Even with hikes, frac sand permit fees often don’t cover public costSome counties in western Wisconsin are increasing frac sand permit fees to keep taxpayers from subsidizing the industry; however, the additional revenue still is not covering the costs in some cases.
By: By Rich Kremer, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Some counties in western Wisconsin are increasing frac sand permit fees to keep taxpayers from subsidizing the industry; however, the additional revenue still is not covering the costs in some cases.
Counties are required to review and approve mining companies’ plans to return open sand and gravel pits to prairie, forest, or agricultural land.
But with the expansion of industrial frac sand mining starting in 2008, permit applications have exploded, and county permit fees have been slow to catch up.
Chase Cummings is the Pepin County land conservationist. He says they only have one frac sand mine operating, but their permit fee has not come close to covering the cost.
“We spent probably, over 2011 and 2012, almost 800 hours just on one mine site in our office on a $900 plan review fee,” Cummings said.
This year, a number of counties in western Wisconsin have changed their permit review fees including Pepin County, which increased it to more than $7,000 for large mines. Barron County’s permit review fee was $750 but now can go as high as $10,000.
Even so, County Zoning Administrator David Gifford says they are not breaking even.
“I would say at this time we are not covering 100 percent of the time that is invested into non-metallic mining,” Gifford said.
Also striking is the difference in permit fees between counties. Last week, a frac sand mining company in Trempealeau County paid $25,000 to have its permit reviewed, but just next door in Jackson County, companies need only pay $350. A 2008 Department of Natural Resources report showed that 13 Wisconsin counties were operating their reclamation programs at a deficit.