An overview of the 400-acre plot of Preferred Sands mine in Blair, Wis., in Trempealeau County on June 20, 2012.

Frac sand news roundup: Minnesota county mining ban ‘an amazing move and victory for the people’

The latest in Wisconsin frac sand. See our in-depth stories since 2011 on our frac sand project page. Minnesota’s Houston County may become the first in the state to permanently ban frac sand mining after an unanimous vote last week to approve a new mining ordinance. Meanwhile, Alberta-based rail company Canadian Pacific is upgrading its tracks, which carry crude oil as well as sand through the county, and a Houston County resident is still planning multiple frac sand mining operations in the area. But frac sand opponents are still optimistic: “This is an amazing move and victory for the people,” said one resident.

Your Right to Know: Don’t let the UW hide research records

This blanket exemption would spare the UW from needing a good reason to deny access to these records, as current law requires. Instead, universities could categorically spurn inquiries from citizens, media and even lawmakers looking into controversial research, potential threats to public safety, conflicts of interest or how tax dollars are spent.

Julia Hunter

Your Right to Know: State needs to fix drivers records access issue

In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled that the village of Palatine, Illinois, may have violated the act by leaving parking tickets, which included personal information, on the windshields of motorists. Some Wisconsin police departments, instructed by their insurers, began redacting personal information from police reports. No other state — not even Illinois, where the Palatine case occurred — adopted this interpretation.

Frac sand news roundup: Are the go-go days over?

The Wisconsin DNR reports that there has not yet been any major changes in the frac sand industry, but at least one oil analyst, based in Milwaukee, isn’t convinced: “The only thing we can say for sure is that the go-go days are over.”

Jason Smathers

Your Right to Know: Official calendars are a basic public record

It’s a pretty simple question for a public official: “What exactly do you do with your time?”

Sometimes, the best way to answer that question is to obtain the official’s calendar, through the state’s open records law. In my work as a reporter, I’ve done this for the state treasurer and his staff, who work for an office with few official duties. I’ve also used the monthly calendars of Gov. Scott Walker to plot his travel and track his day-to-day meetings. So when I wanted a better understanding of how the duties of Sheboygan Mayor Mike Vandersteen and Chief Administrative Officer Jim Amodeo overlap, I asked to see their calendars. Amodeo’s response was simply, “Oh, OK.”

Vandersteen’s response was more terse.

Frac sand news roundup: ‘Even the smallest communities have the right to decide what does and doesn’t happen’

The latest in Wisconsin frac sand. See our in-depth stories since 2011 on our frac sand project page. More than 40 percent of the registered voters in the Winona County, Minn.,  township of Saratoga have signed a petition calling for a moratorium on frac sand mining in the area. “Even the smallest communities have the right to decide what does and doesn’t happen in their community,” said activist Johanna Rupprecht. Winona Daily News November 25

Less than one month since the first city in Texas banned hydraulic fracturing, industry supporters are wondering whether they should blame their defeat on Denton’s large college student population.