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Permit Approval Raises Eyebrows


The Town of Bridgeport, Minn.'s decision to approve two permits for a controversial frac sand mine had conflict-of-interest issues, including those involving two Planning Commission members who had family working for the mining company at the time of their vote, according to a lawsuit.

The complaint was filed in Crawford County Circuit Court a day before the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board is expected to vote on whether to issue a permit for a frac sand mine, which would be located near the Iowa border a few miles east of the Mississippi River, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Plans for the frac sand mine are controversial because of its location partially on land that is protected for its natural beauty.

There are about 100 frac sand mines in the state. Sand in Wisconsin is used in hydraulic fracturing in other parts of the nation and world to obtain natural gas.
Some members of the Riverway Board said in a memo the mine was a bad idea but that a "loophole" in state law might require the board to approve the permit.

The lawsuit alleges Bridgeport Planning Commission members had conflicts: Linda Smrcina's son-in-law and Troy Smrcina's brother-in-law worked for the mining company when they voted on the permit. That information was not made public at the time of the vote, the filing said.

The lawsuit asks for the court to void the two permits granted by the town. An environmental organization, the Crawford Stewardship Project, and neighbors of the mine site filed the suit.

Mark Cupp, executive director of the Riverway Board, said the lawsuit should not change the board's decision-making process. The lawsuit also says zoning ordinances were violated because the town did not consider potential ill effects from the mine.