Compromise won’t let critics shut down mining

The current oil and natural gas boom in places like North Dakota is fed by a modern drilling practice – “fracking” – that includes the use of sand from places like southeastern Minnesota. The boom is of great value to American citizens, in terms of utilizing resources that make us less dependent on foreign oil. It is also creating tens of thousands of jobs, and setting the U.S. up for decades of wealth creation, whether the resulting product is sold at home or abroad.

The sand, then, plays an essential role in not only an industry, but in the nation’s future. Critics of sand mining would prefer to shut it down, but they were not able to achieve that goal in the legislative session just ended. That is good, especially given all the other nefarious legislation that did pass. Critics say they are worried about the environment, although it is not clear why they believe sand mining – a practice that has been going on for a century – cannot be conducted safely.

Opponents of sand mining sought a statewide moratorium on new projects, but that, thankfully, went nowhere. Then they wanted a law to forbid new sand mines within a mile of trout streams, potentially nixing most projects in southeastern Minnesota.

What lawmakers finally gave the critics is a requirement that new mines get state permits before they can locate within a mile of trout streams. The state is also going to offer more advice to local governments on this issue. That could be good or bad, for critics or for the industry, depending on the advice. What observers are saying about all this is that sand mining will move forward and streams will be protected.

Great. We don’t see why that should be such a difficult concept to embrace in the first place.