Limiting Local Control
4:23 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Strong Opinions Heard on Frac Sand Bill

Impassioned testimony lasted all day at the state capitol, as groups lined up to speak on a bill limiting local control of some mining activities.

Senate Bill 349 would mostly regulate non-metallic mining activities like frac sand mining.
Credit Nigel Corby

The legislation drafted by Hazelhurst Senator Tom Tiffany says towns must defer to state standards regarding air and water quality standards for blasting and other activities. 

Communities could still control non-metallic mining using zoning regulations.  But not all towns have that power. 

As written most of the bill targets non-metallic mine activities, but its rules regarding blasting would apply to all types of mining

Supporters say the bill would establish consistent standards and eliminate a patchwork of local rules. 

Aaron Scott of Wisconsin Industrial Sand Company spoke in support of the bill.  The town of Red Cedar tried to pass an ordinance earlier this year that would have shut down the company’s sand mine there.  Scott said state-led regulations would be more reliable. 

“This bill will help us understand regulations and certainty, when we want to expand and increase our business.”

Democratic Representative Chris Danou  said that geography in western Wisconsin is very different from other parts of the state…so rules should be tailored for each area.

“Different types of land forms.  Different types of soils.  You need to take those things into account.  Local people who understand that, and local soil scientists, can craft those kinds of ordinances that take those things into account.” 

Many local ordinances that restrict mining activities would likely be overturned by the proposed legislation. 

Ashland Senator Bob Jauch condemned the bill and called it frightening. 

G-O-P Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he'll wait until next spring to take up the matter in his house. 

Audio for this story was gathered courtesy of Wisconsin Eye.