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Minnesota Sands Appeals Frac Sand Mining Ban


Minnesota Sands is not done challenging the Winona County, Minn., frac sand mining ban in court. Winona County District Court Judge Mary Leahy ruled last November to uphold the county's ban. Last week, the frac sand operator appealed the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, according to the Winona Post.

Minnesota Sands stated that it holds leases or interests to $3.6 billion in frac sand deposits in Winona County. The La Crescent, Minn.-based company and another group - Southeast Minnesota Property Owners - sued the county in spring 2017. Among other claims, they argued that the ban on any mining or processing of sand used for fracking - while allowing the mining of sand for construction and agriculture uses - violated the U.S. Constitutions' interstate commerce clause and the U.S. and Minnesota constitutions' equal protection and due process clauses.

The county's claims that it adopted the ban to protect groundwater, scenic beauty and citizens' health are a sham, Minnesota Sand attorney Christopher Dolan wrote in a memo to the district court last fall. "If the county were actually concerned about mining's impact on its natural resources and community health, it would have regulated the size of mines, scope of mining, or type of mines allowed in the county; it would not have banned the sale of sand to a particular type of end user," he wrote.

The Winona County, Minn., Land Stewardship Project is continuing its support of Winona County's frac sand mining ban. The activist group said in a statement that the decision by Minnesota Sands to take the Winona County District Court's dismissal of its lawsuit to the state's Court of Appeals "is simply more evidence of what's been clear to southeastern Minnesota residents for years: the oil, gas and frac sand industry has no respect for rural people, our communities, our democracy or the land. It is yet another outrageous and desperate attack by an industry that is unwilling to take 'no' for an answer in its quest to exploit our region's hills, bluffs and farms for the silica sand found beneath them.

"No industry has a right to profit by harming public health, safety and welfare, or destroying the land," the group stated. "For this reason, to protect the common good Winona County passed the ban and was fully within its rights to do so. Long-standing legal precedent supports the authority of a local government to use its zoning powers in this way to protect the community, as Judge Leahy's ruling made clear. We are confident that the Court of Appeals will likewise uphold Winona County's democratically enacted decision."