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Minn. to study mining impacts
St. paul, mINN.
Minnesota lawmakers have started looking into the state’s silica sand mining with hours of testimony from advocates and opponents, the first phase of a potential fight over what role the state should play in overseeing the booming industry.
Critics came by the bus load to the capitol for a joint hearing of the Senate and House environment committees last month.
One by one, concerned citizens from southeastern Minnesota asked lawmakers for a statewide study of health and environmental impacts; a temporary moratorium on new mines and processing facilities; and establishment of better statewide oversight and regulation.
Demand for silica sand has grown with the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in oil and gas production in western North Dakota and other states. Drillers mix the sand with water and other chemicals and pump it down into wells, propping open cracks so that oil and natural gas can flow out.
Activists close waste-storage site
new matamoras, Ohio
Members of various environmental groups, including Appalachia Resist and Earth First, temporarily shut down a hydraulic-fracturing waste-storage site in Washington County during a protest.
Close to 100 individuals dressed in white Haz-Mat suits descended upon the GreenHunter Water storage facility, located about 30 miles northeast of Marietta. They cheered for their cause and waved signs with messages such as “I don’t want to drink radioactive waste” and “No Frack Waste By Truck, No Frack Waste By Boat, No GreenHunter Waste Down Ohio’s Throat.”
The groups oppose the Texas-based company’s efforts to seek approval from the Coast Guard to ship frack waste across the Ohio River via barge. The facility currently uses trucks.
New NC gas laws clear Senate panel
Legislation laying out the next steps toward issuing permits for forms of underground natural-gas exploration in North Carolina and taxing what’s extracted has cleared a state Senate panel.
The Senate Finance Committee recommended the bill last month to authorize regulators to issue horizontal drilling and fracking permits starting in March 2015. That’s five months after a regulatory commission is expected to finalize rules for the practices.
The debate focused on new severance-tax rates for oil, gas and liquid fuel that would increase annually through 2020 to encourage early exploration. Natural-gas production taxes also would float based on market prices.
Grant awarded for health study
A Pennsylvania health company says it has received a $1 million grant to study possible health impacts of natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
Geisinger Health System said the Degenstein Foundation had awarded the money to help underwrite what it called a “large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment” of the drilling.
Most of the money will be used for data-gathering, and some will go toward developing studies of the data.
The study is to look at detailed health histories of hundreds of thousands of patients who live near wells and other facilities that are producing natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation thousands of feet underground.
Preliminary results could be available within the next year, while other findings are expected in five years and over the next two decades.