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Mining company appeals ruling on Winona County frac ban

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A train car is loaded with frac sand in Winona.
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WINONA — Minnesota Sands LLC, the company behind the challenge to the frac sand mining ban in Winona County, has filed an appeal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals over the district court ruling upholding the ban.

The appeal was filed Jan. 16. A date for oral arguments has not yet been set.

According the statement of the case, Minnesota Sands challenges the ordinance on several bases. The list of reasons for the appeal includes, "whether the Ordinance Amendment violates Appellant's equal protection, due process, interstate commerce clause, and taking rights; whether material issues of fact remain in the case."

Calls to attorneys at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, the Minneapolis law firm representing Minnesota Sands, were not returned.

On Nov. 17, District 6 Court Judge Mary Leahy ruled with prejudice against the case brought by Minnesota Sands, Southeast Minnesota Property Owners and Roger Dabelstein. The ruling, which supported the county's ban on mining silica sand for the industrial purpose of hydraulic fracturing, supported the county board's legislative rights.

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Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman, who wrote the ban, said Leahy's ruling showed how vital it is for counties to create regulations that address unique features. In the case of Winona County, she said, that would include the karst geology that is impacted by land use, mining and water infiltration rates.

Johanna Rupprecht, a policy organizer with Land Stewardship Project, the organization that helped lead the grass-roots movement that supported the ban in Winona County, said she was not surprised Minnesota Sands filed the appeal, but she believes the company is wasting its time and the time of people across the county.

"I am pretty confident that the industry's side doesn't have a good chance in the appeal," she said. "There's a substantial amount of money behind this industry. They've hired the biggest law firm in the state, and they're throwing a lot of money at those lawyers."

She expects oral arguments to be scheduled for some time this summer, she said.

One benefit of the appeal, she said, is when the county wins it will show other counties and cities that a ban is practical. "I hope a lot of other counties and municipalities go to a ban after this," Rupprecht said. "This is about showing that people can protect their community with a ban."

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Rupprecht

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