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Republicans having meta-argument over frac sand mining

by Eric Ferguson on July 19, 2014 · 4 comments

So there’s the underlying issue of frac sand mining, and the issue of who correctly construed who, as Republican gubernatorial campaigns go after each other. For the part of the story about Republicans going after each other, Bill Kuisle, running for lieutenant governor with GOP gubernatorial endorsee Jeff Johnson, said it makes sense to delay frac sand mining so the effects can be studied.

I’ve pulled the key quotes from the back and forth between the two campaign[sic]. Below is the quote from Kuisle from the interview, in response to a question about frac sand mining:


“‘I’ve followed the issue a little bit in the papers,’ said Kuisle, a farmer of 160 acres between Stewart and Rochester. ‘You can’t be an expert on every issue, but I think you’ve got to look at all sides. That is a tough one.
“I think the moratorium, give it six months or a year, to study the issue is a good thing. You need to determine what you hope to protect. Is it air pollution, trout streams, transportation? Source: The Caledonia Argus, “Republican-endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor stops by Argus offices”, July 15, 2014


government shutdown specialist Kurt ZellersThe Zellers campaign responded:


The Dayton administration has stood in the way of responsible mining for far too long, continued Zellers. “Our next governor cannot ignore or continue to delay the economic benefits of responsible mining and sand fracking. Putting a moratorium on sand fracking will cost hardworking Minnesotans thousands of jobs.” Source: Statement from Kurt Zellers, July 17, 2014

Funny, isn’t Zellers the one who thinks having the government shut things down is a good thing? I guess he’s running on the 2011 shutdown because he can’t run from it, or maybe the MNGOP base is ideological enough to still think government shutdowns are a good idea. Anyway, the Johnson campaign responded,

Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson

“Some campaigns are saying that Jeff Johnson wants to impose a statewide moratorium on mining for silica sand.
That isn’t true. When Bill Kuisle visited Caledonia, he said that if local governments wanted to put a temporary moratorium on mining to study the environmental impact, that would be their prerogative.” Source: Johnson for Governor, July 17, 2014


The writer on, Michael Brodkorb, judged that the Johnson campaign engaged in some dishonest spin since Kuisle never said “local”. He didn’t say “state” either, but he’s running for statewide office, so I agree with Brodkorb, the inference Kuisle meant “state” is reasonable. Zellers construed Kuisle’s meaning accurately. Though to engage in yet more liberal nuance, there actually are local moratoriums on frac sand mining. So what Johnson incorrectly claimed was Kuisle’s position is actually a position a reasonable person might take.


A gaffe on Kuisle’s part? Yes, given how Republicans generally feel about mining frac sand. Maybe if he had known more about it, and it seems if you’re giving an interview in an area where frac sand is a local issue, might be well to bone up on it. Few voters ever learn the name of a lt. governor candidate — unless they make news for a bad reason. When Judi Dutcher either didn’t know what “E85″ referred to when asked about it in a rural area, it led to the blow up of the Hatch campaign. Dutcher was unlucky enough to have this happen on video, five days before election day, and then Hatch yelled at a reporter asking about it, and that’s why a gubernatorial candidate’s running mate making the news is generally a dreaded thing. Kuisle has likely caught a break in having this happen in a newspaper interview, not on video, and over three weeks before the primary election. In other words, likely survivable. After that, if Kuisle and Johnson win, DFLers won’t be able to make much use of this gaffe because we generally share Kuisle’s skepticism about frac sand mining.
Then of course there’s the approach to the actual issue. Since Johnson chose to pretend Kuisle said something somewhat different than just defending him, I’m guessing the MNGOP is all-in on it. Kuisle I fear will likely get back in the bubble. Still, as much as someone in his position should know something about the issue, I have to give him a kudo for resisting forming an instant uninformed opinion. His first instinct to delay something potentially polluting in order to study it is laudable. Are we sure he’s Republican?

On the issue itself, Jeff Strate posted a video that partly explains the issue in terms of local effects, so I won’t repeat it all. I’ll just add that aside from local pollution and infrastructure problems, fracking itself is a problem. I don’t just mean local effects there either, bad as earthquakes and water pollution are for the property values and peace of mind of nearby residents. Global warming is the bigger issue. Natural gas is cleaner than coal only if you start measuring emissions when they’re burned, so yes, I’d much rather live near a gas-fired power plant than a coal one. However, producing gas by fracking allows methane to leak. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It doesn’t stay in the atmosphere nearly as long, but it’s so much more potent, we may be gaining nothing by replacing coal with gas. So getting in the way of fracking is basically a good thing, even if the local effects were nil.

Dog Gone July 19, 2014 at 10:33 am

California is experiencing a record drought, and has just put a moratorium on fracking because of the dangers of polluting the aquifer.
Oklahoma and other states have clearly been experiencing enormous increases in earthquake activity.

It’s time and past time, to abandon fossil fuels, including that obtained from fracking. There IS NO SUCH THING AS SAFE, RESPONSIBLE FRACK-MINING.

Eric Ferguson July 19, 2014 at 11:37 pm

When I cross posted at Daily Kos, I added a couple paragraphs for the national audience about our unusual way of picking lt. governors, and it then occurred to me there could be people new to Minnesota, or new to politics, who don’t know this either. So to make sure everyone is caught up:

So this is the promised explanation of how lt. governor candidates are chosen in Minnesota and why Jeff Johnson is on the hook for Bill Kuisle’s gaffe. Unlike the usual way, each candidate being on the ballot separately, Minnesota puts the lt. gubernatorial candidate on a ballot line with the gubernatorial candidate, like president and vice president. That’s true in the primary too, not just the general election. Each candidate for governor picks a running mate, the deadline being the filing deadline. So once the gubernatorial candidate makes a pick, they’re stuck together.

Another weird thing Minnesota does is give the lt. governor no responsibilities except to replace the governor should the governor leave office early. That’s it; no presiding over a legislative house or any commissions. Just wait until the governor dies or resigns, unless the governor comes up with something. It happens that incumbent governor Mark Dayton, needing to replace his lt. governor who chose not to run for reelection (I suspect I just described why), picked his chief of staff, Tina Smith. She comes from the same part of the state and has no wing of the party, so there’s no regional or ideological balance. I can only assume, since she’s his proverbial right hand, that she was chosen to actually help govern. Should she win, she’ll likely be the first in her office with a serious role.

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