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Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Posted 9:44 PM by

Gas pains: Ethanol another NIMBY

Can Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell overcome the skepticism of local residents who don't want an ethanol plant built near their homes.Back when the price of gas was more than $3 a gallon this summer, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell grabbed headlines by announcing the state would 900 million gallons of domestically-produced fuel into the state's gasoline and diesel supplies over the next decade.

But Rendell's dream of making Pennsylvania a national leader in green renewable energy may have just hit a snag - and for a very old reason.

It's a NIMBY, which stands for Not In My Back Yard.

Few folks, if anybody, really want a giant alcohol still to be built near their homes even if it may mean less reliance on foreign oil.

"I think this kind of thing belongs out in Iowa," Darlene Bodek, a resident of Wright Township, Luzerne County, said Monday at a public meeting on a proposed ethanol manufacturing plant in the Crestwood Industrial Park near Wilkes-Barre, according to the Times Leader.

That's despite the fact that the land Northeast Ethanol wants to build on has been a Superfund environmental disaster site since Foster Wheeler Energy Corp. closed its plant there in 1984.

The groundwater in the area is contaminated with trichloroethylene or TCE, an industrial solvent that was used and carelessly discarded for decades until it was discovered to be a carcinogen.

Northeast Ethanol plans to pump up the polluted water, clean it and then use it in its distilling process to produce as much as 50 million gallons of ethanol a year while creating 50 jobs that pay $15 to $20 an hour.

Still, that wasn't enough to convince Bodek and 50 other concerned residents who voiced their opposition to the project.

Having worked in that area for several years, I know where those folks are coming from.

Nearly a century ago, demand for a different type of fuel - coal - left much of their region a polluted shambles to this day while mine owners made fortunes. There were no environmental laws back then and no requirements to restore the land when the mining was done.

Given that history, can you blame them for being more than a little skeptical?


Monday, November 20, 2006
Posted 8:20 PM by

Leasing away Pa. Turnpike bad idea

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Pennsylvania lawmakers are on the expressway for their idea to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company.I'm sure Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was merely joking when he quipped Sunday on Comcast SportsNet that if anybody thinks the Eagles will make the playoffs without Donovan McNabb, "Contact me immediately. I've got a bridge to sell you."

I don't think it's funny, and not just because I'm an Eagles fan.

Rendell and state House speaker John Perzel (Yes, he's back - unfortunately.) both like the idea of leasing the turnpike to a private company in order to raise funds to repair highways and mass transit systems.

Perzel, R-Philadelphia, said an investors' group told him a turnpike deal could be worth as much as $30 billion.

"I'm not saying you could get that - but if you could and if you get 10 percent return on your money, that'll be $3 billion a year to take care of our highways, take care of our mass transit system," Perzel said while answering questions following his speech at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon. "If we can get that kind of a figure, that's something that absolutely has to be looked at."

To hell with that.

Pennsylvania tax money, fees and tolls built our highway system and I'm deadset against selling off public infrastructure just because elected officials have mismanaged it for decades.

Why are we paying these guys if they can't take care of the roads, fiscally plan ahead or make the trains run on time?

Other ideas being played with include: selling highway sponsorships, hiking driver's license/registrantion fees and increasing the state's gas tank to raise roughly $1.7 billion.

What I'd like to see is a full-scaled public investigation of how the politically-charged Pa. Turnpike Commission and the state Department of Transportation spend their money.

Ditto for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Association (SEPTA), which continues to threaten riders with fare increases while decreasing service.

As the Towanda Daily & Sunday Review said in an editorial last week, "Cutting millions may not solve billion-dollar problems. But, it sure would be a step welcomed by overburdened taxpayers, and it might just make the inevitable increases smaller and that much more palatable."

Public transportation and highway maintenace is as basic a constituent service as setting up a reliable elections system.

But given that the state Supreme Court ordered all counties to switch to electonic voting machines this year and we still don't know who won some general election races, should anybody really be surprised?


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