Editorial Roundup: Minnesota

Minneapolis Star Tribune. October 25, 2021.

Editorial: Bipartisan support for Prince

Minnesota delegation comes together to push for Congressional Gold Medal.

Prince Rogers Nelson stood just over 5 feet tall but left a giant footprint in the music industry and American pop culture.

Now, five years after his death at 57, the nation may be on the verge of bestowing one of its highest civilian honors to him posthumously — the Congressional Gold Medal.

Minnesota’s congressional delegation, closely divided among Democrats and Republicans and often at odds with one another, has come together to unanimously offer a resolution that would award that honor.

“The world is a whole lot cooler because Prince was in it,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who together with Rep. Ilhan Omar is leading the resolution. “He touched our hearts, opened our minds and made us want to dance. With this legislation, we honor his memory and contributions as a composer, performer, and music innovator.”

Prince pioneered what came to be known as the “Minneapolis sound,” drawing on a heady combination of pop, jazz, rhythm and blues, funk, hip-hop and other musical styles. His talent was explosive enough to earn the Minneapolis-born artist a major record contract by age 19. He would go on to produce 39 albums, sell 150 million records and be awarded seven Grammys, an Oscar and a Golden Globe. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, among other honors.

But his impact went beyond music. Mostly self-taught, he mastered guitar, drums, synthesizer and other instruments and rewrote the rules for what rock stars could sound and look like. His death from an accidental fentanyl overdose does not diminish his achievements, but serves only to remind us we are all human. Throughout his life, Prince used his gifts to enrich the world, bringing people together through his music.

The congressional medal requires a two-thirds vote by the House and Senate. Some may question whether an entertainer is deserving of such an honor. They shouldn’t. Contributions come from all walks of life. Past winners include everyone from President George Washington to baseball player Roberto Clemente. Westerns novelist Louis L’Amour and movie star John Wayne were awarded Gold Medals, as were the Navajo Code Talkers. Notable Minnesota recipients include former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and civil rights activist Roy Wilkins.

Honoring Prince’s accomplishments and impact on the world with a congressional Gold Medal would be a fitting tribute to the life of this remarkable man.

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St. Cloud Times. October 25, 2021.

Editorial: The stakes are too high to argue against more review of Twin Metals mine

Political machinations are only going to continue to bedevil backers of a proposed Twin Metals mine in northern Minnesota and advocates for protecting the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Last week, the Biden administration relaunched a two-year study of Twin Metals’ plan for a copper-nickel mine near the Kawishiwi River, on the edge of the BWCAW near Ely. The study was almost completed under the Obama-area Department of Interior but canceled months from completion by the following administration.

The recent decision means Twin Metals, with already more than 10 years and $500 million invested into its plans, is stopped again for at least two more years. It means environmentalists who firmly believe mining has no place near the million acres of federally protected wilderness tucked in the Superior National Forest have at least two more years to make their case.

The stakes are very high. The two-year study could lead to a recommendation that mining in the area be withdrawn from consideration for 20 years. Twin Metals, which hold rights to mine other land nearby, has said those other operations aren’t economically feasible without this tract.

Or, if the chips fall in the other direction, it could mean that historically devastating metal mining goes ahead with promised — but unproven — protections adjacent to a unique ecosystem that has been federally protected for decades on behalf of all Americans.

Mining questions and Boundary Waters questions always generate strong opinions here, probably because both appeal to the core identity of Minnesotans. We are the broad-shouldered state that built the nation with its iron ore, shipping and railroads. And we are also the place where woods and water generate a near-religious reverence. Wild places are culturally cherished as our Minnesota birthright. Either one, not affecting the other, will win general support here. When extractive industries and wild land are in conflict, however, things get prickly.

That’s why the Biden administration’s restart of the cancelled two-year study is not too high a price to pay for the one chance we get to make the right decision.

We disclose bias on this topic. Members of the Editorial Board have paddled the Kawishiwi River and environs many times. We know its perfect June days, its whispering ripples, the rolled ankles of its portages and the black flies it breeds. We’ve dipped water to drink straight over the side of the canoe and fileted its fish on it banks, a short stop on their very short trip from current to campfire.

And we’ve marveled at our luck, that someone decided the Boundary Waters were worth simply leaving to the moose and loons, wild iris and jack pine, with us welcome only as short-term guests.

However, we are also biased by the everyday miracle of carrying the whole world in our pockets with a tiny cell phone. We know that without mining, the computers that run our lives ... simply don’t. We know the metals held deep in Minnesota’s rich Duluth Complex are vital to the development and implementation of electric car technology, to solar panels and to windmills, all things that need to be optimized and fully integrated into Minnesota’s energy strategy. We’re big fans of electricity and electronics, in short.

Two years will be taken to study how mining in the BWCAW watershed would change the land now held in federal protection for our use and our grandchildren’s use.

What happens after that? That depends. On science, yes; what the study finds will matter. It will also depend on politics, as the flip-flopping since 2016 proves. One possible but unlikely outcome is approval of the mining project. Another equally unlikely outcome is a Department of Interior request and granting of a 20-year mining hiatus there.

The most-certain outcome is that the courts, the state, the federal government and agencies up and down the power structure will continue to fight for the future of that part of Minnesota’s heritage. A court battle over other Twin Metals leases might or might not be over by the time the study ends, for instance.

Regardless, there is no second chance to get this decision right. Five years ago, tourism spending generated by the BWCAW meant almost 1,000 jobs and an economic impact of $77 million in just three counties, according to a study by Friends of the Boundary Waters and Conservation Economics Institute. Spoil the resource, spoil the revenue.

Twin Metals says its project would support 1,250 jobs, 750 of them in the mining operation itself. Squander that resource, and we squander that revenue.

The company contends it has the technology to prevent acid leaching and other mining contamination at the site. Still, they’re prepared to create a “financial assurance” package to pay for cleanup if needed.

Given that, we don’t think two more years to check their work is too big an ask when the risk is next door to a pristine, world-renowned, precious resource that can’t be put back the way it was once ruined, even if someone is willing to pay to do what they can.

The million acres of protected wilderness we hold in our borders is a unique world asset with attributes that speak, as much as mining, to Minnesota’s soul: Clean water, pure air, respect for the land and the flora and fauna it supports.

While continued uncertainty is frustrating to all, it’s worth getting this decision right. There’s no going back.

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Mankato Free Press. October 27, 2021.

Editorial: Environment: EV demand affirms Walz plan

While electric vehicle incentives and mandates have riled the internal combustion crowd, it appears the invisible hand of the market is stronger than the heavy hand of political rhetoric.

Rental car giant Hertz announced Monday it would purchase 100,000 electric vehicles from Tesla, a deal that boosted Tesla stock 13% and the company’s market value past $1 trillion for the first time.

Just a few months ago, Minnesota auto dealers and Republicans said there wouldn’t be enough demand for electrical vehicles to justify Gov. Tim Walz’s modest clean air standards. But the market is speaking.

Hertz CEO Mark Field told the Associated Press some electric vehicles will be in Hertz lots by November.

Analysts say the deal is just the start for anticipated roaring demand for electric vehicles from rental car companies and others who have become acutely aware of the environmental destruction caused by global warming, the majority of which is caused by the transportation sector. They note that EV rental cars will offer a great “test drive” for consumers eventually purchasing their own.

The deal will bring Tesla about $4 billion as each Tesla Model 3 sells for about $40,000. Hertz said it would complete its sales next year and plans to add 3,000 charging stations at 65 locations and 4,000 in 2023 as the company aims to have the largest fleet of electric vehicles in the United States. Amazon bought 100,000 electric delivery vans in 2019 from Rivian, a startup manufacturer in which Amazon has an ownership stake.

If two of the richest people in the world, Elon Musk of Tesla ($229 billion) and Jeff Bezos of Amazon ($194 billion) have decided a substantial investment in electric vehicles is a good idea, it seems they’re on to something the rest of us should consider.

That includes those critics of Walz’s push to adopt air standards that will require more and more electric vehicles. In July Minnesota approved stricter tailpipe emissions standards that will take effect Jan. 1 and incentivize new car dealers to stock more electric vehicles. More than a dozen states have adopted the standards, with Minnesota being the first Midwest state to do so.

Senate Republicans and the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association fought the standards in the Legislature and in the courts but were not successful. Statements from the auto dealers group that “California bureaucrats” will somehow be in charge of Minnesota policy and that internal combustion cars will be “effectively outlawed” are ridiculous claims that should be ignored.

For their part, Senate Republicans ousted Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop, a businesswoman with sterling credentials, due to the politics of the clean car rules. Republicans orchestrated the removal as retaliation for Walz using his rulemaking authority to improve air quality for all Minnesotans.

Minnesota companies will benefit from the new rules. Phillips & Temro Industries, makers of electric charging equipment, plan to add 200 to 500 jobs in the next few years, again indicating strong demand for electric vehicles. Eden Prairie plans to move its entire fleet to electric vehicles.

The free market has clearly spurred electric vehicle demand. Auto dealers and Republicans should not try to fight capitalism.

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