Governor Scott Walker is asking the legislature for money to help monitor air quality at frac sand mining operations. But some of his Republican colleagues are skeptical of the request.
The governor's budget proposal includes more than $220,000 for two positions in the Department of Natural Resources Air Quality Division. The additional staff would help process air quality permits and check compliance at the state's nearly 100 frac sand mining and processing facilities. The DNR says there are four technicians in the west central region and compliance checks at sand mines are rare. One of the main concerns about frac sand mining is blowing silica dust, which is a known carcinogen. Democrat state Representative Chris Danou says the governor is right in asking for more help. "There's been a massive expansion of the frac sand industry in Wisconsin in the couple years and we've heard that one of the challenges is making sure that there is adequate monitoring of the industry."
But Republican state Representative Scott Suder says he's skeptical when any agency asks for additional staff. "It has not been shown to me by the DNR — and I have asked them — why they need those additional two positions when they do have individuals in the agency that perform that testing."
But he says the governor's request will be considered, "if the need is there, if there is an actual health concern or if they are overburdened and they don't have enough, then I can stomach it. But I just don't want to be adding positions for the sake of adding positions."
The governor's budget proposal now heads to the Joint Committee on Finance before final votes in the state Assembly and Senate.