FRACKING SAND MINERS FAILING TO CHECK FOR NABOKOV'S ENDANGERED
on January 31, 2012 by Kate Golden - 4 Comments
have to let us know they’re there,’ Wisconsin DNR says
of the remaining habitat of the endangered Karner blue butterfly
with Wisconsin’s sandstone deposits.
Center for Investigative Journalism
the sand barrens of Wisconsin lives an endangered blue butterfly
described and named by Vladimir Nabokov], and Its range
almost perfectly with the sand that’s become a lucrative part
a boom in natural gas drilling.
to kill a Karner blue without a permit violates federal law.
of the dozens of frac sand companies that have descended upon the
just one, Unimin, has applied to the state Department of Natural
to be able to legally destroy Karner blues in its
according to David Lentz, who coordinates the agency’s
blue butterfly habitat conservation plan.
only four companies have contacted the agency’s Bureau of
have to let us know they’re there,” Lentz said. “And they haven’t
concern is that companies’ due diligence may not be perfectly
they in such a rush to get to the gold that they’re not going to
their environmental or regulatory responsibilities, and take
risk?” Lentz asked.
Karner blue is just one wrinkle in the state’s struggle with this
industry, which has homed in on Wisconsin for the quality
its sand. In the drilling process nicknamed “fracking,” sand, water
chemicals are blasted into wells, creating fissures in the rock
freeing hard-to-reach pockets of oil and natural gas.
‘sand boom’ took us by surprise,” noted state senior geologist
Brown in an October presentation. “Many counties were
by mining applications, and the scale of mining has
problems we haven’t dealt with before.”
best sand for fracking is shown here in red in this slide from an
2011 frac sand presentation by state senior geologist Bruce
the state Department of Transportation has been studying the
of transporting all the sand on the state’s roads and rail
the DNR has devoted more staff to permits and enforcement. Two
are working just on frac sand air pollution permits, two more
have been devoted to enforcement, and since September, staffer
Woletz’s entire job has been coordinating frac sand permits.
of mid-January, the DNR had counted about 60 mines, 32 plants
operating or being built, and 20 more proposed mines — more
double the 41 mines or plants the Wisconsin Center for
Journalism counted in mid-July. The agency
estimated the state’s capacity at more than 12 million
of sand a year.
said the agency can’t say exactly how many companies are out
and what their status is. They have no centralized industry
and they are “very competitive and very secretive” when
land, he said.
don’t know that we’re trying to keep a handle on where they all
Woletz said. “Our main issue is making sure that they have the
permits they need.”
DNR on Tuesday issued a 43-page summary of the industry’s
their potential environmental impacts and applicable
Possible environmental impacts of sand mining, Wisconsin
of Natural Resources Jan. 31 white paper
Woletz said, the industry is “fairly well funded and they are
to doing what they need to do as far as permitting and
But they want their permits at business speed,” — that is,
too, has learned a lot about Karners since he started this detail
no coincidence that wherever there’s frac sand, the Karner blue
be nearby. This quarter-size, gossamer-blue butterfly lives much
its life on wild lupine, whose blue-purple flowers are a common
in Wisconsin’s sand barrens.