My Point of View: Clean water, mothers and Girl Scout cookies

Published 9:05 pm Monday, January 27, 2020

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson


Can most of us agree that mothers, clean water and Girl Scout cookies are great?

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A PolyMet Mine water quality permit is currently on hold while a Minnesota court hears evidence of irregularities in how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency handled the permitting process.

Meanwhile, Rep. Betty McCollum introduced the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act, which would ban sulfide-ore mining within the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). It has already gained 13 bipartisan co-sponsors. This would impact the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine, which is owned by Chilean mining corporation Antofagasta.

The New York Times reported last year that the Trump administration overturned restrictions from Obama’s tenure that had prevented mining near the BWCAW. Andronico Luksic, whose family owns Antofagasta, is, curiously, Ivanka Trump’s landlord in Washington, D.C.

Quite unlike the clean air of the Boundary Waters, these dealings smell like a stagnant swamp. Perhaps we should drain it and pour some sunshine in.

As former Gov. Arne Carlson has argued strenuously in the case of PolyMet, these mining projects, among the largest contracts in our state’s history, should have public hearings like we had for the new Vikings stadium, which was a smaller scale project. The public needs to be a part of this process and be aware of cost-benefit analyses, including what environmental cleanup liabilities the state would be on the hook for. Though we don’t live within these watersheds, it would impact all Minnesota taxpayers.

Aside from potential environmental harm, an independent study from a Harvard economics professor in 2018 found that the BWCAW area would likely gain a greater economic and employment benefit from a 20-year mining ban than from allowing mining. This is because the growing outdoor recreation economy would likely be harmed by the mine, causing tourism and property values to decline.

The currently pristine quality of the BWCAW is one of its main draws. It deserves our long-term protection. Clean water itself is precious, and it may be more valuable than oil in the near future.

Closer to home, our state Rep. Peggy Bennett co-hosted an event in Austin two weeks ago against the comprehensive sex education bill. The banner image for her event on Facebook was from the film “The War on Children: Exposing the Comprehensive Sexuality Education Agenda” created by the group Family Watch International, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an anti-LGBT hate group.

The founder and leader of Family Watch International, Sharon Slater, has made numerous statements against the LGBT population that are untrue and makes them targets, including that they are more promiscuous and “more likely to engage in pedophilia,” and she does it under the guise of protecting children.

More bizarrely, Slater created a web page in 2011 to warn parents about the Girl Scouts, who, to her mind, are nefariously engaged in “the promotion of sexual rights, LGBT issues and the abortion rights movement.” She thinks the Girl Scouts are fellow travelers of “radical feminists” who embrace such abominations as public day care programs, Title IX and the Equal Rights Amendment.

In other words, Peggy Bennett has allied herself with a group who thinks the Girl Scouts are dangerously outside the mainstream. I think the vast majority of people can indulge in Thin Mints with a perfectly clear conscience.

Most of us, if we are not LGBT ourselves, have close family members or friends who are openly LGBT by now. And we have figured out that LGBT people embracing their sexuality does not cause a breakdown in our entire society, but rather it threatens conservative religious dogma and the institutions that depend on it for financial support. It’s important to understand this distinction, because separation of church and state is in our Constitution.

A more practical way to help society is for us to make sure rural women have access to maternal health resources, including labor and delivery services. I previously wrote in support of the Rural MOMS Act. Rep. Jim Hagedorn still hasn’t co-sponsored the House version (HR 4243), and Sen Amy Klobuchar still hasn’t signed on to Tina Smith’s bill in the Senate (S 2373). This is bipartisan legislation and should be a no-brainer.

Please call Hagedorn (202-225-2472) and Klobuchar (202-224-3244). This isn’t abstract for us. We lost the award-winning Baby Place in Albert Lea, where an average of 350 babies were born each year for the last five full years it was open. Ask all our leaders to keep Albert Lea’s name on their lips and advocate for our mothers.

On a final note, I got one detail about DFL U.S. House candidate Dan Feehan’s military service wrong in my last column. He joined the Army ROTC rather than enlisting in the Army. Hagedorn, by comparison, has no military service in his background.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.