Decorah’s Keith Bruening is concerned the dialogue surrounding frac-sand mining in Winneshiek County has been one-sided.
Bruening, secretary/treasurer for Bruening Rock Products, said when the issue of frac-sand mining came up in the county about a year ago, he was told by the Winneshiek County Protectors (WCP) that he would be asked for input.
“We’d like to be involved if you’re going to change specifications or DNR stuff,” said Bruening, addressing the Board Monday.
When Supervisor Dean Thompson asked Bruening if he was referring to the supervisors not involving him, Bruening said he wanted to let the county know he had not been invited by WCP to participate as promised.
“I feel like it’s been a ruse the whole time. The WCP said there would be two or three (WCP) board seats available (for existing operators). They’re (WCP) here (at the Board of Supervisors) every week,” said Bruening.
Bruening said last year he participated in a radio debate with WCP member John Beard, who assured Bruening he would be invited to future WCP meetings.
“It’s been a year and I’m still waiting for the call,” he said.
Bruening next said he has heard rumblings there are things happening behind the scenes to regulate all mining in the area.
“I think the hidden agenda is to stop open-pit mining in Winneshiek County,” said Bruening, adding the county is home to two or three mining companies in addition to a “very respected explosives company” that are following the rules.
“I think the whole thing is getting blown out of proportion,” said Bruening.
Bruening questioned the county’s need for “extra (mining) regulations” and said the Iowa and Minnesota DNR regulations are already “pretty tough.”
He also handed the Board a press release on behalf of Marc Olson of Olson Explosives, who could not attend the meeting. The press release from the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), which functions as Wisconsin’s Chamber of Commerce, said the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has given Wisconsin’s industrial sand mining industry high marks in the area of air quality compliance.
The release from WMC states, “Wisconsin sand mining is 10 times cleaner than required under federal regulations.”
Eric Bott, director of Environmental and Energy Policy for WMC, is quoted in the release as saying, “The DNR’s data demonstrates that fears regarding air emissions from non-metallic mines in Wisconsin are completely overblown … Wisconsin’s non-metallic mines are operating well within the strict confines and regulations applied by U.S. EPA and DNR.”
It isn’t here
Bruening also said he supported the county’s 18-month moratorium, but said, “No one is trying to get silica sand.”
Bruening said five or six years ago, his company tested some of their pits for silica sand.
“If our company had silica sand, we would have already started (mining it). It isn’t here,” said Bruening.
Mike Root, representing Bruening Rock Products, said the company ran samples at another company’s request.
“It isn’t economically feasible,” said Root.
Board Member Dennis Karslbroten said, “It isn’t this Board’s intention to regulate gravel pits or sand pits or gravel. We need sand, we need gravel and we need field lime.”
Thompson added the moratorium language includes, “Sand mining for bedding,” as an exception to the moratorium.
In addition, Thompson said he thinks students from the University of Iowa will be contacting Bruening shortly regarding a study they are doing regarding the economic impact of current mining in the county.
Karsbroten said he couldn’t speak for the WCP and it is “Up to them to bring you to the table.”
“I think you’ll probably get contacted shortly,” added Logsdon.
Bruening said regardless of economics, he has a vested interest in preserving the quality of life in Northeast Iowa.
“We don’t want to destroy the earth. My kids are going to live here. I’m going to live here my whole life,” said Bruening.
Logsdon added the county is still researching the matter.
“We hope to find some balance in the final decision on the issue. We’re not going to totally ban it (frac-sand mining), as far as I know. There are good companies and bad companies, just like people in general. And input is a wonderful thing,” said Logsdon.
“I guess we were lied to. It was said we’d be part of the discussion and we haven’t been,” said Bruening.
Thompson added during public hearings the Board of Supervisors has hosted, “We do listen to everyone who comes forward. That is part of our role.”
Karlsbroten added, “I can understand your concern when you’re in the business of mining.”