February 13, 2016

Lawmaker wants new regulations for sand mining

Wisconsin’s booming sand mining industry is the focus of several bills being proposed at the Capitol.

Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in mining a type of sand that’s used in drilling for natural gas, known as frac sand. State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) says Wisconsin has been woefully unprepared for the rapid growth of the industry, which has nearly 70 mines currently operating in the state and many others pending approval.

Vinehout says the growth of the industry shows now signs of “slowing down,” and claims it’s creating a conflict with property owners near mining locations. She says constituents have told her they only found out about a proposed mine near their home after it was approved.

AUDIO: Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (:09)

The Alma Democrat is introducing a series of five bills that would make changes to the notification and approval process for sand mines. The bills would require those living near the site of a proposed mine be given at least 30 days notice before a vote to approve the project, mandate conditional use permits for the operations, allow counties to issue sand exploration permits, require a 2,500 foot buffer between mines and residential properties, and require anyone selling property to tell potential buyers if a mine is being proposed in the area.

As it is now, Vinehout says the state is usually treating these mines like a “half acre gravel pits and, because of that, we’re not prepared for these thousand acre mines right now.” She says there needs to be a serious discussion about these issues in the Legislature.

The bills are currently being circulated for cosponsors. No hearing dates have been set.

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