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US Supreme Court turns down Winona County frac sand case

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WXOW) – The United States Supreme Court turns away a case involving a Winona County ban on frac sand mining.

The denial means a 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.

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 state 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 issued Tuesday. “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 Associated Press contributed to this report.

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