For some people, it's a house. For others, it's a car... or two. Or maybe student loan debt. For some frac sand mines, it's a few hours, if that.
Last month Alpine Sand, operating near Arcadia, in Trempealeau County, was fined $80,000 for violating storm water regulations. Their facility was originally cited by the DNR in October 2012 for mismanaging storm water. Then sand and sediment washed into a tributary of Newcomb Valley Creek on multiple occasions in 2013.
What does $80,000 mean to a frac sand mine?
According to the Wall Street Journal, in April the going rate for frac sand was $56 per ton (not including transportation or handling costs). We know that Alpine Sand is permitted to haul 180 loads a day from this particular mine. If we assume that one truckload typically carries about 20 tons (a figure I have heard for other operations), then we might estimate that Alpine Sand moves about 3,600 tons per day.
That means they move about $201,600 worth of sand, daily. If they operate every day, that's $1,411,200 per week. Eighty grand doesn't seem to represent a very big dent in their revenue stream.
What does such a modest fine mean for frac sand mining in general? Well, the Wall Street Journal recently boasted about a Texas-based investment firm striking it rich with Wisconsin frac sand, scoring gains of $1.4 billion on a $91 million investment. Read that again. $1.4 billion. Billion.
I wonder if an $80,000 fine will really encourage these out-of-state billionaires to take environmental standards seriously?