FERC’s assessments

must be more thorough

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

That it is newsworthy when a single commissioner for the Federal Environmental Regulatory Commission (FERC) issues a dissenting opinion on a pipeline project shows how routine this approval process is.

FERC has only rejected two pipeline plans in more than 30 years and hundreds of applications. Recently, Cheryl LaFleur, the dissenting commissioner, was quoted as saying “people were shocked” by her decision. She acknowledged why, stating it’s “because we don’t say no very often.” Supporting this sentiment, the Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly urged FERC to do a more thorough job with its assessments.

This approval process is not one that should be a rubber stamp. These commissioners are responsible for ensuring that the public need is met before greenlighting projects that will cost billions while having the authority to seize land, cut down stretches of national forests and parks, and construct extremely disruptive compressor stations.

I applaud LaFleur for taking a stand that is far too uncommon. She saw that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline did not, in combination, serve the public interest, and decided to act.

As Senate Democrats have chosen not to renominate LaFleur to the commission, it’s important that whoever fills her seat builds upon this legacy of informed dissent.

Justin Haselhorst.


Nobody wants the dish

AOC is serving us

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

With all due respect to Ruben Navarrette (Opinion column, “Ocasio-Cortez dishes out a reality check to the elites”), I don’t think Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is what most Americans “ordered.” Just like going to law school or having a doctorate doesn’t mean someone has all the right answers, neither does beating a New York City incumbent representative in a primary before you’re 30.

While most Americans want to see action taken that will improve air and water quality — myself included — we don’t want to eliminate air travel or tear down nearly every building in the United States, which is what Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal would do.

Not one senator voted for Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal when it was considered on the Senate floor last month. Most of her fellow Democrats voted “present.” She might be trying to serve us this dish, but no one’s touching it.

Baird Stokes.


Ranking hospitals

is big business

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Two recent items in the RTD highlight the problem patients face when trying to find the “best” hospital for their care: according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), VCU Health System is a “2-star” hospital, while a grateful patient tells us that “VCU Medical Center deserves 5-star rating.”

Hospital ratings and rankings have become big business, and CMS ratings influence public opinion and hospital reimbursement. Unfortunately, only those familiar with the health care system are aware of the many flaws of these rating systems. In a 2015 study by the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, four major national rating systems could not agree as to which hospitals were “best” or “worst,” and a 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that the same hospitals can be shown to have either higher or lower than expected rates of death simply by altering the statistical method used for these calculations.

Additionally, hospital rating systems can’t agree on what constitutes “good” care. The low rate of appropriate treatment for patients with sepsis quoted in the CMS report refers to a low compliance rate with a treatment bundle that includes the administration of 2 to 3 liters of intravenous fluid to all patients in septic shock. However, this practice has long been questioned by leading experts in sepsis care, can be detrimental to patients with heart, lung, or kidney conditions, and has been replaced with better treatment strategies in these patient groups by expert clinicians.

Hospital ratings and rankings have little to do with the quality of care. What can patients do (apart from waiting for more meaningful evaluation systems)? Ask family, friends and doctors about their experiences, and learn as much as possible about methods used in these ranking and rating systems.

Stefan Leichtle.


Finding Alzheimer’s cure

matters to all of use

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Every 65 seconds someone in America develops the nation’s most expensive disease — Alzheimer’s. It is an equal opportunity disease, affecting people of both sexes, all colors, nationalities and ages.

Imagine being in your 30s, 40s or 50s and being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and being told you are too young to receive benefits and services through the Older Americans Act. Age 60 is not a magic number.

Imagine being diagnosed or being the caregiver of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia and being told the date of your next doctor appointment. What happens in between? Who can you turn to for help? What should you be planning for? I can tell you from my own experience, this is daunting, scary and lonely.

Imagine what the National Institute of Health could do with additional funds to help find a cure. If you can’t imagine that, then think about this: Without medical breakthroughs, the number of Alzheimer’s cases will triple in a generation. Currently 5.8 million live with the disease; that is projected to grow to more than 17 million in one generation.

Please go to www.alz.org to learn about Alzheimer’s, the impact it has on sufferers and caregivers, and how you can help by volunteering or contacting your federal and state elected officials.

I do believe a cure will be found; I do not believe this will happen soon enough to help my husband. But my pledge is to work and speak up to move this cause forward and celebrate the first survivor.

Robin B. Gouckenour.

Glen Allen.

Traffic safety depends

on personal awareness

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

In his letter “Pedestrian, cyclist safety should be a Henrico goal,” Steve Winston writes: “Unfortunately, Henrico Police Chief Humberto Cardounel Jr. blames drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians and he advocates for traffic studies and education as the solution.” I fail to understand Winston’s use of the word “unfortunately.”

After 37 years in public safety, I have witnessed the aftermath of many traffic accidents — several of them fatal. In almost every instance the accidents were the result of driver, pedestrian or cyclist error and in some cases a combination. The comprehensive strategy Winston alludes to in his letter is of no value if people neglect safety precautions.

For 50 years, Henrico police have had an outstanding history of traffic safety. Chief Cardounel’s assessment of these tragedies is on point. Henrico is fortunate to have his leadership.

Aubrey Powell.


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