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State considers new frac-sand regulations

MADISON (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Local governments would lose much of their authority to regulate frac-sand mines, under a bill proposed by a state Senate Republican. Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst says mining companies are being hampered by a patch-work of restrictive local ordinances -- and it would be easier for the mining firms to deal with uniform rules administered by Madison. Communities could still use their zoning authority to regulate silica-sand operations. They would not be able to use their police powers to impose things like noise limits, or hours of operation. Blasting activities would remain under state rules -- much to the chagrin of Ashland County officials, who are considering an ordinance to limit exploratory blasting at the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine. They fear that blasting would loosen asbestos on the property.

The Sierra Club blasted Tiffany's proposal, calling it an assault on local control which threatens natural resources. The Wisconsin Towns Association says the bill would affect local road usage agreements for frac-sand trucks, which seek to minimize highway damage.

Senate Republican Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls says any state bill would have to address local road agreements.

Tiffany is looking for co-sponsors for his legislation, and he's giving them until Monday to get on board.