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35 Arrested In Winona Frac Sand Protests

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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WINONA, Minn. (WCCO) – Police arrested 35 protesters who shut down silica sand mining operations Monday at two facilities in Winona, Minn., authorities said.

The Winona Police Department said it first arrested 19 people at CD Corporation, located at 968 Riverview Drive. The company reportedly called authorities after protesters walked onto its property and refused to leave.

CD Corporation co-owner Dan Nisbit says the protest cost his truck drivers money.

“When something like this happens, they’re not being compensated for having to sit,” Nisbit said.

Police said the protesters were warned to leave several times before being arrested and cited on trespassing charges. The protesters were brought to the Winona County jail.
Shortly after, police responded to another, simultaneous protest at 2100 Goodview Road.

There, protesters had positioned themselves across a driveway, blocking trucks from entering what they called a “sand washing” facility. Police arrested 16 people for trespassing at this location and brought them to the county jail, too.

A press release from protesters said that more than 100 people participated in the two protests. The action was called “the largest protest against frac sand mining” to date.

The release also said that all the protesters were released from jail with a court date except for one woman. This woman, who was not named, was reportedly “held and transferred to Hennepin County because of a previous action against silica sand mining.”

Diane Leutgeb-Munson, a protester from Winona, said she would not be complicit with the sand fracking industry, which she said poisons water and land across the country.

“We will not stand by and watch our landscape be forever altered. If there is no other way to stop this from happening, we will simply stand in the way,” Leutgeb-Munson said.

Protestor Dan Wilson says he hopes the protests make owners reflect on their practices.

“We’re hoping that the company would shut down operations for the day and even decide to ship a different commodity. Decide to ship a commodity that is for the betterment of everyone,” Wilson said.

By standing in the way, protesters said they were able to shut down CD Corporation for nearly an hour. The corporation, according to protesters, is located at the port authority where silica sand is shipped down the Mississippi. At the sand-washing location, protesters said they shut down operations for two hours by preventing trucks from entering the facility.

Frac sand mining has quickly become a hot-button issue in southeastern Minnesota. Fueled by concerns that silica sand in the air could pose health risks, opponents believe this type of mining is also bad for water quality and property values – with hundreds of trucks rolling through every day.

With no laws, regulations or environmental studies in Minnesota right now, opponents are calling for a 1-year moratorium, which Governor Dayton is against. But some lawmakers are pushing hard for new standards, and a vote could come soon.

“This is an industry that is incredibly divisive. And is incredibly harmful to this ecological area,” Wilson said.

Gas and oil drillers use this type of sand to fracture wells in order to suck out more gas and oil.

While demand has grown quickly in Minnesota, there are hundreds of these mines already in Wisconsin- with little regulation.

However, New York recently did put a moratorium on this type of mining until more environmental impact studies are done.

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