STATE OF THE UNION

Another example of ‘I’ where it doesn’t belong

The first sentence of the Star Tribune’s Jan. 29 report on President Obama’s State of the Union speech contains a phrase that should alarm every American who believes that our government was founded as a constitutional republic: “President Obama declared independence from Congress on Tuesday …”

Peter D. Abarbanel, Apple Valley

• • •

The president’s speech was pretty much a reflection on the president himself. No new ideas, and no plans for cooperation with the opposition party. While most of the analysts around the country consider the speech an admission of failure by the president, the Star Tribune reports it like it was filled with great expectation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

Larry A. Sorenson, Arlington, Minn.

 

MINING

Trust them? No. We’ve been burned before

At the St. Paul PolyMet hearings on Tuesday evening, company engineers and scientists were reassuring: This Boundary Waters-area mining project is very well-planned and studied and does not present a risk to humans, wildlife, forests or waterways. Pollution will be monitored and controlled for hundreds of years to be sure of this.

So why don’t we have more confidence in these experts? Maybe because we’ve heard it before. We know very well that the best corporate planning often goes wrong, with major environmental consequences. Groundwater carcinogens in our neighborhoods decades after General Mills and 3M dumped contaminates. “Well-built” pipelines breaking and dumping massive amounts of oil into rivers. The BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Tap water catching fire from fracking pollution. Three hundred thousand West Virginians with no water after a chemical spill.

We’ve been fooled many times by the reassurances of corporations. If we approve this project, we will have been fooled again, with only ourselves to blame.

BRUCE D. SNYDER, Mendota Heights

• • •

Despite the differences in mining iron ore vs. copper, I doubt we would mine our iron ore today, if it were newly discovered, because of intense environmental pressure. To the environmentalists: Alternative energy sources such as wind and solar are heavily dependent on copper. I find it hard to believe we can’t mine safely and find a way to “make money” off pollutants.

DARYL WILLIAMSON, Eden Prairie

• • •

What’s the rush? Ore in the ground isn’t like a crop in the field. You don’t have to harvest it before it rots. It might be smart to hold off for a while. These minerals, especially the rare earths, are only going to get more valuable. A little patience could bring greater reward. True, it might be our children who benefit. But wouldn’t it be nice to leave them something? Besides, we don’t seem to know how to extract the valuable metals without creating a 200-year mess.

Let’s wait. Let’s see if the mining and metallurgy experts, like those at the University of Minnesota Duluth, figure out how to do it right. Eventually, they’ll learn how to get more out of the rock without destroying the land. In the meantime, hop on your snowmobile or break out the snowshoes and enjoy the woods.

JOHN WIDEN, Minneapolis

SCHOOL CLOSINGS

Is danger documented? Are problems created?

Janelle Holmvig’s essay in support of school closings (“From where I sit, days off for cold not ‘silly,’ ” Jan. 28) brings up some questions:

Have we had large numbers of documented injuries from school attendance on very cold days?

On very cold days, are children safer at school? Or are they safer at home where, as Ms. Holmvig describes, parents may be absent or distracted because of work and the children are on their own?

How much disruption and chaos do school closings impose on low-income working families who depend on the schools to provide day care while the parents work — exactly the families that Holmvig describes? If a parent chooses to miss work and stay home, how much does this cost the family in income and employability? Actually, this applies to all families in which both parents work.

Where special circumstances dictate that the children stay home, by all means give them excused absences. But to close schools across the board only offloads the responsibility from the schools to the parents. Sadly, the fewer resources a family has, the more difficult an unexpected school closing is.

Minnesota winters always have been able to hurt us, and we have dealt with the threat for generations. Let’s think about all of this before we create an entirely new reason to close schools.

CARL BLEGEN, Delano, Minn.

 

XCEL ENERGY

Utility had a plan, and that’s commendable

When we got the automated phone call Sunday evening from Xcel Energy, requesting that we turn down our thermostat to 60 degrees to ease natural gas demand following a pipeline explosion near Winnipeg, obviously we were upset and somewhat fearful. However, we’ve since learned (“Xcel cites progress in restoring gas supplies,” Jan. 28) that the utility had a plan in place for such emergencies.

Although some businesses receive a better rate than we do, we’re happy this company is looking out for our best interest. As the article states, “no residential customers had their service interrupted, nor did businesses, except those in Xcel’s Interruptible Gas Rates program.”

We want to commend Xcel for its planning and genuine concern for customers who’ve already struggled enough with this unusually cold winter.

JIM ERICKSON, East Gull Lake, Minn.