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Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

Posted May 17

American News, Aberdeen, May 17

Keep Spink County oil spill in perspective

Let's all take a deep breath.

In early April, there was a minor crude oil leak at the Dakota Access Pipeline pump station in Spink County.

Two barrels — about 84 gallons — were spilled, but pipeline officials say the oil was caught in a containment unit that is built for such an event. The spill was reported to the state, which put it on a public database. The state was not required to do anything more in informing the public.

While we do believe these spills are concerning and worthy of attention, we want to put this particular incident in perspective:

— 17,000 gallons: Keystone pipeline, South Dakota, 2016.

— 34,000 gallons: Hiland Crude pipeline, North Dakota, March 2014.

— 210 million gallons: Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico, 2010.

— 10.8 million gallons: Exxon Valdez, Alaska, 1989.

Not to make light of the situation but, by comparison, 84 gallons seems a drop in the bucket.

There were no photos of oil-covered pelicans (or, in Spink's case, pheasants). The April event did not happen near any water source. It was a minor spill, on property owned by Energy Transfer Partners, the developers of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

But, the outrage was big.

To hear the national media tell it, this spill clearly endangered the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Throughout the history of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the truth has been murky. Well-intentioned people have spoken out against the pipeline, without really learning too much about what is happening on the ground in places like Spink County.

Folks should be concerned about oil spills — any oil spills. Energy Transfer Partners should (and, we assume, does) treat every leak or spill as a serious infraction that should enact further safeguards.

At this newspaper, we knew this story would be big. The first DAPL oil spill in South Dakota — we say "first," not just "only" — was going to attract attention.

American News reporter Shannon Marvel broke the story by sifting through a database cataloging oil spills.

Those who are concerned about these issues should already be looking at that database regularly.

But beyond that, those who are concerned can continue to stay informed, refrain from spreading false or misleading information or opinion, and hold the oil companies and regulators accountable so that the pipeline is safe and effective.

___

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, May 15

Now is time for town hall meetings

Lawmakers across the nation have been holding town hall meetings in recent weeks as the Republican majority in Congress works to implement the agenda that it promised to America.

The initial effort has focused on dismantling the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which has raised concerns for millions of people who either purchase their health insurance through an exchange or were able to get health care through the expanded Medicaid program.

The decision to repeal and replace Obamacare has riveted the nation, hardly a surprise since affordable and accessible health care is a life-and-death issue. Lawmakers who held town hall meetings have provided a valuable service to their constituents by listening and responding to those concerns and then hopefully taking that information back to Washington as part of an effort to produce legislation that will benefit the people back home.

So far, however, South Dakota residents have had at best limited opportunities to share their views on health care reform with their lawmakers. When asked this week by the Journal editorial board if any town hall meetings will be held while the legislation is being crafted, the offices of Rep. Kristi Noem, Sen. John Thune and Sen. Mike Rounds said none are scheduled at this time.

Noem's chief of staff said she held a town hall meeting earlier this year in Watertown, which is near her hometown of Castlewood in northeastern South Dakota, and "holds regular telephone town halls." He also said she did not have time for a town hall meeting last week while the House was in recess. Yet, Noem, who is running for governor in the 2018 election, was in Sioux Falls on Thursday getting a tour of the Minnehaha County Jail and talked about cracking down on crime in South Dakota. She also was in Rapid City on Saturday to give the commencement address for Western Dakota Tech at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

A Thune staffer said that he held a town hall meeting in Aberdeen "a few weeks ago and an open forum in Madison."

Sen. Rounds' office said he has held many "coffee and conversation" events this year and that more than 30 health care organizations met with him in his office to discuss health care reform. He also has held a conference call with other health care stakeholders.

We, however, would like our lawmakers to hold town hall meetings focused exclusively on health care for the less prominent stakeholders — the citizens who don't have the time or resources to fly to Washington, D.C., or want more than a cup of coffee with the senator.

While we have heard plenty about what they believe are the problems with Obamacare, we have heard little about their vision for health care reform beyond removing mandates and allowing people to shop across state lines for insurance.

We need to know how the Republican plan will reduce insurance rates without reducing health care costs. Where do they stand on pre-existing conditions? Do they support caps on coverage? What happens when an uninsured adult gets injured in an accident or is diagnosed with cancer? Who decides that person's fate — the federal government, the states or the insurance companies?

Our lawmakers need to listen to constituents' concerns and tell us specifically what kind of health care they support. Now is the time for them to listen to us and answer our questions.

___

The Daily Republic, Mitchell, May 16

Generosity in Gregory

The Gregory community achieved a fabulous feat recently.

The community secured a down payment for a new digital projector at The Hilltop Drive-In Theatre in Gregory, raising $20,000 needed for the $45,000 projector.

There's a special feeling about going out on a warm night under the stars to watch a film with family, friends or someone special, and Gregory area folks will get to hold onto that feeling.

The moviegoers and others in the area who helped raise the funds deserve a round of applause, and their generosity got us thinking about Mitchell's closed drive-in.

Four summers ago, The Starlite Drive-In Theatre in Mitchell shut down, leaving the town with a fantastic traditional movie-going experience at the Logan Luxury 5 Cinemas downtown, but without the unique experience of a drive-in that many younger Mitchell residents may have never had the chance to come across.

In the wake of the Gregory story in Tuesday's edition of The Daily Republic, some online commenters have asked why Mitchell can't do the same to support its local drive-in. Well, if those commenters want to support the project, we call on those asking for a Starlite revival to put their money where their mouths are.

We would love to see the Starlite back in action, with films new and old gracing the large white screen north of town. But that doesn't mean we're going to call upon Jeff Logan to shift course on a business decision he made years ago to close the Starlite.

So we challenge area residents who want to see the Starlite make its triumphant return to Mitchell to match the huge generosity displayed in the much smaller community of Gregory to collect the contributions needed to bring in a new digital projector. Perhaps one wealthy resident could kick in a hefty contribution to bring joy to the faces of thousands.

While the dream of bringing back the Starlite seems great, we understand it may not be economically viable at the moment. But to those who look west toward Gregory and witness the wonderful community spirit on display, maybe it's time you chip in a chunk of change and see if it turns the dream into a reality.

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