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Frac Sand Industry

Rayola Dougher, senior economic advisor at the American Petroleum Institute, speaks at a Freight Rail conference Oct. 9. "I honestly think the sky is the limit for you guys" when it comes to frac sand mining, she said.

A public hearing on a bill that would shift control away from local governments attempting to regulate the state’s booming frac sand industry will be held Thursday, although the top leader of the Assembly has acknowledged the bill won’t come up for a vote until the spring.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, would also prevent the state Department of Natural Resources, as well as local governments, from setting air and water quality standards that are more stringent that state law.

The hearing before the Senate Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue Committee, which Tiffany chairs, will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the Capitol, in Room 411 South.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters Tuesday that Tiffany’s bill will not come up for a vote when the Assembly is in session in November.

Vos said he supports the proposal but thought it would take more time for the bill to have a public hearing and work through any questions that are raised, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

“I support the bill but I want to make sure it has a robust process,” Vos said.

Wisconsin now exports more frac sand than any other state in the country. In 2010, the state had five frac sand mines and processing plants. That number has jumped to around 115, according to the DNR.

As that number grows, more residents are questioning the industry’s impact on their health and the environment. Some communities, like Trempealeau County, have issued moratoriums on new permits until these impacts are studied further.

Upcoming events aim to raise awareness about the industry, including a forum from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday, at the Fluno Center’s Skyview Room, located at 601 University Ave.

The event will feature Henry Anderson, the state’s chief medical officer, discussing the health and environmental effects of the industry. The free event is part of Clean Wisconsin’s Doug La Follette Environmental Speakers program.

A screening of Gasland 2, a new film that examines hydraulic fracking, will be held at Union South’s Marquee Theater following the event.

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