Letters to the Editor 2/19

February 18, 2012 

Oil drilling plan’s impacts

Regarding “South County drilling plan heads down tough road,” Feb. 14: The county planning staff report for the conditional use permit for Excelaron LLC in Huasna Valley clearly states: The “ ‘No Project’ alternative was determined the environmentally superior alternative …”

The staff report also clearly states that the Planning Commission should take the action to “Deny the application for a conditional use permit.”

Extensive work has gone into this staff report, and as tax-paying citizens of Huasna Valley, we appreciate the effort. Most of the issues that are the grounds for the recommended denial are the issues by which we have felt most threatened. The environmental impact report lists five Class 1 (significant, even with mitigation) impacts. These include irreversible impacts in the areas of visual resources, noise, odors, biological resource and land use consistency.

The staff report highlights reasons for the recommended denial such as: This oil field does not have an “on-site water source.” This is not good in an area already considered a “very high fire hazard area.”

Also of interest is: “The proposed use will likely result in events of unpleasant odors for the life of the project.”

There are more.

We agree with county staff and hope the Planning Commission will deny this permit.

Susan Heaton and Timothy Heaton
Arroyo Grande

Money controls discourse

David Brooks contributes more provocative commentary (“The materialist fallacy,” Thursday) in which he addresses the “deterioration” of our social fabric. In the various responses to a new book by Charles Murray, “Coming Apart,” Brooks cites a naive reduction of man to economic man.

He surveys some of the research done over the past 25 years in sociology and psychology and concludes, “The depressing lesson of the last few weeks is that the public debate is dominated by people who stopped thinking in 1975.”

I don’t have the heart to tell him this (lest he suffer a greater depression), but if he were to look at John Dewey’s remarkable “My Pedagogic Creed,” (written in 1897, available online; it’s a short document), he would see that for a very long time we have had good insight into the social nature of man.

But in public debate, the loudest voice is commonly from the lackeys of moneyed interests. It’s not that they stopped thinking; alas, it’s that they never even began.

Brian Lindberg
Creston

Consolidation, not taxes

SLO County’s Five Cities area is working toward consolidation of fire services with proposed increased property taxes. Raising taxes is easy. The consolidation purpose, despite resistance, should be to save money resulting in no new taxes of any kind. A few examples are: only one accounting group, only one personnel group, only one fire chief and less property with lower maintenance leading to sales or rentals.

Salary and benefit control should be consistent with the recent positive practices of the San Luis Obispo Firefighters Association. Volunteering, fundraising events and obtaining grants are still popular.

Eventually, net savings can apply toward several new entry-level positions. The recommendation is to vote no against increased property taxes to force “leadership,” prevent increased area costs and discourage “tax copy cats.”

If consolidation advice is needed, citizens can contact the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, 621 South Westmoreland Ave., Suite 202, Los Angeles 90005.

Werner Koch
Cambria

Getting what’s paid for

Leave it to The New York Times to spin the limits of dependence upon “federal assistance” (“Even critics of federal assistance depend on it,” Tribune, Monday). Mr. Gulbranson’s mother’s surgery cannot be considered his “benefit.” He’s under no obligation to pay for it. Medicare insurance was and is paid for by his mother.

I don’t get any earned income credit or free lunches, but I’m covered by Medicare insurance, and I paid and continue to pay for this.

Medicare started in 1965 funded by a 2.9 percent payroll tax.

I estimate I paid $70,000 for future medical insurance over 40 years. Even at a rate of return of only 3 percent, the present value of all those premiums is $140,000. Assuming I’m fortunate enough to retire for 25 years, I’ve already paid $5,600 annually for Medicare coverage, and even more if I don’t last 25 years.

I also pay $1,400 to be covered by Medicare. Because Medicare does not provide full coverage, I pay another $1,400 for supplemental insurance. My total annual cost for health care is a whopping $8,400 for medical insurance. That is certainly not support from the government.

Medicare cannot possibly be defined as “receiving federal assistance” because every bit of it is earned by those covered by it. I am fully justified in being critical of federal assistance to those who do not earn it.

David M. Carter
Arroyo Grande

Progress in solar

B.E. Jones and Michael Melden have really laid the gauntlet down to PG&E (letters, Wednesday). Will “they” respond positively?

I know those with solar panels can get a credit on their electric bills, but it has been only recently that PG&E will actually pay their customers for the power — and I don’t believe they will pay for excess generation, yet.

Of course, when thousands of homeowners (and businesses) can generate their own power, it may threaten their contracts with big suppliers of power. But this is what needs to happen eventually, just as Big Oil needs to embrace the better biofuels, anticipating the decline of our petroleum supplies.

California has more solar energy systems than any other state in the U.S., so the writing is on the wall. Yet solar electric systems remain very expensive (unless leased). What consumers do not understand, however, is that the price of panels has come down nearly 80 percent from even five years ago. Panels used to be the main cost.

My work trying to simplify the process resulted in a self-published do-it-yourself “tech” manual.

Now I am looking into developing a small, portable dependable supplemental/emergency photovoltaic system that could be “scaled up” over time.

The economics favor it, and I’m quite confident it will prove to be a viable niche market.

William L. Seavey
Cambria

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