Meteor Timber Appealing Court Decision That Struck Down Wetland Permit

Company Says Its Permit Application Was Thorough, Judge Made 'Factual Errors'

frac sand mine
Dust blows off a pile of frac sand at a mine near Chippewa Falls, Wis. Steve Karnowski/AP Photo

Atlanta-based Meteor Timber is appealing a judge’s decision to invalidate wetland permits it was issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to fill 16 acres of wetland in Monroe County as part of a proposed $75 million frac sand processing and rail loading facility.

On Friday, May 4, Administrative Law Judge Eric Defort ruled the DNR improperly granted Meteor Timber permits because the agency lacked enough information to determine the environmental impact of the project and whether a plan to alleviate wetland impacts would work.

In a statement, Meteor Timber project manager Chris Mathis said the company has proved to the DNR that it’s application was thorough and made clear the project would provide a net environmental benefit for the state.

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“Today, we filed an appeal of the administrative law judge determination on our Department of Natural Resources permit,” said Mathis. “We believe our permit application and the 30-plus months of continued work with the department clearly demonstrate the permit was comprehensive and should allow the project to go forward. We look forward to a robust discussion and intend to follow the process to its rightful conclusion that will allow this $75 million project to proceed, and the local community to flourish.”

Another document sent to WPR by Meteor Timber mentioned the DNR has “the sole discretion to concur with the administrative law judge or reverse the decision if the agency believes there are significant factual or legal errors. Meteor Timber believes there are errors which merit a second review by the state agency with decades of experience in environmental permitting.”

Meteor said a number of Defort’s findings in his decision are contradicted by conditions included in the permit issued by the DNR. Also, the document criticized the court for making its decision without “acknowledging the testimony of the department’s five witnesses (or any of the Meteor witnesses), but based solely on the testimony of a former department staffer who helped to draft the conditions of the permit she later testified against.”

Finally, Meteor was critical of the court’s finding that the DNR was not allowed to issue an amended wetland permit for the company. The DNR initially approved Meteor’s wetland permit in May 2017. An amended permit was issued by the agency in August of that year.

Meteor’s statement said the DNR has amended more than a dozen wetland permits in past examples. “We believe the aforementioned samples are illustrative of a number of errors which cannot be allowed to stand for both this project and for Wisconsin as a whole.”

In response to Meteor’s appeal, Clean Wisconsin’s communication manager Jon Drewsen said the organization is “looking at the petition for review and do not have a comment at this time.”

DNR spokesman Jim Dick said the agency has received Meteor’s petition and is reviewing it.