'Activist' depends on point of view

Twenty-one years ago, the supertanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Prince William Sound, resulting in what was then the most notorious oil spill of modern times. After a five-month trial and two appeals, Exxon was ordered to pay $2.5 billion in punitive damages to benefit the owners of businesses affected by the disaster. On June 25, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court reduced that judgment to $508 million.

That blatantly pro-business decision by the Roberts court essentially left the 32,000 plaintiffs, two decades after the event, with a pennies-on-the-dollar settlement.

Given that result, is it reasonable to expect that BP may already be evaluating that history lesson as potentially favorable in protecting its own profits?

Weigh that decision next to this year's Citizens United ruling, essentially guaranteeing unbridled corporate financial influence on the American election process. Those decisions come to mind every time I hear someone making a case against "activist judges" in the courts, and, more recently, why Elena Kagan is too left-leaning to be approved for the most recent Supreme Court vacancy.

I guess activism all depends on which cable network you watch.

Robert Crudo

Voorhees

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Fossil fuel is the enemy

BP has made a huge mess in the Gulf of Mexico, but the real culprit is fossil fuel. BP got unlucky this time, just as Exxon was unlucky in 1989. The next major spill may be brought to us by Sunoco, or Gulf, or Shell.

It's not just oil - coal has seen its share of disasters. Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation has already polluted streams and groundwater in Pennsylvania and nearby states. Accidents are bound to happen, of course, but when dirty energy is being extracted on a huge scale, those accidents are catastrophes. Fossil fuels are not cheap or clean.

Stephen P. Kunz

Phoenixville

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Trash-to-steam still pollutes

Much of your recent piece "Turning trash into electricity" (Monday) is sheer puffery on behalf of Covanta Energy's trash-to-steam plant in Chester.

For example, the facility is cited as producing "good CO2," since the gas produced is from biomass. The truth is, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and the atmosphere reacts to high levels of it in exactly the same way - by gradually warming over time - regardless of whether the gas originates from trash, oil, or coal.

The fact that "the facility produces no methane to contribute to global warming" is irrelevant: both CO2 and methane are greenhouse gases. In that light, the claim by the plant manager, that the plant "is a net reducer of greenhouse gases," is simply wrong; the plant may emit fewer greenhouse gases than do other sources, but let's not confuse that with reducing the huge quantity of greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere.

Bill Dingfelder

Bala Cynwyd

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Too much of a bad thing

Democratic government was allegedly invented by the Greeks. Such a government contains the seeds of its demise, called "majority rule."

Case in point: Gov. Christie vetoes a noxious tax bill. A crowd of 35,000 blasts the governor for his action. This is democracy in action. The lethal problem facing these voters is ignored. New Jersey is bankrupt. Past actions led us to overconsume and undertax, and pay for this by borrowing.

Trying to do what is right is never a safe job for a politician. Christie should be given high marks for his attempts to resuscitate the New Jersey economy. The majority, clamoring for continuation of lavish pensions, jobs, and welfare benefits, stands in the way of possible relief. Instead, help the man with your support.

Richard Lamb

Kennett Square

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Saving the Olympia

The idea of scuttling Admiral Dewey's iconic flagship, as suggested in Sunday's article ("Olympia facing a sunken future), is repulsive. Thankfully, the Independence Seaport Museum and the U.S. Navy are still looking at options.

Inside-the-box solutions, such as dry-docking the Olympia, are not practical. Its full weight would crush its dangerously thin hull, and would likely lead to scrapping it.

The Olympia should be landlocked, just as the British Navy preserves the world's oldest warship, HMS Victory. Grounding distributes the weight evenly and safely.

Once on dry ground, cover the Olympia to reduce water damage and allow restoration to continue during bad weather. The tent can be replaced with a green, climate-controlled glass building - creating an awesome riverfront destination.

E. Joseph Henwood III

Executive director

Binnacle Reinvestment Group

Media