Editorial: Departing Bakk speaks the truth

State Senator Tom Bakk won’t be on the ballot this year but he’s making his mark in St. Paul now. In addition to carrying his bills, Bakk also has everything Sen. Dave Tomassoni was working on before ALS sapped his body.
In a Senate hearing last week, Bakk unloaded on issues the DFL doesn’t have an answer for. Likely one of the reasons Bakk left the party and became an Independent. After what he said this week, we’re going to miss his leadership and his representation of NE Minnesota.
Here’s a portion of his speech:
“I just want to remind everybody, and I don’t know what’s wrong in our country, but there’s something wrong. Maybe it’s our educational system, maybe it’s us as parents but we’ve just become so disconnected as a society from the land. Everything that sustains life is either grown or mined. That’s it, it’s that simple.
“Cub Foods doesn’t grow the milk in the backroom someplace and the Chevy dealer doesn’t just turn the car out in the garage. It’s steel and I get emails from people when the pipeline was going on and they email me that they have just been to the rally against Enbridge pipeline and I emailed them back and I said did you drive in a car? Did you put gasoline in the car to get there? But you will drive to protest the very thing that were using on the way to get there and it’s kind of like being for renewable energy.
“If Senator Tomassoni was here he’d tell you how much copper was in the windmills. Tons and tons and tons. There are 250 tons of steel in a windmill but we can’t be for mining, but boy do we love those windmills and now were going to love solar panels. We have lost the connection of where things come from.
“But we’ve got to figure that out because I don’t want my grandkids to be dependent on China or Russia or some other country in the world. Now were going to be dependent on Venezuela for oil. Are you kidding me? What’s going on in this country?
“You know Tom Rukavina used to quote something that John Rockefeller once said one time ‘Iron Rangers are damn proud people because we’ve made one heck of a contribution to the world.’ John Rockefeller once said that if it hadn’t been for Minnesota’s Iron Range, Germany would have ruled the world, because of the steel that made all the tanks, all the aircraft carriers all the battleships, almost totally came from Minnesota’s Iron Range. So were damn proud of the contribution that we’ve made to the world.
“And now were sitting on a deposit of non-ferrous metals that the world needs and that our country needs and it’s another opportunity for Iron Rangers to make a contribution to the entire world, to climate change, and were all pretty excited about that and we’re pretty darn tired of bureaucrats burying environment permitting in a bottom drawer some place.
“You know we’ve been mining in northern Minnesota, it started in my district in 1881, 142 years ago, and you know where the cleanest water and the cleanest air in this entire state is? The very place where this mining is taking place. 142 years later.
“I’ve seen projects get away because of Minnesota’s environmental permitting process is so hard to make things happen in rural towns. I was at the governor’s residence with the governor and the CEO of Cleveland Cliffs wanted to build a hot brick, pig iron plant. Big project, $700 million dollar project, and I watched across the table the CEO asked the governor of the state of Minnesota how long will it take you to get me permits to build this hot brick iron plant in Minnesota, because the ore is here? Up in Babbitt, in Hibbing, Eveleth, and Virginia has the mines. How long will it take me to get a permit?
“And Governor Dayton couldn’t give him an answer and you know what the CEO said? The Governor of Ohio has promised me he will get me permits to build a plant in six months. And you know what happened? The plant got built in Ohio. Timing matters, this kind of development is critically important work for this country’s future, to my grandkids’ future. And why we can’t mine it here when we’ve been doing it for 142 years and we still have the cleanest water and cleanest air in the state?
“I think it’s very hypercritical for people to be against mining and then use all the benefits of it everyday. All the people against it, they are going to go home tonight and they’re going to turn on their hot water faucet or their cold water faucet and all that water is going to run through copper pipes. They’re going to flip on the light switch and that electricity is going to run through copper wire. But oh we can’t mine copper. Where do you think it’s going to come from? As the world industrializes demand for these kinds of metal are only going to increase and we will recycle everything we can recycle but as mines get mined out, new mines have to be developed.
“Everything comes from the ground and so I just want people to think about that as we move forward. I’m near the end of my career here before to long. I got more years behind me then ahead I think, but we have to have an attitude adjustment in this country and depending on other countries for all these rare earth metals where you got child labor and no environmental laws, we should be ashamed of ourselves that somehow we think that’s how we should get those metals.
“We should just be ashamed of ourselves as a country that we’re going to exploit other places around the world so that we can have the amenities that we want to have when we have those resources right here in our own country and in the case of Minnesota in our own state.
“As I’ve talked to people down here in the Twin Cities about Twin Metals, you know I have not found one person that knows that’s an underground mine, not one, not a one. Everyone thinks were going to tear up the landscape, well you know what, the entire city of Ely is built on an underground mine, the Pioneer Mine, one of the mines that won WWII. The entire town of Chisholm the entire town of Tower-Soudan, there’s a lot of underground mines in northern Minnesota from the iron ore days. Today they are all full of water, a tremendous resource down there, a geothermal resource. We’ll figure out how to dispose of the waste.
“Nobody wants the environment cleaner more than those of us that live there, nobody. I will say it again. The DNR doesn’t get to just throw permit applications in the bottom drawer anymore and even when eight legislators write you a letter and ask for a monthly update you did nothing for over a year, that’s unacceptable, that’s the bureaucracy. That’s not accountable to representatives of the people and we’ve got to get some transparency in this process so that those of us that are representative of the people and the general public know what’s going on. Because these things, these projects, are critically important for our country’s future.”