J. Winston Porter, an energy consultant and fracking proponent, held the No. 2 spot at the EPA under presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush from 1985 to 1989. He spoke at a business convention in Middleton last week, where he said that even if fracking controversies are inevitable, they can be minimized.
"I don't think sand, per se, is terribly dangerous," Porter said. "But it's still mining. If you go to my backyard acreage and you dig giant holes and just leave them there, it's not good. So it's going to need to be looked at."
Sand mining has expanded in western Wisconsin along with the boom in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process involves extracting oil and natural gas by using a high-pressure slurry of sand, water and chemicals. Wisconsin's sand grains are prized for their hardness and spherical shape.
The process has drawn opposition from environmentalists, who say it pollutes air and water with toxic chemicals.
Winston said the best way to keep the peace is for state regulators and fracking companies to maintain a policy of maximum openness, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Sand-mining operations also need to respond quickly to nuisance issues, he said. That could include avoiding neighbor complaints by keeping noise, dust and traffic levels under control.