Decisions have consequences, and this is borne out in North Dakota’s communities.
NORTH DAKOTA OIL
Past decisions led to current issues
It was very sad to read about the changes to the small towns in North Dakota brought on by the fracking boom (“Cast adrift on an ocean of oil,” Dec. 22), but that boom was in large measure a consequence of the Obama administration’s continuing failure to approve the Keystone oil pipeline. Oil from fracking is the alternative to the pipeline, which is being built anyway, except now going west to supply oil to China. This is but another reminder that government actions, not fully thought out, in the name of the environment have unintended adverse consequences.
DAVID TEICHER, Plymouth
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I spent most of 2012 working on hydraulic fracturing crews in the area around Williston, N.D., and have been following the Star Tribune’s series “Life in the Boom.”
I did not meet anyone in our workplace who was out there to get rich. All of us were faced with the economic realities of the decade: falling real wages, limited opportunities, unaffordable health care and rising retirement costs. As much as many of us wanted our families to be near us and to be a part of a real community, the workplace made it impossible.
We frequently worked 200-plus hours in a 14-day period, with some shifts lasting 22 hours. Even at that, to rent a modest home would consume more than half our income.
The powers that be decided to grant so many drilling permits, and that required so many workers; hence, the hopeless conditions. The lack of opportunities for laborers in the general economy is so great that multinational companies are guaranteed a steady stream of applicants. Each week, our company took on 10 to 20 new workers. Each week, that many would leave with fatigue- wracked bodies.
And that is not the full extent of the toll.
DAVID BANTA, Cloquet, Minn.
The playing field is way beyond level
As a retired businessperson and long-term environmental activist, I have really appreciated both of Bonnie Blodgett’s recent columns in the Star Tribune (“Public, private sectors run together in agribusiness,” Dec. 22, and “Agriculture’s deal with the dark side,” Dec. 2). The changes in corporate size and influence remind me of Teddy Roosevelt’s fights with the Rockefeller combines and other monopolies of his day. In the formative years of what morphed into the environmental movement, one of the battle cries was about “foxes in the chicken coop” (co-opted interior and agriculture leadership).
This has happened again. Corporate power and influence has grown without any sense of reason, leading to a very unlevel playing field. All balance is away from “the people.” Add to that the many citizens who simply are not paying attention for various reasons, and we achieve rapidly declining biodiversity. The “dots” between agriculture, mining, domestic energy and financial collapse are there for anyone interested to connect. I am very doubtful that even our beloved Minnesota is capable of anything even close to adequate regulation.
It is sad for me to say these things. I loved being in the insurance business. I’ve seen the joy that a free-enterprise system can bring to a culture at multiple levels — but money, our cultural drug of choice, embraces the following:
1) If a little bit is good …
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