A Minnesota bill that would create a temporary statewide ban on frac sand mining is leading companies to consider investing in Wisconsin instead of the Gopher State.
Senate Bill 425 would create a statewide moratorium on any new frac sand mining or processing operations in Minnesota for one year. Supporters say the bill gives the state and local governments time to learn about the industry before it takes hold like it has in Wisconsin. But opponents of the moratorium, including Minnesota State Senator Michelle Benson, say it's going to drive mining companies out.
"That capital is not going to sit and wait for this moratorium to be finished. That capital is going to flow to where it can be best utilized and where the jobs can be created. It would be nice to have that choice in Minnesota, but with this moratorium that will not happen."
And by some accounts the talk of the moratorium is already having an effect. John Behling is an Eau Claire attorney who represents the frac sand industry.
"Since the Minnesota Senate Committee passed the moratorium by a vote of eight to four, since then I have received a phone call everyday from an entity looking at Wisconsin instead of Minnesota to do business."
Behling says Wisconsin's new mining law and a more business friendly Department of Natural Resources makes Wisconsin more attractive to the frac sand industry.
"So I think mining entities, when they read the news clips and do their due diligence research, they're going to come to the conclusion that Wisconsin is open for business: Minnesota, maybe not."
Behling expects the rush for frac sand mining permits in western Wisconsin will stay steady, especially if Minnesota passes its moratorium.