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PLoS One. 2015 Jul 2;10(7):e0131386. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131386. eCollection 2015.

Frac Sand Mines Are Preferentially Sited in Unzoned Rural Areas.

Author information

1
Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.

Abstract

Shifting markets can cause unexpected, stochastic changes in rural landscapes that may take local communities by surprise. Preferential siting of new industrial facilities in poor areas or in areas with few regulatory restrictions can have implications for environmental sustainability, human health, and social justice. This study focuses on frac sand mining-the mining of high-quality silica sand used in hydraulic fracturing processes for gas and oil extraction. Frac sand mining gained prominence in the 2000s in the upper midwestern United States where nonmetallic mining is regulated primarily by local zoning. I asked whether frac sand mines were more commonly sited in rural townships without formal zoning regulations or planning processes than in those that undertook zoning and planning before the frac sand boom. I also asked if mine prevalence was correlated with socioeconomic differences across townships. After creating a probability surface to map areas most suitable for frac sand mine occurrence, I developed neutral landscape models from which to compare actual mine distributions in zoned and unzoned areas at three different spatial extents. Mines were significantly clustered in unzoned jurisdictions at the statewide level and in 7 of the 8 counties with at least three frac sand mines and some unzoned land. Subsequent regression analyses showed mine prevalence to be uncorrelated with land value, tax rate, or per capita income, but correlated with remoteness and zoning. The predicted mine count in unzoned townships was over two times higher than that in zoned townships. However, the county with the most mines by far was under a county zoning ordinance, perhaps indicating industry preferences for locations with clear, homogenous rules over patchwork regulation. Rural communities can use the case of frac sand mining as motivation to discuss and plan for sudden land-use predicaments, rather than wait to grapple with unfamiliar legal processes during a period of intense conflict.

PMID:
26136238
PMCID:
PMC4489872
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0131386
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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