Responding to the explosion in the number of frac-sand mining operations in Wisconsin, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout is circulating a set of five bills that would give local governments and property owners more information and more power over the location and operation of such facilities.
Vinehout, D-Alma, represents a district in western Wisconsin that includes numerous mines and processing plants. About 100 such operations have been proposed around Wisconsin in the past two years as demand for the fine-grained sand has grown.
Frac sand is found primarily in central and northwestern Wisconsin and is used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a method that releases trapped oil and natural gas reserves that is booming in Texas, North Dakota, New York and elsewhere.
Vinehout’s bills would require:
• Frac-sand operations to obtain conditional use permits, allowing local officials to negotiate conditions of operation for mines and processing plants.
• Counties to issue licenses for sand exploration and for the state Department of Natural Resources to provide technical assistance, if needed, to counties.
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• A 30-day public notice and notifications to nearby property owners and occupants any time a local government is considering a sand application.
• A property seller to disclose any proposals for sand operations on any neighboring property.
• A 2,500-foot buffer between sand operations and single- or two-family residential zoning districts.
Vinehout described the measures as “a common-sense approach to involving local people in decision making by arming them with information.” She said she separated the proposed legislation into five bills in hopes of gaining some support from Republicans, who control both the Assembly and Senate.
“I feel like there were some pieces we could all agree on,” she said.
Email and voice messages left with the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association, which represents frac-sand operators, were not immediately returned Tuesday.