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S.F. No. 786 - Silica Sand Mining (Second Engrossment)
Author: Senator Matt Schmit
Prepared By: Greg Knopff, Senate Analyst (651/296-9399)
Alexis C. Stangl, Senate Counsel (651/296-4397)
Date: March 8, 2013


S.F. 786 allows the counties of Southeastern Minnesota to form a joint powers board to establish a model ordinance that will provide the minimum standards for silica sand mining, transporting, processing, and storage.  The board must also form a technical advisory team to assist the board.  The bill provides for a generic environmental impact statement on silica sand mining to be completed by May 1, 2014.  A statewide moratorium is enacted until March 1, 2014, for new or expanded silica sand mining, processing, or transfer facilities.  The bill also allows local units of government to extend their interim ordinances for silica sand operations until March 1, 2015. The bill allows the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to reject a responsible governmental unit (RGU) decision on the need for an environmental impact statement.  The EQB must amend its rules to account for increased activity in this area.

Section 1 [Leases] provides that the commissioner of natural resources cannot issue or grant new leases to mine silica sand from any state-owned land.

Section 2 [Applicability] lists the local units of government of Southeastern Minnesota that are eligible to participate in the creation of the joint powers Southeastern Minnesota Silica Sand Board.

Section 3 [Definitions] defines terms for the purpose of the duties of the new board.

Section 4 [Southeastern Minnesota Silica Sand Board] provides for the creation of the new Southeastern Minnesota Silica Sand Board.  The board consists of one member chosen by each county participating in the joint powers board,  one member chosen by the largest city in each participating county, and one member chosen by a city or town with a pending or approved permit for silica sand mining or processing. The Chair of the Environmental Quality Board shall assist local units of government in creating a joint powers agreement. Board members serve for two-year terms. The board shall develop a model ordinance as described in section 6. The board may employ staff and enter into contracts.  The board is funded by the member counties. The board shall appoint an advisory committee that must include representation from concerned citizens, local units of government, and the sand mining industry. The board may also create additional committees or subcommittees to assist the board in understanding and addressing region-specific issues. The board and advisory committees are subject to the open meeting law. The board will be funded by member counties.

Section 5 [Technical Advisory Team] requires the board to establish the Technical Advisory Team to assist the board in preparing the model ordinance. The team shall serve as a resource to all local units of government in the specified counties, regardless of whether the local unit of government is a member of the board. Once established, the team remains in existences even if the board is terminated. The team is made up of staff from the Departments of Natural Resources, Health, Transportation and the Pollution Control Agency.

Section 6 [Model Ordinance Development and Adoption] directs the board to develop a model ordinance with minimum standards for protection of resources from silica sand mining.  Local units of government within the counties of southeastern Minnesota may adopt the model ordinance and be more restrictive.  The board may develop more than one ordinance to address issues based on geographic region.

Section 7 [Responsibilities of State Agencies] provides that property owned by the state and by political subdivisions is subject to the model ordinance.

Section 8 [GEIS Silica Sand Mining, Transporting, and Facilities] directs the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to complete a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) on silica sand mining, transporting, and facilities by May 1, 2014.  This section provides for the scoping of the GEIS to include the impact on water resources, other natural resources, air quality, existing businesses, state and local roads and bridges.  The EQB is directed to also include:

1. guidance for local units of government in applying phased and connected actions to silica sand mining, processing, and transfer facilities;

2.  necessary state law and rule changes to address issues identified in the GEIS.

By March 1, 2015, state agencies shall adopt the rule changes identified in the GEIS.  Also, all state and local permits issued after the day following final enactment must be modified to be consistent with the findings of the GEIS.

A statewide moratorium is in effect until March 1, 2014, for new or expanded silica sand mining, processing, or transfer facility. The moratorium is to allow state agencies time to study issues related to silica sand mining.

Section 9 [Interim Ordinance Extension or Renewal] allows local governments to extend or renew their interim ordinances (commonly referred to as moratoria) prohibiting new or expanded silica sand mining, processing, or transfer facilities until March 1, 2015. This allows local governments to extend an interim ordinance beyond the time limits provided by law.

Section 10 [Temporary Environmental Review Requirement; Silica Sand] provides that until March 1, 2013, the EQB may reject decisions of a responsible governmental unit (RGU) and require further deliberation on the need for an environmental impact statement (EIS) related to silica sand mining or processing.

Section 11 [Environmental Review Rules] provides that by August 1, 2013, the EQB must amend its rules for environmental review for silica sand mining and processing to take into account the increased activity.  The EQB may use the good cause exemption.

Section 12 [Appropriation] appropriates an unspecified amount from the general fund to the EQB for the required GEIS.



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