At the Rochester Post Bulletin Brett Boese reports in Controversial figure departs frac sand debate in Houston County:
The resignation of Houston County planning and zoning administrator Bob Scanlan was formally announced Tuesday at the Houston County Board of Commissioners meeting by Human Resources Director Theresa Arrick-Kruger. His final day with the county is Aug. 21. No reason was cited during the public meeting and Scanlan was not available for comment on Wednesday, but Commissioner Teresa Walter said he's accepted a new job elsewhere. . . .
Tuesday's announcement ends a controversial era in the state's southeast corner, where some silica sand critics have been so boisterous that law enforcement has removed them from public meetings.
Scanlan was suspended for three days last year by the county board after an independent investigation determined that he retaliated against some people who were opposed to frac sand mining. The investigation, which included interviews with 26 people, concluded that Scanlan had subjected mining critics to bogus zoning violations, sent an angry email to the boss of a citizen opposed to silica sand mining, and violated other ethics and conflict-of-interest regulations while generally acting as an advocate for the mining industry.
Those findings, revealed publicly in March via data requests by numerous media outlets, sparked an uproar among critics, including the Houston County Protectors, an opposition group that's worked for three years to ban all silica sand operations in the county. . . .
The local opposition group issued a press release Tuesday announcing Scanlan's departure with a headline that used 30 exclamation points.
Boese also reports that the Houston County Protectors filed an ordinance amendment proposal Tuesday that would ban all operations related to silica sand. The language was accepted by The board county board accepted the amendment for discussion at an upcoming planning commission meeting.
An environmental group on Tuesday proposed banning large-scale frac sand mining.
The Houston County Protectors offered the county board what the advocacy group described as a “thoughtful, balanced” amendment to the county’s mining ordinance.
Representing the Houston County Protectors, Ken Tschumper told the board the proposed change to the county’s mineral extraction ordinance “resolves much of the controversy … by proposing two significant changes” — prohibiting frac sand mining and resolving problems with nonconforming mines.
“I encourage you to read and study this proposed amendment carefully,” Tschumper told the board. “I think you will find that it is a thoughtful, balanced and substantive effort by members of Houston County Protectors to find common ground among most of the opinions and views on what is workable and what is problematic in Section 27.”
Finish reading the story at the Tribune.
Readers can learn more about the Houston County Protectors at the group's website, The Sandpoint Times. Silica ("frac") sand is used in fracking oil and gas from shale; the boom in this technology has led to a demand for frac sand, which must be mined. South Eastern Minnesota's Driftless Region is home to many sand deposits.
Photo: A mine in Houston County via Sandpoint Times: "Based on records received from the Houston County Zoning and Planning Department, this is the Mathy Construction Co./Bonanza Grain Inc. Quarry. It is located two miles east of Caledonia, MN. It is one of approximately 120 permitted/existing "construction/aggregate" mines in Houston County."
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