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Closing coal-fired plants is best for environment

The prospect of closing the Dunkirk and Somerset coal-fired power plants is good news, not part of "a disturbing trend," as News business columnist David Robinson suggests. Carbon dioxide released by burning coal is a major source of global warming. So it's good news that coal plants are closing -- here and around the country.

Trees are budding and the forsythia is blooming -- weeks early! Buffalo's winter was hardly winter at all this year. While record warm weather made most of us giddy, it should also be sounding alarms.

One warm winter is not necessarily caused by climate change, but record warm weather year after year, punctuated by extreme warming like this winter, is indicative of the hotter world we are racing toward. Local TV weather forecasters have done us a disservice by day after day celebrating our bizarre weather without mention of the international scientific consensus on climate change and the need to reduce burning of fossil fuels.

Warm winter days were a relief, but do we really want to leave to our kids a Buffalo whose summer days are typically in the 90s, often eclipsing 100 degrees? Global warming is already impacting nature and changing our world in ways future generations don't deserve. Poor nations face increasing drought, floods and famine, while many animal species will go extinct if we don't quickly transition to renewable energy sources and a much greater commitment to conservation.

We need a statewide plan to phase out coal plants that humanely addresses employment and local taxation issues while accelerating the deployment of clean energy resources. It would be a terrible mistake if instead the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo came up with a shortsighted and wasteful scheme to financially prop up old coal plants whose time has finally come.

Walter Simpson

Amherst

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Students who skip class should automatically fail

Why are these truant kids getting away with a crime (skipping school should be classed as one) while the teachers and the schools pay? As far as I'm concerned, any student who misses 80 percent -- make that 25 percent! -- without a good excuse, should be exempt from taking a test. These students should be automatically failed with a footnote as to their absence, which would excuse the teacher. No teacher should be punished for the crimes of the student, nor should our schools.

Marge McMillen

East Amherst

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EPA needs to update pollution standards now

Dangerous levels of soot particles cause thousands of deaths each year. According to the American Lung Association's State of the Air Report 2011, Erie County is one of the counties most heavily burdened by this toxic pollutant, having earned a "D" grade in last year's report. As we work to achieve cleaner, healthier air, both nationally and locally, we depend on the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that the Clean Air Act protects public health.

That's why it's so troubling that the EPA has once again failed to meet a critical deadline for updating the pollution standard for particulate matter, also known as soot. We know that the latest science supports a stronger limit for this pollutant, yet the agency continues to drag its feet.

The American Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association recently joined together in filing a federal lawsuit to force the EPA to complete the required review of the need for stronger limits on the amount of soot, smoke and other airborne particles that endanger public health. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a similar suit with several other state attorneys general joining him.

Particulate pollution is especially harmful to children, seniors and people with lung disease, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, this pollution disproportionately affects low-income communities.

Tougher standards for particulate matter will help drive changes that will result in cleaner air and better lung health for all of us. We urge the EPA to uphold the Clean Air Act and review and revise these standards now.

Jeff Seyler

CEO, American Lung Association in New York

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Great Shea's volunteers should be allowed to sit

I have been a season-ticket holder at Shea's for several years. I have to say I am appalled after reading the article in the March 14 Buffalo News about the ushers at Shea's not being allowed to sit in the theater seats during performances. I think this is awful.

These ushers volunteer (they are not paid for their time) at Shea's. They use their own money for transportation to and from the theater. They are always friendly, helpful and polite to all the patrons. I don't think anyone would begrudge them seeing a show for free now and then when there are vacant seats. This is small payment for the job they do and it doesn't cost the theater anything.

I think Shea's President Anthony Conte needs to rethink this policy. He is going to lose a lot of great volunteers and possibly some patrons. I, for one, am rethinking my season-ticket purchase for next year due to this policy.

Debbie Brown

East Amherst

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St. Margaret's School holds happy memories

I was very saddened to hear of St. Margaret's School in North Buffalo closing. Being a graduate, and spending eight years in grammar school, I had many fond memories.

As I look back, I recall having almost 60 kids in one classroom. The nuns, who virtually worked for peanuts, never complained of classroom size. They not only taught us the three Rs, but also good Christian morals. The Sisters of St. Joseph, who then conducted the school, laid the foundation for turning out first-class citizens. In my mind and heart, for all they did, they all deserve sainthood.

One of my fellow classmates pondered, "They can give one person a hundred million dollars to play football, but they can't keep a good school open." That about says it all.

Thomas R. Cherre

Cheektowaga

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No football player is worth $100 million

Am I the only one who sees the hyperbole and irony in the recent news of "capturing" Super Mario by the Bills in a city that is ranked the third poorest in the nation? Could any person truly be worth $100 million?

What about comparing salaries with our brave soldiers overseas, many of whom have families stateside subsisting on public assistance? Where are our real priorities?

Kathleen M. Rog

Hamburg