Earlier today the worry about the sulfide mining fight in the DFLwas averted by an agreement to do nothing. Party leaders obviously stepped in to quell this growing storm and set aside controversy going into an off year election.
But we are just delaying the inevitable. Maybe we can temporarily sweep this under the rug, but at some point we have to meet this public policy with some kind of action. Avoidance is a temporary solution — a band aid.
The Republicans are going to continue to put pressure on the DFL to pick a side. That is the way it will be framed. They side with business. They always side with business. In the case of Polymet, business has managed to morph this into a labor issue. And that is the means of dividing the DFL Party.
The energy companies are pouring big money into framing this debate as being about jobs, economic costs, and energy independence. We are still waiting to have the debate about the methods they are using to make these things happen. And whether the relatively low number of jobs created are worth the costs and the risks.
The use of tar sand, fracking, and sulfide mining are not natural processes. They require chemicals, they require mixing pollutants with the environment, they require big risks.
In the case of Polymet, the question they are wanting us to ask is: “how much environmental damage is allowed and how much should we be asked to pay to clean it up?”
That is the wrong question.
What we need to ask Polymet is — “when are you going to present a plan that does not risk the land, the water, and the wilderness?”
When Polymet talks about jobs, the usual numbers talked about run between 400 and 500 jobs. Is that going to move the needle on our unemployment rate? No. Maybe there will be other jobs involved with the ongoing process, but is it enough to warrant the risks involved? We need to answer that question honestly.
More to the point on jobs is that the damage caused by unchecked mining will create more jobs in the clean up process than in the mining itself — and the taxpayers will end up footing the bill for that. All this talk of Polymet paying for the aftermath is bunk — when they are finished stripping the land they will be gone and declare themselves bankrupt if necessary to avoid the long-term obligation.
Many of the same things can be said of fracking. North Dakota has sold its future to the oil industry and its fracking methods of extraction. Sure, there are economic benefits for the moment, but what happens in the next generation? How much instability is being created in the earth? How much damage to the water table is in their future? Will North Dakota make enough in the near term to pay for the damage in the long term?
And speaking of the future. As Minnesota considers the major investment we just made to the Lewis and Clark water project in southwestern Minnesota, how are we going to balance the new resource shortage of the next generation — WATER. The western United States knows of this problem now. And although it is hard to imagine in a “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” we could be risking that abundant resource in our own future as well.
Sulfide mining is not safe. There is no clean coal. Energy creates new technology not new jobs. Fracking has consequences. These are the debates we must have in the future.
We can avoid and delay them for only so long.
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