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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

DFL Can't Shift With The Wind On Environment

Category: Environment
Posted: 12/14/16 21:39

by Dave Mindeman

When Democrats lose elections the tendency is to overreact.

In Minnesota, this phenomenon is pretty consistent. Republicans seldom change their basic message. Even when there is evidence that it is completely wrong.

But Democrats turn away from their basic core ideas and almost apologize for them....instead of defending them.

This post election example is sulfide mining.

At the state central committee meeting in Lakeville, the delegates overwhelmingly rejected a long simmering move to oppose sulfide ore mining.

This has become controversial because in the Iron Range, they still believe that they cannot exist without dominant mining interests in their economy.

And the 2016 election gave the Republicans majorities in both legislative houses because Democrats were defeated in many rural districts.

Now, the mining issue did affect a few districts. But Trump's pandering message to rural voters was the main culprit. And instead of countering that message with fact based information, the DFL Party seems to have decided that capitulation was the more prudent course.

Let's be clear. Sulfide mining challenges our environment. And mining companies want the short cuts that can put our pristine Boundary Waters and the basic water table in jeopardy.

Let's also be clear about something else. The Iron Range has a very limited future in mining operations. It is not a long term solution to employment for the region - even the Polymet proposal that is the source of these controversies promises only about 200 net jobs.

No, the future of the Iron Range is tied directly to tourism and the attractive feature that can fuel that part of the Minnesota economy is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

So while we are caving in to mining interests, the Iron Range is putting its very future in jeopardy, because mining and the BWCA are not very compatible.

The DFL didn't endorse mining interests at its Central Committee Meeting. No, they did their usual cop out and just eliminated the resolution that would put on record a more forceful stand.

Democrats are uncomfortable with strong positions on controversial topics. Even when they know it is the right thing to do. The DFL seems to think that softening these stands will garner them votes. The reality is that they jeopardize their core principles and put into question who we really are.

Losing the 2016 election was very hard. But it was a truly unusual year and Trump did not win on any kind of principle. He just promised everything to everybody - knowing he was never going to deliver.

And those principled conservative Republicans became Trump lap dogs and sold their souls to the Trump "deal maker".

This will be transient. It cannot last. So Democrats should consider standing firm on what they believe. Do not get distracted by the shiny light emanating from the orange one. It will not shine long.

Democrats need to stand for the protection of the earth. Even when it looks like it will lead to temporary unpopularity. Climate change can be denied but it will not be stopped.

Democrats need to hold fast to truth.
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Speaker Daudt Says The DFL Is Anti-Mining - Not True

Category: Environment
Posted: 08/14/16 12:59, Edited: 08/14/16 13:04

by Dave Mindeman

Speaker Kurt Daudt decided to weigh in on the DFL Party's internal decisions on party policy. He said, in an op-ed in the Mesabi Daily News, that...

"This past weekend at their State Central Committee meeting and earlier this year at their state convention, Democrats considered a resolution to officially oppose mining in Minnesota. Both times it had the support to pass, and both times they delayed passing it because they were afraid it may have political consequences."

Well, Mr. Speaker, I suppose that political parties never take political considerations into account when making policy....otherwise you might actually take action on a special session without making an issue of light rail. But let's consider your argument. Daudt tells us what the Republican position on mining is....

"Republicans want you to know about our position now; it's very simple and we are proud of it. We have and will continue to support the responsible mining of our natural resources, and will work in St. Paul and in Washington to promote the future of mining in our state, an industry that provides good-paying jobs with great benefits."

That may be true except for one word...responsible. The Republican Party is for mining alright, mining in the business sense of the word. Which means mining the way the mining corporations want it. Unregulated and unfettered.

The DFL supports a very heavy regulatory process in Minnesota. We expect mining to conform to a protection of the environment that is rock (excuse the pun) solid. It is not a simple yes or no position that fits neatly into a simple declaratory statement and thus the DFL has taken the time to get it right.

Republicans are NOT for that. They want to eliminate the regulation that work to protect environmental concerns. They want permits to be easy and unfettered. They want the State of Minnesota to take risks. Risks to our Boundary Waters, risks to our water shed, risks to our agricultural base.

Working for those protections allows Republicans to twist that position to make it look like Democrats are anti-mining. They are not. They support the mining industry. They support mining workers. They want all of that to be compatible with Minnesota's environment and protect the long term investment we have in our natural resources.

We have seen what happens when mining companies proceed without regulatory restrictions. We have seen how water tables get destroyed and how land can never be reclaimed. We do not want our long term future jeopardized for short term benefit.

That is not anti-mining. That is protecting the future of the mining industry.

The Iron Range has a long mining tradition. But that region needs to be less dependent on mining and follow a more diversified industry base. The mining plan that Republicans support only has a short term strategy. A 20 year plan that leaves Minnesota with more damage control in the aftermath.

As usual, the Democrats think ahead and want a plan. While Republicans continue the "I want it now" strategy and worry about consequences later.

Mining and the environment can work together. If Minnesota is to succeed, they have to work together.

Republicans have no plan that addresses that issue. Democrats do.
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Climate: If We Want More Than Incremental Change, How?

Category: Environment
Posted: 04/29/16 21:19, Edited: 04/29/16 21:19

by Dave Mindeman

There is something that I always view as a frustrating conundrum when it comes to renewable energy and climate change.

How can we act fast?

Bernie Sanders criticizes Hillary Clinton on her "incremental approach" to climate change, saying that it is an immediate crisis and needs immediate attention.

Which is true.

But at the same time, he wants a moratorium on nuclear power plants and an end to fracking. Yes, I can agree, that we, in the progressive community, are uncomfortable with those sources.

But climate change may already be past the tipping point. And we are not going to get any immediate relief from wind, solar or batter technologies. We need a bridge to the future right now. And nuclear is the cleanest energy source we have, as well as the most long lasting. In addition, fracking increases production of natural gas, which is a vast improvement over petroleum based fuels.

Yes, I have seen China Syndrome. And I am well aware of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Yes, those have been huge disasters and Fukushima is still an ongoing problem. But so are pipelines and oil spills and imported oil and coal and mining in general.

All of these things are problems in their own right, but do we really have the time to wait for the perfect? I think we all want to embrace Bernie's energy vision....and we can continue to work toward those goals. But we have a finite amount of time to reverse this damage - or more accurately limit the damage already done....and nuclear and natural gas provide a faster path to alternative clean energy.

We should proceed carefully with every safeguard we can muster. And we still have ongoing research about fracking that needs to be funded at a more appropriate level.

But if we need more than incremental change - we have to move on what is available to us right now.
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