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DOJ considers legal action for environmental violations tied to frac-sand mining

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The state Justice Department says it’s considering legal action for three environmental violations connected with the rapid increase in frac-sand mining.

DNR officials say additional cases could be referred for prosecution, after the agency issued 20 violation notices to 19 companies since late 2011.

The DNR said five frac-sand companies violated stormwater permits in April and May of this year, when melting snow and rains pushed debris into streams and wetlands in Trempealeau and Barron counties.

Frac-sand mining is a relatively new process – and officials say both sand companies and regulators are still getting accustomed to their proper roles.

The western half of Wisconsin, with its favorable soils, has become of the nation’s hot spots for frac-sand mining. The process uses water and chemicals as part of the extraction of domestic oil and natural gas deposits that could never be tapped until now.

A new federal report shows how frac-sand has cut into the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The U.S. Energy Information Agency said last week that oil and gas companies added almost 4 billion barrels of oil reserves in 2011 – the most since 1977.