Shut this industry down

Shale-gas development is an unmitigated public health and safety catastrophe ("Powerful pipes, weak oversight," Sunday). The industry is exceedingly complex, inherently contaminating, and often unregulated. It promises devastation that will make a picnic of King Coal's Pennsylvania legacy. The commonwealth is being sacrificed to bolster the stock prices of the world's most profitable corporations.

Gov. Corbett is bought and paid for; our Department of Environmental Protection plays industry enabler; our legislature is oblivious to the risks. Our only hope is in the citizens who have built the robust movement currently challenging the industry, including the more than 2,000 Philadelphians who protested the industry CEOs who came strutting into our Convention Center this September.

The "Deep Drill" series shows the gas boom as more than just dollars and cents; it is life and death. Tragically, the most common long-term jobs shale gas brings to Pennsylvanians are those of pushing up daisies from within pine boxes. Our only sane course of action is to shut this industry down immediately.

Alex Allen, Philadelphia

Can't trust big corporations

Lately, there have been TV ads saying that clean coal is the answer to our electricity problems. However, none of the electric power plants has said that its coal is clean. Currently, tons of mercury and other toxic substances are released in exhaust smoke and in coal ash. Mercury is especially dangerous for pregnant women and children, causing developmental problems and other issues.

Meanwhile, the natural-gas companies air TV ads that try to tell us how safe fracking is. However, the "Deep Drill" series tells us of contamination in drinking water wells caused by fracking and leaks and explosions of pipelines.

We should know by now that we can't trust big corporations; their goal is to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible. We have to either ban coal plants and fracking or put severe enough penalties on any potential release of toxic substances, especially mercury, so that firms will either not do it or will be really sure that they know how to prevent an accident. It is up to us to give this message to our elected officials.

John Comella, Philadelphia

Only Democrats can save us

The industrial history of the United States is littered with the horrific results (labor exploitation, environmental devastation, greed) of a lack of regulation after boom industries claim they can oversee themselves: railroads, oil, agriculture, financial, and now shale-gas drilling and its accompanying pipelines.

The cry that the industry is a boon for employment for Pennsylvanians has proven to be a joke, since the vast majority of the high-paying jobs have gone to out-of-state professionals with highly specialized skills. What will we have to show for this in 30 years? A denuded landscape above a massive, poisoned aquifer; the destruction of Pennsylvania agriculture and its rural economy; continued widening of the wealth gap, with a pittance in government reserves to pay for environmental restoration. All the while, the superrich will bank the treasure of Pennsylvania in their private accounts.

If Pennsylvanians want public safety and environmental protection to be part of the gas-drilling boom, we must elect a Democratic state legislature, governor, and congressional representatives. In exchange for campaign donations, the Republicans have made their unfettered support for the gas-drilling industry crystal clear.

Phyllis Rubin, Penn Wynne

Hurting seniors and middle class

In the debate for the Republican Senate candidates, all seven advocated an extension of the current payroll-tax cut, but opposed the Democratic proposal to fund the extension by a temporary surcharge on those earning more than $1 million per year ("At debate, GOP candidates strike the conservative chord," Dec. 10). Instead, Republicans propose cutting Medicare payments to doctors and freezing the salaries of federal employees.

One candidate, Laureen Cummings, justified her position by saying, "That's our money. They are taking money out of our pocket to invest in what they want, not what we want."

It should be obvious that to extend a revenue cut, it must be paid for by either increasing other revenues or by cutting expenses. Cummings and her party choose to take money out of the pockets of seniors and the middle class. They make that choice solely because those high-end earners are the ones who fund their campaigns.

Wayne Smith, West Chester, umalum60@gmail.com

A home and reason for alums' success

In recent weeks our alma mater, Milton Hershey School, has been under unprecedented attack in the media. The school has been served with two separate lawsuits in regards to both its admission and termination policy. The negative press in relation to these separate, distinctly different, and unrelated cases is unfortunate. Milton Hershey School has been serving needy children for more than 102 years and has more than 9,600 graduates. For many of us, this was our home and the primary reason we have had success in our lives.

We know that each applicant is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and trust that the school's skilled and very experienced staff has considered all facets of each applicant concerning the unique setting in which approved applicants will reside. It is our policy to not comment on individual admissions cases, and we defer to the good judgment of the school and fully support its decision-making abilities.

Milton Hershey School has changed the lives of each of its alumni, and continues to serve children every day. These are the stories that are being overlooked. We ask that each one of you make an effort to tell your stories to anyone who wants to hear them.

Raymond W. Daly, Hershey, Pa., ray@mhsaa.org

Amy Tobin, Hershey, Pa., amy@mhsaa.org

Is this school model sustainable?

While it's very beneficial for the children at a specific city school to have parents writing checks and teachers working for free, what about the majority of schools ("Parents to the rescue," Dec. 8)? Is this effort sustainable? Should it be?

I think the efforts of parents and teachers should be directed toward preventing this city from any further pillaging of our schools by squandering millions on expense accounts, buyouts, and patronage jobs.

Will the parents of Meredith Elementary School continue to write their checks and will teachers continue to volunteer without demanding accountability of the School District? If so, that makes them part of the problem.

Gayla Loch, Philadelphia, gloch0626@msn.com