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City leaders should stop delaying air quality rules (08/25/2013)
From: Jane Cowgill

This Monday, August, 26, when the Planning Commission meets at 4:30 at city hall, one of the issues they will consider is the air quality recommendations from the Citizen’s Environmental Quality Board regarding the frac sand industry in Winona. From the beginning of the frac sand moratorium in Winona, citizens have repeatedly asked that air quality be seen as one of the most important issues raised by the influx of frac sand trucks and processing and loading facilities into our community. While some attention has been given to the issue, the recommendations from the CEQB have been bounced between committees like a child’s lost beach ball, even though the CEQB had stated that gathering baseline data on air quality should “start now” and “as soon as possible” even before state guidelines for allowable limits are instituted. That, of course is the purpose of baseline data — to know where we stand before standards are set. The city government, and particularly the Planning Commission, need to step up to this issue and quit waffling. A brief overview of events will illustrate the problem.

During the moratorium, air quality concerns were addressed by the Planning Commission by recommending that dust from the sand piles be mitigated by requiring watering of the sand piles and by covering of stockpiles which are undisturbed for more than a week.

In September of 2012, the City Council endorsed a proposal that a General Environmental Impact Study be carried out by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board because “air quality is the most important“ issue. Presumably, this means they recognized that more action was necessary beyond what the Planning Commission had proposed, but this proposal just pushed the issue back to the state.

In March of 2013, the City Council asked the Planning Commission to readdress the air quality issue. The Planning Commission then asked the CEQB to deal with the air quality issue.

The CEQB, made up of people highly trained in this issue, made nine recommendations and asked for collection of baseline data. However, the Planning Commission, instead of taking any action at all on the recommendations, sent them back to the CEQB.

In July of 2013, the CEQB reaffirmed the original nine recommendations and added three more, again stressing that monitoring should begin “as soon as possible.”

At the last meeting of the Planning Commission, the issue was not on, or had been taken off, the agenda.

Confused yet? Frustrated? Suspicious of the city’s intentions? So are many of us. Why is it that after almost two years of study, discussion, and input from experts and from educated citizens the city has not yet adequately addressed this issue? Why is the city dragging its feet, kicking the can down the road, and passing the issue around like a beach ball?

Let’s have no more excuses or delaying tactics. Come on Monday to the Planning Commission meeting and insist that they, at last, take action on the CEQB proposals.



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