The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 24, 2009

READERS' FORUM 9-27 | Audubon group opposes expanded drilling

In April 2008, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources opened 75,000 acres of our state forests to leasing by gas companies drilling the Marcellus shale.

Some politicians now are proposing to force DCNR to lease an additional 390,000 acres of state forest land to the gas industry.

Marcellus gas wells have 10 times the impact of any gas wells you have seen: Each requires the clearing of dozens of acres of forest and each one requires more than a million gallons of water to fracture the 5,000-foot deep wells.

DCNR has objected strongly to this proposal, stating that “rampant, unplanned leasing of forest lands would severely jeopardize DCNR’s ability to retain its third-party certification (of timber) and to maintain ecologically sound forest management.”

It is important to note that those politicians want to lease additional vast parts of our forest in lieu of having drillers pull their own weight via paying a fee on the gas they extract from the forests.

We still suffer from the damage from coal extraction – and taxpayers continue to pay for the clean-up of what was done 100 years ago. Some people haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past; now they want to help the gas industry to ravage our public lands without setting money aside for fixing their damage.

Juniata Valley Audubon, a conservation organization with 450 members, is strongly opposed to opening additional state forests to Marcellus shale gas drilling.

Forest conservation – not energy extraction – should be the overarching purpose of our state forests.

Dr. Stan Kotala

Conservation chairman

Juniata Valley Audubon, Hollidaysburg

Health insurers have some explaining to do

Since many people do not like change, opposition to President Obama’s plan to reform health care is to be expected. However, behavior that includes hate, anger and hubris being displayed by some opponents is baffling.

Health-care insurance companies have increased premiums 111 percent in the past decade, whereas the rate of inflation during the same period has been less than 28 percent.

Because of the disparity between the increases, the insurance companies should be asked to justify some of their business practices. Two practices that deserve the closest scrutiny are the large bonuses paid to their executives, and their use of lobbyists in Washington. (Are the lobbyists protecting the rights of the insured? Or are they ensuring that large profits for the insurance industry continue?)

Because of those bonuses, many MBAs who work in the health-care insurance industry are paid more than MDs.

Arguably, this is as illogical as it would be to pay equipment managers in the NFL more than quarterbacks.

Those vehemently opposed to health-care reform who think that this illogic is acceptable need to explain their reasoning.

“They pay themselves large bonuses because they can” is not an appropriate answer.

Also, when composing their response, they should be reminded that the business of health-care insurance is only that of paying bills.

And the money of others is used to pay them.

Stephen J. Verotsky


Fresh Air Fund salutes Friedens volunteer

This summer, 60 New York City children found out once again just how special summer is in central and western Pennsylvania, including Cambria and Somerset counties.

Fresh Air Fund hosts, volunteers and local supporters dedicated their time and efforts to help these inner-city youngsters experience simple summertime pleasures in your community.

None of this would be possible without Brenda Maust (of Friedens), your local Fresh Air Fund volunteer leader, who works throughout the year to make sure host families and children have the opportunities to enjoy memorable summertime experiences together.

I invite you to join Brenda and the local Fresh Air Fund committee to help spread the word about the wonderful opportunity of hosting next summer.

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.

For more information on how you can help to continue this wonderful tradition of volunteering, please get in touch with Brenda Maust at (814) 443-1963 or visit online (where you can also check out photos from 2009).

Jenny Morgenthau

Executive director

The Fresh Air Fund

New York City

It’s not Obama’s color, it’s his decision-making

I am sick and tired of hearing the word “racism.”

The real reason people are protesting gun laws in Washington, D.C., is not because our president is African-American; it’s because Barack Obama wants to take the freedom of owning guns away from us.

Just because the president is African-American doesn't give him the right to make poor decisions and ruin this country.

I wish more people would LISTEN to him and not be so proud of his color.

I’m sorry about what happened with slavery, but we cannot cry “racism” each time we don’t agree with someone or don’t get something we wanted.

Everyone needs to get over the “color” of others. People need to accept responsibility for their actions.

Christine Walerysiak


CareerLink move straps job-hunters

I am very upset with the local Pa. CareerLink office moving from Lincoln Street in downtown Johnstown to the Greater Johnstown Career & Technology Center in Richland Township (The Tribune-Demo-crat, Sept. 22).

It gives no money to commuters to look for work and I am without a car.

It will cost me $60 a month to go by bus every day to Richland and return to Cambria City.

CareerLink and its predecessors have been downtown for 40 years. Why the change?

I hope the state reconsiders; it is a bad move.

It is hard enough to find a job and now they made it impossible for me to find work.

Rick Schleicher


Official’s comments on ‘home’ offensive

I want to respond to comments made by President Commissioner P.J. Stevens to the media regarding the sale of Laurel Crest.

I found them to be offensive. I can’t imagine him believing them to be true.

To blame Laurel Crest for the county’s financial woes is fabrication. Perhaps one should look at the commissioners office’s past history of throwing good money after bad. Constant bad decisions are the reason this county cannot get out of a junk-bond rating.

County officials said that the union employees missed the window to negotiate a new contract with them. However, going on strike before would have placed blame for the selling of Laurel Crest on the employees, who have been trying to bargain since last September.

The window was never open.

Even though the commissioners have suggested that the buyers of Laurel Crest would pick up a majority of the work force, it is quite clear that it will be at best only around 30 percent.

I am saddened to think what will happen to the residents of Laurel Crest, who call the facility their home. For some residents, their health insurance is limited; they will be told to leave.

If the commissioners were truly concerned about the residents, they would have made provisions for them. Instead, they have only “suggested” that the new owner keep a majority of the residents.

May God watch over the residents and the soon-to-be unemployed.

Joseph Billy