News – January 2014 – Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin “Frac-Sand”

AGWT Executive Director was the keynote speaker at the Wisconsin Groundwater Conference held in Wisconsin Dells.  His presentation covered the world-wide phenomena of the development of energy from shales and then focused on mining controversies in Wisconsin.   Nearly all of the sand used by the US Oil & Gas industry to “prop-open” the cracks formed by hydraulic fracturing is mined in Wisconsin. Geologic history has given Wisconsin valuable sources of sand that meet all the specifications of size, roundness and hardness that are used in the development of fuels from shale.  Protests against mining are based in part on local environmental concerns about air and water quality but also some people express concern that that allowing sand mining is “enabling” shale-gas development in other states.  This issue in Wisconsin has become political and involves questions about how much control should be local and how much of the debate is about wider issues of climate change and renewable energy sources.

            Roadside signs and protests about sand mining in Wisconsin are very similar to fracking protest signs in those states where shale reserves occur.  Wisconsin has iron and other minerals as part of its geologic heritage but no oil or gas potential.  The environmental and the legal issues in the state related to sand mining are far from over and when (if) methane prices rise there are likely to be increases in hydraulic fracturing which will result in greater demands for the opening and expansion of sand mining operations.