Letters To The Editor


November 28, 2005

Ehrlich's plan cuts pollution, saves lives

The plan Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced last week to reduce power plant pollution has received an enormous amount of criticism ("Breathing easier," editorial, Nov. 22). Somewhere lost in the debate is the reality that its implementation of this plan will help save lives.

Every year close to 6,000 Marylanders die of lung disease, which is the state's No. 3 killer.

Particulate pollution, the main type of pollution generated by power plants, has been linked to asthma, lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and cardiovascular disease.

Children are especially susceptible to the effects of air pollution, as they spend an average of 50 percent more time outdoors than adults do.

The air in Maryland is among the worst in the nation. The American Lung Association's annual "State of the Air" report ranked the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia corridor 12th on its list of the 25 areas most polluted by particle pollution.

Power plants are a major source of pollutants that affect lung health, including sulfur dioxide, a powerful asthma trigger, and nitrogen oxide, which is a component of ozone smog.

Air quality experts have identified reducing emissions from power plants as a technologically feasible, cost-effective approach to achieving cleaner air.

While the governor's plan might not be greeted with enthusiasm by all, the fact that it will provide larger reductions in pollutant levels faster than the federal proposals will mean that more Marylanders will live longer and healthier lives.

Stephen M. Peregoy

Hunt Valley

The writer is president and CEO of the American Lung Association of Maryland.

Take stronger steps to clean up the air

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s proposal to reduce air pollution from coal-burning power plants is long overdue ("Breathing easier," editorial, Nov. 22). But more can and must be required of these facilities, which have dirtied our skies and lungs for many decades.

Baltimore City and numerous Maryland counties often violate federal health standards for ozone, which triggers asthma attacks and damages agriculture and forests.

Baltimore and many counties also exceed federal health standards for fine particle pollution, which triggers premature human death and shrouds scenic views.

Air pollution contaminates our fish with toxic mercury and worsens water quality in the bay. It undermines scenic beauty, historic sites and recreational opportunities and makes Maryland a less attractive place to live and to visit.

General Assembly leaders will introduce legislation that would require more pollution reductions more quickly than Mr. Ehrlich's proposal would mandate.

While the governor is drafting key details of his proposal, the General Assembly should pursue a more effective approach.

Nothing less is at stake than a healthy future for Maryland.

Joy M. Oakes


The writer is director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Cutting work force helps create surplus

If anything, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. did not go far enough to remove the hordes of campaign operatives, party hacks and other insiders who had infested the ranks of at-will state employees during the previous Democratic administrations ("Worker losses seen spiking in '03," Nov. 23).

Having so many of these parasites on the state payroll no doubt contributed to the massive budget problems Mr. Ehrlich inherited from his predecessor, and his elimination of some of these employees as part of his reduction of the state work force by about 7,000 positions most certainly was a factor in his converting a possible budget deficit into a healthy surplus in less than three years.

The governor has made a good start in restoring the efficiency and integrity of the merit system to state government.

I am confident that he will complete the job during his second term.

Barry C. Steel


New commissioner will add to progress

The nomination of Dr. Joshua Sharfstein to be Baltimore's next Health Commissioner is an outstanding selection that comes at a critical time for the city ("City to announce new health commissioner," Nov. 16).

His formal education, work experiences and passion prepare him well to succeed former commissioner Dr. Peter N. Bielenson.

As commissioner, Dr. Bielenson faced growing public health challenges with limited resources, yet he creatively tackled issues as wide-ranging as health care for all, drug abuse treatment programs, lead-paint poisoning, childhood obesity and bioterrorism.

Under Dr. Bielenson, Baltimore experienced improvements in health outcomes on some of the most difficult issues it faces.

We should expect this progress to continue under Dr. Sharfstein's leadership.

Dr. Sharfstein's work, particularly in Washington, spans the priority issues facing Baltimore, and his established professional relationships will enable him to be an advocate for the city in the national political arena.

Alan Lyles


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