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Keeping Frac Sand Decisions Local

Winona, Minn., State Sen. Jeremy Miller introduced legislation that he said will keep frac sand permitting decisions in the hands of local governments while giving them greater access to state resources, according to the Winona Daily News.

Miller proposed the formation of a Silica Sand Technical Advisory Council, which would bring together representatives from state agencies like the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Minnesota Department of Health to provide guidance for local governments as they navigate permitting, environmental reviews, and other issues related to the frac sand industry. Rep. Tim Kelly, a Republican from Red Wing, has introduced companion legislation in the House, and both measures have gained early bipartisan support.

Miller said the group would differ from the state’s Environmental Quality Board, which also includes state commissioners from several agencies and deals with environmental and permitting issues, because it would deal exclusively with frac sand issues.

Miller isn’t the only state senator to direct his attention to the issue this session. Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, introduced a bill in February calling for a statewide environmental review of the frac sand industry, the formation of a regional council to oversee regulation and development, and enabling the taxation of sand at the local and state levels.

That bill has passed out of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and the State and Local Government Committee, and will be forwarded to the Senate Finance Committee for further discussion.