Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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Frac Sand Mine Now Must Monitor Dust, Air Quality

Dec 05, 2014

Yesterday, Petitioners received a court decision in a legal challenge to a frac sand mine’s air pollution permit. The court reversed the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ decision to allow FML Sand, LLC to build a sand mine and processing facility without ambient air monitoring to track silica dust.

“The Petitioners are relieved that Judge Boldt acknowledged that, given likely emissions from this facility, more needed to be done to ensure that FML Sand was complying with air standards for very fine particulates,” said Midwest Environmental Advocates Staff Attorney, Sarah Williams.

As modified by this decision, Fairmount Minerals’ air pollution permit will include an ambient air monitoring requirement to ensure that the facility, one of eight frac sand mines in a five-mile radius in Arcadia, wouldn’t create more silica dust than federal and state law allow. It is important for courts and state agencies to recognize that, at minimum, frac sand mines and processing facilities should monitor for both types of dangerous fine particulates, PM10 and PM2.5.

But citizens remain concerned about the impacts of ever increasing frac sand mining in our state on their air, water and way of life. Because the DNR has not been requiring all facilities to install ambient air monitors for PM2.5, the smallest and most dangerous particulate matter, we can’t know the full impact. Independent studies are coming out that suggest facilities may be contributing to unsafe levels of very fine particulates in the ambient air.

It is important for the DNR to issue stronger air pollution permits for frac sand mining in Wisconsin because permits establish the public health and environmental standards under which mining companies operate. Permits also lay out what powers the DNR has to enforce air protections in the future. Strong air pollution permits are a critical part of protecting our health and the air we breathe.

But citizens cannot and should not have to go to court to challenge each inadequate permit, one permit at a time. That is why citizens asked the DNR for a strategic analysis to study the full environmental impact of frac sand mining in Wisconsin. Petitioners asked for an environmental assessment in this case and were denied. To understand the big picture of frac sand mining’s impact on our air, water and land, we need a comprehensive environmental analysis for the whole state.

/ tagged: air, mining, frac sand, frac, frack, rural