Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.
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DULUTH — It has all the makings of a typical Senate race — incumbent touts her achievements while challenger attacks her record and paints her as out-of-touch. Except Democratic Sen. Tina Smith has been in office a mere eight months, and the seat will again be up for grabs in two years. The usual battle lines are being drawn in the unusual special election to fill out the remainder of former Sen. Al Franken's term after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal at the beginning of the year.
DULUTH — When Minnesota regulators signed off on the Line 3 replacement pipeline this summer, they may have reshaped the future of oil transportation across the state. By forging a new path for Line 3, Enbridge now has options for its other five pipelines that traverse Minnesota. While there are no plans to move or replace those pipelines, the new route sets a precedent future projects could follow.
DULUTH — Brenda Long ticked off the names of men in her life who died young. Mike Trafton, her father, at age 48. Tom Trafton, her older half brother, at 43. Gary Trafton, the younger brother she adored, at 44. Each death, in one way or another, stemming from alcohol. "It's been a life of hell," the International Falls woman said last week. It's a hell that's all too common anymore. Alcohol is killing more Minnesotans than opioids, meth and all other drugs combined.
DULUTH — Minnesota family child care providers are embracing some small regulatory changes that could make a big difference in a profession that is shrinking fast. "This was a good step forward," said Julie Seydel, a child care provider and public policy director for the Minnesota Association of Child Care Professionals. "A lot more needs to be done." One of the changes enacted by the Minnesota Legislature this year, going into effect Wednesday, Aug. 1, is the removal of the requirement to have the children of providers fingerprinted for background checks.
DULUTH — After decades as a small business owner, Annette Beaufeaux had reached a pressure point. It was time for a change. "I don't want to look back and say I just did this one thing," said the 50-year-old Aitkin, Minn., woman. So, she went to school to be a medical assistant.
"This is an upgrade. We are renewing infrastructure, and if anybody wanted to renew a road, airport, bridge or building, most people would say that makes sense. We're trying to upgrade the safety and reliability of this very critical infrastructure." — Enbridge CEO Al Monaco
DULUTH—By the end of the month, the fate of the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline should finally be known. After years of technical research and public hearings, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote June 27 to approve, deny or put conditions on the contentious oil pipeline that would cross 337 miles of northern Minnesota. Though there is still a chance the decision gets pushed back, those for and against the project are preparing protests, celebrations and lawsuits.
DULUTH — For high school students, having a job is less a rite of passage than a novelty these days. In Minnesota and across the country, fewer teenagers are working despite all sorts of opportunities to pick up that first paycheck. And without early job experiences, the workforce of tomorrow may not be equipped with workplace basics.
DULUTH — For decades, the majority of the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior, Wis., lived under the threat of a concentrated chlorine spill, which could have spread over 10 miles and sickened up to 128,000 people in an unlikely, though technically possible, worst-case scenario. Then in 2006, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District decided to do away with the risk altogether.
SUPERIOR, Wis. — As burning asphalt poured a plume of black smoke over Douglas County on April 26, a 15,000-pound chemical bomb was ticking. If everything had gone wrong that tense day, a vapor cloud of toxic hydrogen fluoride could have spread from the Husky oil refinery across the Twin Ports, injuring thousands. Firefighters averted that worst-case scenario and extinguished the fire late that night. But the risk remains, and it probably will for years to come.