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Scaled-Back Sand Mining Bill Still Concerns Environmentalists

Measure Would Still Restrict Local Government Regulations On Sand Mines

Superior Sand
Superior Sand operation. Photo: Rich Kremer (WPR News)

A controversial bill limiting local oversight of frac sand mining has been scaled back, revamped and reintroduced in the state Legislature, but still has environmental groups upset.

State Senate Bill 632 would essentially block local governments from placing new restrictions on frac sand mines after the mines have been permitted. State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and state Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, are co-authors of the bill. Tiffany said it insures that frac sand companies won’t be regulated out of business.

“For an existing operation that has been playing by the rules, the zoning or ordinances that are in place,” he said, “what we’re saying is that you can’t change the rules in the middle of the game.”

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Tiffany and Ballweg’s bill is a scaled back version of Senate Bill 349, which sought to pre-empt local control of frac sand mines in unzoned towns, villages and counties. That met fierce opposition from local governments and concerned citizens.

While Senate Bill 632 isn’t opposed by the Wisconsin Towns or Counties Association, it doesn’t curry much favor with environmental groups.

Jennifer Giegerich, the legislative director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, said SB632 might not be as broad as the first bill, but it still does the same thing.

“It basically ties the hands of local communities to protect their public health and their future for mines that don’t even exist yet,” she said.

The John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club has also come out against the proposal. A public hearing is scheduled for March 3.

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