Frac Sand Mining Regulations

Published December 9, 2016

Critics of frac sand mining claim it is a dangerous unregulated industry that harms the environment and is detrimental to public health. That myth is laid to rest in a recent Heartland Policy Study authored by Mark Krumenacher, a senior principal and senior vice president at GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., and Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr.

In their study, Krumenacher and Orr describe the existing federal, state, and local regulations governing industrial sand operations, which they say often overlap, creating a complex, multi-layered regulatory scheme. “[E]very aspect of industrial sand mining is regulated by more than 20,000 pages of federal, state, or local government laws and ordinances,” wrote the authors. “When properly drafted, local government ordinances can be beneficial to both industrial sand operators and neighboring communities. However, many times these ordinances are developed to be overly restrictive in a deliberate attempt to prevent industrial sand mining in a given area.

The ongoing battle over frac sand mining is similar to the struggle facing companies in the hydraulic fracturing industry; they currently must endure significant and costly methane-emissions regulations, which anti-fracking crusaders say are necessary to stop the numerous alleged problems caused by fracking. Orr refutes many of these unjustified anti-fracking allegations in a number of articles and essays, including one published in September by The American Spectator, in which he wrote, “In reality, methane is not the monster it’s made out to be, because emissions from oil and gas operations are generally low, and when leaks do occur, they are fixed quickly and easily.”

Orr and Krumenacher’s frac sand mining study is the fifth in a series of Heartland Policy Studies by the two authors. The four previous studies are “Environmental Impacts of Industrial Silica Sand (Frac Sand) Mining” (May 2015), “Economic Impacts of Industrial Silica Sand (Frac Sand) Mining” (June 2015), “Roadway Impacts of Industrial Silica Sand (Frac Sand) Mining” (September 2015), and “Social Impacts of Industrial Silica Sand (Frac Sand) Mining: Land Use and Value” (February 2016). They are all available on Heartland’s website at

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