Letters to the editor
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Sustainable Pittsburgh applauds Gov. Tom Corbett and his Transportation Funding Advisory Commission for its practical recommendations to fund transportation. We share the sentiments captured in the July 26 P-G editorial, "Smoother Road: Corbett's Panel Has Good Fixes for Transportation."
Indeed, the economic stakes are very high for fixing the commonwealth's crumbling roads and bridges and to keep public transportation rolling. Transportation is the backbone of our economy. The advisory commission has provided a road map for increasing necessary funding.
Identifying an additional $2.7 billion is an imperative step in the right direction. Pennsylvania needs an estimated $3.5 billion a year to adequately fund its transportation needs, with 5,310 structurally deficient bridges, 8,000 miles of highway in poor condition and struggling public transit systems across the state.
We look forward to the governor's continued leadership in putting the package of reforms and agenda for funding transportation in motion.
The writer is executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh.
Protect our air
For those of us who have worked on Pittsburgh area air issues for decades, the reduction in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide expected to result from the Environmental Protection Agency's cross-state air pollution rule is wonderful news. The health of our families and the environment will benefit significantly.
But the rush to drill for Marcellus gas will impede this progress. All aspects of drilling can cause air pollution from chemicals, including benzene, toluene, diesel, hydrogen sulfide and other substances linked to harmful health effects.
A hospital system serving six heavily drilled counties in Texas found a childhood asthma rate of 25 percent, more than three times the state average. Recent news stories have raised concerns about the already high rate of asthma in school children in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. Studies have also linked the chemicals emitted from drilling facilities to cancer, birth defects and neurological damage.
In 2009, for the first time in Wyoming history, the formerly pristine state failed to meet federal standards for air quality. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality blames the state's oil and gas sector.
Western Pennsylvanians cannot and should not add another burden to our health by tolerating this added pollution. Continuous on-site air monitoring should be paid for by drilling companies, and stringent regulations requiring the best technology should be mandated on all well-site equipment, valves, compressor stations, processing facilities and condensate tanks. Frack pits that emit volatile chemicals and have been responsible for numerous toxic spills should be replaced by closed-loop systems.
The gas industry stands to make millions in our area. It is fully able to satisfy regulations that would provide some health protection for residents as drilling industrializes the countryside.
Pennsylvania entered this gas boom without adequate protection from air and water pollution and there has been insignificant action by the governor or our representatives to rectify the situation. This must change.
Protect water, too
Local news outlets have begun to warn us of the need to conserve water here in Pennsylvania because moving toward us from the Southwest are drought conditions worse than the tragic "Dust Bowl" of the 1930s.
Maybe I've missed it amid the Big Gas media blizzard of rainbows, eagles soaring above pristine fields and forests, and happy farmers with pockets full of lease cash, but has the drilling industry been similarly warned? Are they going to voluntarily shut down during the water crisis?
This is the industry that's assaulting Pennsylvania with thousands of new wells using "fracking," a process that consumes, on average, roughly 5 million gallons of water per fracking cycle, with each well site often going through several cycles. This is the industry which, during the worst drought in Texas history, consumed an estimated 13.5 billion gallons of water in 2010. Yes, billions of gallons of fresh water, most of which would not be recoverable, even if they tried to recover it.
It's the same process that has managed to poison wells and aquifers over huge areas of Texas, Colorado and -- hey, wake up! -- right here in Pennsylvania. In addition to the poisoning of water and farmland, we're also seeing fish kills in rivers and tributaries that are being depleted by the enormous drain on the volume of water.
Where do you suppose Big Gas fans like Gov. Tom Corbett will move when there's not enough water remaining in Pennsylvania to go around, and the water that's left is poisoned?
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering making a government-issued photo ID -- a driver's license would qualify -- a requirement for Pennsylvania citizens to vote. This would help to secure the legitimacy of our voting process, which has the potential of becoming corrupt, and would protect your right and privilege to cast your ballot.
Making sure all citizens can obtain a photo ID would be addressed. This practice would not solve all polling issues, but it is a good step that makes sense and should be supported by all who believe in a fair and honest voting system.
I was absolutely shocked and saddened to see the image of the starving child from Kenya in the July 27 international section. How tragic.
While I question why we really need to see this image, I also question why U2 was the lead story on the front page instead of the famine situation in Africa. So the band played to a packed crowd at Heinz Field. I bet there are more starving people in Africa than the stadium capacity times 10.
While I am at it, this next point goes to local, national and international print/television and online media venues: No one needs to see images of starving people, obese people, overweight children, cigarette or pot smokers, alcohol drinkers, women who breast feed, same-sex couples, etc.
We all know what these people look like, so find another way to embellish your reporting to make the point. And if you can't make your point without these images, cut the story/report short and start adding good news stories to your print or TV news coverage.
There are a lot of people around the world doing great and positive things versus overeating, smoking or whatever their chosen vice may be.
Why shouldn't our teachers be paid well?
I'm writing in response to Robert Kiser's July 16 letter "Respect for Corbett." What is so wrong with the teachers in schools districts making as much or more than the parents of their students? Mr. Kiser probably doesn't realize that teachers tend to be more educated than the parents of their students and have student loans they are repaying. Most have a master's degree that required even more loans.
In addition, we are required by the state to take additional continuing education credits that we are responsible to pay for in order to keep our certifications. Also, most teachers purchase their own supplies for their classrooms because schools can't provide everything we need to make our students successful. Some teachers in the poorer districts even use their own money to purchase simple clothing items like winter coats and shoes for their students.
Would Mr. Kiser and all those who are against paying teachers a decent salary rather that our society hire teachers at minimum wage? What kind of professionals and quality of education will be found in our schools if the attacks on teacher pay and compensation continue? Where will the U.S. education system rank then?
I remember during the Wall Street bonus fiasco that the mantra for justifying million-dollar bonuses was, "If we want the best, we have to pay for it." Well, in that light, do we want the best educating our children, or should we leave it to the minimum wage workers who can't even get your hamburger order correct?
First Published August 1, 2011 12:00 am