Pipelines and presidents

And so much more.

It’s been a busy summer at the News Tribune, with an especially insane news cycle between the Grandma’s Marathon weekend (I finished my first half!) the president visiting and the PUC approving the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline.

And can we talk about that crazy housing market?

Sarah Hakel scrutinizes the ceiling in the master bedroom of a home in Cloquet she and her partner Tyler Franzen (right) look over with Edina Realty agent Chad Watczak on Thursday. The couple toured a dozen homes in the area at a time when dozens more are doing the same, driving up prices and frustrations in the housing market. Bob King photo.

But let’s go back to the explosion at the Husky oil refinery in April.

In the aftermath of the fires that sent an ominous cloud of black smoke south of Lake Superior well into the evening, I investigated just how close a call it was: Hydrogen fluoride, if released into the atmosphere, could have sickened or even killed thousands. There are alternatives, but Husky would be a trailblazer if it stopped using the chemical.

I also found that while hydrogen fluoride is the greatest chemical risk in the region, it isn’t the only one. I made the map below to demonstrate:

Then there was President Trump coming to Duluth to stump for 8th Congressional District hopeful Pete Stauber in June. Since a Republican has won the district just once in the past 70 years, I asked a few experts: Why visit Duluth?

During the event, Jimmy Lovrien and I followed the protests, which were largely peaceful.

The week after that, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline at an emotional meeting in St. Paul that Jimmy and I covered. With protests planned and more permits yet to secure, there will still be plenty to write about.

Elsewhere, I’ve kicked off a series on the workforce of the future, with a look at declining teen employment rates and an increase in career changes. Those included side stories on apprenticeships and two-year degrees and automation preparedness.

More recently, John Lundy and I took a look at Minnesotans increasingly drinking themselves to death, and I offered our recently arrived batch of students a bit of advice for getting their rental deposits back.

Big thanks to the Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program, a week of training at CUNY in July that left me hungry and well-prepared for big fiscal stories. I jumped right on Duluth’s budget resilience and dug through state pension fund holdings. More to come, as ever.