The city of Winona’s planning commission plans to take another look Monday at monitoring ambient air for frac sand, amid competing arguments that the city needs to study the air and that it lacks the resources and expertise.

The proposal has bounced around the city for months. The city’s Citizens Environmental Quality Committee has recommended that the city begin studying air at facilities for frac sand particles, but the planning commission has expressed doubts that not only the city, but the state is unprepared to do so because, among other issues, there are no established standards for what would be considered pollution.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been tasked with creating those standards, but told city officials in August there are still several unanswered questions, both on setting standards and for identifying what kind of equipment can most accurately provide baseline ambient air monitoring data.

There are also no answers about what such a system would cost, both in terms of recording data and in maintenance, or about whether the city or the facility would be on the hook for the expenses.

The planning commission has several options at Monday’s meeting.

It could recommend that the Winona City Council approve air quality monitoring, even without the MPCA having set a standard. It could request future assistance from a Legislature-approved state council designed to assist local governments with frac sand regulations; the council is expected to be created in October.

It could also request to table the item, either indefinitely or until an MPCA official could attend a meeting to answer questions on air monitoring.

The commission is scheduled to meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Winona City Hall.

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