Legislation on Mine Regulation Discussed at Hearing

According to the Wisconsin Watch, a legislative hearing on a revised attempt to limit local governments’ authority to regulate nonmetallic mining, including existing frac sand mines, drew support from mining representatives but opposition from town leaders.

About 50 people, including residents affected by frac sand mines, attended the hearing, which stretched for seven hours and reflected tensions over the expansion of frac sand mining in Wisconsin communities.

“We are not opposed to regulation,” said Brian Nodolf, an Eau Claire-based attorney who has represented industrial sand mines, at the hearing before state Senate and Assembly committees charged with overseeing mining. “We are opposed to not knowing what those regulations are going to be.”

Others, including the Wisconsin Towns Association, opposed the measure ¬– a reversal of its position last week, when it expressed neutrality.

The new legislation, SB 632 and companion AB 816, is a narrower version of legislation introduced last year. That earlier bill, SB 349, would have barred local governments from regulating some aspects of nonmetallic mining, including its impacts on air quality, water, road use and reclamation.

A 2012 Wisconsin Supreme Court case, Zwiefelhofer v. Town of Cooks Valley, was the catalyst for the legislation. The court found that local governments could use police powers, which protect the health, safety and welfare of residents, instead of zoning to regulate nonmetallic mining.

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