A planned review by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources jeopardizes a victory for the Ho-Chunk Nation and environmentalists fighting a frac-sand operation in the state.
In May, an administrative law judge with the Wisconsin Division of Hearings and Appeals delivered a victory to the campaign to protect the environment and tribal resources by invalidating a wetland fill permit issued by the DNR to Georgia-based Meteor Timber.
The company wants the permit to build an industrial sand processing facility and rail project in Monroe County.
The project has met with strong opposition from Clean Wisconsin and Ho-Chunk Nation, represented by Midwest Environmental Advocates.
The permit at the center of the dispute would allow Meteor Timber to fill in over 16 acres of wetlands, including more than 13 acres of rare forested wetlands.
Opponents argued that the DNR should have denied the permit based upon inadequate guarantees against significant, adverse impacts to the environment — and a judge agreed.
MEA described the judge’s decision as a “hard-fought” victory, but one that was threatened in late May, when the DNR said its secretary — a political appointee of Scott Walker — would review the order. Meteor Timber petitioned for the DNR review, as well as filed a complaint in circuit court.
“We urged the DNR to reject Meteor’s petition because it skirts the impartial judicial process and risks overturning a well-reasoned administrative decision,” Carolyn Garnett, legislative attorney for Ho-Chunk Nation, stated in a news release. “This action clearly undercuts Meteor’s claim that this project has broad local support.”
She said the judge’s invalidation of the permit upheld a tenet of the Ho-Chunk’s government: to protect its people and its lands for this and future generations.
“The expansive and permanent destruction of the rare wetlands on the landscape would broadly impact the Nation’s people, land and cultural heritage,” Garnett said.
Clean Wisconsin and Midwest Environmental Advocates say the judge’s ruling was correct and pledged to continue their fight.
MEA, in a press statement, said still uncertain is the status of legislation that would allow Meteor Timber to avoid the requirement for a permit and undercut the challenge to the permit.