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Winona Co. frac sand site taken to Court of Appeals

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Concerned citizens voiced their opposition Thursday to the Nisbit sand mine in Saratoga Township near Utica during a Minnesota Court of Appeals hearing in Rochester.

The attorney for the county, Jay Squires, said Thursday, "The industry came in overnight." This is exactly why citizens are concerned that not enough thought went into the approval of the Nisbit frac sand mine in Winona County. 

"You're talking about industrialization of a rural area, in an industry we've never seen in this scale in southeast Minnesota before," said Johanna Rupprecht of the Land Stewardship Project.  

The Minnesota Court of Appeals heard the case. Concerned citizens of Winona County appealed to overturn the decision of the Winona County Board of Commissioners, a decision that allows frac sand mining at the Nisbit site without an Environmental Impact Study.

"Everybody else that looked at this concluded that there needed to be an EIS," said Jim Peters, the attorney representing the citizens. 

Citizens said the board is ignoring the advice of several agencies that have advised a full study, however the company behind the project, IT Sand, said the requirements are fulfilled.

"The standard of review that was required by the EQB, that was required by them, was satisfied," said Jeff Broberg, a geologist working with the county. 

Mining at the Nisbit site began in October of 2013, however, depending on the result of this appeal it could come to a screeching halt. 

"If I was to have to do an EIS, it would be very painful. I don't think I could afford to do it," said the co-owner of the company, Tom Rowenkamp. 

Another disagreement was whether or not a cumulative environmental study could be taken at all. 

Citizens said there have been other applications submitted for similar projects in the area, but the opposition flat out says 'no.' 

"That was our argument from the beginning," Broberg said. "How can you be a cumulative when there are zero other applicants?"

"The record shows that there's three applications in Winona County, the three projects all submitted applications," Peters said. 

But with both arguments on the table, it's up to the judges to sift through the sand.

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