Preserving more of Gettysburg

Thanks to bipartisan leadership from Pennsylvania's congressional delegation, Congress may add the Gettysburg Train Station and 45 acres of key battlefield land to Gettysburg National Military Park. The train station served as a field hospital during the 1863 battle, and President Abraham Lincoln's train arrived there the night before he delivered one of history's most enduring speeches, the Gettysburg Address. The 45-acre tract at the foot of Big Round Top was the site of hard fighting.

We encourage all members of Congress to support this important legislation. With the 150th anniversaries of the Gettysburg battle and Lincoln's address only months away, we must protect these treasured places to create a lasting legacy for future generations.

Cinda M. Waldbuesser, Pennsylvania senior program manager, National Parks Conservation Association, Downingtown, cwaldbuesser@npca.org

Keeping the Garden State

New Jersey has historically been a national leader in preserving the land, waterways, and historic sites that make our state beautiful and economically strong. The Pinelands are evidence of this tradition. This is because conservation programs have long enjoyed strong bipartisan support from voters and elected leaders. Today, however, we are at a critical crossroads, as the 2009 bond referendum that set aside funding for Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland, and historic preservation programs has run dry, leaving no sustainable funding source for preservation projects, including some already under way.

Gov. Christie has noted his support and commitment for preservation, but the administration and lawmakers need to act this year to put in place a bipartisan initiative to renew and sustain vital land and water protection efforts. Sensible legislation has been proposed to dedicate $200 million annually in sales-tax revenues to sustain vital preservation efforts over the next several decades, similar to the successful Garden State Preservation Trust.

Jaclyn Rhoads, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Southampton, jaclyn@pinelandsalliance.org

Margolies still strong, 20 years on

Reports that former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies might run to replace U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) raised the question of whether voters would remember someone who served 20 years ago. In this case, yes. Plenty of Pennsylvania voters remember that nail-biting moment when Margolies-Mezvinsky cast the deciding vote for President Bill Clinton's budget, and many of them live in her Montgomery County district. While that budget was flawed, it quite rightly raised taxes on the wealthy and resulted in the last budget surplus this country has known. As Clinton quipped at the time, "If you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat."

I met Margolies in planning meetings before and after the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women in 1995. That was the conference where the world woke up to the truth that "women's rights are human rights." She made a lasting impression as someone extraordinarily well-informed, courageous, and approachable - unusual qualities in someone associated with Washington.

Deborah Anna Luepnitz, Philadelphia, dalue@webtv.net

Tiger in tank runs on natural gas

Nine bills before the Pennsylvania House collectively known as the "Marcellus Works" package will provide a foundation for a much cleaner, greener transportation system in our state and across the county. The bills support the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel vehicles using the state's homegrown natural resources.

Grant programs and tax incentives such as those proposed in the "Marcellus Works" package were a leading factor in Aqua Pennsylvania's decision to transition our larger-vehicle fleet to CNG beginning in 2012. Today, Aqua has piloted five natural-gas vans, two dump trucks, and two biofuel pickup trucks in service. We have invested $657,000 in this effort to date, including vehicles and infrastructure, and expect to have 90 more such vehicles in operation within the next five years.

As a former environmental protection and economic development official for the state, I strongly believe compressed natural gas is the fuel of the future because it's less expensive and better for the environment, and I applaud the ongoing efforts of Harrisburg regulators, who have made drilling for natural gas a safe and environmentally sound alternative to petroleum-based fuels.

Nicholas DeBenedictis, chairman and chief executive officer, Aqua America Inc., Bryn Mawr

Faith-based or not, it's neglect

The Inquirer's coverage of religion-based medical neglect of children quotes me as saying that such faith deaths are "extraordinarily rare," when I actually said prosecutions of these deaths in Pennsylvania are rare ("When faith clashes with medical care," April 28).

Rather than say that only 30 Pennsylvania children have died from religion-based medical neglect in the last 100 years, what I said was that, since the case of Commonwealth v. Breth in 1915, we know of only six prosecutions in the state for these deaths. Only two were in Philadelphia.

Whether these deaths are rare or frequent, Pennsylvania should establish in law and policy that these children have a right to live and their parents have a duty to provide them with necessities of life. Pennsylvania's religious exemption from child abuse should be repealed.

The exemption may discourage reporting of sick children in faith-healing sects, giving parents the impression they have a legal right to withhold care. If the child is reported to protective services, social workers with no medical training are expected to decide when a child needs treatment. And the religious exemption prevents agencies from monitoring a family except during a child's illness. As The Inquirer reported, the state Department of Human Services closed its investigation into a Philadelphia family whose second child just died only five days after their first child's death - due to the religious exemption.

Rita Swan, president, Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty Inc., Lexington, Ky.

Raise money for transportation

Even if all motor fuels taxes paid in Pennsylvania (state and federal components) were dedicated to roads and highways, they would come nowhere close to being sufficient to repair all our roads and bridges and build new capacity; we motorists simply don't pay our fair share in maintaining the infrastructure that we use ("Just fix the roads, and that's it," April 29). And a minuscule portion of our motor fuels taxes goes toward amenities like parks and museums. More goes toward pedestrian and bike paths, though still woefully little, since these are important elements of an efficient and comprehensive transportation system. As for public transit, it faces significant challenges, but is hardly a failure in any fair assessment of its many contributions to our economy and society.

Bradley Flamm, assistant professor, department of community and regional planning, Temple University, Ambler, bflamm@temple.edu