On Thursday, Minnesota Sands took an appeal of Winona County frac sand ban to state supreme court, the Winona Daily News reports. The Land Stewardship Project responded with a statement about the action.
The Daily News reports:
A sand mining company is asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to review an appeals ruling that upheld Winona County’s ban on mining frack sand.
Minnesota Sands, which filed a petition with the high court Thursday, has argued the county’s ban is unconstitutional because it singles out sand used for industrial purposes, while allowing mining for local construction uses. The sand is used to fracture shale rock in order to extract oil and natural gas.
The Winona County Board passed the ban in November 2016. The board has allowed mining to continue for construction sand, a cheaper, less pure material used on roadways and for other commercial purposes.
A Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit filed by Minnesota Sand and a group of landowners in July.
The ordinance does not violate the federal Commerce Clause “because it does not favor in-state interests over out-of-state interests,” the appeals panel wrote. “On the contrary, it even-handedly bans all industrial mineral mining, which includes silica-sand mining, within the county.”
The court further ruled that the ordinance does not constitute a “taking” because Minnesota Sands did not apply for conditional use permits in the years leading up to its adoption. . . .
In a July statement, Minnesota Sands said a dissenting opinion from Judge Matthew Johnson recognizes its concerns about the discriminatory nature of the ban.
Johnson wrote that the court should look at the “realities of the marketplace” when evaluating the ban. Because Minnesota doesn’t have significant oil and gas reserves, there is no in-state fracking.
“The ordinance effectively allows silica sand to be mined and sold to local consumers but does not allow it to be mined and sold to consumers in other states,” he wrote. “Thus, the ordinance suppresses interstate commerce.”
Read the entire story at the Winona Daily News, which has published the most extensive story on the appeal.
Our friends at the Land Stewardship Project issued this statement:
On Aug. 30, frac sand corporation Minnesota Sands filed a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court in a continued attempt to subvert local democracy and undo the frac sand ban in southeastern Minnesota's Winona County. The ordinance was passed by Winona County Commissioners listening to the will of the people, and has already been upheld in District Court and at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
This last-minute, desperate attack on the ban is further proof that wealthy corporate interests are deeply threatened by the power of organized people working together through our local governments to protect the common good for people and the land. Minnesota Sands has refused to disclose the identities of its owners and financial backers. The source of the money being paid to Faegre Baker Daniels, Minnesota’s largest law firm, to continue to unreasonably drag out this legal case, is unknown.
We are confident that, in the unlikely event the Supreme Court even chooses to hear this petition, the ban will once again be upheld. The right of local governments to protect their communities from harmful, extractive corporate activities, such as frac sand operations, is very clear.
Photo: Yard signs supporting passage of the ordinance graced lawns of citizens throughout Winona County.
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