Monday, July 25, 2016

Major WI frac sand mining public meeting Tuesday

Grassroots activism and organizations like Midwest Environmental Activists, (MEA), forced the ideologically-obstructionist Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to examine the broad impacts of the relatively-lightly regulated frac sand mining industry which has exploded in Wisconsin.

Don't think the agency is doing this out of the collective goodness of its senior, private sector-based heart.

In fact, the Walkerites' priorities that enable polluters while blocking local controls that would provide cleaner land, air and water - - in this specific case preventing so-called fugitive-dust air pollution and wasteful groundwater impacts flowing from the rapidly-expanding sand mine industry statewide led to Walker's failed effort to downgrade the long-standing DNR oversight board which had the power to authorize the sand mine review.

So getting the oversight board (The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board) retained, the sand mine study off the ground and the public meeting schedule - - and let's be honest, one meeting only is insufficient - - in the face of the Walker machine's power and pro-industry tilt is one of the most important grassroots wins for the environment in the last few years against those who, like Walker, want the DNR to be managed with what he called with land developer Cathy Stepp's appointment as DNR Secretary "a chamber of commerce mentality."

Tuesday brings the first major meeting to discuss the DNR's findings to date.

How objective, fair, detailed and publicly-spirited are the findings? We'll see.

MEA has issued this release; note the location, comment information (Aug. 22 deadline) and other important information:

Industrial Sand Mining Strategic Analysis draft report
public information and comment session

Who: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is hosting the meeting; public is invited to attend and comment

When: Tuesday, July 26 starting at 4:00 p.m.

Where: Eau Claire - Chippewa Valley Technical College, Business Education Center, Casper Conference Center, Room 103A/B, 620 W. Clairemont Ave.

Why this is important:
·        The public and elected officials need sound, unbiased information about the impacts of frac sand mining in Wisconsin. The DNR has been working on an in-depth, comprehensive report on frac sand mining for over a year and has issued a draft of that report for public review.

·        Frac sand mines are still operating in Wisconsin – while mining activity has slowed considerably since 2011, industry experts say the demand for silica sand for hydraulic fracturing will continue or rise as demand and prices for oil and gas go up.

·        A “Strategic Analysis” doesn’t make new laws, but it can be a resource for decision makers.

·        Midwest Environmental Advocates believes the DNR’s draft Industrial Sand Mining Strategic Analysis needs more input from the public and better data. We are concerned that the report:
o   relies on industry-funded studies on air quality based on voluntary monitoring by frac sand operations,
o   only makes passing reference to independent research on PM2.5 that shows that industrial sand facilities in Wisconsin may be causing or contributing to unsafe levels of fine particulate matter around mining facilities,
o   and the its air quality section continues to reflect the DNR’s position that industrial sand mines do not produce or emit PM2.5 dust,
o   however, the Strategic Analysis DOES acknowledge the threat of acid mine drainage from industrial sand facilities and supports further study of the connection between mining and metals in our water.
·        The DNR has scheduled only one public information session for this long-awaited report. Making the public aware of this opportunity to give feedback to the state DNR will help encourage participation. Media coverage of the information session can include the deadline for written comments on August 22.

Timeline of important dates:
·        2011 – frac sand mining begins to boom in western Wisconsin
·        November 2011 - Citizens and Chippewa Valley health professionals formally ask the DNR to enforce stricter air quality standards on frac sand dust (petition to DNRDNR denial)
·        August 2013 – Trempealeau County approves year-long moratorium on frac sand mining permits; releases report on frac sand mining in September 2014
·        August 2014 – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finds DNR is failing to protect air quality (PM2.5 dust or fine particulate matter)
·        September 2014 – Environmental Working Group issues a report on frac sand mining: around 58,000 people live within a half mile of a frac sand mine, transportation hub or processing facility.
·        October 2014 – Midwest Environmental Advocates supports over 1,100 Wisconsin citizens through the True Cost of Sand petition in asking the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board to direct the DNR to do an in-depth study (Strategic Analysis) of the impacts of frac sand mining.
·        July 2016 – DNR releases draft Industrial Sand Mining Strategic Analysis and invites public review and input.

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