Frac Sand Lawsuit

A judge has dismissed a legal challenge to Winona County’s ban on industrial frac sand mining.

Minnesota Sands has leases on thousands of acres in southeast Minnesota, and sued the county as well as landowners. The company claims the ordinance violates their constitutional rights by singling out sand used for industrial purposes while permitting sand to be mined for construction uses.

In a written order issued Friday, Winona County District Court Judge Mary Leahy dismissed the claims, ruling that the county board acted within its legislative capacity in adopting the ordinance and that the ordinance does not violate the plaintiffs’ rights to equal protection and due process nor U.S. commerce laws.

Leahy also ruled that the company is not entitled to compensation as the plaintiffs never had the right to mine their lands. Mining is a conditional use and requires a permit, and did so even before the adoption of the ban. She also ruled the ordinance does not deprive them of “all economic value” as the land can still be used for other purposes.

Winona County was the first in Minnesota to completely ban mining of the round-grained silica sand used to extract oil and natural gas through a process known as hydraulic fracturing.

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