Gulf oil spill
Oil industry committed to safety
The presidential commission on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has worked diligently for the past six months to determine possible changes to offshore oil and natural gas production that would increase safety and preparedness. The administration has said it is willing to work with industry to improve oversight and regulation, while ensuring that American companies can continue to supply consumers with the energy they need.
The American Petroleum Institute and its member companies have worked with the commission from the first day to explain industry's nearly 100-year commitment to safety improvements, to outline the rigorous standards and best practices applicable to offshore operations, and to provide expert guidance on how best to proceed.
We agree with a number of the commission's recommendations, chief among them its call for adequate funding for the agencies that are charged with inspecting and monitoring offshore equipment and operations. A robust and well-funded regulatory mechanism that allows expanded exploration and production will, in the long run, more than pay for itself in the form of additional royalty payments and other fees paid to the federal government by a thriving offshore oil and natural gas industry.
However, the presidential commission's findings fail to acknowledge the numerous concrete actions that industry has taken both before and since the accident to identify and implement additional safeguards, as well as the many recommendations made by our industry that have already been adopted by the government and industry.
We have deep concerns that the commission's report casts doubt on an entire industry based on its study of a single incident. This does a great disservice to the millions of men and women who work in the industry and have the highest personal and professional commitment to safety.
Americans put their trust in us to safely and reliably provide the energy our nation needs. We take that trust seriously and know that it must be earned. We must now focus on putting this industry back to work. We can and will provide the economic growth, job creation and increased government revenue our nation so desperately needs.
Erik Milito, American Petroleum Institute, Washington
Our public officials should be accessible
Spending taxpayer money to provide security for members of Congress when they are out of Washington, D.C., is an overreaction.
To my knowledge, Tucson was the first shooting of a member of Congress since attempts by the Puerto Rican liberation movement more than 50 years ago.
In my 30 years as a Connecticut Superior Court judge, I received numerous death threats, as did my colleagues. That goes with the territory of public service. Many of our citizens receive satisfaction from attempting to intimidate and threaten public figures. History has shown that assassinations come without warning.
We are an open society, and public officials should be accessible. We are all subject to attack by the mentally deranged. Unless we can institutionalize the mentally deranged before they act, there is no way to prevent shootings such as those at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Tucson.
Harold H. Dean, St. Petersburg
Roe vs. Wade
Remember the innocent
As the 38th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade nears, I would like to speak out for the innocent, voiceless, defenseless human population that will fall victim to legalized abortion.
The Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision got it wrong in 1857, declaring black men and slaves were not citizens of the United States. It wasn't until the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868 that blacks were given the right of citizenship. The Supreme Court is wrong in declaring that a fetus is not a person and, therefore, not protected under the 14th Amendment. We all start out life as a fetus.
John J. Greifenkamp, Homosassa
In 1977 the Energy Department was created to help our nation achieve "energy independence." The Education Department was founded in 1979 with the goal of raising the educational level of our nation's students.
I ask our national leaders to look at two things. First, how much have these two agencies spent, adding to our national debt. And second: Are we any closer to energy independence than we were 30 years ago, or are our students better educated than 30 years ago?
There is a thought process that says all solutions to our needs and problems rest in the central government. Yet just imagine if these two colossal failures were in the private sector.
Ray Kelly, Spring Hill
Voters already rejected gambling | Jan. 13
Listen to voters on rail
A letter writer pointing out that Floridians rejected gambling several years ago — and yet Gov. Rick Scott plans to consider it — brings to mind another matter that Floridians voted on that is being undermined.
In November 2004, Floridians voted overwhelmingly (64 percent) to repeal high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando (an amendment had passed in 2000). And yet now, the Obama administration is trying to force us to accept high-speed rail by funding a portion — but not all — of the construction.
However, it is still a money loser, and Floridians will be stuck with expensive maintenance and liability costs. Scott has the opportunity to satisfy the will of the electorate by rejecting this project.
Ken Keller, Tampa
Lawmakers told to tighten sinkhole insurance claims | Jan. 12
Dubious sinkhole claims
The Florida Legislature's focus on sinkhole claims — which have become a major cost driver for Florida insurance — deserves support. The recent rise in dubious sinkhole claims, all evidence suggests, isn't a result of any naturally occurring phenomenon, but rather lawyers out for their next payday. Reforms are needed.
On the other hand, a proposed insurance industry solution of eliminating all consumer ability to sue for "bad faith" — denying sinkhole claims in a dishonest fashion — is a bridge too far. If it wants to fix the sinkhole problem, the Legislature needs to reform bad faith laws without eliminating them altogether.
Christian Camara, Tallahassee
Reforms in order
Gov. Rick Scott's policy initiative to assess the status of the Florida Retirement System is fiscally prudent and responsible. The governor is looking out for the future of Florida and its taxpayers.
Many states and local governments are assessing whether their retirement programs will be solvent and sustainable. California is broke, and other states are headed in that direction.
Government employees' salaries and benefits make up a huge piece of a government's budget. Public employees in Florida have not had to contribute to their retirement plans, but it may be time to rethink that policy.
I believe public employees would be willing to contribute to their pension plan instead of taking a significant loss in retirement income if the Legislature voted to change the formula whereby a public employee's benefit would be based on the average of their beginning salary and their ending salary.
Steve Maxwell, Sanibel