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Community at Odds as Officials are Granted Mining Permits

In Whitehall, Wis., a divisive public hearing over frac sand ended in approvals for two new mining projects, despite citizen complaints that some elected officials were dealing themselves into the frac sand business at the expense of their neighbors.

One of the mining sites approved is on land owned by Ivan Pronschinske, who serves on the Board of Supervisors in Arcadia Township, near Whitehall. The other venture approved is tied to Robert Tenneson, the longtime chairman of nearby Preston Township.

Tom Bice, chairman of the Trempealeau County Land Use and Environment Committee, put a two-minute limit on afternoon testimony at a packed hearing in the county courthouse, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Several morning speakers made bitter comments about alleged pro-mining leanings of some county and township officials.

“This is insanity,” said Susan Faber, a mining opponent who said a few people are getting rich off mines that devalue the property of others.

The committee has reportedly issued more frac sand permits than any other county in Minnesota or Wisconsin, amid a sand-mining boom driven by the national surge in fracking for oil and natural gas.