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The new EPA emissions rules were long overdue

They're here. I wondered when they would arrive. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new rules regulating the emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates from coal-fired power plants. They have been circling the country for more than 30 years. Whatever we may think of them, they are a force whose time has come.

I welcome them, and mercury regulations are right behind. As a Pittsburgh boy from the Smoky City of the 1940s, I remember brushing away the top layer of "black snow" to play with the new "white" snow; rubbing a ball of cleaner across the wallpaper to see the bright wallpaper underneath and going out to play at 10 a.m. with the streetlights still on. We never thought about our own lungs.

I see the rules as a final leg of modern air pollution regulations for coal-fired power plants. The first modernization occurred in 1990 with the passing of the Clean Air Act (of 1972) Amendments under President George H.W. Bush. The second occurred in 2000 when sulfur dioxide emissions were halved by mandate to 10,000 tons per year. The third leg is this announcement of the new SO2-NOX-particulate rules.

THOMAS C. RUPPEL

Bethel Park

The writer is a retired environmental engineer who worked for the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the Department of Energy.



For cleaner air

Since the American Lung Association began its Red Carriage ad campaign this year, it has received a lot of media attention. The message -- "More pollution from power plants means more childhood asthma attacks" -- highlights the urgent health impact of air pollution as strong justification in defending clean air protection.

The ads feature a child in respiratory distress and images of a red baby carriage positioned near power plants that are emitting visible air pollution.They have stirred passions and raised eyebrows.

While there is no real baby in the red carriage, the need to protect our children and infants from air pollution is very real. The EPA reports that the Clean Air Act has prevented 160,000 early deaths in 2010 and will prevent more than 230,000 early deaths in 2020.

Allegheny County is one of the most beautiful regions in Pennsylvania. The health of our children must be protected. Please contact your representatives in Washington, D.C., and urge them to protect the nation's air.

DEBORAH P. BROWN

President and CEO

American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic

Camp Hill, Pa.



Frees up funds

Accuracy is absent in your Dec. 21 editorial " Retro Thinking: Republican Candidates Sell Out Family Planning. "

According to the Planned Parenthood website, 3 percent of its services are abortion services, and it's well known that even though federal funding disallows federal money (read taxpayer money) to be used for abortion purposes, it frees up money in Planned Parenthood's budget to be used for abortions.

Most recent data lists more than 300,000 abortions using Planned Parenthood funds were performed in 2009. In light of our current economic dilemma, is it wise for our tax dollars to be spent this way?

Most other services offered by Planned Parenthood are duplicated by existing medical facilities. Further, your directing blame at Republicans for "taking away tools" of "independence and self-determination" regarding services at Planned Parenthood is shortsighted and liberally biased.

I would suggest Republicans are trying to regain independence and self-determination for all Americans instead of relying on government. Most Planned Parenthood services deal with the irresponsibility of individuals, which should be dealt with by those individuals and their immediate family, not the government.

Maybe then we could free up the government-subsidized money and use it to pay down the deficit!

JOHN LEY

Sewickley Hills



Not charitable

I missed Paul O'Neill's Perspectives when it first ran (" Now Is the Time for Action ," Dec. 15). I do, however, want to add my name to the list of those who support Mr. O'Neill's proposals.

I would also like to suggest that this type of monopolist corporate behavior should place both the 501(c)(3) tax status of UPMC in jeopardy as well as its status as a not-for-profit entity. Not-for-profit entities may make profits, but they may not violate their responsibilities to operate within the framework of their charitable endeavor, including excessive pay and perks for senior management.

I just noted in Wednesday's Post-Gazette that UPMC made a $2 million contribution to the Heinz History Center. While this constitutes a generous gift from one nonprofit to another, is this the purpose of an organization claiming tax-exempt status?

UPMC (and Highmark, for that matter) should lose their tax-exempt status for all the real estate owned in the region. There is simply no excuse for two such profitable nonprofits to be acting in such a childish, selfish and greedy manner toward those whom they claim to serve. If this can now not be done under current law, then the law needs to be changed and we need to elect legislators who will commit to make such changes as a first priority.

JOHN E. HEMINGTON

Peters



UPMC's largess

We believe it is better to give than to receive, and we're certainly not against money going to the Heinz History Center. However, since the grantor is UPMC (" UPMC Donates $2 Million to Heinz History Center ," Dec. 21), we must ask:

Whose money is the $2 million? Does it really belong to UPMC, which just wants to do what it wants to do?

HERBERT and ROSLYN N. SACHS

Shadyside



GOP obstructionists

I will start by saying I have never written to a newspaper until now. I am extremely upset with the Republicans in both the House and Senate.

They have made up their minds that whatever President Barack Obama tries to do for this country (health care, jobs, whatever), they are against it. They made up their minds long ago that they would not back any ideas from this president.

At least he's tried to do something. We all have faults, but to target the middle class and the poor so blatantly, and to try from the beginning of his term to take down the president, it's no wonder the politicians in Washington are looked upon with such disdain.

God help us all if these clowns get voted in next election. Let's get them out of there before it's too late.

HARRY W. INNES

Oakmont



Thousands of the youngest are among the homeless

The "invisible students" described in the Dec. 1 Perspectives piece " Invisible Students: Pennsylvania's Homeless Youth Deserve an Education, Too " represent only the tip of the iceberg. Five-hundred thousand infants, toddlers and preschool children under age 6 will also experience homelessness this year. This age group makes up nearly 50 percent of the children in homeless housing programs in Allegheny County. Many more find shelter in other makeshift arrangements. These youngest children, too, are invisible.

Sadly, given the economy, state and local budget cuts, and many other factors, we know the numbers of homeless children and families are increasing. Homelessness makes identification difficult for school-age students. It is much harder to identify young children because early learning opportunities are limited, fragmented and not a legal right. As a result, reliable numbers remain unavailable in Allegheny County.

We all know that school success begins with quality early learning opportunities. Local research by Drs. Steve Bagnato and Jennifer Salaway further demonstrates that infants and toddlers generally begin life with the same ability and potential. Too often for young children experiencing homelessness, critical developmental windows open and close while older siblings go off to school and parents and public agencies focus on pressing adult matters. Coupled with the challenges of trauma and transitions at a young age, these children fall far behind their peers even before they start school.

In Allegheny County, we are working with early childhood and homeless service providers in a group we call "Bridges" to connect young homeless children with the quality early childhood learning opportunities and early intervention services they need to enter school ready to learn. Together with the Homeless Children's Education Fund and the Homeless Children's Initiative, we work to ensure that children experiencing homelessness are not invisible and that public conversations about homeless children include the youngest among us.

JOAN EICHNER

Children's Policy Director

Office of Child Development

University of Pittsburgh

Point Breeze

NANCY A. HUBLEY

Pittsburgh Director

Education Law Center

Downtown



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