Wisconsin has been in the news a lot over the past year or so, and its headline-grabbing legislature shows no sign of stopping any time soon. In the most recent attack on its own citizenry, the Wisconsin Senate has introduced a bill that would limit the authority of Wisconsin cities, villages or towns to enact a “development moratorium ordinance” on controversial frack sand mining operations throughout the state.
Hydraulic fracturing, a dangerous process used to extract natural gas trapped underground, has exploded over the past few years. In order to “frack” an underground gas deposit, a mixture of sand, water, and unknown chemicals are forced into the earth. While there are other states with more natural gas than Wisconsin, the state’s non-metallic mining laws and geography make it the perfect place to harvest the sand needed for fracking.
There are already about 60 frac sand mines operating in Wisconsin and about 40 more which are attempting to gain permits. These operations threaten local, protected wildlife and put thousands of acres of Wisconsin hills, farmland and woods at risk for becoming open pit mines.
“Wisconsin communities have been caught off-guard as corporations have swooped in to set up shop and begin extracting and processing the sand, without very much oversight to protect the health of neighbors or to protect the natural environment,” writes Sara Jerving.
In cities and towns where the citizens are unfamiliar with or opposed to frac sand mining, a moratorium provides a period of time in which permanent zoning or licensing options can be discussed. By requiring a written report from a certified engineer or health professional which would prove that a moratorium is essential in addressing public infrastructure or safety concerns, the Bill makes it more difficult for local governments with tight budgets to protect their citizens.
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