Wisconsin Supreme Court nixes Georgia firm’s petition to destroy forest, build frac depot in Monroe County

Wisconsin Supreme Court Nixes Georgia Firm’s Petition To Destroy Forest, Build Frac Depot In Monroe County

This 2011 file photo shows frac sand storage facility in western Wisconsin. (Associated Press)

MADISON (WKBT) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a petition Wednesday from an Atlanta-based timber company for another hearing on its plan to destroy a hardwood wetland forest in Monroe County and build a frac-sand loading depot on the site.

Meteor Timber had received a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in 2017 to fill in the wetland for its proposed $75 million frac sand operation, but the Monroe County Circuit Court ruled in 2020 that the permit violated state wetland protection laws.

An appeals court upheld that decision in December, prompting the company to seek another hearing, a request the state’s high court denied.

The Supreme Court action was the culmination of more than four years of legal work by Clean Wisconsin and Midwest Environmental Advocates, which represented the Ho-Chunk Nation in its fight against the permit.

“This is a permit that never should have been issued in the first place,” said Evan Feinauer, staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin. “This company’s application to fill valuable wetlands did not meet the standards that every other business and individual must meet.”

The company “obviously knew this, because it sought to have special legislation pushed through without notice or debate that would have exempted its project from the permitting process altogether,” Feinauer said. “Fortunately, that effort failed.”

Permits that affect natural resources should be issued only “when rigorous standards are met, and not because a business has powerful and well-connected lobbyists,” Feinauer said.

“This case is now over, but the struggle to protect Wisconsin’s waters, including wetlands, is not,” Feinauer said. “Clean Wisconsin will continue working to protect wetlands, rivers, lakes and streams by ensuring that DNR follows both the law and science when issuing permits. Every wetland we can protect is an enormous victory.”