The Department of Natural Resources says it can't keep up with permitting and compliance of the frac sand industry with current funding levels. The agency is hoping to get money for two new staffers in its new budget request.
In its proposal, the DNR says it doesn't have enough money to keep up with air pollution permits coming from the frac sand mining industry or conduct meaningful inspections.
Jeff Johnson oversees the DNR's Division of Air and Waste management in the West Central Region, which is home to the great majority of frac sand mining companies. He says he's got four staffers in charge of checking air permits for every industry in his region. And with current funding Johnson says they can't check up on minor source operations like frac sand miners, "So, at this point I don't plan for my compliance staff to do any minor source inspections. Really it comes about when we have either numerous complaints or we are made aware of a failed stack test."
But Johnson says without more funding, the DNR can't always spare staff to do full investigations even when new complaints arise, "We may make some time to have someone stop out and at least look at what's going on but probably not do any sort of full compliance inspection."
Pat Popple heads a frac sand watchdog group called Concerned Chippewa Citizens. She says it's disappointing to see the DNR's hands tied. "It's a travesty. We've been told that we should report what we consider violations and blowing sand and all of that sort of thing but when no one follows up on it, then what's the purpose?"
State Senator Sheila Harsdorf, who sits on the legislature's Joint Finance Committee, says they'll review each agency's budget requests after the governor makes his recommendations.