DNR Board Orders Review Of Petition Calling For In-Depth Frac Sand Mining Report

Secretary Stepp Says Agency Has Already Added Staff, Plans More Inspections


The chairman of the state’s Natural Resources Board wants agency staff to respond in detail to a new round of concerns about frac sand mining in Wisconsin.

A coalition of western Wisconsin residents and Madison-based environmental lawyers presented the board with a petition signed by 1,100 people. The document asks the DNR for a comprehensive environmental assessment of the impacts of frac sand mining on public health and the environment.

Madison resident Ann Casper said the frac sand industry wants to open five sand mines and rail loading facilities near her parents’ home in the Jackson County community of Hixton. Casper worries the DNR has dropped the ball when it comes to protecting people.

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“They need help,” she said. “When is the Natural Resources Board going to make the welfare of the citizens a priority instead of allowing the DNR to permit corporate irresponsibility?

Board Chairman Preston Cole has directed DNR staff to review the citizens’ petition and to report back to the board with recommendations. It’s unclear if that report will be ready for the next board meeting in December, or if it will wait until next year.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp is already defending her agency, saying it recently added more inspectors to look at the mines.

“We’re anticipating doing full inspections at all of the currently active sites, as well as two partial inspections at these locations,” said Stepp.

Stepp said that less than half of the potential 144 sand mine sites in the state are active, and that the frequency of the planned inspections exceeds federal requirements.