MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A state appeals court on Thursday refused to reinstate a permit for a proposed $75 million frac-sand operation in western Wisconsin, a victory for environmentalists who have been fighting for years to protect the 16 acres of pristine wetlands.
Atlanta-based Meteor Timber has been working since 2016 to gain permission to build a frac-sand plant and rail-loading operation on a property that includes a hardwood swamp. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, under then-Gov. Scott Walker, granted the company a permit to fill the wetland in 2018.
Records showed that staff felt pressured by department administrators to approve the permit despite concerns over a lack of information on how the company would mitigate the wetland loss. The Ho-Chunk Nation, Midwest
Environmental Advocates and Clean Wisconsin challenged the permit and an administrative law judge revoked it in 2018, finding the DNR lacked enough information to grant it.
Current DNR Secretary Preston Cole, appointed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, refused to reconsider the permit application. Meteor Timber sued in May 2019.
A Monroe County judge in 2020 rued that the DNR violated the law when it granted the permit and upheld the administrative law judge’s decision. Wisconsin’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld that ruling.