Vinehout Touts New Mining Bills

May 1, 2013

Frac Sand Mining Update

Dear Friends,

I am writing again to provide an update on sand mining. Since I last wrote, there have been many developments at both the state and local level. People continue to contact me on this issue more than any other. Often they call to share their story of how frac sand mining is affecting their community. Other times it is to ask for help with a particular problem. After hearing from so many people, I wanted to share with you a package of bills I wrote to help with the problems people most often encounter.

Right to Know: Public Notice, Senate Bill 138
Frac sand mining is rapidly proliferating in western Wisconsin and the impacts are taking many residents by surprise. Property owners are often unaware of mines being sited near their property. Sometimes they learned of a new mine by talking with neighbors or reading news stories after the mine application had been approved.

Senate Bill 138 will ensure local people are adequately informed when a frac sand mine is proposed. This bill requires the governing body that considers frac sand mine applications to publish at least two separate newspaper notices (a class 2 notice) at least 30 days prior to taking action on an application. The bill also requires a written notice be sent, via first class mail, to property owners or occupants situated within one mile of the proposed mine.

This bill is in the best interests of all parties affected by frac sand mines. Adjacent property owners will have advanced notice so they can carefully consider the impact of a nearby mine on their livelihood and can meaningfully participate in the public process. Mine owners would protect themselves in the long run by having more opportunity to interact with the community and address concerns from neighbors. Local government would benefit by having a more transparent public process where the interests of all stakeholders is considered.

Right to Know What You’re Buying: Property Disclosure, Senate Bill 139
Sand mining interests have purchased an increasing number of contracts to mine sand on properties throughout western Wisconsin. Individuals seeking to buy a rural house or lot are often unaware of these contracts on neighboring property. Close proximity to a sand mine is a major factor in considering the purchase of a piece of property.

Under current law, owners selling residential property or vacant land must give prospective buyers a form- known as a real estate condition report (residential) and a vacant land disclosure report (vacant land) – on which the owner discloses information about the property. Senate Bill 139 requires an owner to disclose on the applicable report whether the owner has notice or knowledge of a contract, or an option to contract, that allows a person to mine frac sand on a neighboring property.

Right to Know of Future Plans: Prospector/Exploration Registration, Senate Bill 140
Companies conducting exploration for metallic mining are required to obtain a license, post a bond to cover potential damage and adequately fill exploratory drill holes. Non-metallic mines do not have similar requirements. Senate Bill 140 authorizes counties to issue licenses for frac sand exploration. Exploration consists of drilling holes for the purpose of searching for frac sand or establishing the nature and extent of a frac sand deposit.

Under the bill, a person who applies to a county for a frac sand exploration license must submit a bond to ensure that drill holes will be properly filled and proof that the person has liability insurance covering personal injury and property damage. The bill requires a licensee to notify the county before beginning drilling and before filling a drill hole. The bill also requires the Department of Natural Resources to provide technical assistance related to frac sand exploration to a county upon request.

The Right to Have a Voice in the Process: Public Meetings and Zoning, Senate Bill 141
Local government officials often feel they have little power to protect their communities when negotiating with a frac sand mining company. When considering frac sand mine applications, some zoning ordinances give local officials little power to negotiate with mining companies on topics such as hours of operation, blasting policy, damage to local roads, groundwater usage and air pollution.

In areas without more protective measures, such as a well-planned ordinance, Senate Bill 141 requires frac sand mining to be listed as a conditional use in areas zoned for agricultural use. Requiring a conditional use permit would give local officials an opportunity to negotiate conditions on the operation of a frac sand mine. Requiring a conditional use permit retains the benefits of local control and brings to public hearing the issues related to sand mine siting. This bill also makes frac sand mining a prohibited use in residentially zoned areas. Industrial sand mining is simply incompatible with residences. This proposal would not affect existing mines but would prohibit future mines from locating in areas zoned as residential.

Right To Protected Property: Setbacks and Buffer Space, Senate Bill 142
Industrial sand mines impact the surrounding area in a number of ways. Noise, dust, blasting and heavy truck traffic are just some of ways sand mines impact the area. Creating a meaningful buffer zone will help to mitigate the impacts of a sand mine on neighbors.

Senate Bill 142 prohibits a frac sand mine, a frac sand processing facility, or a frac sand loading facility from being located within 2,500 feet of a single−family or two−family residence or within 2,500 feet of a single−family or two−family residential zoning district.

To Become Law
These bills need a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue to become law. Senator Thomas Tiffany is Chairman of this committee and he decides whether or not to schedule a public hearing. Let Senator Tiffany know how important these bills are to you and encourage him to schedule a public hearing by contacting him at (608) 266-2509 or

Recently many people have contacted me with concerns about annexation. There are a number of proposed mines that are seeking to be annexed into a neighboring municipality solely to avoid county ordinances on frac sand mining. I am working with concerned parties, attorneys at Legislative Council, and local government groups to determine the best approach to protect local land owners. Annexation statutes and case law are very complex and require a finely crafted solution. I am practicing due diligence to solve this problem in a way that will meet scrutiny by the courts. If you have ideas or concerns, please do not hesitate to call or write.

Proposed Budget
The proposed FY 13-15 Budget converts two positions from “insufficient” federal funding to state funding “for the Bureau of Air Management to perform permitting, monitoring, and compliance related to rapidly expanding industrial sand mining and processing operations.” I will be working with my colleagues on the Joint Finance Committee to amend the budget so there is adequate monitoring not only of air quality standards, but also ground and surface water standards.

Your Right to be Involved
Interested in learning more? Would you like to serve on Senator Vinehout’s Sand Mine Advisory Task Force? Give me a call! 877-763-6636 (toll free) or email me at



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