December 21, 2014

Legislation could limit local mining rules

A state lawmaker wants to give sand mining companies more certainty about their operations in Wisconsin.

The bill from state Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) would limit the ability of local governments to impose new regulations on nearby non-metallic mining operations. Tiffany says “we’re seeing restrictive ordinances being passed by some local communities…that have, I believe, exceed their legal authority.” Those regulations include limits on operating hours and requiring upfront payments for possible damage to roads caused by trucks hauling the sand.

Frac sand mining has seen explosive growth in Wisconsin in just the past three years due to the sand’s role in hydraulic fracturing, a drilling process used to access difficult to reach deposits of oil and gas. The sand is abundant in western and central Wisconsin, which has often put mine developers at odds with nearby communities. Critics contend the bill would limit local government control over those operations, but Tiffany says it’s simply an effort to stop officials from creating a patch-work of ordinances across the state. “It’s really defining what that local control is, and not taking that away in a manner that allows them to continue to be able to manage their local communities as they choose to.”

The bill is currently being circulated for cosponsors. A hearing on the legislation could be held at the Capitol as early as this coming Thursday.