According to a report on Wisconsin Public Radio, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has agreed to review – and possibly overturn – an administrative law judge’s ruling stating the agency acted improperly when it issued wetland permits to a controversial frac sand mining project.
On May 10, state administrative law Judge Eric Defort issued a decision that invalidated two DNR permits granted to Atlanta-based Meteor Timber last year. The permits would have allowed the company to fill 16 acres of high quality wetland including 13 acres of rare white pine-red maple swamp.
Meteor Timber has been working since 2016 to build a $75 million frac sand mining and processing operation in Jackson and Monroe Counties.
Defort’s ruling said the DNR didn’t have enough information to determine the environmental impacts of the project or whether Meteor Timber’s mitigation plans were adequate to offset the destruction of the rare wetlands.
Shortly after the judge’s decision, Meteor Timber said it would petition DNR Secretary Dan Meyer to review the findings and ultimately overrule them.
The company said the review was necessary because Judge Defort made “factual errors” in his ruling because many of his findings were contradicted by conditions set by the DNR in its original wetland permit and an amended permit issued last summer.
“We are pleased Secretary Meyer will review the decision reached by the Administrative Law Judge,” said Meteor Timber project manager Chris Mathis. “We worked with the DNR and U.S. Army Corps for more than 30 months to develop a comprehensive mitigation plan with a mitigation ratio of nearly 40 to 1. Equally important, is that this project if approved creates and preserves 630 acres into perpetuity, which can be enjoyed by hunters, fisherman and ATV enthusiasts. The Secretary’s review of the decision is the next step in the process to bring this $75 million investment that enjoys unanimous local support to realization.”