On June 16, 2014, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a decision with ramifications for Minnesota’s burgeoning silica (or “Frac”) sand industry. The court upheld the Winona County Board of Commissioners’ decisions to issue a negative declaration on the need for an environmental impact statement (EIS) and a conditional-use permit (CUP) for a proposed silica sand mining project. In Re Environmental Impact Statement, — N.W.2d —, 2014 WL 2681761 (Minn. Ct, App. 2014). The Court held that the Board had properly considered the relevant factors under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act. In particular the Court found reasonable the Board’s conclusion that because the project was of limited size and duration, and because other projects in the area were still speculative, the potential cumulative effects of the mine would be minimal. The Court also agreed that any potentially significant environmental effects would be “subject to mitigation by ongoing public regulatory authority” through the CUP. Minn. R. 4410.1700, subp. 7C.

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