Grassroots organizing by ordinary citizens in a southeastern Minnesota county has resulted in a stunning vote by the Houston County Board of Commissioners to essentially ban silica sand mining for purposes other than local construction and agriculture.
It's a stunning counterpoint to the "informational hearing" that the Minnesota House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee held in St. Paul earlier this year in which only mining interests were first invited to speak.
After citizens publicly objected, a fifteen minute slot was allowed for them after the industry representatives testified for over an hour as Bluestem reported in Wabasha city council member to Hackbarth committee: don't confuse north with the south.
Update: A friend suggested that a good way to illustrate just how rural this grassroots movement actually is would be to add a map that shows where Houston County is in relationship to the rest of the state. The Twin Cities is at the top of the "foot" where Houston County is the toe. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Brittany Lake, WXOW TV of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, reports in Houston County Commissioners vote to ban frac sand mining:
CALEDONIA, MN (WXOW) -Houston County commissioners added language to their mining ordinance that essentially bans frac sand mining.
Houston County would be the first county to ban frac sand mining in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The decision came after a two-hour long public hearing Wednesday morning where the majority of residents pleaded with commissioners to put a ban in place.
The language added bans sand, quartz, and/or silica crystals mined for uses other than local construction or agriculture.
Justin Zmyewski, District 2 Commissioner, said "We would like to take a cautious approach and make sure we're studying this thoroughly and giving the citizens what we took an oath to do and that's protect their health safety and well being."
More than 100 people turned out to the public hearing to voice their opinion. 92% of those people called for a ban. . . .
Kelley Stanage, Land Stewardship Project Member, said "Making certain that may's turn into shall's and just making certain that the ordinance can actually be enforced."
The county attorney now must finalize the ordinance. The commissioners also must give final approval. They are expected to do that by March, before the moratorium on frac sand mining expires.
Here's the video:
There's more at Dozens voice opinion about frac sand mining in Houston County from WKBT in LaCrosse and KTTC-TV's Taj Simmons in Houston County commissioners strengthen ban on frac sand mining.
After a heated public meeting, Houston County commissioners made a move on Wednesday to keep frac sand mining out of the county. The commissioners voted unanimously to revise the language in their existing ban against frac sand mining to close loopholes and keep big mining businesses away from Houston County.
We would like to take a cautious approach and make sure that we're studying this thoroughly and giving the citizens what we took an oath to do, which is to protect their health, safety, and well being," said District 2 Commissioner Justin Zmyewski.
An estimated 175 people packed into the Houston County Courthouse to give their thoughts about the controversial practice. The sentiment was nearly unanimous. Commissioners said 92% of people that gave their testimony on Wednesday were in favor of a stronger ban against frac sand mining, with reasons ranging from air pollution and the destruction of Houston County's environment to the motivations of mining companies.
Groups like the Houston County Protectors came out to the meeting seeking a ban. After the meeting, they were pleased with how the commissioners' attitudes switched to meet the needs of the people.
"By just casting that single vote the commissioners were going to change the future of huge numbers of people in this county by banning frac sand mining," said Ken Tschumper of Houston County Protectors. "Apparently they took that to heart."
The new ordinance was sent to the county attorney after the meeting. The commissioners will make a final vote on the new ordinance at their next meeting on February 24.
We'll have more as this stunning story develops.
Photo: Rural citizens joined in singing "This Land is Your Land" at the hearing. Screengrab via 'This Land is Your Land' sung at frac sand mining public hearing in Houston Co. at WKBT TV in Lacrosse Wisconsin.
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