Debate continues on frac sand mining's health, environmental impact

Mt. Frac
A pile of silica sand dubbed "Mt. Frac" is part of what's fueled the concern among residents in Winona over the growing sand mining industry.
MPR Photo/Elizabeth Baier

The debate over silica sand mining is playing out in local city councils and at the State Capitol this year.

At the Capitol, bills concerning environmental and health concerns are still working their way through the committee process in the Legislature.

In St. Charles, the city council "rejected a land annexation request that could have made way for a major frac sand processing facility within city limits," MPR News' Elizabeth Dunbar reported.

"It just comes to a point where you have to look at what's in the best interest for the community," Mayor Bill Spitzer told MPR News. "It was a very tough decision, and one of the things that we looked long and hard at was, what's the total picture? We just felt at this time that it would be best to just step away and resolve the situation that way."

Silica sand mining isn't new to Minnesota, but an increase in demand for the production of oil and gas has added pressure to communities. The sand is used in hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking," to reach gas and oil in shale formations.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he doesn't support a moratorium on silica sand mining, but would consider it if the industry were to "spiral out of control."

We talk about the regulatory issues and the environmental and health concerns around the silica sand mining debate.