Heartland Institute Releases Sand Policy Study


The Heartland Institute has released the fifth in its series of policy studies authored by Mark Krumenacher and Isaac Orr, “Comprehensive Regulatory Control and Oversight of Industrial Sand (Frac Sand) Mining.”

The first four Heartland Policy Studies in this series provide factual information to policymakers and decision-makers to be used for local mine permitting, as well as the general public and other stakeholders who wish to better understand the effects industrial sand mining may have on their communities. Those studies detail the protections in place to preserve the safety and well being of the environment, communities and public health from the potential impacts of this industry.

Industrial silica sand mining is governed by statutes and laws, rules and regulations, and local ordinances established by a multitude of government and regulatory agencies at the federal, state and local levels. This comprehensive regulatory apparatus was established to protect human and environmental health from the potential impacts of all industrial activities, including industrial sand mining.

Although industrial silica sand mining is heavily regulated, mining opponents often claim it is an “unregulated industry,” and members of the general public may be unaware of the extensive protective measures that guide the mining, processing and shipping of industrial sand. These regulations are not unlike protections designed to prevent widespread negative effects from every other industrial, agricultural and commercial enterprise.

The rapid growth of the industrial sand industry in the upper Midwest has generated controversy, often dominated at the local level by a small yet vocal group of critics who promote a narrative generally based upon misconceptions that call into question the adequacy of industrial sand regulations. Industry critics often attempt to sway public opinion by portraying industrial sand mining as an unregulated industry running roughshod over local communities, harming the environment, public health and public infrastructure. This characterization could not be more untrue.

Most environmental, health, safety, transportation and other regulations are applicable to nearly all industries. Regulations tend not to be industry-specific because creating industry-specific regulations would create an unmanageable patchwork of rules and regulations that would be less effective and more difficult to enforce. A standardized approach ensures all industries are equally protective of the environment, human health, safety, transportation, and other issues.

It is the lack of industry-specific regulation that appears to fuel claims that industrial sand mining is unregulated. Critics of industrial sand mining are either unaware of the manner in which environmental regulations are applied or simply choose to portray the industry as unregulated to put an end to existing, and prevent future, industrial sand mining.

Part One of this Heartland Policy Study provides an overview of the federal, state, and local regulations that apply to industrial sand operations. In Part Two, the authors provide examples of the complex overlapping regulatory oversight that applies to air, water, wetlands, railroads and explosives, all of which affect industrial sand operations.

At the state level, when concerns over lack of regulation are raised in an organized and persistent manner, it can prompt a review of existing rules, impact assessments, and the rule-making process. This situation occurred not long ago in Minnesota and Wisconsin. These rule-review and rule-making processes are summarized in Part Three.

Concerns raised at the local level frequently promote fear and distrust of the industry. In many communities such concerns have resulted in moratoria, bans and questionable legal actions involving ordinances, assumption of police powers, and other actions as described in Part Four.

Part Five offers a summary and concluding remarks.

The industrial sand industry supports regulations and strict operating standards that are protective of the environment and protective of health and safety for employees and the public, provided these regulations are based on sound science and applied equally across all industries.

Years of research and application of existing rules and regulations in non-metallic mining operations yield the following three key points:

1. Non-metallic mining, which includes industrial sand mining, is one of the most highly regulated industrial businesses in the United States.
2. Every potential affect on the environment and public health, safety and welfare is addressed by existing laws, regulations and the non-metallic mine permitting process through zoning laws.
3. The appropriate and applicable technical resources are available to demonstrate point number one and validate point number two.

To read the full study, go here.