The city of Winona’s Planning Commission has voiced support for an environmental impact statement that would analyze effects of the frac sand industry in southeast Minnesota.

The commission voted 4-3 with one abstention Monday to ask the Winona City Council to request such a study from the state. The commission also recommended that the city adopt a checklist of requirements used by Winona County to evaluate any potential needs for site specific reviews.

Processing and shipping facilities aren’t on the proposed checklist, as those facilities are permitted through the city’s regular process.

Assistant city planner Carlos Espinosa said a Generic Environmental Impact Statement would provide a more comprehensive approach than the standard environmental review process.

“The GEIS basically looks at everything beyond an individual property, so it’s better able to assess cumulative impacts,” Espinosa said.

Winona County is also discussing whether to support a GEIS, but hasn’t taken formal action. Jason Gilman, the county’s planning and environmental services director, plans to travel with Espinosa today to St. Paul for a public hearing on frac sand led by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, which oversees state environmental reviews.

It’s not clear how much support there is for an environmental review at the state level, which state Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, recently began calling for.

The planning commission will begin examining local traffic impacts of the frac sand industry at its next meeting on Aug. 27.


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