Red Wing adopts mining resolution

September 24th, 2013


Last week, the City of Red Wing’s Advisory Planning Commission adopted a very narrow resolution to support Goodhue County’s silica sand zoning efforts.  The APC meeting was last Tuesday evening… who knew!?!?!  Not these residents of Red Wing!  Not a word on the Save the Bluffs listserve…

08 – Resolution Supporting Setbacks – APC 09-17-2013

So we went to the City Council meeting last night after checking the agenda.


The Red Wing city planner, Brian Peterson, did a good job making the proposed resolution relevant to Red Wing, using related Red Wing prior actions as the basis for the Resolution, changing the “one size doesn’t fit any” generic resolution to one that also acknowledges that the one mile setback from the river doesn’t even reach Highway 61, the Great River Road ostensibly at issue, in a number of places:

The Save the Bluffs organization recently made a request to the Red Wing City Council asking that the City adopt a resolution that supports the idea of Goodhue County establishing a one mile prohibition of silica sand mining operations from the high water mark of the Mississippi River. The City Council has asked the Advisory Planning Commission and the Sustainability Commission to meet to discuss the request and make a recommendation to the City Council. Attached is the draft resolution that was provided to the City by Save the Bluffs. It is a generic resolution drafted for municipalities and townships to weigh in their support for the idea of a setback.

Option # 1, is a revised resolution for your consideration. It acknowledges that the City of Red Wing has already taken action by amending its zoning regulations to include an overlay zone that prohibits mining operations in the bluff overlay zones. It also refers to one of the recommendation from the Silica Sand Mining report that the council adopted in 2012 that recommended the city to collaborate with Goodhue County and surrounding townships to establish regulations regarding these operations. Option #1 would simply
support the Save the Bluffs initiative.

Option #2, further revises the resolution by adding onto option #1 and supporting a larger prohibition area because bluffs within the view shed of Highway 61 would not be protected in areas located in Welch Township and Florence Township by a 1 mile setback from the Mississippi River. This resolution suggests that the prohibition area should be everything between I mile west of Highway 61 and the Mississippi River.

Option 2, in the packet above, was adopted last Tuesday, and last night, it was before the Red Wing City Council:

09C – Resolution 6601 Supporting Setbacks RE Mining Activities – CC 09-23-2013-1

What struck me when I finally did get a chance to review it was that the Resolution proffered, and in the part adopted by the APC, referenced Minnesota Statute 6125.8100.  Oh, right… Seems to me the first thing anyone should do is check the references, but nooooooo, so I asked that the Resolution be corrected to reflect that 6125.8100 is a RULE!  And Peterson did make that correction.  GOOD!

Now, let’s get the City of Red Wing address the other model Standards and Criteria the EQB is developing, and the four rulemaking proceedings!  Make it so!


EQB meeting on frac sand mining

September 21st, 2013


Wednesday was the EQB’s monthly meeting, and this one was all about frac sand mining.  There are TWO things going on here.  The EQB Standards and Criteria, which is not a rulemaking, and then four mandatory rulemaking tasks, two at EQB, and one each at DNR and MPCA.  The EQB was supposed to deal with, at some level, both of these assignments.

One is the model Standards and Criteria, “serving suggestions” to be adopted by local government, and the other is four rulemaking tasks at three agencies:

(a) The commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency shall adopt rules pertaining to the control of particulate emissions from silica sand projects. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.
(b) The commissioner of natural resources shall adopt rules pertaining to the reclamation of silica sand mines. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.
(c) By January 1, 2014, the Department of Health shall adopt an air quality health-based value for silica sand.
(d) The Environmental Quality Board shall amend its rules for environmental review, adopted under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 116D, for silica sand mining and processing to take into account the increased activity in the state and concerns over the size of specific operations. The Environmental Quality Board shall consider whether
the requirements of Minnesota Statutes, section 116C.991, should remain part of the environmental review requirements for silica sand and whether the requirements should be different for different geographic areas of the state. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.


Minnesota Department of Natural Resources_Notice of Rulemaking


EQB Request for Comments_SilicaSandMining

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency_Notice of Rulemaking

Both require public input, both have not had enough!  It’s our job to make that happen, to get local governments, grassroots groups, and members of the public hollering, kicking and screaming with specific suggestions for developing the protections for us, our communities and natural resources of the areas affected by frac sand mining.

The EQB staff proposed 500 foot setbacks from homes – here’s what that would look like at the capitol (given to me by Donna Buckbee, made by Kelly Stanage!) with the setbacks proposed:


Here’s the EQB packet:

EQB Board Packet 9-18-13

Overland_Comments_Sept 7

As you can see from my Sept 7 comments above, I was not at all happy with staff Jeff Smyser’s comments about an Advisory Committee, from what he said, he was either clueless, misdirecting/misinforming the EQB, or both.

From the packet, p. 6 of 34:

C. Rulemaking: The Minnesota Legislature also directed the EQB to amend the environmental review rules (Minn. Rules 4410) for silica sand mining and processing to take into account the increased activity in the state and concerns over the size of specific operations. The request for comments regarding the potential rulemaking ended on August 23, 2013. EQB staff received 23 comments. These comments have been documented and routed to agency staff for review.

i. Staff requests Board direction on a question that arose at the August 2nd public meetings.
Members of the public expressed interest in a citizen committee to participate in the rulemaking. It is not clear how a citizen committee would affect the rulemaking process laid out in Minn. Statutes Ch. 14. A multi-step public review and comment process is already required in that statute and we just completed the preliminary step. Rulemaking is essentially creating law: Minnesota Rules have the force and effect of law. Rulemaking is a lengthy process, averaging about two years.

“It is not clear…”  NO NO NO!  For someone in Smyser’s position, there’s no excuse for statements like this.  The statute is very clear about the agencies’ authority to appoint an Advisory Committees and how an advisory committee it would affect rulemaking – it improves the output by providing input before the draft rule is issued:


Subd. 2.Advisory committees.

Each agency may also appoint committees to comment, before publication of a notice of intent to adopt or a notice of hearing, on the subject matter of a possible rulemaking under active consideration within the agency.

Not good… and WORSE when Smyser repeated that line at the meeting, I almost got up and hollered, but I got a chance to make a comment during the meeting, so I waited until then.  Earth to EQB, Advisory Committees are common, the norm, in rulemaking proceedings, so get with it!!  You’ve got a rulemaking mandate and you need to get moving on it.

The staff had asked for “direction” on a rulemaking committee in their comments in the packet, and the Board never did say anything about it, no discussion and no recommendation.

The meeting got off to a hilarious start, for me anyway!  I’d found a table in the back, a good observation location, and plopped my stuff down and wandered around a bit, signing up to speak, and a bit of meet & greet.  When I went back, who do you think had taken up the other three spots at my table?  Yes, the flacks from the Industrial Sand Council (who as lobbyists are listed under Aggregate Ready Mix Ass.) Peder Larson, _______, and…. (drum roll here!) Dennis Egan right next to me!

Sally Jo Sorensen thinks he was doing a grumpy cat at the meeting  


Grumpy?  NO ONE was happy with the outcome of that meeting.  And that’s not only how it was from our table at the back of the room!  Egan is just doing what lobbyists, and really all of us in the room, were doing — advocating for our interests.  The good news is that now it’s clear where Egan’s interests are. Disclosure is everything, and failure to disclose was his problem.

The first Industrial Sand speaker was dreadful, going on and on, naming all the folks on EQB that they’d met with, lording it over about their special access to these officials — time to exercise some scripting because this guy clearly does NOT understand the impact of his statements alluding to exertions of their influence (ex parte?  Unfortunately I can’t find rules about that for EQB), and they’re really pissing off folks in the audience, and probably making their EQB targets uncomfortable too.  If he worked for me, I’d put him on the sidelines.

After some ice breaking with Egan (I suggested that in a photo op we could strangle each other!), we did find some common ground, such as incredulous snorts over Chair Fredrickson’s asking what the deadline would be for the “second draft” of Standards and Criteria.  Second draft??  Chair, the statutory deadline for finished product is October 1st.  Oh well, now they’re talking about February.  Bizarre, guess the statute doesn’t mean anything.  Guess that also means we’re not getting to public review and comment any time soon… which means WE’D BETTER COMMENT NOW!  Before they issue anything for public comment.

Egan was not testifying Wednesday, and he talked publicly only via Stephanie Hemphill, MPR:

Frac sand industry spokesman Dennis Egan said the legislature directed the environmental quality board to have the standards ready to use by October first. But now it will take months longer.

“The industry, as in any industry, wants certainty in terms of what’s the process forward, what can we expect, and we can’t have new standards and new guidelines every six months,” Egan said.

About the EQB’s failure to meet the October 1 deadline, that was pretty much the opinion of all of us in the audience, Sen. Matt Schmit too!

Obviously more time is needed to do a good job, and the EQB’s out-of-the-gate performance left a LOT to be desired.  But about that deadline, see Minnesota Session Laws, Ch. 114:

(a) By October 1, 2013, the Environmental Quality Board, in consultation with local units of government, shall develop model standards and criteria for mining, processing, and transporting silica sand. These standards and criteria may be used by local units of government in developing local ordinances. The standards and criteria shall be different for different geographic areas of the state.

So let’s get some meetings scheduled around the state, the areas of the state affected by silica sand mining, present or proposed.

And once more with feeling, there are TWO things going on here.  One, the EQB Standards and Criteria, which is not a rulemaking, and then secondly, four mandatory rulemaking tasks, two at EQB, and one each at DNR and MPCA.




New Era wind project withdrawal

September 18th, 2013


From New Era’s office, above, comes this letter, withdrawing its request for review of its Avian and Bat Protection Plan and requesting the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission “terminate” the siting permit.

‘Bout time…


This has been a LONG time in the making, it should have been shut down years ago.  What’s particularly disturbing, is that two areas are at issue, the C-BED qualification, because it is NOT a C-BED project under the Minn. Stat. 216B.1612, and environmental review, which is not required under Minnesota wind siting statutes and wind siting rules.

In the Rochester Post Bulletin:

POST BULLETIN New Era CEO pulls plug on Goodhue wind project 09 17 13





In the Beagle:

New Era Wind will no longer pursue a turbine wind farm in Goodhue County.

Owner Peter Mastic formally made the request to abandon the project in a letter to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission made public Tuesday.

The company requested the PUC terminate its site permit, while withdrawing a controversial Avian and Bat protection plan that ultimately stalled the multi-million dollar project.

“It’s probably a couple years overdue,” said Marie McNamara, one of the founders of Goodhue Wind Truth, a citizen group that had been fighting the wind farm’s construction.

She called the ongoing work done by the PUC and state employees “a waste of time and money.”

Opposition to the wind farm from citizens groups centered largely on impacts to wildlife, including eagle and bat populations. The PUC rejected New Era’s plan to protect the animals, causing a delay in construction.

Xcel Energy, which originally held power-purchasing agreements with New Era, threatened legal action earlier this summer over contract violations caused by the delay. The agreements were voluntarily terminated shortly after the suit was filed.

The $180 million project was originally slated to begin operation at the end of 2011.

Mastic could not be reached for comment.

And in the STrib:

Developers have abandoned their plans to build a $180 million wind farm in southeastern Minnesota that drew strong citizen opposition because of the threat it posed to eagles and bats, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday.

New Era Wind Farm LLC told the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in a letter dated Sept. 6 that it “no longer intends to develop a wind energy project in Goodhue County” and asked the commission to close all pending matters related to the project. Commission spokesman Dan Wolf said it would likely do so next month.

New Era wanted to build a 78-megawatt, 48-turbine wind farm near Zumbrota, but was unable to overcome the opposition of local activists, several regulatory obstacles and issues with Xcel Energy Inc., which canceled its agreement to buy power from the wind farm.

Opponents of New Era said they believed the project was all but dead for several months, but they were cheered by Tuesday’s filing.

“For a long time people saw that this project kept rising from the dead and rising from the dead. And every time we thought it was dead it came back. It’s nice to have the final death certificate,” said Kristi Rosenquist, of Mazeppa.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had estimated that the turbines could kill as many as eight to 15 bald eagles per year in a worst-case scenario. The company’s estimate was one.

New Era was among the first projects to seek a federal permit that would have allowed the legal killing of a limited number of eagles. A study published by government biologists last week concluded that wind energy facilities nationwide have killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles over the past five years, mostly in western states, but that the figure could be much higher. A March study estimated that U.S. wind farms kill more than 573,000 birds of all kinds every year.

It’s time for another blog…

September 12th, 2013

It’s a new era… and no, I don’t mean Peter Mastic’s New Era Wind Project.  It’s a new era for transmission.  They’re building CapX 2020, what a disheartening vision across Minnesota.

And now Minnesota Power wants to build its Great Northern Transmission Line, hence… drumroll please…


Just got it up and running earlier this week, and I’ve been having access problems up here by the border, but in time…

Can someone explain what this meme means???  It’s popping up lately, and when I ask what it means… oh my, that seems to be a bit problematic.

There are some facts floating around that, when combined with this, leave me scratching my head…

1) Bush lied to start a war.

2) Obama had Osama bin Laden killed.

3) Syria’s Assad is gassing his people.

So … anyone care to explain?