From: Mike Kennedy
On Aug. 2, top officials from five state agencies held noticed public meetings in Red Wing and Winona to give Southeast Minnesota elected or appointed officials and citizens, an opportunity to participate in developing rules about the operation of frac sand mining, processing and transportation in our region. The member agencies represented on the Environmental Quality Board (EQB), were the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency - Commissioner John Linc Stine, Minnesota Department of Health - Manager Jim Kelly, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - Commissioner Tom Landwehr, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation - Commissioner Charles Zelle. The EQB meeting was chaired by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture - Dave Frederickson.
Also attending in Winona were officials from the city and county of Winona, the city of Wabasha, Houston County, Preble Township in Fillmore County, and Allamakee County in northeast Iowa. Minnesota State Sen. Matt Schmidt of Red Wing, who authored current legislation protecting southeast Minnesota from damage by the frac sand industry, was present, as was the chair of the local Soil and Water Conservation District.
Notably absent from the meeting were all three Winona-area state legislators, Democrat Gene Pelowski and Republicans Jeremy Miller and Steve Drazkowski. Of the approximately 60 people in attendance in Winona, no one identified themselves as frac sand industry representatives. To my knowledge, also sadly missing, was anyone from the local news media.
It was a well managed and civil meeting. I trust the policymakers were sincere when saying they would try to address the many questions and concerns mentioned by attendees, in developing rules for the frac sand industry. I hope that the absence of Pelowski, Miller and Drazkowski doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that they will continue to ignore concerns about possible reductions in our quality of life due to the ravages of an industry that has already wrecked havoc on many communities and people in western Wisconsin.
I am very concerned about many of our elected officials truly understanding their inherent commitment to protect the health and welfare of our community over the financial interests of the frac sand mining industry.
Editor’s note: Over the last several weeks, the Winona Post has received hundreds of email notifications from the state agencies that hosted the meeting referenced in the above letter. Some let us know about state agency studies; others let us know about appearances made by agency commissioners in communities hundreds of miles away on topics of little interest to our readers. Unfortunately, while it appears as though these agencies sent notices of the meeting on silica sand to dozens of cities, counties and townships, they neglected to inform the media, and, therefore, the majority of citizens.
It is a disservice to the public when matters of such local importance are handled in the dark. Had the Winona Post received notice of this meeting, we would have been at the table. Maybe you would have been, too.