See more of the story

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s Aug. 16 commentary was a masterful display of political pivoting and rhetorical sleight of hand (“Rest assured, USDA will do right by BWCA”). Much of what he wrote seems to have come straight from Twin Metals’ public relations materials.

Perdue loves to appeal to “the process.” In the debate over sulfide mining, the word “process” has become a dog whistle for “we need push these mines through.” The fact is, the process was followed. Twin Metals had to apply to renew its mineral leases. The application was reviewed, and through a multiyear process that included a scientific study on the potential impacts sulfide mining would have on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, as well as public comments, the application was denied.

The process to decide how to use land that belongs to all Americans, not the Chilean conglomerate that owns Twin Metals, went forward. The result was not what the executives in Chile or their current friends in the Trump administration may have wanted, but the process was followed.

Where the process ground to a halt was when Perdue canceled the scientific study into the possibility of a 20-year mineral withdrawal. This study would provide the scientific data needed to make a balanced, informed decision on whether or not copper-sulfide mining can be safely done in parts of the BWCA watershed. Why didn’t the Trump administration follow a fair, scientific process that Perdue claims to champion?

When Perdue or Twin Metals or PolyMet speaks about process, they mean a process that works for big, multinational industries. Not a process that includes the public or scientific communities.

Chris Knopf, Minneapolis

The writer is executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

• • •

In a nutshell, who stands to gain the most from the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals mining projects in northern Minnesota? The foreign companies who own and promote these projects around the world (where they create enormous land and water contamination, engage in corruption, abuse human rights, etc.). Who is taking the greatest risk in these proposed projects? Minnesotans. We are risking fresh water for drinking, healthy ecosystems, sports and recreation for as long as 500 years (PolyMet’s estimate). The promised jobs (approximately 350 for PolyMet) may be short-lived, as many may soon enough be lost to automation.

How does any of this make America great again? In order to do that, we need to encourage American businesses to develop in northern Minnesota, not foreign interlopers. And even more specifically, we would do well to provide incentives for projects by Minnesotan companies and entrepreneurs. We are wasting time, money and energy fighting over sulfide mining practices that have brought ruin and destruction in every other region they have been tried. If we put even a fraction of our attention toward encouraging less hazardous enterprises in northern Minnesota, we’d create the promised jobs, and more.

Louis Asher, Vadnais Heights

POLITICAL CHANGE

Kochs fund top-down injustice but claim bottom-up change will fix it

In “Americans are asking too much of top-down political ideas” (StarTribune.com, Aug. 15), Charles Koch advocates a bottom-up, nonpartisan approach to solving problems like inequality and health care. Come on, people, pull up your boot straps and get something done! Meanwhile, since 2009 the Koch Family Foundation has poured huge money into conservative efforts like opposing a governmental role in health care and supporting tax reform that benefits the richest among us. The top-down political approach created these problems and it is working really well for the Koch brothers and the other 1%. It feels like we are in a giant game of Monopoly and the winners are taking all.

People are doing great bottom-up things in many areas, but top-down legislation is the only way to change the rules of the political game so society can work for everyone.

Julie Kolbow, Chanhassen

CONGRESSIONAL TRAVEL

Omar’s critiques won’t topple Israel

One more time, I fear what our “land of the free” and representative multicultural democracy is becoming (“After Trump tweet, Israel bars entry to Omar, Tlaib,” Aug. 16). Although Rep. Ilhan Omar was not my first choice to represent me in Congress, I have come to appreciate her traveling to, listening to and giving voice to the experiences of humans beings living in grave circumstances, often exacerbated by U.S. and our allies’ policies and practices. Whether they be Central Americans, Palestinians or U.S. citizens and immigrants, these humans need to be seen and heard. I find it appalling that the government of Israel has denied my duly elected congresswoman a visa for a fact-finding mission planned so she could better do her job, and I find it horrifying that our president pressured Israel to do so!

Greatness requires that our democracy remain vigilant and self-critical. Informed public criticism is not a “disgrace” (as the president called Omar in a tweet); indeed, it is essential for a thriving democracy!

Jay Lindgren, St. Louis Park

• • •

I for the most part do not agree with President Donald Trump’s decisions and nondecisions, but I don’t see any reason why Omar or Tlaib or any other U.S. legislators should travel to Israel on the taxpayer dollar to meddle in their business — especially when we have problems aplenty here at home to work on and solve. In the case of the subject pair, it’s all politics anyway.

Chuck Wolf, Long Prairie, Minn.

CITY BUDGETS

St. Paul breezes by climate crisis

In St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s 2020 budget address (“In St. Paul, $20M to repair streets,” front page, Aug. 16), he noted several ways in which the city is attempting to address the climate crisis, such as: increasing noncarbon transit options, cooperating with Minneapolis to install 70 electric charging stations, expanding bike lanes, etc. I support those ideas and give the mayor credit for his leadership in those areas. That being said, I will admit some frustration with how the mayor and the city are approaching this climate issue. It is the issue of our time, present and future.

If we looked at climate change as priority No. 1, I think both its daunting nature and solutions to it would be easier to see. We would see that our concerns about education, poverty, violence and immigration are all tied into this issue.

With that in mind, I want to thank the city of St. Paul for its leadership but also throw some specific challenges and questions its way. It has been estimated that St. Paul has the solar capacity for 800 megawatts of energy, yet we are not planning to develop that full amount. Why? When we look at new buildings and new developments (like the Ford site), we are still seeing the use of natural gas. Why? As the new green economy develops, our city, the nation and the world will need the workers to fill those green jobs. How are we as a city being a leader giving our residents the skills to become those green workers so that we can lead in that area?

Thomas Lucy, St. Paul

We want to hear from you. Send us a letter to the editor or commentary.