

The Winona County board denied the year long moratorium, approving a much shorter three month delay on any new frac sand mining.

Mining opponent, Matthew Byrnes says, "The other thing they talk about a lot that they don't have the answers to is to figure out a way to repair the roads with an aggregate tax. Those are questions that they don't have answers to yet that their staff wanted another three months to figure out."

Marcia Ward, a commissioner on the Winona County board voted to have no moratorium, in favor of stimulating the economy.

Ward comments, "It would create jobs because we would have truckers, we would have more industry because you need accountants, bookkeepers, H. R. people as these industries grow. The local land owner would benefit."

However, critics of the mining worry local land owners may not actually benefit.

Byrnes explains, "What we're seeing already happen is people who aren't from Winona County, who aren't from Minnesota starting to put applications in. Some of these benefits won't go so much to the land-owner."

They say the magnitude of such a booming industry will actually cause harmful effects to the economy.

Opponent Matthew Inman says, "Environment impact and a concern I take personally is the health concerns."

Air and water quality, as well as road repair and environmental impacts are amongst the highest concerns for opponents.

Ward states, "I don't think anybody is against responsible mining. These are local land-owners. They are families, they are living there, they are raising their children there. They are drinking the water, they are breathing the air. They are not going to damage their own family."

So what happens in three months?

Ward explains, "That's a good question, I pressed my fellow commissioners to come up with specific questions that we need to research to get specific answers over factors that we can control."

Those factors include road use, health and safety. Three months from now, both parties are hoping for answers, but for now the issue is essentially paused.

The board also denied three mine proposals at their meeting, but five more applications are already in the works, all of which reside in Saratoga Township.


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