Saturday July 4th, 2020 5:13PM

Frack sand company sues Wisconsin DNR over permit denial

By The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An Atlanta-based fracking company is taking the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to court over its decision to deny a permit to construct a $75 million sand processing plant in Monroe County.

Wisconsin Public Radio reported Thursday that Meteor Timber filed a lawsuit in Monroe County circuit court challenging the DNR decision to invalidate a permit granted earlier to fill 16 acres (6.475 hectares) of high quality wetlands.

DNR spokeswoman Sarah Hoye said in an email to The Associated Press that the agency is "open to discussions with all of the parties on the next steps toward resolution of this matter." Hoye said she couldn't comment further because the issue is in litigation.

The DNR under former Gov. Scott Walker granted the permit in 2017. Open records obtained by WPR showed that staff felt pressured by department administration to approve the permit despite concerns over a lack of information from the company about how it would mitigate the wetland destruction.

The Ho-Chunk Nation, Midwest Environmental Advocates and Clean Wisconsin challenged the permit and an administrative law judge revoked it in 2018, finding that the agency lacked enough information to grant it.

Meteor Timber asked the DNR to review that decision and last month Preston Cole, the agency secretary appointed by Gov. Tony Evers, stopped the review without making a decision. Cole said the issue would be best decided in court.

Meteor Timber has been trying since 2015 to build the frack sand plant and rail loading facility on property that includes rare hardwood swamp. Environmental groups and the Ho-Chunk Nation have opposed the project.

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