Last week, Minnesota regulators quietly issued a major fine of $85,000 against frac sand operator Tiller Corp. for a long list of violations, including emitting unsafe levels of toxic dust.
That’s the largest penalty levied against a frac sand company in the state in at least three years. And it’s the second largest fine issued to any industry by regulators at the state’s Pollution Control Agency this year.
The fine comes at a time when Minnesota is overhauling its rules for the burgeoning frac sand industry. Minnesota is the nation’s fourth largest producer of silica sand, a key ingredient used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Its neighbor Wisconsin is the top producer.
The frac sand industry is driving an economic boom across the region, providing thousands of new jobs and injecting millions of dollars in new development. But there’s concern about the growing frac sand industry’s impact on air, water, noise and light pollution. Minnesota officials are trying to address many of these issues with the current rulemaking effort.