The Dernogalizer

November 29, 2010

Column: Building a green campus

Congratulations to Sam Rivers for getting his Op-Ed published in the Diamondback.  Sam is a new member of the University of Maryland Student group UMD for Clean Energy, and he stepped right in by writing a column to the student newspaper about the need for the massive East Campus redevelopment project to be an ambitious green development.  Back when I was Campaign Director of the group as a senior last spring, we organized a successful event that put pressure on the university to stipulate in its RFP (request for proposal) that sustainable development was a top priority, and had to be one for any prospective developer.  Some  members of  the group met with The Cordish Companies'(the selected developer) development director and their design team last month to discuss students demands for a cutting edge green development, and listen to what the design team was planning.

UMD for Clean Energy at the Cordish Companies Headquarters

Now with the developer’s first public forum set for tomorrow, the group is looking to generate student and community support for rebuilding downtown College Park into a sustainable community that others can look to.  Below is Sam’s column discussing East Campus and this forum.

Guest column: Building a green campus

Last Monday, I attended my first UMD for Clean Energy meeting. The group’s purpose is to advocate for sustainability on and around the campus. As an environmental science and policy major, I had been wanting to check it out.

Discussion focused on East Campus, a proposed development to be built across Route 1 by the university in partnership with The Cordish Companies. To my surprise, I learned the development is not just one new dorm but an entire community spanning from Fraternity Row to Paint Branch Parkway — an area about six times the size of McKeldin Mall. This vast expanse will include student housing, restaurants and retail space. Furthermore, completing the project will require ripping out multiple existing buildings.

In 2009, this university unveiled a Climate Action Plan, a document that commits the university to carbon neutrality by 2050. East Campus will be included in the university’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and the East Campus buildings will last for decades. To have any hope of achieving the 2050 goal, the East Campus community must be built with sustainability in mind.

What would the university and The Cordish Companies have to do to build sustainably? To begin, East Campus should have walking and biking paths and must be connected to the rest of the campus by quick and reliable bus routes. There should be sufficient green space for rainwater to sink into the soil so that runoff does not pollute waterways.

Constructing rooftop gardens and building paths with water-permeable pavement could be important components of this more natural stormwater management system. Most importantly, buildings must be constructed with sustainable materials and be energy efficient. The university currently requires new buildings to earn a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design Silver certification — the third highest ranking in a commonly accepted ranking system for green construction. But building to LEED Gold standards would affirm the university as a nationwide leader in sustainable development and move us one step closer to carbon neutrality.

The campus’s Climate Action Plan requires reducing waste and pushing the envelope on energy efficiency. But this will not happen without student involvement. So here’s where you come in: Tomorrow there will be a forum in Ritchie Coliseum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., when the East Campus project will be put up for public commentary. The Coliseum is easily accessible by taking the Shuttle-UM Blue route bus or crossing Route 1 at The Dairy. The more people who  come to ask questions about this development’s environmental impact, the more seriously sustainability will factor into construction. You can also sign the petition for a greener East Campus at http://www.umdforcleanenergy.org. Maps of the proposed site, a flyer for the forum, East Campus’ history and more can be found at http://www.eastcampus.umd.edu.

Sam Rivers is a freshman environmental science and policy major. He can be reached at brivers at umd dot edu.

Give me a break Washington Post!

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:46 am
Tags: , ,

Look at that Solar Plant Destroying the Environment!

There’s a recently posted article on the Washington Post about how $2 billion of the stimulus money the Obama Administration doled out avoided review under the National Environmental Policy Act, which basically means they avoided having to get a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement(EIS).  Now, if this money was given out to projects with a net negative impact on pollution and the environment, I would join in on the criticism, but give me a break!  Just looking at the examples the Washington Post uses makes it crystal clear to me why these projects received exemptions.  They list a smart-grid update, a wind farm project, a biofuel from algae project.  All are the kinds of projects we need to be investing in to reduce our impact on the environment.  We need a trillion more dollars for projects like these, and we need them fast not just because of jobs, but because the world needs to deploy a massive amount of clean energy technology in order to avoid catastrophic global warming.  The Obama Administration sums it up well…

“Administration officials say the exemptions were essential to accelerate more than $30 billion in stimulus-funded clean-energy projects through the Energy Department, which already have created 35,000 jobs. In the long run, they add, the exempted activities will boost energy efficiency and curb pollution.

It makes complete sense to me that there should be different environmental standards for a wind farm than a coal plant.

The other minor-story the Post reports on is that some of the companies doing these green projects and received these exemptions aren’t exactly saints in the environmental arena.  Now, if I were the guy in chance doling out grants for projects, I would choose a company with a clean record over one with a dirty one, but the unfortunate reality is that most of these companies  have dirty records.  Find me a green oil company that I can give an algae biofuel grant for.  There are none!  I should add that I ultimately want the dirty companies to start doing clean energy projects.  That’s what environmental activists rightfully spend a lot of time doing, protesting dirty investments by corporations while pressuring them to make clean ones.  So if Duke Energy has a history of building coal plants, and it decides it wants to build a wind farm, I’m not going to throw a fit!  Heck, I’ll tell them to build two.

What we don’t need is more hyped up negative stories to the public about how clean energy projects are dodging environmental regulations intended for dirty ones.

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