Schmit led an effort at the Capitol during the last legislative session to restrict mining in the region. Interest in this type of mining has grown in southeast Minnesota because it is a key ingredient in hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." The technique involves pumping sand, water and chemicals into shale formations. The high-pressure mixture creates fractures in the rock, releasing the oil and gas trapped inside.
A flier advertising the event describes Schmit as "SE Minnesota's champion on the issue." The discussion will begin at 7 p.m. in the Heintz Center Commons at Rochester Community and Technical College, 1926 Collegeview Road S.E. Light refreshments will be served and it is open to the public.
The silica sand mining discussion comes as DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has repeatedly said he is open to a ban on this type of mining in southeast Minnesota. As I reported in September, those statements have caught local lawmakers — including Schmit — off guard.
Schmit had initially sought much tougher restrictions for silica sand mining but ran into strong opposition from Republicans and Iron Range Democrats who support mining. Attempts to pass a one-year moratorium on new silica sand mining and a ban on mining within a mile of trout streams failed to win legislative support.
The Red Wing lawmaker did was successful in getting several other provisions passed aimed at increasing regulatory scrutiny of the practice. That includes a requirement that any companies wanting to mine within a mile of trout streams would have to apply for a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It also requires an Environmental Assessment Worksheet be done on all mining operations more than 20 acres and the Department of Health, Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency have been given rule-making authority to determine state standards for silica-sand mining related to air quality and mine reclamation.