According to the Winona Daily News, Winona County, Wis., will re-publish Environmental Assessment Worksheet drafts for two proposed frac sand mines after staff discovered an error in the public comment process. In the drafts, the county said public comments on the reviews should be sent to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. County staff confirmed Tuesday that the county will accept the comments – the MPCA doesn’t handle them. The county plans to republish the review drafts with the correct information.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in a memorandum clarified what permits frac sand producers need. They are:
Air: Mines and processing plants need air permits. Silica exposure is a public health concern, and stray dust has been a source of complaints, so DNR has been sending information to mine operators on how to control it.
Water: All mines need a stormwater permit. Those using a lot of water need a high-capacity well permit. And if they’re near wetlands or surface waters, other DNR regulations may apply.
Local regulations. Local governments exert control through zoning, but many mines are in towns that don’t have zoning. Where there is zoning, towns can regulate issues like hours of operation, truck routes and speeds, covering of truck beds, mine depth and road repair liability.
Reclamation. Mines have to abide by NR 135, the nonmetallic mining reclamation rule. It’s administered by the counties with DNR oversight.
The Wisconsin Public Radio News reported that frac sand mining companies face a $1 million-per-day fine if they dig in the town of Kinnickinnik during the next year. The penalty is part of a sand mining moratorium, and is the most expensive fine the industry faces in the state. The frac sand mining moratorium bans any new mines or processing facilities up to one year. It’s meant to put a halt on fast-growing industries and give a municipality time to study the industry and possibly craft regulations for it. At least four counties have passed moratoriums, as have around 19 cities, towns and villages.