by ZACH KAYSER
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider an appeal of Winona County’s ban on frac sand mining, meaning the ban will stay in place.
The ban had been challenged by mining company Minnesota Sands. The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case, meaning it declined to review Minnesota Sands’ appeal of a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling upholding Winona County’s ban.
Minnesota Sands released a written statement Monday expressing their disappointment. “This decision means that Minnesota Sands will continue to be prevented from implementing its plan for small-scale, mobile sand quarries with minimal environmental impact,” the company said.
The statement went on to say that the Winona County Board had exceeded their authority by banning frac sand mining.
Banning a regulated use of a natural resource is the wrong way for Winona County to try to address an issue that is far beyond their authority as a county government,” Minnesota Sands’ statement read. “The court’s unwillingness to review the ban will unfortunately encourage other activist groups to try enacting similar regulations in other Minnesota counties.”
After the Winona County Board passed a ban on all new frac sand mines in a 3-2 vote in 2016, Minnesota Sands was one of two plaintiffs that sued the county over the ban in 2017. The company told the court it held the rights to $3.6 billion in frac sand deposits in Winona County, and it still wanted to mine them. In March the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the ban 4-3, but Minnesota Sands continued their legal campaign.
Jay Squires, an outside lawyer for the county, said the Supreme Court had been his opponents’ last appeal option and the years long legal saga had finally ended.
“We’re pleased that the case has come to a conclusion and think that the courts all along the way made the correct decision that the county has the ability to protect its residents and the environment through the regulations that it adopted and were challenged,” he said.
The Land Stewardship Project, which pushed for Winona County to enact the ban in the first place, also released a statement expressing their pleasure at the decision. “The Land Stewardship Project is pleased that the court has made the right decision, respecting the people of Winona County’s right to keep their communities safe from this harmful industry,” it read.
Chris Rogers contributed to this story.