Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Aug. 25, 2013
Rapid council shows strength in anti-mining resolution
While ultimately only symbolic, it's good to see a local government body such as the Rapid City Council take a strong stand on an issue of statewide and regional import.
With its approval last week of a resolution opposing proposed uranium mining in Western South Dakota, the council sent a clear message that its members almost unanimously are opposed to the in-situ uranium mining that the company Powertech wants to begin near Edgemont.
Even though in the end it will be the federal government that will regulate the mining, the 9-1 council vote to pass the resolution opposing the current mining proposal shows that locals are keeping a close eye on things.
The council action comes after state lawmakers and the governor in 2011 abdicated their right to oversee mining by passing a bill that suspended the state's power to permit and directly regulate the injection-extraction well system Powertech wants to use to mine uranium.
The measure passed by lawmakers, and signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, left that part of permitting and oversight to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. An effort to revisit the issue last spring was rejected; the state retains its right to regulate water use, however.
But Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker, who urged passage of the resolution, and other council members say they have unanswered questions about water use and other parts of the project. The proposed in-situ mining operation would take place 80 miles away near Edgemont, but project critics fear it could contaminate the Madison Aquifer, which provides drinking water for most of the Black Hills and Rapid City.
Before the vote, a handful of city officials accepted an invitation from Mark Hollenbeck, who is the lead Powertech pitchman for the project, to see his presentation on the proposed mining. That presentation essentially states that in-situ mining is a closed system that has very little risk of contamination and uses very little drinkable water.
But council members were not fully able to get past questions about drinking-water safety and worries over who would take responsibility for any mishaps that might occur.
The majority of the council voted to oppose the mining with a resolution that expressed their "grave concern" about the potential for problems. Numerous residents appeared at those council hearings to express their deep concern over the mining and its possible negative outcomes.
While the Journal at this time has not taken a firm position for or against the proposed uranium-mining operation, we do commend the Rapid City Council for using its voice as the second-largest city in South Dakota to express its concerns and send a message that the council, as well as to thousands of others in West River, that it will be watching closely what happens at the upcoming mining permit hearing and the operations of the mining firm if the process commences.
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Aug. 24, 2013
Expand Medicaid coverage in South Dakota
South Dakota should expand Medicaid coverage as intended under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The health care reform statute, passed in 2010, originally mandated that expansion, but the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the authority to make the final decision on coverage.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard decided against expansion last year, instead saying he wanted a committee to study the issue thoroughly and report back the advantages and disadvantages of making the move. That committee has wrapped up its work and is finalizing its report for Daugaard and the Legislature this month.
At stake is health care coverage for an estimated 48,000 now-uninsured South Dakotans. If the governor decides not to expand, 22,000 of those still would be able to buy coverage from the new federal exchange that should start up in 2014. The other 26,000 would not be eligible to buy from the exchange because they are too poor to qualify.
This topic has received ample debate here and in many states. Republican lawmakers at state and national levels have voiced their disapproval of the expansion and most other provisions of the health care reform act.
Under the statute, which, like it or not, is the law of the land, the federal government will pay the total cost of medical service to the new Medicaid-covered population for three years. After that, the proportions will shift until the federal government's payment is 90 percent by 2020.
There certainly are legitimate issues involved in this expansion. There will be some significant additional administrative cost — at least $9.5 million, by some estimates. And there is genuine concern about the federal government's ability and desire to continue funding as spelled out past 2020.
However, these concerns should not stop us from expanding coverage to the working poor in our state now.
Medicaid costs are a perennial issue in the state Legislature. Increased Medicaid demands strained the state budget during the recession.
As a state, we traditionally have shied away from broadening eligibility beyond children, disabled and elderly residents. This expansion would fundamentally change our approach and bring working adults under Medicaid coverage. These working poor families, who are uninsured now, would be able to get regular health care coverage, meaning fewer emergency room visits, the cost of which is spread to insured individuals.
Public discussion and understanding of the issues involved here are important. The Legislature and the citizenry certainly should have the debate.
What we ultimately decide in South Dakota says something about us as a people. Is the decision on Medicaid expansion about improving the lives of many working poor families? Or is it about the dislike of the Obama health care reform act or a rejection of the notion of higher federal government involvement in our affairs?
We ask our Republican governor to do more than hold his nose and say yes here. We urge Daugaard to step beyond the political comfort zone to lead a reasoned discussion on this issue in the Legislature and across the state. He can do that.
To his credit, the task force he formed held widely publicized, open meetings to hear from citizens and to give affected institutions and agencies a chance to speak on the issue. He has promised their final report will be open to the public as well. We applaud the governor for that approach.
But, there are not likely to be any game-changing revelations in this group's final report. Most of the testimony at the public hearings followed familiar story lines.
Twenty-three states already have agreed to expand Medicaid, including North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. In South Dakota, the state medical association, the hospital association and several social service organizations support the expansion.
This move will allow thousands of uninsured families to have their health care needs covered. Healthy families and fewer sick residents translate to happier homes and more productive workplaces.
That's reason enough to act now.
Capital Journal, Pierre, Aug. 25, 2013
On raw milk, state should recognize personal liberty, personal responsibility
Take a look at the good sense reflected in the letters elsewhere on this page about the state's current pondering of raw milk rules.
In our view, the state should take careful note of the case for raw milk made by the dairy producers and the dairy consumers who want to buy their product, and then do little, or nothing, to disrupt this part of agricultural commerce. It is a significant part of business for some producers who are only supplying what their customers demand.
It is a simple fact that some people would rather buy raw milk directly from their local dairy farmer rather than bringing it home in a plastic jug or a paper carton from the supermarket. Is that a problem? For those of us who grew up drinking it straight from the cow, it's hard to conceive that raw milk is the next big threat to South Dakota's civilization.
And as our letter-writers point out, if there is ever a milk-related illness originating from one of these dairies, it would be easy to trace it to the source. As with other aspects of the local foods movement, these are face-to-face encounters between the customer and the one dairy producer he or she is buying from - there is no mixing of milk that would create a puzzle to unravel in finding the source of a milk-transmitted illness. That is vastly different from the problems we now see tracing those all-too-common food-related illnesses in our industrialized food system.
We are not born into a sanitary world and there are thoughtful, intelligent people who choose raw milk, knowing full well the risks and the benefits. And there is no second-hand raw milk floating about the atmosphere to put the rest of us at risk. We should err on the side of personal liberty and personal responsibility on issues such as this.
The nanny state should let the people have their milk.