More than 6,000 residents of southeastern Minnesota signed a petition to enact a two-year moratorium on frac sand mining, declaring that “southeast Minnesota should be off-limits to the frac sand industry” in order to protect air and water quality. The Land Stewardship Project, the group sponsoring the petition, asserted that the governor had the authority to order the Environmental Quality Board to issue a moratorium under the state’s Critical Areas Act without legislation because the frac sand operations were threatening ecologically sensitive areas.
The petition was presented to the state’s governor on April 22, 2014, during Earth Day celebrations.
Governor Mark Dayton responded that, while he would “like to ban it [frac sand mining] entirely” because he believes that “the environmental risks are far greater than the economic benefits in terms of jobs and economic benefits for the area, but that’s not the law.” State legislators in 2013 decided against a state-wide ban. Stating that legal counsel advised him that he did not have the authority to unilaterally impose a moratorium, the governor reminded the citizens that “local jurisdictions, such as counties, cities, and townships, have authority under existing Minnesota Statutes to declare moratoriums on frac sand mining and processing within their jurisdictions.”
A poll taken in February 2014 showed that 64% of Minnesotans favor the two-year moratorium while 31% oppose the moratorium and 52% oppose increased frac sand mining in the state. Undoubtedly frac sand mining will continue to be a contentious issue among the citizens of Minnesota.
This post was written by Barclay Nicholson (email@example.com or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Energy Practice Group.