Editorials from around Pennsylvania

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 30, 2014 at 10:40 am •  Published: July 30, 2014
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70 MPH? DON'T RUSH IT

York County drivers could have a lot riding on 100 miles of two interstates in northern Pennsylvania.

The state Department of Transportation last week announced a pilot program to raise the speed limits on portions of Interstate 80 in Clearfield and Clinton counties and Interstate 380 in Lackawanna and Monroe counties from 65 mph to 70 mph.

Depending on how that experiment goes, speed limits on other interstates in Pennsylvania - including I-83 - could be bumped up as well.

The announcement came a day after the Turnpike Commission raised the speed limit on a 97-mile stretch of I-76 in central and eastern Pennsylvania from 65 mph to 70 mph.

The commission will study the results of that change, also with an eye toward easing speed limits on other parts of the toll road.

By next summer, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said, 70 mph signs could be added to more than 900 miles on interstates 78, 79, 81, 83, 84 and 90, plus Routes 15, 28, 219 and 220,

If it seems like these changes are happening fast, you're right. It was just last November that the state's new transportation spending bill authorized increased speed limits on some highways.

We can only hope the state isn't rushing the increases along, and that a year is long enough to determine if higher speeds would cause more crashes.

For instance, even if the pilot program shows 70 mph is safe for, say, 21 miles of Interstate 380 in northeastern Pennsylvania, how do we know Interstate 83 from Emigsville to Harrisburg can handle the same increase?

We're not saying it can't — in fact, we hope it and other area roads can safely support faster-moving traffic.

But let's make sure before we open the throttle.

—York Dispatch.

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DEP NEEDS TO IMPROVE ITS TRACK RECORD ON NATURAL GAS INDUSTRY

EDITORIAL: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection needs to improve its track record on natural gas industry

Express-Times opinion staff By Express-Times opinion staff

on July 29, 2014 at 7:30 AM, updated July 29, 2014 at 7:39 AM

When residents fear safe drinking water is at risk, they deserve answers from state regulators as quickly as possible.

That didn't happen often enough at the height of the natural gas industry's boom in Pennsylvania, according to a report from state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

The audit stops short of saying public health was at risk, but says the Department of Environmental Protection failed to adequately monitor the state's drinking supply between 2009 and 2012 and didn't keep the public informed quickly enough.

The 146-page report, released last week, describes the DEP as "underfunded, understaffed and inconsistent" in oversight of Marcellus Shale well-drilling activity known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

DePasquale also accused the DEP of failing to issue required administrative orders when it found gas-well operators had harmed the water supply, failing to reassure the public that wells were inspected in a timely manner; and being unprepared to handle complaints from the public.

Under a 2012 law regulating much of the natural gas industry, the DEP is supposed to require gas companies to restore drinking water supplies that the companies contaminated, according to the auditor general's report.

But in 15 cases reviewed by the auditor general, that happened only once. The DEP says the orders aren't always necessary because companies voluntarily fix the problems. However, the audit says this practice "raises concerns that DEP chooses to play the role of a mediator instead of a regulator."

The Corbett administration fired back after the audit was released, saying many of the problems raised have been corrected.

That's great news, but these problems never should have existed. When you are dealing with the safety of drinking water and public health, plans should be in place from the outset to properly monitor water supplies and update the public on findings.

The audit should serve as a wake-up call to the DEP to do better.

—The (Easton) Express-Times.

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PUBLIC ART ENHANCES CITYSCAPES

Public art enhances cityscapes (YDR Opinion)

Chicago has the Picasso on Daley Plaza on the Loop. Detroit has The Fist, a huge sculpture memorializing hometown hero and former heavyweight champion of the world Joe Louis. Philadelphia has the statue of Rocky Balboa on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

These are iconic pieces of public art, landmarks that define and reflect the culture of the cities they decorate.

The Picasso, as columnist Mike Royko famously pointed out, reflects the hard-boiled mean-spiritedness that embodies the city with big shoulders. The Fist reflects Detroit's blue-collar toughness, a city built on muscle and sweat. Rocky — albeit a fictional character — embodies the spirit and attitude of Philadelphia.

They are more than just sculptures. They are symbols for their respective cities.

In York, our public art reflects the city's industrial heritage and blue-collar ethos, as well as our heritage of artists and engravers.

Steel sculptures made with gears, chains and discarded machine parts adorn downtown. Foundry Park, by the Codorus Creek off of West Philadelphia Street, is home to what's called The Gear Garden, flowers fabricated from gears.

The art does more than reflect the city. It adds to the city's culture. It elevates the city and makes residents feel differently about their town. Public art is an important part of the cityscape.

Main Street Hanover understands that. The organization recently announced plans to launch a public art program in downtown Hanover and secured grants from the York County Community Foundation and PNC Bank to commission the first project -- a sculpture by local artist Jeff Asper.

Mr. Asper's design is based on an infinity sign made with a metal frame and re-purposed items from Hanover's industrial and agricultural roots. (Of course, when many of think of Hanover, we think of Famous Hot Wieners or Utz potato chips, so we can all be relieved that Mr. Asper came up with something more abstract.)

The sculpture will be something of a community effort. Main Street Hanover is seeking donations of industrial and agricultural elements to be included in the piece. That is a terrific idea. While the piece is the vision of the artist, it gives the community a way to be a part of it, to contribute to the creation of a work of art.

Hanover has a lot to offer, a nice square and an active downtown and, of course, the aforementioned Famous Hot Wieners.

Public art can merely enhance that.

—York Daily Record