U.S. Supreme Court Will Not Hear Minnesota Sands Case

The United States Supreme Court will not hear a case involving a Winona County, Minn., ban on frac sand mining. The denial means a previous ruling upholding the ban stands.

In March 2020, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld Winona County’s ban on the mining and processing of silica sand, which is used in the oil and gas industry for hydraulic fracturing, according to KBJR6 news. [https://kbjr6.com/]

The high court affirmed a 2018 ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which rejected a challenge to the county’s 2016 ban filed by Minnesota Sands LLC.

The company argued that the ban was unconstitutional. But the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed 4-3 that Winona County’s ordinance meets the constitutional tests.

The southeastern Minnesota county imposed the ban out of concerns about the environmental and health impacts of silica mining and processing.

“The people of Winona County and throughout southeastern Minnesota have organized to oppose the frac sand industry for many years because this industry is incompatible with stewardship of the land and with healthy, thriving communities,” said a statement from the Land Stewardship Project. “In passing the ban, the Winona County board of commissioners was fulfilling the proper role of local government, listening to the will of the people, and acting boldly to protect the common good for both people and the land. Now, despite Minnesota Sands’ desperate attack on this democratically enacted decision, hills, bluffs, water, air, and communities in Winona County will remain protected from frac sand companies’ destruction.”

The Southeast Minnesota Property Owners is challenging the ordinance on behalf of Winona County residents who own or have stakes in silica sand deposits mining and processing. The group’s lawsuit in Minnesota’s Third Judicial District claims the ban violates “equal protection, due process and private property rights.”

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