Tiffany and Ballweg had also cosponsored SB 349 in October of 2013, which sought to eliminate the ability of local governments to pass ordinances to regulate frac sand mining as part of town police powers upheld by a 2012 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling in the case Zwiefelhofer v. Town of Cooks Valley. SB 349 was met with fierce opposition and was not advanced.
The new legislation is more narrowly focused than SB 349. The recent SB 632 seeks to shield existing frac sand operations from new ordinances or license requirements, as long as they had been operating any time within the previous year. It also prohibits local governments from imposing new, more restrictive zoning ordinances on existing operations, and mine expansion would also be exempt from new ordinances. In addition, if landowners register their property as containing "marketable nonmetallic mineral deposits," then future ordinances cannot interfere with eventual mining activities.
The lawmakers framed SB 632 as "preserving property rights and protecting jobs." "I see this country as having two pillars that have really supported the great prosperity we have," Tiffany has said. "One is the rule of law. The other is the right of private property. This is a very simple bill. It protects existing rights that people have." Proponents also argue that local ordinances amount to a patchwork of inconsistent regulations, and that state laws are needed to provide a predictable regulatory environment for industry.
Opponents argue that SB 632 is a gift to industry, merely another attempt to undermine local democratic control over nonmetallic mining and to restrict the ability of local government to protect people from a rapidly expanding industry. While the industry routinely claims that sand mining is "highly regulated," others worry about unknown environmental health risks and various other impacts. In a statement issued after the passage of the bill in committee, Senator Jauch wrote that "sand mining industry leaders claimed the bill was necessary to give mining companies some assurances 'beyond the next local election.' Instead of proving why this bill is necessary, their comments only served to raise serious questions about why this industry is so fearful of democratic elections."
Over the last several days, numerous interpretations of the bill and statements about its implications have been circulating. Here are some resources that are critical of SB 632:
- "Sierra Club Opposes Tiffany's Latest Frac-Sand Mining Favors." Press release, Sierra Club John Muir Chapter, February 27, 2014.
- "Stop the Frac Sand Free-For-All, Oppose SB 632, the Eat My Dust Bill." Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Talking Points, February 27, 2014.
- Written testimony from attorney Glen M. Stoddard, to the Wisconsin State Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining, and Revenue and the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy and Mining, February 27, 2014.
- Letter from William Mavity, Pepin County Board District 12 Supervisor, to the Senate and Assembly committees on mining, February 28, 2014.
- Letter from Elizabeth A. Feil, attorney at law and Trempealeau County resident, to the citizens of Wisconsin counties impacted by industrial sand mining, March 3, 2014.
- Written statement by Forest Jahnke, Crawford Stewardship Project, to the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining, and Revenue, and the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy, and Mining, March 3, 2014.
- "SB 632 Frac Sand Mining with Unregulated Greenlight combined with Local Government Usurpation," statement by Susan Michetti, representing the South Western Wisconsin Area Progressives.
- Vinehout, Kathleen. Testimony to the Joint Public Hearing of the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue & Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy and Mining, March 3, 2014.
- Letter from Richard J. Stadelman, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Towns Association, to the Wisconsin State Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining, and Revenue and the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy and Mining, March 4, 2014.
- "Statement from Senator Jauch on Committee Passage of Sand Mining Bill." Press release, March 5, 2014.
- Vinehout, Kathleen. "Sand mine bill takes away communities' right to say 'no'." Winona Daily News, March 5, 2014.