Minnesotans take great pride in our abundant natural resources. Whether we are fishing in a crystal clear lake, taking the pontoon along the shore near the cabin or bicycling on one of the state’s expansive and scenic trails, we appreciate the beauty and bounties of this state.

Protecting those resources is a high priority. When we talked with candidates for federal offices, we defined the environment and the impact of climate change as one of our top four topics.

We are concerned climate change is occurring and will continue to have an impact on Minnesota. We joke warmer winters won’t be so bad, but every change can have a significant and negative effect on our water, air, wildlife and natural settings. We fear we will see distinct changes in the next decade or two, which will damage our quality of life.

While we understand why expanded pipelines are being sought, we feel any pipeline replacement or expansion needs to be done with the strictest of safety measures. The property rights of residents need to be top of mind, especially when it comes to respecting Indigenous residents and low-income neighborhoods.

We are also concerned expansion of copper and nickel mining in northern Minnesota will have a negative impact on the Boundary Waters and the St. Louis River, even when meeting current state standards. We are doubtful mining can proceed without permanently damaging our watersheds. While we are concerned mining cannot be completed safely, we have compassion for communities that rely on these as job creators. We need to help those regions foster alternative employment opportunities.

When it comes to the Green New Deal, we feel it is impractical to expect our nation to be carbon free by 2035, but we endorse the goal of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and continue to develop alternative forms of energy. We must be realistic. If child labor is used in foreign countries to mine minerals essential to the construction of electric buses and car charging stations, we do not feel that trade-off is satisfactory. Alternatives that do not use inhumane labor practices can be found.

U.S. Senate

Democratic Sen. Tina Smith said climate change is a major challenge, requiring broad thinking and bold action. We can expand battery storage research, offer tax credits for wind and solar and aim for zero carbon emissions in the electrical sector by the middle of this century. And, she said, we can do this in a way that protects jobs and offers new opportunities.

It is an existential threat to our state, she said, saying the changes are evident to farmers, the tourism industry and forestry.

Pipeline issues are challenging and complicated. We need to allow science and data to lead us, and be consistent in decision-making, she said. It is important to respect tribal governments when routing pipelines, as is fairness and justice to communities of color.

She said we also must follow science and data when it comes to mining precious metals. She has deep concern for the Twin Metals mine near the Boundary Waters but does not oppose the PolyMet mine.

She does not support the Green New Deal, but promotes a broad coalition to make progress toward a clean energy future.

Efforts to establish a teleconference interview with Smith’s opponent, Republican Jason Lewis, were unsuccessful. The editorial board offered Lewis an opportunity to respond in writing but to date no responses have been received.

In a recent debate in Duluth, Lewis said the U.S. has led the way in lowering carbon emissions. However, he said we cannot allow employment to suffer for proposals like the Green New Deal, which he does not support. He said the Twin Metals and PolyMet mines, along with the Line 3 Enbridge pipeline, should go forward. These projects will provide thousands of jobs and help renew northern Minnesota’s economy, he said.

8th Congressional District

In the 8th District, while both candidates see climate change as a major issue, incumbent Republican Rep. Pete Stauber talks mostly about the progress that has been made by the United States, saying carbon emissions have fallen annually in the U.S. He thinks China and India need to be held to account for polluting activities, not just the U.S.

His challenger, DFLer Quinn Nystrom, sees climate change as an existential threat, thinks the environment will continue to deteriorate and said, “We can’t wait until it is at a threat level.”

Stauber thinks the Line 3 pipeline replacement should proceed. He notes the U.S. has become energy independent and that fossil fuels will be with us for the foreseeable future.

While Nystrom agrees on replacement, she respects the rights of indigenous people and wants their input considered.

The clearest difference between them is on copper-nickel mining. Stauber supports both the PolyMet and Twin Metals projects while Nystrom backs only PolyMet. Stauber said the Democratic Party stated in a resolution it does not support mining and the Green New Deal, which some Democrats, but not Nystrom, support, would cost $600,000 per household.

Nystrom said, “My job is not to be a rubber stamp, but to ask the hard questions.”

Stauber also noted his amendment to require no child labor be used in mining the rare earth elements used in making car charging stations passed in committee but was pulled from the infrastructure bill by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFasio, D-Ore. Nystrom said the U.S. has tried to be the world’s police, and some nations misbehave.

Clean air and water, fertile farmland, thriving forests and open prairies are prized possessions and this Editorial Board firmly believes in fostering these wonders for generations to come.

— This is an opinion of the Adams Publishing-ECM Editorial Board. Reactions are welcome at editorial.board@apgecm.com.

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