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Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Frac Sand Mine Rejection

Iowa-Based AllEnergy Argues Permit Denial Based On Public Opinion

A frac sand processing facility in western Wisconsin
carol mitchell (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld Trempealeau County’s rejection of a frac sand mine proposal in a case that had potential to change zoning laws statewide.

In a 4-3 decision the court affirmed the Trempealeau County Environment and Land Use Committee’s denial of a sand mining permit application from Iowa-based AllEnergy in 2013.

The company hoped to build a 550-acre sand mine and processing plant in the Town of Arcadia.

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AllEnergy went to court arguing the committee had set a list of conditions, which the company met, only to be turned down based on public opinion. The company also asked the court to create a new rule that would force local governments to issue conditional use permits if conditions were met.

Ron Stadler represented the county in court. He said conditional use permits are about more than meeting a checklist.

“Had they overturned the law and created a new rule that people are somehow entitled to conditional use permits, it would have vastly changed zoning in Wisconsin,” said Stadler.

Attorney Gary Van Cleve represented AllEnergy and argued that because the county’s committee relied on public opinion to decide whether to grant the frac sand permit, the company had to hit a moving target to win approval. Van Cleve said the committee was deciding whether there should be sand mining in the county, even though the full county board had already decided that.

“There was an overstepping of jurisdiction here by the environment and land use committee, because the questions they were addressing was should we have a sand mine here, and it was our position that that had been legislatively determined by the county board,” Van Cleve said.

Van Cleve said he’s not sure if AllEnergy plans to submit another application for a sand mining permit from Trempealeau County after four years of litigation.