By Johanna Rupprecht, Land Stewardship Project
The process of environmental review for frac sand mine proposals in Winona County has been seriously flawed from the start. But there’s still time for citizens to get involved and push for an in-depth, comprehensive review—otherwise known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)—that would show the full impacts these proposed developments would have on our land, air, water and communities.
The comment deadline on the Yoder and Dabelstein mine Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAWs) has been extended until Wednesday, Feb. 6. An EAW is a basic first step to determine if an EIS should be required.
EAWs on the proposed Yoder and Dabelstein mines were published on Christmas Eve. Starting the 30-day public comment period in the middle of the holidays was unfair to citizens, and publishing two separate documents was an error in itself, since these two mines are clearly only two parts of a single, larger project.
But the Land Stewardship Project soon discovered even more problems. Very important pieces of information — the Operation and Reclamation Plans for each proposed mine — were missing from the EAWs. After we pointed out this omission, Winona County extended the comment deadline to Feb. 6 and made the missing information available.
It’s clear that the proposed Dabelstein and Yoder mines have the potential for significant environmental effects, and therefore, under Minnesota law, Winona County should order an EIS. In addition to the individual impacts of these two mines, an EIS must also examine the cumulative effects of the seven total mines proposed in the immediate, five-mile by two-mile area (the EAW on one of these other mines, the Nisbit mine, is also now open for comment), and the associated sand processing and transportation activities.
An EIS is a much more in-depth study and provides a full analysis of both environmental and economic impacts of a proposed project. An EIS on these first proposed mines will make the devastating impacts the frac sand industry is poised to have on our communities more fully understood—before it’s too late to prevent them.
Johanna Rupprecht is an LSP organizer based in our southeast Minnesota office. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-722-6377.