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Frac sand mining moratorium bill advances

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Sen. Matt Schmit
DFL state Sen. Matt Schmit introduces a bill to regulate the silica sand mining industry Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 during a Senate Environment and Energy Committee hearing at the state Capitol.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

A bill calling for a moratorium and a broad environmental review on frac sand mining is advancing in the Minnesota Senate.  

The bill calls for a regional board that would create a model ordinance to help local governments regulate the growing industry. Silica sand is used in hydraulic fracturing to produce oil and gas.

Republicans on the Senate State and Local Government Committee worried about the loss of local control. But a regional approach is needed, said bill author Sen. Matt Schmit of Red Wing, because the effects of the industry cross township and county lines.

"You can mine in one jurisdiction, put it in a truck and cart it around southeastern Minnesota," Schmit said. "Similar with water impacts, our aquifers and our water tables don't stop at county lines, so we've really got to have that broader regional conversation."

Schmit also has removed a controversial local tax provision from his bill. A related measure has yet to be heard in the House.

Matt Bryan, vice president of operations with Bryan Rock Products, which owns limestone quarries in Shakopee, said the regional board may be a good idea, but it shouldn't usurp local control.

"We understand that not every county has the board or the staff or the experience we have," Bryan said. "We'd like to give all the opportunity and experience we can give them; we just don't think it needs to be at the expense of counties that are doing a good job, that have the expertise."