Tom Tiffany Outlines Frac Sand Mining Local Regulations Bill

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Tom Tiffany Outlines Frac Sand Mining Local Regulations Bill

Premiere Date: 
October 25, 2013

Sen. Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, explains the bill that would limit local regulations.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

A new legislative bill would limit local governments' authority to regulate frac sand mines in Wisconsin. The industry has exploded in recent years, growing from about ten mines three years ago to more than 100 today. The sand is mined in Wisconsin for use in the extraction process for oil and natural gas in other states. The bill got a public hearing this week at the capital, where supporters say limiting a patchwork of local regulations would bring certainty to the industry. Detractors of the bill say local control over what happens in their communities should not be scrapped. In a moment, we'll hear from one of them, Democratic senator, Kathleen Vinehout, who says there are more sand mines in her western Wisconsin district than anywhere else in the state. But first to Republican senator, Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst, who introduced the bill. Senator, thanks very much for being here.

Tom Tiffany:

Good evening. It's a pleasure to be here, Frederica.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do you say to detractors of your bill who say it would take local control away from decisions about what's best for them in their communities?

Tom Tiffany:

What we're doing is trying to strike a balance between local control-- I'm a former town supervisor in northern Wisconsin, so I sure understand the concerns with local units of government. Trying to strike that balance between local control, but also protecting private property rights.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, what's an example of a local ordinance that created this uncertainty for the frac sand industry?

Tom Tiffany:

Well, first of all, it's real interesting. During the hearing and since the hearing yesterday, I received some phone calls and contacts from people across the state saying, we are having this type of problem. I'm going to give you a real quick example that happened in northern Wisconsin. A local community said to an operator, we want to impose a 14 cent a ton tax on you for being able to use our roads, and we're going to set a decibel limit of 50 for you to be able to operate. You know, 50 decibels is you and I talking. And the operator told the local community, we cannot operate under those conditions. The local community came back, the local town came back and said, we'll raise your decibel limit to 70 decibels if you'll go to 20 cents a ton for the fee for hauling. And that type of thing, I believe, is illegal under current law. But those are the type of things that we're seeing happening at the local level.

Frederica Freyberg:

So who would set the rules and regulations for frac sand mines if not the locals under your bill?

Tom Tiffany:

Well, there's a variety of components to this bill, three primary components. One is local road agreements. We continue to allow the local road agreements. Local units of government under state statute does not change that. They can manage their roads in terms of posting and take emergency measures to keep people off that may cause imminent harm to their roads. SO we haven’t changed that part of it. We did preempt, though, on the environmental side, the environmental regulator is the state of Wisconsin, in our opinion, and I believe it should stay that way. Otherwise we end up with a patchwork of regulations across the state of Wisconsin. Operators won't know from municipality to municipality what the rules are.

Frederica Freyberg:

What about the concern that the DNR doesn't actually have enough staff to adequately regulate and monitor the mines, especially as they keep growing in the state, but they don't have the staff to regulate and monitor for land, water and air safety?

Tom Tiffany:

Well, the budget, the most recent budget that we passed, we added two more positions specifically for the industrial sand industry, and those positions-- I consulted with the department this week, and they said those positions, they are about to fill them. So we have more personnel that's going to be working with the department to accomplish that. Also, there is additional fees that were charged to industrial users. Those fees were upped in the budget on some industrial users. Those revenues can be used for that purpose also.

Frederica Freyberg:

So in terms of hiring even more than the two? Because I know that there was some discussion of the DNR needing maybe as many as ten.  

Tom Tiffany:

Yeah. You know, there's differing opinions as far as how many people are needed, but we're adding two more positions, and we'll see where this leads. And if we believe that there are more positions needed, Senator Darling alluded to that during her questioning yesterday. If we need to add more people, then we will do that. Also remember there's a lot of people that work in different disciplines within the Department of Natural Resources that work on these issues, whether they're water, air. They work on other projects but they will work on this, also. One final point in regards to that, the department has about a $1 billion every biennium. I think we have sufficient number of people and the amount of money to be able to accomplish this. We just need to make sure and apply that within the Department of Natural Resources.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Senator Tom Tiffany, I wish I had a little bit more time. I wanted to ask you a few more questions. but I'm plumb out. Thanks very much for joining us from Wausau.

Tom Tiffany:

It was good to be here, Frederica. 


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