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Public opposition to frac-sand strong in Wisconsin; growing in Minnesota

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ST. PAUL, MN (WTAQ) - The debate over frac-sand continues in Wisconsin – but the level of public opposition is nowhere near that of neighboring Minnesota.

Tuesday, frac-sand mining opponents are rallying at the Capitol in St. Paul for a two-year statewide moratorium, so Minnesota officials can develop pollution standards.

The silica sand is used in oil drilling – and the demand for the product has grown, due to the recent oil boom in North Dakota.

Wisconsin is somewhat ahead of the regulating game, depending on who you listen to. The DNR in the Badger State studied frac-sand mining in 2011 – and its findings on potential health threats were mainly inconclusive.

But people who live near frac-sand mines have complained to the Natural Resources Board about polluted air and dust blowing off large sand piles.

As opponents state their case in Minnesota, Bobby King of the Land Stewardship Project blames corporate interests for devastating parts of western Wisconsin with polluted air and water, plus ruined farms.

There’s not been nearly that kind of talk here – but neighbors of proposed frac-sand mines are getting more vocal.

Monday night, a number of people spoke out against a proposed new mine near Augusta in Eau Claire County. One speaker called it a valued asset with the new jobs it would create – but others cited increased medical bills that families would end up paying.

The county, the DNR, and the state DOT have all approved the project – and the local town board will have the final say. 

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