December 4, 2014
In 2013 Senator Tom Tiffany, a Republican from Hazelhurst, introduced a bill (SB-349) that would have prevented locals from establishing mining regulations under their authority to regulate health, safety and welfare. The concern was that towns and villages might pass their own water and air quality standards, as well as blasting ordinances, that would make things overly restrictive for the state’s new sand mine industry.
That bill was defeated, but a revised version of the bill emerged in 2014 that would shield existing sand mines from any new zoning, health and safety standards, or licensing changes that towns and villages enact. The revised bill passed through committee and is now being fast-tracked. There is a good possibility that it will be slipped into 2015’s new state budget.
Don’t let this happen! Contact your representatives and let them know this issue is important to you, and that you are watching what they do.
The frac sand industry has exploded within the past couple of years, and we have not had time to ascertain the cumulative effect of multiple mines within relatively small areas. We need to retain our ability to respond quickly to current and future environmental impacts, as they happen, in order to protect the safety and welfare of our citizens, livestock, and land.
It is not practical to consider the DNR as the primary agency to do the permitting and monitoring of the frac sand industry. The DNR simply doesn’t have the staff needed to keep up with this fast-growing industry. We found that out when 18 Mile Creek was contaminated with colloidal clay discharge from the Cooks Valley Mine a few months ago.
Towns and their citizens know what is going on in their area. They may not have the expert knowledge of what scientific tests to use when something grows wrong, but that’s where the DNR can help. They can act as experts to help advise town people, but town boards and citizens need to be able to act quickly.
The argument that Wisconsin townships’ various ordinances impede commerce is a weak one. If industries cannot deal with different ordinances that protect the geological/hydrological/air emission/residential differences from one township to another then they ought not be in an industry that requires detailed attention to the uniqueness of each mine site. Our land was not “made” to be standardized for industry as if it was a franchise. Local township rules are necessary to recognize the variance in land formations and residential patterns. Once rules are “standardized” for one size fits all, then we have lost recognition of the complexity of each site.
The townspeople own the land or rent the land to local citizens. It is their right to decide what to do with their land so long as it does not negatively impact their neighbors. We do not have the right to pollute our neighbors’ land without their permission, so why should the state be able to approve an industry that potentially impacts are air, water, soil, property values, and aesthetics?