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Senate bill includes statewide moratorium, comprehensive environmental study of silica extraction and processing impacts, and new joint powers planning authority.
(Published Feb 26, 2013)
On the afternoon of Tuesday, February 26, the Senate Environment and Energy Policy Committee held a hearing on a bill related to silica sand mining. SF 786 (Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL – Red Wing) was just introduced the day before the hearing.
The League successfully worked to have several issues of concern with environmental policy provisions in the bill addressed. The local government concerns and recommendations for the bill were jointly presented by LMC and the Association of Minnesota Counties on behalf of both organizations and the Minnesota Association of Townships.
An amendment offered by the author at the start of the committee removed sections 1 and 2 of the original bill language, which would have given the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) veto authority over any local government decision on the need for an environmental impact statement regarding any sort of project if the board decided the decision was not made correctly. Instead a new section 12 was added to the bill that says that if EQB rules are not followed correctly, the EQB can remand a decision on whether further environmental review is needed related to a silica sand project. That language was further amended at our request to require that the EQB include findings in its decision so the local government unit would know what they did that failed to meet process requirements.
The committee also made changes requested by local government to section 10 of the bill in subdivision 3 to clarify that local permits may contain conditions more restrictive than whatever recommendations are included in a generic environmental impact statement.
Other language amended into the legislation requires the EQB to amend its rules related to silica sand mining and processing. Those changes are likely to relate to when mandatory environmental assessment worksheets and environmental impact statements are required and possibly when the issue would be decided at the local level and when it would go to the EQB. A statewide moratorium is also put in place on new permits being issued for silica sand mining, transfer, or processing facilities until March 1, 2014.
The bill passed out to the State and Local Government Committee, where LMC and the other local government groups will work to address concerns about the other sections of the bill dealing with local planning, zoning, permitting, and taxing authority.
Questions? Contact Craig Johnson at email@example.com or at (651) 281-1259.
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