Walker Says He’d Like ‘Balance’ Between Local Control, Frac Sand Mines

Gov. Scott Walker
Photo: Office of the Governor of Wisconsin

Governor Scott Walker won’t say whether he supports the latest version of a Republican bill that would make it harder for local governments to regulate the frac sand industry.

The plan that passed a Senate committee on a party line vote would grandfather in existing frac sand operations so that they never face tougher local regulations than they do right now. A mining operation would not, however, have to be up and running in order to get grandfathered in. A company would only have to file paperwork to register a mineral deposit in order to tie a local government’s hands.

The Wisconsin Towns Association said it opposed the bill after its members learned more about what was in it. That got the attention of Gov. Walker, who says he wants to find a balance that preserves local control.

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“Initially it sounded like they had worked out something with the Towns Association,” Walker said. “I had talked to the Towns Association several months ago about this when I spoke to them. They backed away from that.

“My hope is before there’s a final version passed in both houses, there’s some way that [they] can work that kind of balance out. But we’ll have to see,” Walker continued.

Walker stopped short of saying he needed local governments on board before he can support the bill. “Ultimately,” he said, “more important than what group’s on or off, it ultimately depends on what’s actually in the bill.”

Walker also stopped short of saying a frac sand bill needed to pass this session: “What’s ultimately going to happen if they don’t make a change is we’ll still have a vibrant frac sand industry in the state, there’ll just be a few holes here and there where it’s not allowed or very difficult.”

While the frac sand bill passed committee, it’s not clear whether it has the votes to pass the full Senate before it wraps up its business for the year in early April.