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Letter: Trans-Pacific pact could erode laws

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations, would be a disaster worse than NAFTA ["Resisting fast-track trade," Business, Jan. 24].

The proposed pact would allow corporations to sue over government policies they construe as illegal trade barriers and that they deem detrimental to expected future profits. Foreign companies could seek to override U.S. environmental and other laws.

For example, to increase exports of liquefied natural gas from shale gas extraction known as fracking, the Trans-Pacific agreement could allow challenges to current restrictions and lead to the siting of gas terminals, such as the Port Ambrose project proposed for 13 miles off the Rockaway Peninsula. The siting of such a facility could encourage fracking, reduce property values and produce heavy truck traffic, water shortages, associated methane leaks and toxic waste emissions. Fracking would harm our state's water and public health.

In short, the Trans-Pacific pact would violate the spirit of our Constitution and our democracy.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is undecided on President Barack Obama's request for fast-track approval of future free-trade agreements, like this one. Fast-track approval would force Congress to vote on trade agreements with no amendments and limited debate.

Julie Sullivan, Huntington

Editor's note: The writer is a member of Food and Water Watch, an environmental advocacy organization.

Pass smoking age increase in Suffolk

Emphasizing that smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature disease and death in the United States, a recent report from the surgeon general stresses the need to redouble our efforts to eradicate this epidemic, and especially to prevent young people from starting ["Eye on smoke law impact," News, Jan. 29].

Suffolk County's proposed law to raise the legal smoking age to 21 is right on the mark. Each year, smoking kills nearly 500,000 adults, at a cost of $289 billion in direct medical care and other costs such as lost productivity.

Passage of this law would prevent many of our youth from becoming sad statistics and maintain Suffolk's standing as a leader in this vital public health issue.

Claire Millman, Plainview

Editor's note: The writer is the president of the Alliance for Smoke-Free Air, an advocacy group.

Schools must have emergency plans

Our grief over Avonte Oquendo's death is compounded by the knowledge that it might have been prevented [" 'Avonte's Law' proposed," News, Jan. 27]. The danger of kids running out of school cannot be eliminated, but it must be minimized.

Every school is required to have a safety plan that spells out all contingencies and delegates duties. Have you seen the safety plan of your child's school? Does it cover emergencies such as intruders, fires, medical crises, environmental hazards, accidents and lockdowns?

Another good question to ask is whether there is a clear chain of command, and reasonable assignment of tasks and personnel. As a parent, you have the right to this information.

The legal requirement that children with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment is compassionate and sensible. General and special education kids learn from each other. But we must also provide the extra security needed to supervise our most vulnerable students.

We shouldn't have kids wear ankle bracelets like felons or be GPS-tracked like sanitation trucks. Nor do we want to install cameras in classrooms.

The tragedy of Avonte Oquendo is too terrible for words. But words can at least lead to actions that may forestall another such tragedy. Let those words proclaim the special sanctity of the lives of children and the providential role of each of us to protect them.

Ron Isaac, Fresh Meadows

Editor's note: The writer is a retired New York City English teacher.

Caithness II plant a good power option

It's not new that organized labor is in favor of a Caithness II power plant, or that some civic, environmental and municipal groups are opposed ["Debate over Caithness," News, Jan. 29]. What is news is that the people speaking in opposition did not say, "I told you so," in regards to Caithness I. That's because their fear-mongering scenarios about Caithness I have been put to rest.

Truth be told, Caithness I has delivered. It was built on time and on budget. It has supplied cheap energy and generated minimal emissions compared to Long Island's other large plants. This has allowed older, more expensive and dirtier plants to often remain idle.

Everyone wants windmills; however, wind is not always reliable during the peak air conditioning days in July and August. Solar is great except on a cloudy day. One day, these choices will be more dependable, but the demand is here and now.

Caithness II would allow Long Island to move to shut down its dinosaur plants.

Martin O'Malley, Ridge