Bob Haase’s Another Can Of Worms

Authority and Responsibility of Issuing Permits

We have a serious problem in this state that seems to be getting worse.  We have state agencies awarding permits for everything from frac mines to high capacity wells that don’t feel they have the authority to deny the permit or enforce compliance, but they still issue the permits.


A recent news article in the Dunn County News by Senator Kathleen Vinehout talked about some of the concerns regarding frac sand mining in Wisconsin.   In the article Ruth King, a DNR Storm Water Specialist was quoted as saying that the people needed to be the eyes and ears for problems in frac sand mining because she is only a half-time employee.  According to Kate Prengaman of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, nearly one fifth of the 70 active frac sand mines were cited for environmental violations last year.  She also quoted Air Management Specialist Marty Sellers as saying that he sent letters of noncompliance to over 80 percent of the frac mine sites that he visited.  Because of limited resources many of the frac mines are only visited when there is a citizen complaint.


A similar problem exists with the CAFO’s in Wisconsin in that the DNR does not have the staff to inspect the dumping of liquid manure on the fields, so the CAFO’s do their own inspections and reports its findings to the state.  They have enough staff to issue the permits, but not enough staff to do the inspections.


The WDNR is the agency responsible for issuing high capacity well permits, but they do not feel they have the authority to reject a permit application.  This is being further complicated by a recent bill that would not allow the DNR to use the number and pumping capacity of other wells in the area, or allow citizens to challenge any high capacity well permit. 


The point of all of this is that when a person or agency is given the responsibility or authority of awarding permits for things like frac sand mines, CAFO operations, high capacity wells, or operations like this, they should also be held accountable.  I mentioned these because I used them as an example, but the same applies to all state permits.   The agencies should be provided the necessary resources, including staffing, to examine the permit applications within a reasonable time frame and award or deny the permit based on the permit requirements and potential outcomes.  The agency should also have enough resources, including staffing, to make the necessary inspections to make sure that they are in compliance.  The public deserves and expects that when a permit is issued that the rights and health of the public is being protected.


Bob Haase is the host of “Outdoors Thursday” heard Thursday mornings at 9:10 a.m. on News-Talk 1450 KFIZ.