It is hypocrisy to claim moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform.
In Minnesota, an undoubtedly important Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) bill was being advocated by Gov. Mark Dayton and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr even as the DNR, legislators and mining companies were pushing to allow sulfide mining in water-intensive Minnesota.
Perhaps if arsenic, nickel, mercury, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper and manganese were labeled "aquatic invasive metals," our waters and our health would be protected from sulfide mining.
Instead, funds for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are being drastically cut. Which means that, according to MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen, existing businesses may operate longer under expired permits, observing the same conditions required under the old permits.
So taconite mines that currently do not meet water standards now have permission to continue to contaminate our waters - indefinitely. The implications for regulation of proposed sulfide mines in Minnesota are dire.
Meanwhile, the invasive-species bill provides for increased enforcement; increased penalties for violations; improved watercraft inspection; increased public awareness, and other enhancements. If the state can do all that, it is indefensible to cut funds for agency enforcement of industrial threats to our waters.
Consider a few characteristic quotes from our state's leadership:
"Anything that might damage our rich natural habitat and the recreational opportunities that make Minnesota unique is a very serious concern," says Gov. Dayton, as quoted in a DNR news release.
Anything? What about sulfide mining?
"Invasive species have been found in more than 1,000 of Minnesota's waterways, a number that is likely to grow this summer," says state Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook. "They are threatening the health of our lakes and rivers, as well as the future of water recreation that is so critical to our state's economy, particularly in Northern Minnesota."
What about the threats posed by sulfide mining?
In northern Minnesota, we already have toxic waste from taconite mines we cannot clean up. Now the proposal is to add sulfide mining to the mix -- with its 99 percent waste and its legacy of contaminated waters. Are heavy metals leaching into our lakes from sulfide mines less important than invasive species falling off boats?
"This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue; this is a Minnesota issue," says state Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd. "Preventing the spread of these invasive species is essential to protect our lakes, streams and rivers. This bill helps preserve our waterways and natural resources for our future generations."
What about sulfide mining? What about protecting our waters from heavy metals? What about preserving the health of future generations?
Ward calls the invasive-species bill "an investment in our tourism industry, which is incredibly important throughout greater Minnesota, especially for the people in District 12A [Brainerd]. ... I'm committed to protecting tourism and the good-paying jobs it helps create for the people living in our district."
Emily, Minn., is right up the road from Brainerd. I guess Rep. Ward is not concerned about the manganese test mine there. Last year a study in Canada found that "low-level, chronic exposure to manganese from drinking water is associated with significant intellectual impairments in children."
What about Emily? What about Ely? What about the Boundary Waters? Are lakes and tourism in those areas less important than in the Brainerd area, or any other area? Minnesota legislators are up in arms to stop the transport of invasive species via watercraft to our lakes, yet it seems they have no problem allowing mining companies to transport toxic heavy metals to our lakes.
Legislators are eager to save tourism-related jobs from the clutches of invasive species, but not from the clutches of metal mining?
Our state government is making arbitrary choices about our future. Perhaps we need to demand the right to choose for ourselves, or at the very least demand consistency rather than hypocrisy.
Instead of only working to eradicate aquatic invasive species, we should take aim at all invasive attacks on our waters. It can make the difference between lakes where we can eat the fish we catch, or not. It can make the difference between having vibrant tourism, or not.
C.A. Arneson, a retired teacher, lives on a lake near Ely.