Frac sand companies skirt regulation through annexationCompanies mining frac sand have begun using annexation as a way to get around regulations they dislike.
By: By Rich Kremer, Wisocnsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Companies mining frac sand have begun using annexation as a way to get around regulations they dislike. Two mines have used the tactic in Trempealeau County, but the idea is spreading to other parts of the state.
When a company wants to mine frac sand in an unzoned township, the rules they follow for things like reclamation and hours of operation are written by the county. In Trempealeau County, mining and processing are only allowed 12 to 16 hours per day.
But in 2012, Arcadia Sands, which is located in the town of Arcadia, convinced the city of Arcadia to annex its land, making the county rules null and void. Because of this, the mine got lighter regulations and the city got new tax revenue. But town board chair Ron Tuschner says they got nothing.
“So, the basic loser is the municipality of where this land is taken from and that, in this case, is the town of Arcadia,” he said.
Tuschner says now the mine can operate in his town all night long, but eventually they will stop getting the tax revenue. He says they tried to fight the annexation but legally there is nothing a town can do to block it.
Rick Stadelman of the Wisconsin Towns Association says annexation has been used for years as a way for property owners to avoid town or county regulations, but says it is not an option open to all frac sand mines: “It isn’t going to happen in every site, because the property that’s to be annexed has to be contiguous or the annexation has to include property to make it contiguous.”
Another sand mine owned by Preferred Sands was annexed last year by the Town of Blair in Trempealeau County. Now, a sand processing plant in the Barron County Town of Dovre is in the process of being annexed by the Village of New Auburn.