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Editorial: How about local control?

A proposed bill by two Republican state lawmakers—Sen. Tom Tiffany, Hazelhurst, and Rep. Joan Ballweg, Markesan—would curtail local governments’ ability to set limits on nonmetallic mining—more specifically, frac sand mining. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was quoted as saying it’s a good bill, but there’s no time to get it passed until spring.

Frac sand mining has materialized all over. Wisconsin has about 115 operations, most in Western Wisconsin. Fine quality sand is excavated and shipped elsewhere for new extraction methods by oil and natural gas companies.

Demand is booming. Media outlets quote Richard Shearer, CEO of Texas-based Superior Silica Sands, declaring, “Wisconsin is the global epicenter…and we’re just getting started.”

Towns and local communities have reacted to this boom, as they should, with caution. Unanswered questions remain about environmental harm, including groundwater contamination, air pollution from blowing dust particles, noise from blasting and late-night machine operations, land-use reclamation, plus wear-and-tear on roads from processions of heavy trucks hauling loads of sand.

Some towns have enacted temporary mining moratoriums until local controls are voted on.

What a shame having to deal with the local yokels. How much simpler if big government, its ears pulled around by out-of-state big business, could just spell it out with uniform rules. One size fits all! Blast, baby, blast!

We say absolutely not. Regardless of the presence of valuable mineral resources, it’s up to those local residents, those local town boards, to decide whether they want their land carved up for mining and, if so, how they choose to protect their roads, water, air and property values.

Area state lawmakers, especially Republicans who continually champion local control over big government dictates, must now decide if that mantra rings hollow or true.

Democrat State. Sen Kathleen Vinehout, who represents a portion of Pierce County, including the Town of Martell, said the frac sand bill is “another example of legislation happening in Wisconsin…that is being driven by out-of-state corporate interests that take away local people’s ability to protect their health, their safety and their neighborhood.”

We look to our Republican legislators to see if they’ll side with the local mantra regarding mining operations or big government and outside special interests.