I am writing in response, not only to the front-page item “Railway’s Maine lines inspected recently” (July 17), but to most of the coverage of the tragic train derailment in Lac-Megantic.

Everything I have read so far misses the point: The ridiculously dangerous practice of parking a train on a main running line is simply an accident waiting to happen — and has now happened.

It relies entirely on the braking systems of the engine and train, and of course on the train crew. This practice, commonplace all over America and apparently in Canada, has never been allowed in the U.K., where a train has to be parked on a siding or in a rail yard, with the relevant switches set and locked so that it simply cannot run onto the running line.

Why is it allowed here? Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway CEO Ed Burkhardt, with his railway interests in Britain, should know better.

Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree and heaven knows who else sounding off about inspecting Maine’s rail tracks is completely irrelevant. Anyone can see that an unmanned train running away down an incline is nothing to do with track condition.

It is simply a matter of gravity, however perfect the track: Of course it derailed at the tremendous velocity reached by the time it got to the town, probably on a curve or switch that should be navigated at very low speed.

So saying “track conditions were cited as the primary cause of 10 of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway’s 19 derailments” is just another red herring thrown into the mix.

I would support the enactment of a law forbidding this practice, albeit too late for the citizens of Lac-Megantic, whose tragic plight I find it hard to get out of my mind.

Chris Small


Letters about recruiter vote make unfounded comparison

Gov. LePage has too much time on his hands, since he took time to write all of the Democratic legislators, disparaging them for their votes against his specious bill regarding allowing military access to high schools.

Had he checked, he would have known it was a non-issue since federal law mandates access to schools.

Having created the issue, the governor went on to name seven schools that limited access, only to have several of the schools deny that such a policy existed.

LePage obviously designed the bill in order to be able to charge all Democratic legislators with disrespect for our men and women in uniform. In doing so, he compares the legislators to a tiny fringe of the anti-Vietnam War movement. This is especially egregious, since one of his letters was sent to a decorated Vietnam veteran.

Since LePage brought up Vietnam, I think it is fair to ask where he was during the war.

He and I turned 19 at the time that the war was escalating. LePage spent the war in college and graduate school, which usually protected the individual from the draft.

During this era I actively opposed the war, but this came after I was honorably discharged from the Navy. I respect both the soldiers and the anti-war demonstrators, but I don’t respect those who favored the war but left the fighting to others.

The governor has shown us one more thing from this incident: Not only is his brain not connected to his mouth, it’s not connected to his hand, either.

Jon Allan


King should ‘lead the charge’ on cutting carbon emissions

One of the most important decisions the United States must make is how best to slow climate change. A major step is to reduce carbon emissions, which trap heat, causing temperatures to rise, making our planet less hospitable, indeed intolerable for its inhabitants.

We propose Sen. Angus King, as an independent in a partisan Washington, to be the ideal candidate to head a coalition to lead the charge.

The need for action is urgent. With the burning of fossil fuels, we continue to add dangerous amounts of carbon to the atmosphere.

Earlier this year, worldwide carbon emissons levels reached 400 parts per million, and most of the scientific community asserts this has been the cause of our recent horrible weather events, such as the devastating Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, severe drought in the Southwest, intense tornados in Oklahoma and runaway raging fires in Colorado.

Last July was the hottest month in the country since recordkeeping begain in 1895.

In a speech at Georgetown University in June, President Obama warned of the need to slow climate change. The president’s push to decrease carbon emissions relies on action from power plants. How about citizen contributions?

Tom Friedman, writing in The New York Times last April, suggested a phased-in carbon tax of $20 to $25 a ton would reduce carbon emissions but also raise as much as $1 trillion over 10 years.

Half the tax revenues, he envisioned, could go toward cutting the tax rates of corporations and individuals; a quarter for infrastructure, preschool education, community colleges and research to create jobs now and in the future, and the remainder to reduce the deficit. (While a gas tax wouldn’t be painless, Congress could cushion the impact on the poor.)

Why not urge the Budget Committee (of which Sen. King is a member) to include such a plan when Congress returns from its summer recess?

Lead the way, Sen. King.

William C. and Eleanor J. Tracy


Slowing down lets us enjoy beauty of our public spaces

I am not a horse rider, but I admire and respect Polly Merrill’s plea for us to slow down our cars when we see a horse on the road and pass very cautiously (“Letters to the editor: Letting horse, rider proceed worth 30-second delay,” July 18).

I hope we can all have this informative and urgent message in mind next time we see a horse and rider. And let’s put her request to gently and respectfully share our public spaces in its broader context.

Let’s also be vigilantly cautious and more patient on our roads around bikers, joggers, walkers, road workers and children playing.

And when we slow down to share our community spaces, we’ll have a few extra moments to admire and appreciate all that is wonderful around us in southern Maine: rich forests, natural places, rolling landscapes, bird songs, dragonflies, small farms, vernacular architecture, culture, community.

Thomas Klak



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