Last week featured some interesting developments in the Farm2Rail proposal.

Let's clear up the rumor first, which is that the City of St. Charles turned down the annexation request made by the company. It was the St. Charles Township that voted against orderly annexation of the Heim and Benedett property which is the proposed location for the $15-30 million transload facility. To further clarify or confuse you, the proposed request to township officials from the city council was to authorize an EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet) that would have answered many questions regarding the proposed project. Many questions still remained unanswered and the city council felt the EAW was the first step necessary to make an informed decision. The township board decided to allow the county to make the decision where Farm2Rail should be located. I fully understand that this processing facility would be dealing with the highly controversial commodity of frac sand. Last week, our administrator, a council member and myself attended a nearly 3 hour informational meeting dealing with the topic of frac sand sponsored by Winona County and the City of Winona, who are seeking similar answers. Speakers from the DNR, MNDOT, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Administration (MPCA) spoke on the impact frac sand would have on the area. Interestingly enough, the DNR explained that over 46 million years ago SE Minnesota was beach front property and frac was the result. The nation’s largest supply of world-wide naturally occurring frac sand is right here between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The DNR spokesperson continued by explaining that the fracing process is used to help produce Crude oil and natural gas from USA wells. These wells are located as close as North Dakota. Lastly, the DNR reported that about 14% of our oil supply comes from fracing and is expected to increase to nearly 35% in the next decade. MNDOT was very short and to the point. Currently, MNDOT has strict regulations for the industry. Furthermore, MNDOT was confident that State Highways are currently designed for the anticipated truck traffic. MPCA next spoke about industry regulations. MPCA was very confident that monitoring of the facilities was within their scope of expertise. MPCA felt their regulations, linked with substantial fines, have prepared them for the ever developing industry. Lastly, MDH shared their concerns from a health standpoint. Discussion about exposure to industrial crystalline silica sand was discussed including the incurable, but preventable disease, silicosis. It was reported that 126 deaths nation-wide occurred in 2006 based on information from NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety). It was also reported that 1.7 million workers were exposed to silica sand that year. Without a doubt one death is too many and we need to take steps to reduce those deaths as much as we can. But consider this for a moment, that same year (2006), Minnesota had 494 traffic fatalities which was the lowest in 50 years. I encourage everyone to research this topic and try to keep an open mind. I don't know if this industry will be the right fit for our community or not, but I think we need to search for the answers to the many questions posed, which points us in the direction of an EAW. Remember this EAW takes comments from all state, county, township and local levels of government, as well as the citizens of those jurisdictions. Without answers, how can we make an informed decision? One of the many assets to our community is our quality of life. That quality of life includes our low taxes and reasonable utilities. To stay competitive we need new businesses to replace the more than 250 jobs we lost a couple of years ago as well as the lost tax base and utility profits. The issue is currently in the hands of the county, but I expect it will return to the local level at some point. I have suggested tours of existing facilities and meeting with people who already have the

fracing industry in their backyards. The bottom line is we need to decide what is best for the future of our community.

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