I have a column out today in the University of Maryland student newspaper about how if you’re a voter in Maryland and you care about the environment, the choice for governor is obvious.
Voting green: The choice is obvious
by Matt Dernoga
Monday, October 4, 2010
This state has a competitive gubernatorial election between current Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Gov. Bob Ehrlich. At this university, the media and politicians like to talk about tuition. However, I’ve been engaging students on environmental issues for the last four years, and the majority either have an inclination to support environmental policies or actively promote them. The most concrete example of this is the 2007 SGA election referendum in which 91 percent of student voters approved a self-imposed green fee to offset carbon emissions.
If you care about the health of the Chesapeake Bay, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, creation of clean energy jobs and construction of the Purple Line, the best choice for governor is clearly O’Malley.
O’Malley has made some decisions that I don’t like, such as building the Intercounty Connector and supporting a weakening of stormwater regulations. But he has also supported and signed some of the most aggressive environmental legislation in the country, such as the Clean Cars Act of 2007, which reduces emissions from automobiles and increases fuel economy. Additionally, he entered the state into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with other northeastern states, an action that has forced coal companies to reduce their emissions and pay fines if they pollute.
O’Malley signed a Renewable Electricity Standard – which pledged that 20 percent of the state’s energy would come from renewable energy sources by 2022. He has accelerated a solar energy standard, improved the solar grant program and mandated that utility companies achieve a 15 percent reduction in per capita energy use by 2015. Furthermore, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act that was signed by O’Malley in 2009 mandates a 25 percent reduction of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 – one of the strongest global warming laws in the nation. The governor has even just proposed $48 million for the Purple Line in his newest transportation budget proposal.
What about Bob Ehrlich? He says he’d “pull the plug” on O’Malley’s plan to build the Purple Line light rail. The halting of the Purple Line would have serious consequences, from affecting the improvement of College Park to reducing smart development and accessible transportation options for students. Ehrlich opposed the Clean Cars Act in 2005, and he raided funding for Program Open Space – a land conservation program in the state which O’Malley fully funded. Ehrlich killed efforts in 2003 to regulate the poultry industry’s harmful impact on the Chesapeake Bay. Finally, Ehrlich fired experienced staff at the state’s environmental agencies and appointed inexperienced industry insiders in their place – an auto-industry lawyer was head of the state Department of the Environment!
The ultimate difference between the two candidates is the distinction between offense and defense. Four more years of O’Malley will allow advocates in the state the opportunity to pass environmental laws and build on the victories from his first term. Electing Ehrlich will mean no opportunity for progress and a major fight to prevent the rollback of clean air, clean water and clean energy laws. Even the Purple Line would be dead.
I support a chance at progress. Young people cannot afford to sit on the sidelines for this election. Register to vote by Oct. 12, and either vote early from Oct. 22 to Oct. 28 at College Park Community Center (except Oct. 24), or Election Day on Nov. 2. Find out more at http://www.elections.state.md.us/voting.
Matt Dernoga is a graduate student in public policy. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com