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Appeals court reaffirms legality of Winona County frac-sand ban



A decision made in 2016 by the Winona County Board to ban frac-sand mining there has been upheld. Again.

This time the ruling came Monday from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, agreeing with the district court denying Minnesota Sands a mining permit.

In a statement, Minnesota Sands said the company is “extremely disappointed” by the ruling and is considering whether to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

“Hopefully, what they would do, at this point, would be to say, ‘OK, you know, we’re going to drop this.’ But, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they did decide to appeal it,” Johanna Ruprecht with Land Stewardship Project said. “So far, the attitude of this industry and this company has just been, ‘Well we’re not going to respect a local, democratic decision.'”

It’s not clear whether the high court would hear the case. Ruprecht won’t be shocked if it goes there and she’ll continue to fight for her county, as it has won every step of the way.

“That just really confirms that Winona County, by doing that, was acting in the right way, doing what our units of government should do, which is to take bold action to protect the common good for both people and the land in our community,” Ruprecht said.

Ruprecht says it vindicates the activists who fought for their county.

“There was a 17-month, grassroots organizing campaign that led to the ban being passed,” Ruprecht, who helped lead the campaign, said. “It really came from people in Winona County choosing to act on our values and fulfill our responsibility as citizens, and to make sure that our elected officials were doing their job.”

Ruprecht says the industry could have had a long-lasting negative impact on the area.

In 2016, Minnesota Sands and a group of landowners argued the mining ordinance violated their constitutional rights by singling out sand used for industrial purposes but allowed mining for local construction uses. The appeals court rejected that argument.

“A county ordinance that even-handedly bans all industrial-mineral mining, including silica-sand mining, within the county does not discriminate against interstate commerce,” Judge Renee L. Worke wrote in the majority opinion.



Born in Decorah Iowa. I've been a news reporter for the last 10 years, starting right out of college in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Other professional opportunities led me to Marshalltown, Iowa and Antigo Wisconsin, before I finally was afforded the opportunity here in La Crosse. I've been here since 2016. I also act as the voice of local sports, doing play by play of high school and college football and basketball. When not working I enjoy golfing.

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