Legislation has been introduced in Minnesota to create a statewide moratorium on frac sand mining.
The bill introduced by freshman Democrat State Senator Matt Schmit would put a halt to any new frac sand mining or processing activities in Minnesota until March of 2014. He says that will give state agencies and local governments time to study potential impacts to the environment, health and infrastructure.
"The most important thing here is that we get it right — that we take the time to talk about our options and we don't allow what happened in western Wisconsin to happen on this side of the river. And I think, to crystallize that — that's really an onslaught of permit requests and local decision makers just not quite ready for the full impact of that kind of scale of mining and activity."
Schmit's bill would also create a regional southeastern Minnesota frac sand mining board and allow local governments to enact production taxes to help pay for road damage and environmental reviews. But Tony Kwilas of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce says Schmit's proposal will kill investment by frac sand companies and hurt job creation.
"We just think this is an example of again, the uncertainty — where they're going to go through, do the time, do the cost, and then it looks like, right now, that the legislature is willing to put one hurdle or one more obstacle in front of an individual industry."
The Minnesota sand mining bill now goes to a state and local government committee. To date, Wisconsin's legislature has not taken any action on bills relating to frac sand mining.