Our Reports

12 Sandy GIFs: An animated guide to Wisconsin’s frac sand rush

Frac sand mining is not fracking.

The Center is known for its comprehensive coverage of frac sand mining. But let’s face it … our stories are long. So in the meantime here’s a quick introduction to the issues, from local control to dusty air.

As rail moves frac sand across Wisconsin landscape, new conflicts emerge

A Union Pacific train blocks traffic on Main Street in Chippewa Falls in February. Some area residents have become frustrated by hours-long road blockages caused by halted frac-sand trains.

While the number of Wisconsin car-train accidents has remained relatively steady in recent years, and derailments actually are down, some residents who live near train tracks used for transporting sand, primarily in western and northwestern communities, complain about noise and traffic delays in addition to safety worries.

Podcast: Head in the (frac) sand

Alison Dirr on the frac sand beat at Superior Silica Sands in New Auburn, August 2013.

Reporter Alison Dirr just finished a yearlong internship with us, during which she covered the sprawling beat of Wisconsin’s fast-growing frac sand industry. We talk about that in the latest podcast. And below the audio link, further reflections from Dirr. Also, we now have music for the podcast. Alison Dirr: After a year as WisconsinWatch’s frac sand beat reporter, I’m leaving with a real appreciation of the complexity and nuance of this controversy.

New frac sand bill still divides

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, said at a Monday legislative hearing that he wants to prevent local governments from changing local regulations in ways that hurt existing and permitted nonmetallic mines.

A legislative hearing Monday on a revised attempt to limit local governments’ authority to regulate nonmetallic mining, including existing frac sand mines, drew support from mining representatives but opposition from town leaders.

City’s frac sand mine battle spurs recalls

Glenwood City, a 1,200-person community in northwest Wisconsin, has become the site of a controversy over a proposed frac sand mine.

In this small city in northwestern Wisconsin, the mayor and two council members are facing recall elections over their handling of a proposed frac sand mine that would be built a half-mile south of a school.

Frac sand health fears rise as mining booms in Wisconsin

Environmental Health and Safety Manager Duane Wilke said he has a vested interest in making sure the Superior Silica sand processing plant in New Auburn keeps the dust down: his 15-year-old daughter. “I would never do anything to harm the air quality, to harm my own daughter,” he said.

Like some other west-central Wisconsin residents, Frances and Dean Sayles are frustrated with the state Department of Natural Resources’ lack of a comprehensive approach to addressing concerns surrounding potential health problems from crystalline silica dust. Now some residents, academics, local government officials and even a frac sand producer have begun taking action.