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EDITORIAL: Seeking a fair shake in Madison is excellent goal

Why go to Superior Days this year? The state's broke, and Assembly Republicans hate both Superior and Douglas County because residents always elect liberals.

Why go to Superior Days this year? The state's broke, and Assembly Republicans hate both Superior and Douglas County because residents always elect liberals.

Both assertions are true, but that's all the more reason to stage the annual lobbying event.

Northwestern Wisconsin residents have gained much by participating in the annual affair -- so much that it's fair to say they put this area on the legislature's map. There was a time when downstate lawmakers cared less about the fate of Superior and its surroundings. Superior Days changed that, putting a face on Wisconsin's northland.

One initiative stands out this year. Next week, delegates will be asking legislators and department heads to give the potential Murphy Oil refinery expansion a fair review. That simple request doesn't sound very important, but it's critical. Already, opposition is being fueled downstate and even in Canada -- on editorial pages, talk shows and in blogs -- and much of the information is inaccurate.

A couple examples:

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  • A representative of the environmental group Clean Wisconsin met with The Daily Telegram's editorial board this week. Her presentation contained numerous statements such as "Someone told me...," "Some people say...," and "I've heard that..." Then her statements were followed by unresearched assertions for which there was no evidence. How far did these unfounded assertions go? At one point, Murphy Oil was blamed for the 1992 benzene spill that evacuated Duluth-Superior. (It occurred when a Burlington Northern tank car fell from a Town of Superior railroad trestle and spilled its contents into the Nemadji River.)
  • A Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporter in Thunder Bay last summer invited The Daily Telegram to participate in a radio interview about the potential project. He said the primary concern among Ontario residents was transportation of refined products aboard Great Lakes maritime vessels. The reporter had never heard of the Enbridge pipelines that will carry liquids to and from the refinery.

Misinformation can be a dangerous thing. Once planted, it establishes strong roots.
It's important for decision makers to get accurate information about the refinery's prospects before their opinion forms around a core of half truths and poorly researched opinions. If they decide the plant can't meet environmental standards, so be it. But their decision should be based on science, not blog drama or poorly researched position papers.

Related Topics: MADISONSUPERIOR
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