On Nov 18, the County Planning Commission voted to pass 3 of 4 requested items submitted by Save-the-Bluffs:
- Yes: No frac-sand operations (mining, processing, washing, trans-loading) within 1 mile of cities, R1 zoned districts (suburban resident districts), and campgrounds;
- Yes: Chemical cleaners (flocculants) are prohibited in the washing and processing of frac-sand;
- Yes: Harsh penalties for mining, processing and trans-loading violations (such as canceling the permit); and
- No: No frac-sand operations within 1 mile of the high water mark of the Mississippi (Great River Road protection)
They substituted the 4th item for a proposal by Beau Kennedy's idea ban mining within 1000' of all public waters or do a hydrology study in areas where a mining company would want to mine within 1000' of any public water.
The County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the above items on Thursday, Dec 5th at 3pm
(they meet on Tuesdays, so this is an anomaly). After the hearing, they will vote to accept or deny the amendments above. They could also vote to end the moratorium. Here’s what you need to know:
- Any or all of the above options could be accepted or denied.
- They may add the Great River Road protection back in or expand it, but likely not because it was voiced at the planning vote as “arbitrary to protect just one body of water.” They didn’t discuss what impact trucks every 2-5 minutes would have on tourism in Lake City, Red Wing or at Treasure Island.
- There has been no discussion of limiting the number of mines at one given time or limiting daily hauling activity.
Time: 3:00 PM
Location: Room 301, Government Center(509 West 5th St) , Red Wing
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
With this note, I would like to share our initial findings of PM2.5 levels in New Auburn collected August 1-3, 2013. I appreciate the help that Dr. Dale and Carol Crisler provided in setting up sampling sites and collecting data.
Several observations can be taken from these initial data:
1. Measured PM2.5 levels with the Dylos (p and ¨) and DustTrak (X) were consistent with each other and generally below the EPA annual standard;
2. Measurements with all instruments found PM2.5 levels higher than DNR regional background levels (Ж); and
3. The SKC DPS gravimetric sampler (―) measured an average concentration of 51 ug/m3, much higher than levels from the direct-reading instruments and the EPA annual standard.
As I’ve noted before, the SKC DPS gravimetric sampler likely provides the best estimate of airborne PM2.5 levels, given its simple operation and lack of being influenced by humidity. The high level measured in the six-hour time period raises some concern and we will collect a 24-hour sample to verify this value.
Higher levels in the New Auburn area would be expected, compared to other locations in the state, due to the Superior Silica Sand and Chippewa Sands operations in the town, in addition to two additional sand facilities within about 15 miles. Reported PM10 levels from Superior Silica Sand from 12/5/2011 to 1/28/2013 averaged 16 ug/m3, with a range of 1-38 ug/m3.
Results of air filter composition by the Wisconsin Occupational Health Lab and kindly provided by Brian Henning at the New Auburn School found detectable levels of quartz (crystalline silica) in four of five filters analyzed to date. Filters from 100% outside air had higher levels of quartz than those that filtered a combination of outside and recirculated air.
Here is a collection of short video clips documenting our procedures and citizen comments on the project (these video clips may load slowly):
Playground and railroad:
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Crispin H. Pierce, Ph.D.
Associate Professor / Program Director
Department of Public Health Professions
University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
From Wall Street Journal, Online
—Alison Sider contributed to this article.
Write to Emily Glazer at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ryan Dezember at email@example.com
Preferred Sands Holding Co., a closely held supplier to oil-and-gas drillers, has hired restructuring advisers as it battles a high debt load and weak operating results, people familiar with the matter said.
The company may file for bankruptcy protection though it is still examining opportunities for an out-of-court restructuring, these people said. Barclays BARC.LN +0.40% PLC—the company's lender along with KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc.—could provide a debtor-in possession loan in the event of a Chapter 11 filing, they added.
Radnor, Pa.-based Preferred Sands, which employs about 500 people, has roughly $500 million in debt, these people said. It has annual sales of about $350 million, according to Moody's Investors Service Inc. Preferred Sands is majority-owned by its founder and chief executive Michael O'Neill, an entrepreneur who started as a Philadelphia banker.
"Preferred Sands is confident in its liquidity position," according to a company spokeswoman. "As part of a forbearance agreement reached with the lender group, the company is exploring all strategic alternatives and has flexibility to pursue any number of options. We do not believe a bankruptcy filing is necessary to implement the strategic alternatives being explored. Preferred is working diligently and constructively with its lenders and their advisers to fully resolve these issues."
Preferred Sands mines sand and supplies other materials used in shale drilling. It operates plants in Nebraska, Minnesota, Arizona, Wisconsin and Canada, and is able to churn out more than 6 million tons of sand a year, according to its website. Sand is an important component of the fluids drillers inject into the ground to help them extract oil and natural gas from rock formations using a technique called hydraulic fracturing.
Quantities of sand, or sometimes tiny ceramic beads, are mixed with water and chemicals and injected into wells with high pressure. That pressure causes the energy-bearing rocks to crack and forces grains of sand into the fissures, propping them open so that oil and gas can flow out.
Preferred Sands saw its sales rocket in recent years, amid a race to meet drillers' demand for sand. From 2010 to 2011 its revenue quadrupled, and it about doubled again the next year, according to Moody's, which said the company had sales of about $350 million for the 12-month period ending March 31. But the company's profits "deteriorated substantially in the second half of 2012 because of its exposure to less active natural gas basins, customers' failure to honor contractual commitments and a lower-quality product mix," Moody's said in a March report.
Low natural gas prices have prompted some energy producers to cut back on drilling at the same time that many new sand mines have come online, pressuring sand prices. The average price of sand used for hydraulic fracturing in the U.S. has fallen to $50 a ton from $75 a ton since the first half of 2012, according to research firm and strategy consultant PacWest Consulting Partners LLC.
Restructuring advisers at law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP are working with the company along with investment bank Evercore Group LLC, while FTI Consulting Inc. FCN +1.20% is working with the lenders, the people said.
Debtwire previously reported some details of the possible bankruptcy filing.
After 2 years of attending County Board meetings and planning meetings, we know the current Commissioners will never vote to ban frac-sand mining. So, for that same length of time, we have been working to get an ordinance that protects our health and way of life now and into the future.
The current ordinance controlling mining
is much better than it was 2 years ago, but that does not mean it is ready for action. It has holes that need to be fixed before the moratorium is lifted. (Click here to print brochure.
- Limit the number of mines and keep mining activity at least one mile away from tourist attractions, corridors and high density residential areas to protect the County’s economic base and quality of life. (See Power's report for details on Wisconsin Study.)
- Specify ALL setbacks (not just from homes and bluffs) and map them (creating a Mining Overlay District). Add setbacks for streams, rivers, wells, bogs/fens/marshes, springs, flood plains, trails, campgrounds, parks, nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. Make it clear. Write it down.
- Ban flocculants (neurotoxins) or specify how waste from frac-sand mining must be stored for safety (Sect 6. Subd 4. O.) Ban flocculants or ban holding ponds in karst areas where seepage could contaminate ground water. (Flocculents and there use are under study by MPCA.) Or better yet, ban wet processing to protect or aquifers!
- Describe Best Management Practices that actually protect our air, water and economy, as well as effective ways of enforcing them (strict penalties).
- Ensure the State's new standards (to be released in October) are used to strengthen the County’s ordinances and processes.
Monday, Goodhue County Planning Commission recommended ending the moratorium
against new frac-sand mines and processing in the county. The county’s
contention is that the ordinance “covers everything.” As someone who has
studied this for 2 years, I disagree. Here’s why:
County’s failure to act on these arguments led Save-the-Bluffs to file for a zoning ordinance amendment to request a Silica Sand and Natural Resources
Overlay District, as well as a moratorium extension to allow the time to make
Mavity, a lawyer and supervisor for Pepin Co. WI., established a mining overlay
district in Pepin Co that prohibits mining within 10 miles of the Mississippi.
He volunteered to help Goodhue do the same. The committee felt this is
impossible because industry exists along the river, so they have not contacted him.
Williams, a lawyer from Fillmore Co. MN who helped write their county’s
ordinance, told the commissioners about the weaknesses. He has not been
protection of environmentally sensitive areas albeit 1/3 of the county is a
“very high groundwater sensitivity area”.
requirement for on-going or phased reclamation, only an expectation thereof.
- no mention about the use of
flocculants and other toxic chemicals during the extraction and processing of
restrictions on processing of silica, which can transform rural agricultural
areas into industrial areas.
- no distinction between industrial
(silica) mining and construction (aggregate) mining (the feds and state
- no road impact agreements (which designate
the precise routes of transport) are required.
County has NOT done a cost/benefit analysis (Rechtzigel said it was a waste of
money--they have not sought quotes). A 2013 Wisconsin study conducted by Thomas
Power, a retired economist and expert on the economics of mining, concluded:
- The economic effects of silica sand
production are likely to be quite small.
- Impacts on the environment make the
region a less attractive place to live, work and visit
- Mining can discourage or displace
other economic activities.
high quality of life of the region and outdoor recreation potential is central
to ongoing economic vitality.
Unlimited will likely pull future funding because the County refuses to make
trout streams off limits to mining.
every setback and all penalties for violations are open for debate--the county makes
them whatever they wish.
list of Best Management Practices (BMPs), which shape and inform mining
projects, are mostly links to various web sites that do little protect people
and the environment.
is no limit set on the number of mines or processing plants, or acreage they
can consume. Fillmore County has limits. Wisconsin has none, which has led to
19 operations covering 9165 acres in Jackson County, in just a few years.
District was proposed by the County’s consultant, in 2012, and several people,
ranging from Commissioners to landowners, have asked “where would frac-sand
mining be allowed?” An Overlay District map answers this question.
reason this map has not been created is two-fold: a) setbacks would be
different for small gravel pits and large frac-sand mining/processing sites (the
ordinance lumps them together), and b) a cost/benefit analysis that looks at
the economic impact of frac-sand mining on the local economy has not been done.
Greg Schreck, Lake City's Tourism Bureau director, has said frac-mining could
destroy tourism in Lake City. The same would happen in Red Wing, Cannon Falls,
and Zumbrota, of course. Just speak to business owners in McGregor, Maiden
Rock, and Wood County.
The mining committee has done all it can, but
that doesn’t mean the work is done and the moratorium should be lifted.
2 years, Save-The-Bluffs has researched frac-sand mining. We have reviewed
nearly 250 articles and reports. Recent reports from Power (2013) and Deller
(2012) tell us frac-sand mining will not improve our economy, and numerous
mining violations and spills in Wisconsin tell us mining companies need to be
strongly regulated and heavily fined when they do harm. But there are other
issues every citizen should know:
- Water usage. Frac-sand mining threatens groundwater
reserves. “Local aquifers are not sufficient to provide this demand.” This
would impact trout streams, river levels for barge traffic, and water for crops
and livestock. Extent has not been determined.
- Water quality. Chemicals used to wash sand break down into
acrylamide (a neurotoxin). The effect on soil and groundwater not yet
determined. In addition, removing the
protective cover of an aquifer may pollute the groundwater.
- Silica dust. Ambient dust kills. Workers
are protected, but NO state or fed standards protect residents against
particulate matter 2.5-4.0 microns in size. California and Texas have
- Diesel exhaust. The health of SE MN is currently in
jeopardy because of diesel exhaust. As
a solution, Feyereisn, a MD at Mayo Clinic, recommends no road transportation
of sand (rail car only).
- Tourism. In 2011, tourism in Goodhue County generated $69,443,929 in sales, $4,804,647
in taxes and 1,709 jobs, as
well as $20,836,630 in wages in 2012 (DEED). The industrial nature of frac-sand
mining could greatly reduce these numbers.
- Agriculture. Mining (NAICS
code 212322) and agriculture (NAICS
code 212311) compete for land resources. The county netted 300
agricultural jobs in 2012 paying $8,373,094 in wages.
Converting ag land to mining will affect jobs and exports.
- Tax structure. Gravel and sand for construction and roads
(NAICS code 212321) are taxed at a
low rate—it is a raw product with minimal profit. Frac-sand (NAICS code 212322), by contrast, can
yield a pure profit of $46.70/ton, or $1868/truck load.
- Property taxes. Properties within 3 miles of a mining site
will lose 5-30% of their property values. A
study applying this research in Richland, MI, found property values decreased
by over $31.5 million.
- Traffic, safety. Frac-sand
trucks turn 20-year road into 2-year road. One mine can generate 100’s of
trucks daily. Slow pullouts onto roads,
happens if the moratorium ends now? Every gravel pit with access to silica will
be able to mine frac-sand mine and grow exponentially; and every land owner
with sandstone close to the surface could potentially sell their land or the
sand. Good for them. Not so good for our water table, air quality, neighbors,
site-seers and businesses that depend on tourists.
 Christenson (Oct
14, 2012). Conference looks at big picture of sand mining. Winona Daily News.
(n.d.). The Myth of Polyacrylamide Hydrogels. Puyallup Research and Extension
Center, Washington State University
 Ekmekçi (1993).
Impact of quarries on karst groundwater systems. IAHS Publ. no. 207, 1993.
(2009). Crystalline silica: a review of the dose response relationship and
environmental risk. Air quality & climate change, v43 p17-23.
(2010). Health Consequences of Energy Choices: Risks from Frac-sand Mining for
Oil and Gas Extraction. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
 Clean Air
Taskforce (2005). Diesel soot health impacts.
 Wayne Feyereisn,
MD. Silica sand mining and processing: Medical risks, facts and fallacies.
Caledonia, MN, 1/17/13.
Explore MN (2012). Tourism and Minnesota’s Economy. Data from MN Dept of
Employment and Economic Development
Positively MN. 2012 database search results. MN Dept of Employment and Economic
Stein Vs Wesch (2013). Testimony given
by Plaintiff in Goodhue County, MN, court on February 15.
(2006). Property Value Impacts of Gravel Pits in Delaware County, Ohio. Report
for Upjohn Institute, Kalamazoo, MI.
Erickcek (2006). An Assessment of the Economic Impact of the Proposed Stoneco
Gravel Mine Operation on Richland. Upjohn Institute.
(2012). Frac-sand boom creates thousands of jobs. Wisconsin Center for
Goodhue County Planning Commission voted to approve the recommendations of the Mining Study Committee last month at a public hearing. The Board of Commissioners will vote on the changes after a public hearing on Tuesday, June 18 at 1PM. As you can tell from the time slot, listening to the public is not a priority of the decision making process.
- The proposed revisions are designed to regulate and approve silica sand mining in Goodhue County.
- Existing aggregate mines will be required to seek an amended permit if there is a change in the primary product excavated or processed, (such as silica sand), but otherwise will be allowed to continue operating under the old setbacks and restrictions.
- New setback requirements allow "berming," (whatever that may consist of) up to adjoining property lines.
- More restrictive local ordinances (e.g., Hay Creek and Florence) would have to process their own mining applications and make a determination.
- A "mining overlay district" is discussed, where certain areas would not be open to mining, due to setbacks and bluff restrictions, but is not applied
- A list of Best Management Practices (BMP's) will help shape and inform mineral extraction projects in Goodhue County. "the mines may be required to monitor..., etc."
- New language in the Comprehensive Plan is being proposed to change existing policies and goals, such as "discourage mining in environmentally sensitive areas and prime farmable agricultural areas" to more lengthy and less clear language using words like "evaluate," "plan and regulate," and adhere to "best management practices."
What is missing?
- Frac-sand is classified differently than aggregate by the Feds and the State, but not by our County.
- A Conditional/Interim Use Permit may be granted without a majority vote of the full County Board.
- Expansion in size of operation does not require an amended permit and vote.
- The Mining Technical Evaluation Panel can be made up of people who stand to gain from mining rather than professional experts from separate and independent firms.
- Because the mining overlay district is discussed but not been created, it could be next to you, a school, a park or the County trail system.
- Standards, numbers, penalties or anything that establishes a line in the sand do not exist (e.g., there is no setback from streams, waterways and wells).
A compromise was reached to protect SE MN trout streams from silica sand mining at the Capital. the Governor didn't push hard to set the 1 mile setback from trout streams after iron range democrats sided with mining companies to defeat the language. this was the last language that had any teeth.