Moratorium on drilling is needed

Thank you for the coverage about gas drilling ("Deep Drill," Dec. 11-13 and 18). It is important for people to know that many individuals have been killed in explosions and that farmers have had livestock killed by contamination. There needs to be a moratorium on drilling everywhere, at least until the Environmental Protection Agency's cumulative impact study has been completed.

Ann Dixon, Philadelphia, awdixon@juno.com

Install automatic shutoff valves

A Pulitzer is due The Inquirer for its timely "Deep Drill" series about high-pressure pipeline transportation of gases and liquids.

Guaranteed elimination of leaks are impossible. But to eliminate resulting catastrophes, why not simply install automatic shutoff valves? These close when any leak or rupture causes an abnormal pressure drop. Currently, after a leak occurs, the pipeline owner has an employee drive to the nearest valves upstream and downstream from the leak to manually close the valves to shut off the flow. Unfortunately, the massive volumes already released almost guarantee a major explosion or poisoned water.

What would be the cost to the pipeline owners if the archaic manual valves were automatic? Should they only be installed on new high-pressure lines? How about those large high-pressure lines buried more than 50 years ago? Pipeline owners, what is your judgment?

Raymond J. Erfle, Chester Springs

Act will improve safety, create jobs

I am extremely proud that the House and Senate unanimously approved my Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011. Contrary to the Inquirer Editorial Board, this legislation will improve upon America's already safe national pipeline infrastructure ("Pipelines need a watchful eye," Tuesday). This legislation builds on our strong commitment to ensure the continued safety and reliability of our nation's pipeline system and supports the creation of American jobs.

This legislation provides the regulatory certainty necessary for industry to make investments and create jobs. Ensuring a sensible and practical regulatory approach to improving safety will encourage economic development. This is especially true in Pennsylvania, where Marcellus Shale presents a historic opportunity for our state to reinvigorate our economy.

In crafting this bipartisan bill that had the backing of both the pipeline industry and safety advocates, we worked hard to strengthen the enforcement of current laws and to fill gaps in existing laws where necessary. We also focused on addressing National Transportation Safety Board recommendations resulting from recent pipeline incidents with balanced and reasonable responses.

At pipeline safety hearings earlier this year, I highlighted the importance of doing "more with less" in this time of tight federal budgets. That's why my bill uses state and local government personnel as a force multiplier to supplement federal pipeline inspectors. I worked closely with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in developing this language and it is pushing to position Pennsylvania as the nation's leader in establishing a regional pipeline safety training center with my support.

Less than 2 percent of the bills introduced in the congested 112th Congress have become law, which makes passage of my legislation, which strengthens America's energy infrastructure, creates jobs, and reduces our dependence on foreign energy, even more significant.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R., Pa.), chairman, Subcommittee on Pipelines, Railroads and Hazardous Materials, Washington

Perform environmental impact study

It is a no-brainer to forbid pumping thousands of gallons of a questionable solution into the ground when, in another part of the country, water wells are suddenly turning up polluted, suspiciously, by that practice. Acting on the side of caution, certainly, would curtail that practice until environmental impact studies were performed and the results evaluated. Every one of our public guardians should be against such a practice and insist it stop immediately, unless, of course, their pockets are being lined by their myopia.

Rick Romano, Ambler

Hold U.S. resources in reserve

Many who advocate the tapping of our domestic energy resources, be it Marcellus Shale, North Dakota gas, or arctic oil, cite freedom from dependence on foreign energy as the reason. This logic seems backward. How would the draining of our own resources make us less dependent on imports? Wouldn't it, in fact, make us more dependent? Why not exhaust other country's resources? Should the day come that we no longer have access to imports, then we will have our reserves intact. Burning our own resources seems to be hastening the day we are completely and utterly dependent on foreign oil.

Larry Ward, Exton, lhward99960@yahoo.com

Protecting citizens should be priority

The articles on the installation of pipelines across the country read like a money-making scheme to increase the revenue of the big corporations and congressional leaders' campaign coffers. The priority of safety first for the people in this country is a passing consideration. U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster needs to live across the street from one of those "gathering pipelines." The more than $340,000 he received in campaign contributions ensures he will fight against regulating the insulation of gas lines, instead of working to guarantee a safe living environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency should be studying the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should be allowed to regulate permits. Get out of their way and let them do their job. Why doesn't a high-pressure steel line, 20 inches in diameter, need to be regulated or inspected? There were already 230 gas-line accidents in 2010. Twenty-one people died and 105 were seriously injured. How many more before something is done?

History has taught us that self-regulating does not work. With little to no transparency, we cannot depend on the companies to police themselves. Did we learn nothing from the collapse of the financial industry?

Maria McDonald, Rockledge

No more fossil-fuel business as usual

Victor Davis Hanson's column "The nation's energy gusher" (Dec. 11), promoting a "Drill anywhere!" approach to our energy future, shows total disregard for public health, our environment, and our yet-to-be-born children.

To this day, Pennsylvania taxpayers are bearing the cost of cleanup from the coal mines, and the fish in every state waterway are unfit to eat due to mercury contamination from coal-burning power plants. Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico, one of our nation's prime fisheries, remains seriously contaminated by last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster, and fracking threatens our water supplies.

More frightening is Hanson's failure to mention climate change. A consensus of thousands of climate scientists tells us that if we burn fossil fuels, as Hanson proposes, "for the next 90 years at present rates of consumption," our planet will be barely inhabitable for future generations. Pennsylvania's hardwood forests are dying, crops are failing, and sea levels are rising now, all as a result of climate change. To avert climate catastrophe, we must work toward breaking our addiction to fossil fuels, not inventing ways to do business as usual.

Daniel Wolk, Narberth

Important, fascinating science articles

Thank you for giving space to Faye Flam's "Planet of the Apes" series and her coverage of the Higgs particle ("Penn team eagerly awaits results of Higgs particle work," Dec. 13). Her subjects may not be up there in popularity with sports and politics, but they are important, and she makes them fascinating.

Neal Thorpe, Mont Clare