Leaders must step up for safety, resources

Since 1973, Minnesota's Environmental Policy Act has stood tall, with its "look before you leap" environmental review undiminished.

However, unless Gov. Mark Dayton vetoes a bill that has passed both houses of the Legislature, the proposer of an action will be the one to prepare an environmental-impact statement instead of the responsible governmental unit.

That will inevitably put the fox in charge of guarding the chicken coop, which is the biggest problem with the bill. But it has other language that undermines the act, such as more exemptions for large animal feedlots.

We cannot afford to lose this crucial law.

If we'd had it years earlier, before the Reserve Mining Co. began developing its taconite operations at Silver Bay, Minn., we might have avoided the "vast pollution" caused by Reserve's dumping of 67,000 tons of tailings into Lake Superior every day for years.


The writer was executive director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from 1971 to 1975.

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Peter Lidiak of the American Petroleum Institute (Readers Write, Feb. 28) claims that oil derived from tar sands has moved safely and efficiently for more than 40 years.

Oddly, he exactly reinforces the point of the pipeline safety report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pipeline Safety Trust and others ("Pipeline safety questioned," Feb. 17).

In 2010, a new kind of tar sands oil product called diluted bitumen, or "DilBit," began flowing through the Alberta Clipper pipeline across northern Minnesota communities and Indian lands.

By all accounts, it is far more corrosive, abrasive and toxic than conventional oil, and it runs in pipelines at hotter temperatures and at three times higher pipeline pressure.

Given those undisputed facts, isn't it reasonable that the Obama administration review public safety standards for pipelines prior to its decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline?

What happened last summer when 880,000 gallons of DilBit oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River watershed proves that the answer is "yes."

MICHAEL NOBLE AND Marty Cobenais, St. Paul

The writers are, respectively, executive director of Fresh Energy and pipeline organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network. Both are advocacy groups.


Of representation and responsibility

Years ago, I worked as a laborer in a meatpacking plant.

The United Packinghouse Workers of America represented us. We had a compensation package that was the envy of the industry. The company made money and offered profit-sharing.

Starting teachers made 40 percent less than we did. City and utility workers made substantially less.

These folks were union workers, but without the bargaining experience that had produced the high wages in the manufacturing sector.

The 1980s changed all this. The air-traffic controllers lost their fight, and the corporations got tax breaks to move their manufacturing bases offshore.

Workers were laid off and unions gave concessions to save what jobs they could. The companies made record profits.

They invested in lobbyists to reduce union power and started to hammer away on the government to reduce spending. Public-sector unions negotiated cost-of-living raises and surpassed many private-sector job rates.

Now the same people who moved all the jobs overseas and broke the unions are targeting public-sector workers.

When they get elected, they scream that more jobs are the answer. What kind of jobs are we talking here? Living-wage jobs, or part-time, no-benefit jobs?

Bless the public and private workers who stand together and say, "Enough."


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I was raised in a union home in the 1940's and '50s, when unions flourished and the standard of living improved dramatically because of them.

My uncle helped start the Sheet Metal Workers Union in the Midwest. I truly believe in the justice of unions. The rights of citizens to protest, organize and strike are fundamental to the best interests of a capitalist society.

However, over the past few decades, the leaders of some unions have become as corrupt and self-absorbed as some of the the big businesses they were created to correct. This has caused mistrust among members and nonmembers, Democrats and Republicans alike.

It is time to make changes.

For example, in some professions it is important that pay increases be made not just for fulfilling basic job requirements but for doing a superior job within one's abilities.

We who believe strongly in the need for unions also think there would be less criticism of unions if there would be more collaboration between employees' representatives and management and less rigidity.

But the bottom line in any society is that workers don't exist to serve the few who control the resources. Rather, the resources are here for each individual to live fairly among his or her fellow human beings.


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Does anyone remember how proud we once were of our own Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. in St. Paul?

Now 3M's CEO exclaims: "Why would I want to invest in Minnesota or the United States?" He explains that corporate taxes have far more to do with 3M decisions than any bit of loyalty to his state and nation ("3M's Buckley says Obama is driving firms away," March 1).

Is it any wonder our country is struggling to grow economically with men like George Buckley in charge of our corporations?

There is no longer concern for the greater good of the citizens of one's community. The bottom line for 3M appears to be profits for shareholders.



One of the last places for smart discussion

Even though there are hundreds of TV and radio channels, the lack of serious, thought-provoking, genuinely interesting programs is astounding.

Public broadcasting is one of the only bastions of consistently intelligent media remaining.

To revoke funding would be a disservice to all who seek refuge from mindless talk and programming geared to generating revenue rather than to promoting deep discussion and cultural appreciation.