Altoona Mirror, January 15, 2001

Altoona Mirror

January 15, 2001

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Issue date: Monday, January 15, 2001

Pages available: 56

Previous edition: Sunday, January 14, 2001

Next edition: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 - Used by the World's Finest Libraries and Institutions
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Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - January 15, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania Sports: Giants, Ravens earn trip to Super Bowl life: Inside or outside, snow days are fun for all Dl Aliomta Copyright 2001 MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2001 newsstand CALIFORNIA POWER CRISIS Problems not likely to hit Pa. California is a net importer of energy; Pennsylvania expects to remain net exporter. HARRISBURG who helped craft Pennsylvania's elec- tricity deregulation plan said the state should avoid the kind of power problems plaguing California. One major difference is that California is a net importer of energy, dependent on outside sup- pliers, while Pennsylvania expects to remain a net power exporter for years, Public Utility Cqmm-ission Chairman John M. Quain said. California has been hit with five- fold wholesale power price increases since last summer, accompanied by a series of drops in power reserves. State, federal and utility company officials were unable to reach a solu- tion in seven hours of negotiations Saturday and scheduled further talks over the next two days. Pennsylvanians should not fear that similar problems are brew- ing, Quain said. "They have to be looking at California and thinking 'Jeez, can that happen The answer is he said.. Pennsylvania has more restraints built into its 1996 electric-industry restructuring law, Quain and oth- ers said. Deregulation advocates at the time the program was devised said market forces would keep power prices reasonable. "But in the meantime, you need to have protections in said Irwin Popowsky, the state con- sumer advocate, who pressed for several years of limits on the rates utilities may charge for generation and distribution of electricity. Pennsylvania has nearly megawatts of new generation capac- ity planned in the next five years. Quain said it is possible that half of that planned capacity never will get built, but even if that were the case, the remainder would exceed estimates for future energy demand in the region. Please see A3 PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATURE House members dive in to duties BY ROBERT IGOE StaffWriter The opening of any session of the Pennsylvania Legislature is much like the first few rounds of a heavy- weight boxing match. The action is often slow-paced with both sides feeling the other out, weighing their options and looking for the best opportunity to strike to their advantage. In Harrisburg, lawmakers are taking much the same approach as the Republican-majority House of Representatives opened its 2001-02 session, featuring 17 new mem- bers. When the action becomes heav- ier later this year, expect tobacco, transportation and teachers to be among the items in the mix. "While officeholders elsewhere content themselves with talking points, we in the House move boldly to initiate turning said House Speaker Matthew J. .Ryan, R-Delaware. "Some people are content to twiddle their thumbs. Those who work in this chamber prefer to roll up their sleeves." For state Rep. Rick Geist, R- Altoona, the new session will be a chance to pick up where he and his Transportation Committee left off. "I am once again honored to serve as chairman of the House Transportation said Geist, who was re-elected to the Please see A3 TAMING TEEN DRIVERS Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Ryan Moncman, with his mother Eileen in the passenger seat, practices backing up Saturday afternoon in the family's driveway. Accident rates drop after stricter laws imposed BY TIFFANY SHAW Staff Writer Eileen Moncman would agree with state officials that new laws for teen-ager dri- vers really are working. She's teaching her 16-year-old son Ryan to drive and never imagined she would be so nervous. "It's very she said while com- plimenting her son's quick-learning abilities behind the wheel in the past month. Eileen Moncman of Hollidaysburg will spend the next five months driving with Ryan under Pennsylvania's tougher laws for 16- year-olds working to get a driver's license. Since December 1999, teens are required to spend 50 supervised hours driving, keep their learner's permit for six months before taking: the driving test and obey an 11 p.m. curfew. "I love it the six Eileen Moncman said. "I have no problem with that." While she thinks the extra time and prac- tice will make her son a more experienced driver, it's a bit of a rub for Ryan. "I kind of think it's Ryan said. His sister, now 18, didn't face the same restric- tions and got her license quickly. He doesn't think putting in 50 hours of dri- ving will be difficult, but waiting for six months to end feels like forever. "I think they have the right idea. But if you are ready for the road, you should be able to take the he said. State lawmakers knew teens and parents might struggle with the new laws but made the changes to save the lives of teen drivers who are statistically more likely to be involved in a crash. And the recent numbers show the plan is working. Fatalities involving 16-year-old drivers are down more than 70 percent, from 55 in January to September 1999 to 16 during the same period last year. Crashes involving teen drivers were down 25 percent, meaning about fewer crashes compared to 1999. That's the kind of news mothers such as Eileen Moncman want to hear, even if her son disagrees. "The perception at 16 is very different when they're a mother or she said. PennDOT spokeswoman Joan Zlogar said the reformed laws have surpassed expecta- tions. "We can show by the numbers alone, it's been she said. "We set out to save lives, and we did." As the number of crashes falls, along with the number of teen drivers killed or injured, the state's roads are becoming safer, she said. "Our first responsibility to the citizens of Pennsylvania is to have safe drivers on the Zlogar said. "We're making younger drivers better drivers and safer drivers." Gov. Tom Ridge praised the positive statis- tics in a written statement. "For too long, it was too easy for teen-agers to get a driver's license in Pennsylvania. And the results too often were Ridge said. While overall fatalities on the state's high- ways declined in 1998, the number of young driver fatalities shot up 13 percent. For 15- to 20-year-olds, the number one cause of death was traffic accidents. Please see A3 Cutting crashes A look at how changing teens' driving restrictions has helped reduce accidents: 16-year-old driver crashes 19991 2000 Fatalities involving 16-year-old drivers Injuries involving 16-year-old drivers -28.8% Note: Figures are from January to September of efch year. Source: PA Accident Record System Airport's financial state improves BY KAY STEPHENS StaffWriter MARTINSBURG Blair County has budgeted in 2001 for expenses at the Altoona Blair County Airport, an amount some say is evidence that the air- port is becoming less of a financial drain on the county. "We're asking the county for less and less money every year, and I think that's said Joseph Merilli, who took over as authority chairman this month, succeeding Don Ruggery, who stepped into the vice chairman position. Merilli, who has been on the air- port authority since January 1998, said he is pleased with the airport's improving financial picture and the cooperation among the author- ity members. When Merilli first joined the airport authority board, the airport was piling up debt and the authority members were at odds over the reasons for the debt and how it could be resolved The airport's debt started grow- ing after its aged terminal was enlarged in 1996. The larger facili- ty generated higher bills but not the revenue to pay those bills, and the airport authority looked to the county for financial help. While Blair County commis- sioners agreed to pay some of the debt, commissioners also started to explore turning the operation over to a private operator and began replacing long-time author- ity members. Merilli, among those appointed to the authority during that time of change, praised Blair County commissioner John H. Eichelberger Jr. for the foresight in selection of board members. Eichelberger is the commission- ers' liaison to the airport authori- ty and attends the monthly authority meetings. Eichelberger told the authority that the commissioners set aside for the airport in their 2001 budget, the amount the authority requested. Merilli said that the 2000 request was and in the preceding years, the authority's requests for financial help was higher and more fre- quent. Please see AS CELEBRATING THE SPIRIT rhe Perm State Gospel Choir leads an acappella rendition of "Swing low, Sweet Chariot" Sunday at the Edith Davis Eve Chapel at Penn State Altoona. A worship service was held in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. A reading from MLK was done by youth of Twenty-eighth Street Church of the Brethren. Mirror photo by Jason Sipes Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 2874480