Letters to the editor
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The PG's "Mapping Mortality" series (Dec. 12-19) showed that southwestern Pennsylvania has more death and serious illness downwind of coal-fired power plants. In response, J. Brett Harvey, CEO of Consol Energy Inc., one of America's largest coal companies, offered a "rebuttal" of sorts ("The True Inconvenient Truth," Jan. 31 Perspectives).
He didn't deny that burning coal produces toxins that kill people. He didn't mention the environmental devastation of "mountaintop removal" mining, the damage being done to our climate or the mine workers killed in accidents and sickened by the years underground. He didn't even try to say that his company is working on "clean coal technology" or on ways to reduce the amount of pollutants it pumps out every day.
Instead, Mr. Harvey insists that America's prosperity is dependent on the cheap, toxic energy that companies like his provide. In an astounding display of corporate hubris and indifference to our well-being, he implies that we have to just accept the environmental and health consequences of our addiction to cheap electricity or suffer from the "energy poverty" of the developing world.
The real "inconvenient truth" here is that our politicians are so beholden to corporate interests that they can't protect us from people like this.
MIKE USMAN, M.D.
J. Brett Harvey, CEO of Consol Energy, takes a shot at the Post-Gazette's brilliant "Mapping Mortality" series by using what can only be described as "doublethink" ("The True Inconvenient Truth," Jan. 31 Perspectives).
George Orwell in his dystopian novel "1984" describes doublethink as "to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in them both."
Near the end of Mr. Harvey's piece he says, "because coal is the only sustainable fuel with the scale to meet the primary energy needs of the worlds growing population ... ." Coal? Sustainable? It defies the limits of credulity to read these two words in the same sentence.
Coal is cheap when it does not have to bear the costs of the environmental damage it causes, but it is oxymoronic to call coal sustainable. It would seem that Mr. Harvey is seeking to discredit truly sustainable energy sources by using doublethink to undermine the meaning of the word "sustainable." Along with oil and natural gas, coal could be called economically, or maybe even socially important, but in no way could any of them be called sustainable.
DAVID M. POPE
Bad energy news
Your Jan. 30 article on Gov. Tom Corbett's new energy executive, Patrick Henderson ("Meet Some Key Corbett Cabinet Picks") fails to paint a full picture of Mr. Henderson. Rather than rely on what others say about him, we should look to what he himself has said and done.
Mr. Henderson, who was primary spokesperson for state Sen. Mary Jo White, was rude and dismissive with those of us who advocate for clean energy when we attempted to talk to Sen. White.
Despite the fact that traditional fossil fuels receive nearly seven times the amount of federal subsidies than renewable energy, Mr. Henderson blocked the bill updating our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard that has helped create green jobs and green power across the state. He said that solar, wind and other renewable energy sources "need to stand on [their] own two feet," but he thinks that coal, oil and gas should continue to ride the government gravy train of subsidies and, in the case of Marcellus Shale gas, tax-free use of our citizens' resources.
Now Pat Henderson is the governor's point man on energy. That is seriously bad news for clean energy, public health, green jobs and all Pennsylvanians.
The sharing business
I wish to applaud Brian O'Neill for his thought-provoking Jan. 25 column, "We Can't Afford to Keep Quiet About Saving Libraries." Unfortunately, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is not alone in this crisis. Library funding cuts are threatening our region's quality of life well beyond the city limits.
Mr. O'Neill asked, "Do we want to be a great city or not?" With more than a million residents in Allegheny County, of which nearly 75 percent live outside of the city of Pittsburgh, a better question might be, "Do we want to be a great region or not?" Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is just one of 45 libraries in the county providing outstanding programming and services to the community.
Through the Allegheny County Library Association, of which Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is a member, our county's citizens can access millions of volumes through 72 neighborhood locations that offer a variety of community services, such as tutoring, after-school programs and career and job assistance. And where would Greater Pittsburgh be without such regional assets as the Carnegie Library of Homestead Music Hall, the Civil War Room in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie or the historic structures that house Carnegie libraries in McKeesport and Braddock?
Libraries are in the sharing business and the Allegheny County Library Association does a great job of making all 45 libraries' circulating collections and resources available to the public. All of Allegheny County's libraries also share the threat posed by impending state budget cuts. We need to find a countywide solution for funding all of our public libraries.
CHRIS W. BRUSSALIS
The writer is president of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall Board of Trustees.
Abortion opponents talk one way and act another way. They talk pro-life, they act anti-abortion. They write letters to the editor about saving the "babies" or "children," but spend their time picketing clinics and threatening their staffs and patients. If they were sincere about saving lives, they would look for constructive things to do.
One obvious thing would be to reduce the number of unwanted, unplanned pregnancies. Sponsoring birth-control measures would take a major chunk out of the numbers of abortions. But they avoid this.
But what they do not avoid is stunts such as the one reported in the Post-Gazette. Anti-abortionists carried out sting operations aimed at implicating abortion-clinic staff in illegal sex-trafficking ("Planned Parenthood Fires Manager in 'Sting' Video," Feb. 3). How many lives will this nifty exercise in futility save?
Clinton Rossiter wrote, "No America without democracy, no democracy without politics, no politics without parties, no parties without compromise and moderation." If anti-abortionists will not compromise, there can never be democratic solutions. The fight over abortion will not be settled as long as the United States of America is a democracy. What we need to work for are moderate policies that will not eliminate abortions but will greatly reduce the need for them.
PAUL A. ALTER
We are working to fight housing discrimination
I read with interest Rich Lord's article about a fair housing lawsuit filed on behalf of a disabled tenant ("New Pet Focus of Tenant's Lawsuit," Jan. 25).
The Section 8 tenant challenged being evicted for having a service animal. As the tenant's attorney from Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services notes, an individual with a disability has a right to a reasonable accommodation including the keeping of a service or support animal. Federal, state and local fair housing laws give people who have disabilities the right to request reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, procedures, or practices from housing providers if the changes will make it possible for the individual to be able to have full use and enjoyment of a dwelling.
Tenants with disabilities can request permission to make or request the landlord to provide, reasonable modifications to the structure of a dwelling. These protections cover any type of residential dwelling, whether Section 8 or not.
This aspect of fair housing law is widely misunderstood. Last year the Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh received 73 discrimination complaints on behalf of disabled persons, and the vast majority of these cases involved requests for reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification. Discrimination complaints by the disabled accounted for three out of every four complaints we received and continue to grow at an alarming rate here in Pittsburgh.
The prevalence of disability related complaints reflects national trends as well. As an organization battling housing discrimination in the greater Pittsburgh area for more than 20 years, the Fair Housing Partnership welcomes Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services as a new regional ally in fair housing enforcement efforts.
Director of Enforcement, The Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh
First Published February 8, 2011 12:00 am