F.R.E.E Families Resisting Energy Extraction www.freehoustonsand.com
Media Contact: Bruce Kuehmichel 507-450-9519 firstname.lastname@example.org
For Immediate Release - March 3, 2015 - La Crescent, Caledonia, Brownsville, Houston, Hokah, Spring Grove (Houston County, Minnesota)
The snow was held at bay while residents peacefully chanted “ban the sand” on the courthouse steps, but inside an intense storm was brewing in the Commissioners Room as Houston County residents were denied an ordinance to ban frac sand mining on March 3, 2015.
After a three year battle, the people's wishes were denied by three of the County Commissioners, which included verbal assaults between pro-ban and pro-mining Commissioners. These heated exchanges made the meeting looked more like a family feuding reality show than county government. Everything was caught on tape from four different regional media outlets.
The session unraveled as Commissioner Justin Zmyewski proposed a vote on the ordinance that included ban language. It was seconded by Commissioner Kjome, but denied by Commissioners Walter, Storlie and Schuldt. This caused an up-roar by over 80 residents, from senior citizens, to young mothers, and local business people.
After the Deputy Sheriff intervened, escorting out a number of upset attendees, Commissioner Schuldt threatened to shut down the meeting. The result was neither a ban nor regulations, but a return to the current ordinance which does not specifically address frac sand. This means that there is potential for unlimited frac sand mining as the county ordinance currently stands.
Commissioner Zmyewski characterized it as a breakdown in democracy: “With total disregard for the people’s health and the well being of our environment, Commissioners Walter, Schuldt and Storlie clearly demonstrated that big business rules and the people in the county are officially suppressed. ”
"The County Commissioners had the legal authority, along with the will of the people, to prohibit frac sand mining in Houston County,” explained Ed Walsh, experienced municipal attorney and La Crescent resident. “Unfortunately, only Commissioners Zmyewski and Kjome listened to their constituents and voted to ban harmful frac sand mining in the County.”
“The unanimous decision just two weeks ago by the Commissioners to ban frac sand mining was reversed because of the political muscle of the mining industry and their local allies,” stated Ken Tschumper, Houston County Government Accountability Project. Many people gained insight into how poorly three of our commissioner, Steve Schuldt, Teresa Walter and Judy Storlie are representing the people of this county.
“These commissioners simply refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming support among their constituents for a ban on all frac sand mining in our County’, Tschumper continued. “These three commissioners demonstrated today that they do not understand even the basic elements of zoning laws and the dangers of frac sand mining.”
“With a three-year moratorium on frac sand mining ending March 5, the Commissioners turned against the people and did not fulfill their lawful duty to vote in favor of protecting the health and well-being of the individuals who elected them,” explained Bruce Kuehmichel, Caledonia resident and member Houston County Protectors and F.R.E.E. “The community coalitions will now be strategizing about next steps-- as we cannot allow frac sand mining to envelope our county.
Families Resisting Energy Extraction( F.R.E.E), Sandpoint Times, Houston County Protectors and Houston County Government Accountability are asking concerned residents to express their disappointment in the March 3 Commissioners meeting, where a final vote to ban frac sand mining failed. Residents may contact their County Commissioners and encourage them to follow the direction of Commissioner Zmyewski and reconsider their decision when he proposes the ban ordinance again, in the next weekly Commissioner’s meeting.
Houston County is part of the unique “Driftless Area” of Southeast Minnesota, with the mighty Mississippi River and the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern border. For more information on the frac sand mining issue, view the slide show here: “LAST CHANCE TO TALK SAND.”
Walter and Schuldt turned PRO-MINING with Storlie.
Judy Storlie represents residents in the city of La Crescent, MN. Why would she be in favor of frac sand mining? It's not likely that the people who elected her are pro-mining. Who is influencing Storlie?
Key groups fighting for a ban:
www.freehoustonsand.com (Families Resisting Energy Extraction)
www.houstoncountyrealitycheck.com (Houston County Protectors)
Houston County Government Accountability Project (www.houstoncountyrealitycheck.com)
Houston County Official Website - www.co.houston.mn.us
The photo of Houston County Bluffs in our header is from Robert J. Hurt – Landscape photographer