Board balancing extreme opinions
By Emily Bialkowski
While each side of the frac sand mining issue postures to defend either individual landowner rights or the rights of the environment and the people who are affected by it, the Houston County Board continues to scrape through mounds of opinions to generate regulations on mining in the county.
One thing remains certain: Opinions are extreme.
“With this particular issue, if I said the sky is blue, there’s someone in there who will say it’s not. It’s just that divisive of an issue,” Houston County Commissioner Jack Miller said.
From noise to landscape issues, property rights to job creation, there’s not a easy answer to the work, and legal or consultant advice is not cheap.
A recent bid to review an Environmental Assessment Worksheet submitted by one proposed mine will cost the county over $13,000.
Amid the myriad of topics the county is grappling, one recently surfaced with a degree of urgency. How many industrial frac sand mining operations will the county allow?
The county’s frac sand study committee chewed on limiting the number of mines and whether that should be arbitrary or based on something concrete, such as one per quadrant.
“We’re going to try and meet with our lawyer this week yet. We had passed this on to him once before,” Miller said.
Neighboring Fillmore County has limited their permits to five.
“I don’t know if they thought five sounded good or if they had legal, defensible information,” Miller said. “We need to get some feedback on that.”
Commissioner Justin Zmyewski said he agrees with creating defensible restrictions. He said, “That’s the thing; we’re not going to arbitrarily pick a number. We need to justify why these numbers are getting picked.”
Houston County will allow mining to occur, but the committee is determined to produce rock solid regulations, Miller said, despite the great divide.
“There’s people who would like to stop frac mining in the nation, and there was a gentlemen at the meeting last night who thought it should be unlimited – that’s the extremes,” Miller said.