Environmental Protection Agency pressed to oppose DNR pollution permit

The Ho-Chunk Nation and the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter are lead petitioners asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to object to an air pollution permit approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for expanding a frac sand mining operation.

Midwest Environmental Advocates filed the petition in late October.

The petitioners say the permit allows the Superior Silica Sands frac sand mine and processing plant to expand production without estimating, monitoring or controlling fine particulate matter that would impact air quality.

“The Ho-Chunk Nation is in favor of complying with the EPA standards. We feel it is an important step in keeping the general public, environment and natural habitats safe,” said Darren Brinegar, vice president of Ho-Chunk Nation.

The permit violates the federal Clean Air Act and may allow the mining operation to violate National Ambient Air Quality Standards, according to the MEA document.

“The DNR is ignoring the presence and cumulative impacts of fine particulate matter from facilities including frac sand mines under its new policy,” MEA staff attorney Sarah Geers stated. She said asking the EPA for a formal objection “will help make it clear that the DNR’s policies must be brought in line with the Clean Air Act in order to protect public health and our environment.”

Last year, the DNR issued “Guidance for PM2.5 Permit Modeling” to outline how the agency would permit industrial activities that emit fine particulate matter.

However, in August 2015, the EPA put the DNR on notice: The guidance document didn’t follow the Clean Air Act and the state should evaluate activities that create PM2.5 air quality impacts on a case-by-case basis.