Frac Sand Panel Meets in Eau Claire


Access to rail and a possible revamp of the states non-metallic mining regulations were among the issues raised during a panel discussion In Eau Claire about the frac sand industry.

The panel comprised of lawmakers and experts in the frac sand arena fielded questions about whether the state should take more of a roll in permitting frac sand operations. Assemblyman Chris Danou of Trempealeau says the state’s rules on non-metallic mining should be reconsidered but local governments should give final permit approval not the state, “As soon as an issue starts to get some local communities to put some restrictions on things we have a lobbying group down in Madison asking for a statewide permit that basically exempts operations from having to go through a local process.”

Another question asked whether local governments can require mines to take air samples for silica dust. Assembly Republican Majority Leader Scott Suder says people need to look beyond environmentalists’ claims and look at the facts, “Not one case of sand related silicosis exists, not one. So all the fear tactics and the fear mongering needs to stop. The DNR is responsible for environmental protection and they should be and we’re not going to reduce those standards.”

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Damage to roads and state highways also came up. Tom Beekman of the Department of Transportation says the DOT isn’t worried about the highways.He says as prices for frac sand drop access to rail will become more important, “That has been and will continue to be a factor on where these sand plants will be located and therefore where the mines will occur.”

Although there is no official number, it’s estimated there are more than 100 frac sand operations in the state.