Frac-sand mining opponents are demanding a House committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow be canceled because it fails to set aside time for the public to testify.
The House Mining & Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee is scheduled to hold an informational hearing on silica-sand mining tomorrow afternoon in St. Paul. Silica-sand producers and state agency representatives are slated to testify. The Land Stewardship Project sent a letter on Friday to the committee's chairman, Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, requesting the hearing be canceled and rescheduled to allow the public to weigh in on silica-sand mining.
"There's no time set aside for members of the public to speak, including the rural citizens from southeast Minnesota who are the people directly impacted by the frac-sand industry," said Johanna Rupprecht, a policy organizer with the Land Stewardship Project.
Hackbarth was not immediately available for a comment. When I hear back from him, I will update this blog.
In an emailed statement, Hackbarth said Tuesday's meeting on silica-sand mining is "purely informational" and "is meant to serve as an overview for panel members."
He added, "There will be a limited time reserved at the hearing for public comment. If, and when, we do hear legislation on silica sand mining or any other form of mining, we welcome and encourage public testimony. Citizens will be notified in advance of all bills heard in committee and we welcome their input.”
Rupprecht said Hackbarth did invite her to testify before the committee on behalf of the Land Stewardship Project, but she declined because the group wants the public to be given the same amount of time to testify as lobbyists and representatives with the mining industry.
"What's necessary is equal time for members of the public and especially for rural citizens to speak on this with equal notice for people to be able to come up there and participate," she said.
Members of the nonprofit are planning to gather in front of the committee room before the meeting to reiterate their call that the hearing be canceled. Rupprecht said she expects 20 to 30 members to show up. If the hearing moves ahead, she said frac-sand opponents want the committee to schedule another hearing where members of the public will have a chance to testify.
Rupprecht asked, "Why don't they want to hear from people in places like Lanesboro or Houston or Wabasha down here in southeast Minnesota where outdoor recreation is a huge industry and is actually threatened by the potential for frac-sand development?"