Heidelberger Will Defend Water Quality, Property Rights, Initiative & Referendum

(Originally posted to Dakota Free Press)

Dakota Rural Action is surveying Legislative candidates on their plans for water quality, Keystone XL, clean energy, initiative and referendum, and chemical drfit impacts on agriculture. They’ll publish the results after the survey deadline of October 3, but as the candidate for District 3 Senate who (a) believes in real, regular transparency and (b) knows how to use Copy, Paste, and hyperlinks, I’m happy to share my answers with you right now.

Water–both quality and quantity–is an important issue across the state–from the granting of temporary water use permits for exploratory drilling in the Black Hills to nutrient pollution in the majority of our state’s waterways, as well as the lack of sufficient DENR staff to update discharge permits.

If elected, what will you do to ensure that South Dakota’s water resources are protected for citizens and our future generations?

1. Speaker G. Mark Mickelson, who makes money consulting for industrial agricultural operations, spent his tenure in Pierre pushing numerous laws that loosened regulation of factory feedlots (CAFOs) and weakened the ability of local citizens to control the permitting process and oppose poorly planned CAFOs that would harm local water quality. I will work to repeal those laws and strengthen the ability of local citizens to challenge permits for environmentally unsound CAFOs.

2. A lack of staff means DENR has automatically renewed dozens of surface water discharge permits without checking compliance. I will work to increase DENR’s staff and authority to monitor water quality and enforce permit conditions and environmental laws.

3. Numerous corporations, particularly foreign corporations whose owners and stockholders do not have to live with the consequences of the environmental harms of their operations, want to pour vast quantities of water into often toxic mining operations in the Black Hills. I will defend and strengthen the environmental laws that protect the Black Hills aquifers and surface water from pollution.

Late this summer, in the northwestern corner of the state, TransCanada has begun condemnation proceedings to seize land from private citizens unwilling to be forced into easements for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In the 2018 SD legislative session, a bill was introduced to allow Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations to run above-ground, force main manure disposal pipes through the right-of-way across private property without landowner permission.

In your view, when is it appropriate for a corporation’s development plans to supersede the rights of private property owners and/or to condemn their land through the use of eminent domain?

Never. Eminent domain should be reserved only for essential public infrastructure, not projects owned entirely by for-profit corporations, and especially not for unnecessary projects owned by foreign corporations.

Energy costs are often one of the greatest ongoing expenses of operating a business. C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) and similar programs have been used in the majority of other states to help business owners invest in energy efficiency and clean energy.

Do you support programs that offer long-term, low interest rate loans that business owners can use to invest in energy saving projects?

Yes. The state has a compelling interest in reducing energy usage because, among other reasons, the less energy each business uses, the more energy capacity we have left for new businesses to use, and the more new businesses we can recruit and jobs we can create.

The last two legislative sessions have brought a spate of bills that impact the people’s right to initiate laws and constitutional amendments, as well as their right to refer laws passed by the legislature back to the ballot.

What is your position on initiative & referendum, and in what ways would you work to protect, enhance, or change that process?

Initiative and referendum are a vital check on an arrogant, unresponsive Legislature. Initiative and referendum also provide citizens with a useful means to participate directly in making the state and local laws under which they live. I will continue to support the people’s right to petition and put laws to a public vote at the state and local level. I will also work to repeal every scrap of overregulation the Legislature has used to insulate itself from the rightful power of the people.

South Dakota is one of the top three honey-producing states in the nation. Our specialty crop and organic ag sectors are strong and growing as well. However, the last two years have seen a massive increase in incidences of chemical trespass affecting beekeepers, specialty growers, and even conventional producers resulting in significant losses to producers.

Last winter, during a Senate Ag & Natural Resources Committee hearing on a chemical trespass bill, then SD Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Mike Jaspers pledged his department would promulgate rules to better protect producers, but no action was ever taken by the department. The 2018 growing season has seen incidences of spray drift and overspray continue to negatively impact many producers.

If elected, what kind of protections would you support for beekeepers, specialty producers, and organic and conventional producers against spray drift and chemical trespass?

One business’s operations should not poison or otherwise physically destroy another business’s products. When one business uses herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals that harm its neighbors’ livelihood, that poisoning business should pay for those losses.

Specifically, South Dakota should follow through on its word and restrict the use of new dicamba products that have demonstrated too great a tendency to drift despite the best efforts of farmers to follow the maunfacturers’ instructions.

*     *     *
I invite my opponent in the District 3 Senate race to post his responses to the Dakota Rural Action survey early as well, so voters can make a fair comparison. After all, early voting has started, and we want people to have as much information as possible before they vote.