With the ‘Spot­light’ on, what’s tak­ing so long?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS -

To the Edi­tor: The Academy Award­win­ning movie “Spot­light” show­cases what is now rec­og­nized as the global tragedy of child­hood sex­ual abuse. The open­ing scene cap­tures the cen­tral con­flict as it played out in the Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton.

The film be­gins with a late-night scene at a neigh­bor­hood po­lice sta­tion. A lo­cal priest has been brought in for ques­tion­ing as a dis­tressed sin­gle mother and a livid uncle are in the back room com­plain­ing that a priest has mo­lested the fam­ily’s chil­dren. They are there to press crim­i­nal charges.

But, with help from the as­sis­tant district at­tor­ney, the bishop is sum­moned to the sta­tion to qui­etly as­sure the fam­ily that the priest will be taken out of the par­ish and they’re told, “This will never hap­pen again.”

A rookie cop asks a vet­eran cop what the press will do when the charges are read at the ar­raign­ment. He’s told, “What ar­raign­ment?” The older cop has seen this be­fore. He knows the priest will walk.

The bishop and priest then qui­etly slip out of the sta­tion, into the back seat of a black sedan, and into the dark night.

The priest be­ing por­trayed is the no­to­ri­ous Fa­ther John Geoghan. With over 150 vic­tims, he is one of the worst se­rial mo­lesters in the his­tory of the Catholic Church.

Geoghan was mur­dered in prison by his cell­mate in 2003. Most preda­tors how­ever, hav­ing never been even ar­rested for their crimes, are still out there. And they could be your neigh­bor.

Penn­syl­va­nia may well be con­sid­ered the na­tional epi­cen­ter of sex­ual abuse scan­dals. While the Penn State/San­dusky night­mare con­tin­ues to gar­ner na­tional head­lines and the on­go­ing Bill Cosby trial con­tin­ues, the at­tor­ney gen­eral re­cently an­nounced a statewide in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the re­main­ing six catholic dio­ce­ses.

This was gen­er­ated fol­low­ing the flood of hot­line calls re­ceived in the wake of the scathing Al­toon­aJohn­stown grand jury re­port that was re­leased in March.

I did not, how­ever, re­al­ize the mag­ni­tude of this epi­demic un­til, as a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, my of­fice re­ceived let­ters, emails, phone calls and per­sonal vis­its from vic­tims from ev­ery cor­ner of the state and be­yond.

I heard heart­felt pleas from grown men and women whose lives had been de­stroyed by min­is­ters of ev­ery de­nom­i­na­tion, scout lead­ers, pub­lic and pri­vate school teach­ers, coaches, mis­sion­ar­ies and worst of all, fam­ily mem­bers.

Ob­vi­ously, child­hood sex­ual abuse in not just a catholic clergy prob­lem, it’s a so­ci­etal prob­lem.

Back to “Spot­light.” The Bos­ton po­lice, pub­lic of­fi­cials and the church hi­er­ar­chy turned a blind eye for years to the pat­tern of col­lu­sion and sys­tem­atic cover-up of the sex­ual abuse of chil­dren in or­der to pro­tect that in­sti­tu­tion’s rep­u­ta­tion and cof­fers. Are things any dif­fer­ent in Penn­syl­va­nia since Phil Sa­viano first brought his case as a vic­tim of child­hood sex­ual abuse to The Bos­ton Globe, 25 years ago?

In April, H.B. 1947 over­whelm­ingly passed the House 180-15. My col­leagues showed they had the po­lit­i­cal courage to do the right thing. But the key retroac­tive com­po­nent was gut­ted in the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. The Se­nate then passed a ver­sion of H.B. 1947 that would clearly ben­e­fit the In­sur­ance Fed­er­a­tion and the Penn­syl­va­nia Catholic Con­fer­ence over vic­tims.

To date, these lob­by­ists have spent mil­lions to block statute of lim­i­ta­tions re­form here in Penn­syl­va­nia. I of­ten won­der how they sleep at night.

We leg­is­la­tors should have a sec­ond chance to vote an amended H.B. 1947 be­fore the ses­sion ends, which will help all vic­tims of child­hood sex­ual abuse, past, present and fu­ture.

It’s been 12 years since that first grand jury in Philadel­phia rec­om­mended af­ford­ing past vic­tims, who had aged out of their ar­bi­trary statute of lim­i­ta­tions, the op­por­tu­nity to bring civil suit, if they have the ev­i­dence to do so.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bruce Beemer, State Vic­tim Ad­vo­cate Jennifer Storm, many district at­tor­neys and oth­ers across the state de­fend the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of H.B. 1947 with its re­vival pro­vi­sion.

The ex­cuses that ex­isted with the first votes are gone.

We leg­is­la­tors should in­sist that our lead­ers let the process take place so we can demon­strate to our con­stituents that we sup­port vic­tims over preda­tors.

We leg­is­la­tors don’t want to be asked, as was asked in “Spot­light,” “What took you so long?” State Rep Mark Rozzi

D-Berks

Lists and choices

To the Edi­tor: It’s an elec­tion year. Two can­di­dates. How to choose?

Let’s make a list. Find a blank sheet of pa­per and some­thing to write with. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Got ‘em? Good! Now, with your pen­cil, pen, crayon or marker draw a line down the mid­dle of the page. At top left, write the name Hil­lary; on the other side, write the name Don­ald. Okay so far?

Now, un­der Don­ald’s name, make of a list of his spe­cific, ap­pli­ca­ble qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the Pres­i­dency. Un­der Hil­lary’s name, do the same. Again, be spe­cific. For both can­di­dates, in­clude ed­u­ca­tion and rel­e­vant ex­pe­ri­ence.

Now, com­pare your lists. If you haven’t cheated, one list will be longer than the other. This com­par­i­son may pro­vide a use­ful clue as to which lever to pull on Novem­ber 8.

As a na­tion, we tend to fo­cus on neg­a­tives when a more pos­i­tive ap­proach would be more pro­duc­tive. Po­lit­i­cal con­tests seem to con­sist largely of in­sults and ac­cu­sa­tions be­tween can­di­dates. In the cur­rent Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, scru­ti­niz­ing the al­leged crimes and mis­de­meanors of the can­di­dates is a neg­a­tive ap­proach. Much more pos­i­tive would be to ask, “Which one has the best – and great­est num­ber – of ap­pli­ca­ble qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the job?” Arthur W. Tins­dale

Malvern

It’s bet­ter out there than you think

To the Edi­tor: Who isn’t weary and dis­gusted by the na­tional news? This elec­tion year is like noth­ing we’ve ever seen. It seems as if the news has a new, even more, out­ra­geous story ev­ery hour. Peo­ple are over­whelmed by the anger, po­lit­i­cal spin, and the hourly up­dates.

I have good news. It is bet­ter out there than the news would lead you to be­lieve.

I’ve al­ways said that the best part of cam­paign­ing is meet­ing vot­ers. So far, I’ve been to more than 11,000 voter’s homes, and you know what? The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of peo­ple, even if they don’t agree with me, are po­lite, kind and re­spect­ful.

I wish you could ex­pe­ri­ence what I do as I travel from one end of my district to the other.

I wish you could meet the peo­ple that I’ve met, hear their sto­ries and spend a lit­tle time lis­ten­ing to them; you would be as op­ti­mistic as I am.

We are a di­verse, thought­ful and car­ing com­mu­nity and we will make it through this elec­tion cy­cle to­gether. My sug­ges­tion: Turn off the news and visit your neigh­bor. It’s bet­ter for ev­ery­one.

There is a lot of se­ri­ous busi­ness at hand, and we need to be at­ten­tive, but we can also be kind, con­sid­er­ate and will­ing to lis­ten to each other. Most peo­ple are only too happy to talk about what con­cerns them, their fam­i­lies, their friends.

Af­ter talk­ing to all of those vot­ers and look­ing for­ward to talk­ing to, even more, I can tell you; it’s bet­ter out there than you think it is. Su­san Rzu­cidlo Can­di­date for the 158th Distric­tPa House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives

Pipe­lines im­peril our fu­ture, safety

To the Edi­tor: De­spite over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence of a warm­ing planet, our fed­eral gov­ern­ment has taken lit­tle ac­tion to ad­dress the root cause and places few im­ped­i­ments in the way of new large-scale in­vest­ments in the very en­ergy econ­omy that would doom us. Not to be out­done, our Penn­syl­va­nia State Leg­is­la­ture has worked as­sid­u­ously to block one of the few cli­mate change ini­tia­tives to come out of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment: the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. This is not sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing that 53 Penn­syl­va­nia state leg­is­la­tors “earned” lit­er­ally a zero per­cent en­vi­ron­men­tal rat­ing on the 2016 PA En­vi­ron­men­tal Score­card

com­piled by PA Sierra Club, the League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers, Pen­nEn­vi­ron­ment, and Clean Water Ac­tion.

Not only are our state leg­is­la­tors block­ing the very mod­est EPA pro­gram to re­duce emis­sions, they and our courts are mov­ing us in the op­po­site di­rec­tion by vest­ing for­profit cor­po­ra­tions like Sunoco with the power of eminent do­main, al­low­ing dan­ger­ous pipe­lines to be foisted on landown­ers. It must be par­tic­u­larly up­set­ting to own­ers of seized land to learn that Sunoco plans to ex­port most of the nat­u­ral gas from the Mariner East 2 pipe­line to Europe. Still more up­set­ting: pipe­line cor­po­ra­tions pay no prop­erty taxes on the land they seize and on av­er­age pay no more than 2.9% in to­tal in­come taxes.

Ex­port­ing gas will mean more frack­ing and a need for even more pipe­lines. It will also mean more cli­mate chang­ing emis­sions from leak­ing gas in­fra­struc­ture which vents some­where be­tween two and eight per­cent of its vol­ume to the at­mos­phere. While en­ergy cor­po­ra­tions have never shown much con­cern for the bio­sphere, this is not the only rea­son why ra­tio­nal peo­ple should op­pose Sunoco’s in­fra­struc­ture build out. It turns out that Sunoco has one of the worst pipe­line safety records in the coun­try. Giv­ing them eminent do­main rights to let them run pipe­lines near schools and across landown­ers pri­vate prop­erty shows a wan­ton dis­re­gard for our safety.

Among the 1,955 pipe­line op­er­a­tors in the U.S., Sunoco has the high­est num­ber of spills and ac­ci­dents in the last ten years, yet it’s one of the smaller op­er­a­tors. So while 1,866 pipe­line cor­po­ra­tions re­ported ten or fewer in­ci­dents over that span, Sunoco re­ported 258 hazardous liq­uids in­ci­dents, an av­er­age of about two per month, ac­cord­ing to the Pipe­line and Hazardous Ma­te­ri­als Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion (PHMSA). These “in­ci­dents” caused 733,362 gal­lons of hazardous liq­uids to spill into the en­vi­ron­ment and were re­spon­si­ble for about $47 mil­lion in prop­erty dam­age. By con­trast, the sec­ond worst of­fender was En­ter­prise Prod­ucts which re­ported 239 in­ci­dents, yet En­ter­prise op­er­ates 28,699 miles of pipe­line com­pared to Sunoco’s 5,371.

No one has died yet from a Sunoco pipe­line ex­plo­sion, but 360 peo­ple have been killed na­tion­wide and an­other 1,398 in­jured in other pipe­line ac­ci­dents over the last 20 years. Given Sunoco’s ac­ci­dent record, is it just a mat­ter of time be­fore they con­trib­ute to this list? Two of their lo­cal spills could have turned out much worse, one of which oc­curred in 2000 when 192,000 gal­lons of crude oil spilled out into the en­vi­ron­men­tally frag­ile John Heinz Wildlife Refuge. Amaz­ingly, it wasn’t Sunoco’s “leak de­tec­tion sys­tem” which dis­cov­ered the leak but rather a refuge vis­i­tor. A de­fec­tive pipe­line joint, in­ad­e­quate pipe­line main­te­nance, and poor leak de­tec­tion mea­sures were to blame ac­cord­ing to Sunoco’s re­port. Marvin E. Mo­ri­arty from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice said “This spill dam­aged one of our coun­try’s most val­ued re­sources—land ded­i­cated to con­serv­ing wildlife and wildlife habi­tat as a na­tional wildlife refuge.”

On April 15, 2015, a Sunoco pipe­line in Edg­mont Town­ship, Delaware County spilled gaso­line onto pri­vate prop­er­ties caus­ing nearly a half mil­lion in prop­erty dam­age to date. As with Heinz, a passerby dis­cov­ered the spill, not Sunoco’s “safety sys­tem.” But we’ve been as­sured by Sunoco rep­re­sen­ta­tives that their leak de­tec­tion sys­tem will pro­tect the chil­dren at Glen­wood El­e­men­tary School in Me­dia, safe­guard home­own­ers asleep in their beds, or pre­vent the spoil­ing of tax­payer fi­nanced open space at Linvill, Sleighton Park, and other places.

Where are fed­eral or state agen­cies in all this? How can an op­er­a­tor like Sunoco have so many ac­ci­dents with­out se­vere sanc­tion or hav­ing their cor­po­rate char­ter re­voked by the PA At­tor­ney Gen­eral? That’s a big part of the prob­lem. Be­cause fed­eral and state agen­cies tasked with over­see­ing the in­dus­try have been starved of fund­ing (thus starved of in­spec­tors), pipe­line cor­po­ra­tions are al­lowed to “self re­port.” Most of what we know about these in­ci­dents comes from the pipe­line op­er­a­tors them­selves. PHMSA over­sees about 2.7 mil­lion miles of pipe­lines in this coun­try. With only 528 fed­eral and state in­spec­tors on the job, each in­spec­tor’s share of the to­tal is about 5,100 miles of pipe­line each year, or the dis­tance from New York City to Hawaii. An­other is­sue lies with who’s guard­ing the chicken coop. PHMSA’s ad­min­is­tra­tor from 2009 to 2014, Cyn­thia Quar­ter­man, was for­mer out­side coun­sel for an oil pipe­line op­er­a­tor. As if un­der­fund­ing and a co­zi­ness with the in­dus­try weren’t enough, PHMSA lets them write many of the reg­u­la­tions.

Con­tribut­ing to this lax reg­u­la­tory struc­ture are PHMSA’s egre­gious safety goals: “to re­duce the num­ber of pipe­line in­ci­dents in­volv­ing death or ma­jor in­jury to be­tween 26-37 per year, and to lower the num­ber of hazardous liq­uid pipe­line spills with en­vi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences to be­tween 65-81 per year.” Would any­one get on an air­plane if the FAA had a stated goal of 26 fa­tal­i­ties per year? For­tu­nately, the FAA’s goal is zero air­line deaths per year. That the agency in charge of keep­ing the pub­lic safe from pipe­line dis­as­ters would have such low stan­dards is an in­di­ca­tor of how much our gov­ern­ment is con­trolled by pol­luters.

So we have this witches’ brew of weak reg­u­la­tions, scarce in­spec­tors, a court sys­tem and leg­is­la­ture that re­gard the en­vi­ron­ment as ex­pend­able, PHMSA’s cozy re­la­tion­ship with pipe­line op­er­a­tors and its ab­surd safety stan­dards, and Sunoco’s fright­en­ing record of mishaps. Seems like the per­fect con­flu­ence of fac­tors for a catas­tro­phe. The clock is tick­ing. Ken Hem­phill Chester County Sierra Club

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