Minnesota's growing frac sand industry was dealt a setback Tuesday when the St. Charles City Council voted 5-0 to reject requests to annex nearby township land for a major frac sand processing and rail loading site.
Mayor Bill Spitzer ended more than 18 months of speculation, saying it was important for the long-range future of St. Charles not to alienate officials in the township who flat-out opposed construction of the frac sand facility.
The developer of the plan, Minnesota Proppant LLC, was not at City Hall Tuesday for the crucial vote and officials from the company did not return phone calls.
Spitzer said the issue was tearing the community apart and ruining friendships. While many residents feared what it would do to the quality of life in St. Charles -- a scenic town of 3,700 people between Rochester and Winona -- others saw it as an opportunity for economic development, jobs and growth.
State agencies, industry participants and anti-frac sand activists from all over the state have had their eyes on the St. Charles proposal because it promised to be a catalyst for an array of new frac sand mines throughout southeastern Minnesota. The region has some of the best frac sand in the world, but it needs rail and barge support to move it economically to oil and gas drilling sites around the country.