Frac sand mining companies are facing more resistance as a number of local governments have rejected permits needed for construction.
Frac sand mining and processing operations are thriving in Wisconsin. It’s estimated that nearly 90 facilities are operating now with 20 more seeking permits. But in the last few months, a wave of local governments has blocked frac sand companies from building. In July, the Buffalo County Board of Adjustment denied a conditional use permit for a frac sand processing and rail loading site near the Cochran-Fountain city school. Last month they denied a second application. In Menomonie, a frac sand mining company walked away from talks accusing the city of stalling. And this month, two permits were denied in Eau Claire and Chimney Rock, “The public as a rule is becoming more aware of the issue even if it’s not in their backyard.”
Ken Schmitt has been following the frac sand mining boom in Wisconsin for four years, “And they’re starting to understand that there are issues involved and I think as we get more operations online and operating some of the adverse impacts will become more readily visible.”
Rich Budinger is president of the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association. He says local governments are being more vigilant with permits and enacting temporary bans on frac sand operations called moratoriums, "Which can be six months, can be a year and we’ve seen several extensions also on the original term of the moratorium. So, that is cause for concern as far as being able to develop opportunities in different areas."
But both Schmitt and Budinger agree that frac sand mining will continue to grow until the supply of sand meets the demand of the oil and natural gas industry.