South Dakota Editorial Roundup
Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials
The Associated Press
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Sept. 12, 2013
Gant was right to leave office amid missteps
It has been a rocky few years in Pierre for Secretary of State Jason Gant.
In unprecedented fashion, he has immersed himself and the office in a variety of political tangles, frequently stretching the ethical boundaries of this traditionally nonpartisan state office.
His decision to not seek a second term is the right one for our state.
Whether Gant’s actions were intentional or simply miscalculations, his propensity to teeter on the ethical boundaries of public service resulted in a steady deterioration of the public’s trust and confidence in this important constitutional job.
South Dakotans are accustomed to nonpartisan Secretaries of State. These individuals avoided political positioning and worked to ensure the integrity of the election process in the state while handling the other public duties of the office with efficiency and transparency.
Voters will want to select a candidate who will return to that professional model. Undoubtedly, we will see several new candidates emerge, both Democrat and Republican. We will have the opportunity to question them and to determine who is best to serve before deciding in November 2014.
The new secretary of state will take office, facing the challenge and the opportunity to restore public trust in the position.
Impartiality, professionalism and ethical restraint will be the first and most important assignments for our new Secretary of State.
Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Sept. 15, 2013
Find ways to save energy
Black Hills Power received the rate increase last week that we all knew was coming. The pending agreement with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission is for an overall 6.4 percent increase beginning Oct. 1.
The rate increase won’t be felt because the utility already had permission to raise rates on an interim basis effective June 16. Because the agreed rate increase is less than what BHP had been charging as interim rates, the company will issue refunds that the company said would be an average $10.50 to residential customers.
The pending agreement was negotiated with PUC staff and amounts to an additional $8.8 million in revenues for BHP. The company had sought an increase of $13.7 million.
BHP officials have told the Journal that the rate increase was requested as compensation for retiring older coal-fired power plants and building a newer plant near Cheyenne, Wyo., that will generate electricity using natural gas as fuel.
While natural gas is a cleaner fuel source, company officials have said the cheapest energy source available to them is coal, but federal regulations are making it all but impossible to build more coal power plants, and its existing coal plants are facing stricter emissions requirements that will increase the cost of electricity generation.
What this means to consumers is that the cost of electricity will continue to increase in the future to achieve public policy goals on plant emissions.
Whether you agree with the policy goals or not, the result will be rising electricity rates down the road for everyone.
Let’s face it, life as we currently know it is impossible without electricity. Our lights, appliances, electronics, even that electric car that some politicians envision in every garage, depend on electric power to run. We have difficulty imagining that wind and solar energy alone could meet future demands for power.
What to do? Electricity isn’t going to get cheaper and could become more scarce. It would be in anyone’s best interests — in homes and at businesses — to look at energy efficiency to offset rising energy costs.
Black Hills Power, in fact, offers energy efficiency programs, appliance rebates, and energy savings tips on its website. There are many other sources of information about energy efficient appliances, insulating homes and offices, and cutting back on energy use. You can even get tax credits for buying energy efficient products on your federal income taxes.
If we’re not going to pursue the cheapest and most abundant energy available — and we’re not — then finding ways to save energy — and holding down monthly utility bills — is the next best alternative.
We need electricity, and it’s not going to get cheaper anytime soon.
Madison Daily Leader, Madison, Sept. 9, 2013
Big Sioux River needs much broader attention
The Big Sioux River Water Summit was held Monday at Sioux Falls, and we hope it starts new action to address serious problems with the river.
The Big Sioux wanders 420 miles through eastern South Dakota, and eventually flows into the Missouri River. Most of Lake County drains into the Big Sioux.
Its dramatic falls are what gave the city of Sioux Falls its name. The Big Sioux can be pretty, and is used for recreation, fresh water supplies and flood control.
And according to advocacy group Environment America, it is the 13th dirtiest river in the country. East Dakota Water Development District Manager Jay Gilbertson says he wouldn’t let his grandson swim in the river because of high levels of E. coli bacteria.
No one seems to dispute that the water quality of the Big Sioux is bad, although there are differing opinions whether it matters. Even property owners right on the river in the heart of Sioux Falls aren’t united — one owner said “To be in the river — that’s not the appeal. The appeal is being on the river. Unless you live in Alaska and have glacier-fed water, it’s going to be brown or green.”
We disagree wholeheartedly. Water quality is important, and we need collectively to stop pollution and erosion along the Big Sioux River, both for today and for the future.
We recognize the difficulty in improving water quality in the Big Sioux. There are so many sources of water that drain into it, so much undeveloped land, so much agriculture, so many municipalities involved that the task may seem impossible.
But it isn’t impossible. Rivers that are much more polluted — the Kalamazoo River in Michigan comes to mind — have been dramatically improved. It takes participation by public officials, land owners, conservationists, industries and many more, with the common goal of improving the river, to work together.
Cleaning up rivers is a bit different than cleaning lakes. Water flows at a much higher rate through rivers, so the pollution heads downstream. The critical element is to stop pollution at the sources. If you do, the river can clean itself.
We’re eager to hear how the first summit goes, and how the next one at Brookings in October goes. We all have a vested interest in improving the Big Sioux.