By Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A judge refused Monday to reinstate a wetlands permit for a $75 million frac sand operation in Monroe County.

Atlanta-based Meteor Timber has been working for four years to gain permission to build a frac sand plant and rail loading facility on a property that includes a hardwood swamp. The DNR under then-Gov. Scott Walker granted the company a permit to fill 16.25 wetland acres in 2018.

But records showed that staff felt pressured by department administrators to approve the permit despite concerns over a lack of information on how the company would mitigate the wetland loss. The Ho-Chunk Nation, Midwest Environmental Advocates and Clean Wisconsin challenged the permit and an administrative law judge revoked it in 2018, finding the DNR lacked enough information to grant it.

DNR Secretary Preston Cole, appointed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, refused to reconsider the permit application. Meteor Timber sued in May 2019.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Monroe County Circuit Judge Todd Ziegler ruled Monday that the DNR violated the law when it granted the permit and upheld the administrative law judge’s decision.

Messages left for Meteor Timber attorneys weren’t immediately returned.

Ziegler acknowledged that the case will likely end up in an appellate court.

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