From: Jane Cowgill
Winona County residents ought to be concerned about the recent decision of the County Board of Commissioners regarding an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Nisbit mine. At the hearing on Tuesday, April 2, the commissioners voted 3 to 2 to exempt Nisbit from an EIS that was recommended by the state Environmental Quality Board in their comprehensive study of silica sand mining in southern Minnesota. That study saw the Nisbit mine as part of a cluster of mines which needed to be evaluated for their cumulative environmental impact on the area, regardless of who owns the individual mines. The other nearby mines have committed to doing an EIS voluntarily. The three commissioners who voted in favor of the exemption in the Nisbit case either ignored or failed to understand the concept of “cumulative impact.” One small mine might not have a huge impact (though this we now won’t know without the EIS), but, combined with the other proposed mines in the immediate area, it might have. That is what we need to know before permitting any new mine. Turning a blind eye to a scientifically informed study by an agency that is charged with protecting all citizens amounts to a kind of willful ignorance, perhaps even negligence.
Furthermore, at the hearing the mine owner announced he was going to change the haul route, no longer going down Highway 14, but taking I-90 to 43 to 61, presumably because of the many protests from people who live on or near to Highway 14. Now, a haul route is an integral part of an application for a Conditional Use Permit and cannot be changed at whim without a new and official application. Some of the commissioners ignored this obvious glitch. Although Commissioner Pomeroy pointed out that this change only moves the problem to another area, Commissioner Valentine, some of whose constituents live along 14, expressed relief that at least he, himself, won’t be receiving any more calls and emails of protest about trucking issues. Does he think that this is an appropriate comment on a serious issue affecting citizens other than his own constituents?
Commissioners Olson and Pomeroy are to be commended for arguing for the EIS, but Commissioners Valentine, Ward, and Jacob need to consult their consciences and to stop trying to push actions through while ignoring informed recommendations from the EQB and the regular rules of procedure in these matters. And citizens ought to worry about the workings of the Board.