The Houston County Protectors (HCP) have been much maligned by some land rights extremists. The land rights fringe say, “It is our land, and we can do whatever we want.”

Implied but never actually said is, “We can do what we want even if it decreases our neighbors’ property value, contaminates the ground water or damages infrastructure.”

The HCP has never advocated for closing down mining or even increasing regulations on mines. We all live in the county and want a robust infrastructure. Most of us live on gravel roads and have septic systems. We understand that local mining is a required activity.

The following is what we have advocated for and why:

1) Banning frack sand mining – frack sand mining would cause environmental damage, tear communities apart, and cost local citizens money.

Most of us get our drinking water out of the sandstone aquifers that would be mined. Opening that up, plus the chemicals and water use for processing, risks our drinking water.

It tears down bluffs and creates open pit mines. It turns neighbor against neighbor. It wrecks roads to be repaired at public expense.

One need look no farther than Wisconsin to validate all these things. Fossil fuel companies are masters at getting others to pay their bills.

Allowing frack sand mining will increase the price of sand as it will increase demand and therefore price. Frackers will pay a higher price for sand so that will become the price for everyone.

2) Enforcement of the existing ordinance and laws – We have not pushed for new or stricter regulations. We want existing regulations enforced.

The chair of the Planning Commission is on video acknowledging that the ordinance has not been enforced for over 40 years. What good are setbacks from streams, neighbors’ houses or rules to control noise and dust if they are ignored? Only a small percentage of mines in Houston County even have a permit.

3) Fair and responsive governance in the county – From the beginning, anyone who spoke out on these issues was ignored, been silenced or forced out of meetings.

The most egregious example is the previous zoning administrator who has since been replaced after an independent investigation.

There were also two county commissioners now replaced as well as two Board of Adjustment members replaced, and a couple of Planning Commission members that blocked enforcement and public input.

We have had some success in improving governance and accountability. Citizen input is again welcome at meetings.

Please join us in continuing to work on banning frack sand mining and getting the existing law enforced.

Bryan Van Gorp