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Published January 01 2012

Forum editorial: Coal suit critics win roses

PRAIRIE ROSES: To Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, for pointing out the obvious about the state of North Dakota’s involvement in a coal lawsuit against the state of Minnesota. North Dakota could spend $1.2 million to challenge a Minnesota law that restricts imports of coal-generated electricity, most of which comes from plants in central North Dakota. While the state’s coal industry has agreed to contribute $500,000 to the lawsuit, the state looks to be on the hook for at least $700,000. The question Mathern and others have asked: Why can’t the very healthy private coal industry fight and pay its own legal battles? Well, say the attorney general and the coal lobby, the industry is important to the state because it pays a lot of taxes and provides a lot of jobs. True enough, but the same can be said for any number of industries and businesses in the state. If they get in some sort of legal tussle, will the state pony up more than half their legal expenses? If Microsoft’s services are blocked by a state for some reason, will North Dakota run to the corporation’s side and pay legal expenses because Microsoft provides a lot of jobs and pays a lot of taxes? Not likely. If an oil company gets crossways with the federal government over environmental degradation, will North Dakota pay the company’s legal bills? We would hope not. The state’s coal operations (most owned by out-of-state companies) are quite capable of paying expenses for a lawsuit that, if won, will primarily benefit them. After all, these are the same folks who want government “out of the way” when the issues are regulation of coal plant emissions or taxes.

LEAFY SPURGE: To Kevin Paschke, executive director of the Williston, N.D., Chamber of Commerce for ducking questions about two new strip clubs that greet visitors to the city when they get off the train at the Amtrak depot. Apparently not wanting to acknowledge the elephant in the room, Paschke said, “No comment. I don’t want to talk about it or get in the middle of it.” Get in the middle of what? The growing worry that oil boomtown Williston is becoming a less family-friendly city? That when money is involved, the values the city once embraced are out the window? That strip clubs sometimes are associated with – fairly or unfairly – prostitution and illegal drug use? It seems that a representative of the business community should have something to say about that. And yes, Fargo has an “exotic dancing” club, but we’ve never known a chamber official, or anyone else, for that matter, who was unwilling to talk about it.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.