Advocacy
Silica sand mining bill will be heard this week – calls and e mail letters needed now
March 11, 2013
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The Minnesota House will hold its first hearing on a silica sand bill this coming week. House File 906, authored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-Mendota Heights), will be heard Wednesday March 13 in the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee. H.F. 906 would require the Environmental Quality Board to develop model standards and criteria for mining, processing, and transporting silica sand, to be used by local units of government in developing local ordinances. It also would create a technical assistance team to help local units of government. While this bill needs to be strengthened, it must pass policy committees by Friday to remain viable this session.

All trout anglers and clean water advocates need to contact their state legislators in the next few days, and urge support for H.F. 906 and other bills placing restrictions on silica sand mining in southeast Minnesota.

The most important message to convey is that you use and value southeast MN trout fisheries and you expect legislators to do all they can to protect these fisheries without delay.

Key facts to keep in mind

When speaking with or writing legislators, it may be useful to keep these facts in mind:

  • · Cold groundwater is the prerequisite for southeast streams to support trout; if groundwater (spring water) flow is significantly disrupted or diminished the local trout fishery may be wiped out
  • · MN water law is outdated and the DNR permitting program does not ensure adequate protection of groundwater and trout streams
  • · Streams, groundwater and fisheries are public resources shared by all Minnesotans, and the State (not local governments) has the responsibility to set adequate minimum protections, which local governments may add to
  • · Three basic restrictions will largely protect groundwater vital to trout streams and can be enacted now, without further study. These include:
    • o Prohibiting all mining of silica sand within 25 feet of the water table (or below)
    • o Prohibiting all groundwater appropriations for mining, washing, sorting or processing silica sand, whether on site or elsewhere
    • o Prohibiting mines and quarries within one half mile of any spring, groundwater seep, trout stream, or perennial tributary of a trout stream
  • · The developing industry does not need to use groundwater in order to mine or process sand in southeast MN; if the State makes it clear that our groundwater (drinking water reserves) cannot be wasted for these activities, the industry has several readily available alternatives it will turn to and still operate very profitably

HOW TO HELP

1. Contact House Committee members by Wednesday morning

The House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee will hear H.F. 906 on Wednesday March 13 at 4 p.m., in Room 200 of the State Office Building. Every committee member needs to hear how important it is that the Legislature takes strong action this legislative session. If your Representative is on this committee it is especially important for you to contact her or him. Take a few minutes to make a brief call or send an e mail in support of H.F. 906, as well as for placing reasonable restrictions on silica sand mining in southeast Minnesota.

Members of the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee:

2. Contact your Representative

Legislators regularly meet or “caucus” together to discuss what issues their constituents are most concerned about. Even if your Representative is not on the relevant committee, you need to let her or him know of your concerns and wishes. Similarly, calls to the Speaker of the House help send a strong message.

How to locate your representative: Quickly locate and contact legislators by using the District finder tool on the State’s legislative website at: http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/districtfinder.aspx

Then click on your legislator’s name and you will be taken to his or her individual web page. Direct calls and letters to your representative will make a difference. You can also call the MN House switchboard at: 651-296-2146, or 1-800-657-3550

 

3. Attend the House Committee hearing on Wednesday

 

The House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee hearing Wednesday is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. in Room 200 of the State Office Building. The State Office Building is located across the street on the West side of the Capitol. If you want to testify on the bill, contact committee administrator Peter Strohmeier at 651-296-5069 or peter.strohmeier@house.mn. Also let MNTU Executive Director John lenczewski know if you will be testifying – jlenczewski@comcast.net or 612-670-1629

 

4. Voice support for Senate bill

Senate File No 786, authored by Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL-Redwing), was heard March 6 in Senate’s State and Local Government Committee. S.F. 786 passed out of committee and was referred to the Senate Environment Finance Committee. S.F. 786 would require a one-year moratorium on silica sand mining and an in-depth environmental study that will be used to establish state-level pollution standards to protect air and water. The state level standards would be minimum protections and would be in addition to county, city and township restrictions. This is a good bill that can be made stronger moving forward.

How to locate your state Senator: Quickly locate and contact legislators by using the District finder tool on the State’s legislative website at: http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/districtfinder.aspx

Then click on your legislator’s name and you will be taken to his or her individual web page. Direct calls and letters to your Senator make a difference. You can also call the Senate switchboard at: 651-296-0504, or 1-888-234-1112

Links to the two bills that are moving:

S.F. 876: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=SF786&version=2&session=ls88&session_year=2013&session_number=0

H.F. 906: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=HF906&version=0&session=ls88&session_year=2013&session_number=0