The Dernogalizer

March 23, 2010

Column on the Environmentally Destructive… University of Maryland Co-Sponsored…Tech Center in Charles County

Believe it or not, I wasn’t angry or bitter when I wrote this column in the Diamondback.

In Charles County, there’s a proposed development called Indian Head Science and Technology Park. This development will span 277 acres, all on forested land, including a chunk of land in Chapman State Park, which surrounds Mattawoman Creek. Mattawoman Creek is one of the most pristine, healthy streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. It’s also one of the premier fish nurseries on the East Coast. As part of the development, there are at least five planned road crossings of the stream valley, which the Army Corps of Engineers says is crucial to protect for the sake of the Mattawoman.

A big part of this industrial park development will be host to the Energetics Technology Center. The point of the center will be the research and development of explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics. A look at the center’s about page says it’s a spin-off of a similar center at this university. Scroll a little further down, and you’ll find this center is a collaboration of many of the same partners as the last one, including this university right smack at the top. The Tech Center’s brochure lists the university as a key partner in making this whole entity work.

We all come here to learn, but I don’t just mean in classes. We learn outside the classroom from the student groups we join, the friends we win and lose and most importantly from the mistakes we make. What about our university administration? What about university President Dan Mote, departing from his position in August after leading the university for more than a decade?

On the surface, Mote’s environmental record is admirable. He signed the President’s Climate Commitment and set in motion an action plan to reduce emissions, make buildings more energy efficient and increase the usage of renewable energy. But I think it’s all showmanship to bolster our image.

When students and faculty did a little digging, they found last year that the university was planning to relocate facilities from East Campus onto a 22.4-acre forested area known as the Wooded Hillock. We know how that ended: Despite the administration’s insistence that it was an appropriate sacrifice to cut down part of a forest because East Campus was greener than leprechauns with envy, the activists won the day.

In February, I listened to university alumnus Michael Martin talk about how when he was a student here 10 years ago, he was part of a fight to prevent the university from relocating greenhouses to wetlands by what is now Comcast Center. It was a story that shockingly paralleled the Wooded Hillock controversy, with the administration denying that the wetlands were environmentally sensitive, dragging its feet and eventually balking under the pressure.

It made me wonder when they decided to relocate facilities from East Campus, whether they remembered what had happened before. Didn’t they learn their lesson? It made me doubt the sincerity of the administration when they talk about the importance of environmental stewardship.

Dig a little beneath the surface once more, and you’ll find another pending local environmental catastrophe with our fingerprints all over the scene of the crime. If Mote was serious about sustainability, we’d never be in this partnership.

We all come here to learn. Mote came. He saw. He learned nothing.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.

December 3, 2009

Good News on the Mattawoman

I’ve written multiple columns and blog posts about saving Mattawoman Creek by preventing the construction of the Cross County Connector, a highway which would cut across the Creek.  You can find out more information on this issue from this post and this column.  I’ve just gotten an e-mail from the Sierra Club saying the state’s decision on whether or not to issue the permit for this road has been postponed to April for a third time, insisting on greater details the impact of the highway would have on two endangered species.  Below is the e-mail.

Dear Sierrans and Friends of the Mattawoman,

I just wanted to get to you quickly to let you know the good news.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has just postponed its Dec. 1st

decision on the Charles County Connector. (This is the unnecessary highway that

would cut across the upper Mattawoman, bringing with it sprawl development which

would effectively kill the river’s sensitive species.)

MDE is hearing our environmental objections. In its letter to Charles county,

MDE insists that the county complete studies of the impact of the highway on two

endangered species in the wetlands it would destroy. It postpones the decision

until an undetermined date in the spring of 2010. It’s the third time that MDE

has had to push the decision back.

This is just a postponement, but it gives us time to involve more citizens and

to let the state government know that protecting the Mattawoman is essential to

protecting the Bay. We’ll be in touch about next steps…

Thanks for doing your part.

Alana Wase

Maryland Chapter Conservation Program Coordinator

P.S. Here’s a blog where you read about the postponement and comment

October 27, 2009

Column on Saving Mattawoman Creek

Filed under: MD Politics,Sprawl — Matt Dernoga @ 1:17 pm
Tags: ,

I have a column out today about the threat of the cross-county connector on Mattawoman Creek, and the implications for the Chesapeake Bay.

Mattawoman: Constructing or destructing?

A week ago, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) announced a bill to clean up the Chesapeake Bay by giving the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to set pollution reduction goals for states whose pollution harms the bay. Federal funding would be cut if those targets aren’t met. The legislation, titled the Bay Ecosystem Restoration Act, would also authorize $2 billion for the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to spend on cleanup and best practices.

Passing this bill would be a good step, particularly toward actually putting some teeth into regulations by punishing states who slack off. Up until now, the main strategy for saving the Chesapeake Bay has been to fund an exponentially larger broom to clean up our growing mess, oblivious to the concept of preventing the mess in the first place. This could be why the Chesapeake Bay Foundation rated the health of the bay in 2008 a 28 out of 100 — one full point higher than the score in 1998. Ah, the smell of bullshit consistency.

Gov. Martin O’Malley and other state officials have a great opportunity to break the tendency of making the cleanup a national disgrace. Mattawoman Creek in Charles County is one of the most pristine, healthy streams that flows into the Chesapeake bay. It’s also one of the premier fish nurseries on the East Coast, consistently drawing tourism and Bassmaster Tournaments. Charles County government wants to build an extension of a highway called the cross-county connector across the full width of the Mattawoman watershed.

This would no doubt generate thousands of acres of new sprawl and development around the creek, where the 2,200-acre Chapman forest is currently located. Talk about one-upping the Wooded Hillock. The only thing funnier than this plan is Charles County officials arguing that developing over Mattawoman Creek will actually help save it. The Maryland Department of the Environment has to decide whether to approve a permit for this development proposal.

If I was a member of MDE and found this request on my doorstep, the first thing I would do is check to see whether it’s April Fools’ Day. The rejection would be swift. Instead, MDE has been deliberating over the permit for many months, giving serious consideration to a proposal that is seriously bad.

We need more leadership on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay not just by throwing money at the problem, but by enforcing strong standards on development and pollution so pollutants don’t get into the Chesapeake bay in the first place. Cardin has shown that we can count on him. Can the state also count on O’Malley to follow Cardin’s lead?

Past development decisions, such as allowing the construction of the Intercounty Connector, do not inspire confidence. Neither does MDE’s hesitation in rejecting the permit for construction of the cross-county connector, which would lead to the destruction of Mattawoman Creek. With one of the healthiest fish nurseries in the Chesapeake Bay region on the line, reckless development decisions such as paving over a body of water with a highway should lead MDE to a simple conclusion, be it bay or creek.

Why would we want to destroy something good?

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com

May 12, 2009

Declining Chesapeake Bay

 It came to light yesterday that efforts to clean up the bay have failed, and things just plain aren’t looking good.  The Washington Post has an editorial out today regarding the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay which is right on the mark, but in my opinion doesn’t go deep enough into what Governors O’Malley and Kaine are doing wrong when it comes to the Bay.  

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from the editorial…

“But both states could do more, and much of the bay’s problem comes not from sewage plants or chicken farms but from elsewhere — roads, parking lots and other features of development that send warm, polluted stormwater runoff into the bay.”

ICC anyone?

January 27, 2009

Column on Stimulus Bill

So I have a column out today criticizing part of the stimulus bill and making a suggestion. Enjoy!

Environmental stimulus: Thinking like it’s 1999

Matt Dernoga

Issue date: 1/27/09 Section: Opinion

Last year was a rough year. Layoffs at the unemployment office, foreclosures extending to our doghouses and a national debt in dollars approaching the distance in miles between the Earth and the nearest galaxy. Good news has been hard to come by. Fortunately, our elected officials are experts at spinning bad news into “good news.”

How else can local and state politicians proclaim with an infallible sense of pride that there are thousands of infrastructure projects backlogged and ready to go? The “good news” is they’re perfect for President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. Why have we had trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure spending waiting for shovels to hit the ground since before I hit kindergarten? Is it because the government isn’t spending enough of your money? Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

Or is it because the majority of our land-use policies, transportation policies and infrastructure planning have been based on a flawed 20th century model for growth?

Our cities have been expanding at an unsustainable rate, swallowing up rural land that dares to reside on the edge. The creation of all these suburbs on the edges of cities means people and the new infrastructure they require – especially the roads connecting them back to the city – are spread out like butter on a slice of bread. This expansion took place at a pace so furiously irresponsible that governments could no longer raise the funds to upkeep the new roads, bridges, schools, firehouses or even Vice President Joe Biden’s hair plugs. All that stuff costs a lot of money.

There’s a major environmental negligence with these kinds of growth policies as well. Everyone driving to and from the city for work gets stuck in congestion. We end up with worsening air pollution, water pollution from runoff and increased gas consumption. Then, all of our local and state officials declare that we need to clean up our environment while promoting the same poor growth policies that were causing the pollution in the first place.

The majority of the delayed projects that Obama is planning to resurrect follow our 20th century growth model – that’s when they were designed. To an individual lacking peripheral vision, the stimulus money needs to go into these outdated initiatives where shovels are ready to hit the ground. But the leaders of our local governments, our state governments and our federal government need to stake a step back. Try looking at the whole picture rather than at just a single pixel.

There needs to be a conscious recognition that the way to address the economic, national security and environmental challenges we face is not by building new roads. It’s not by further expanding our cities. Poor land use and transportation decisions have driven each other for far too long. Investments need to be made that will have long-lasting positive ripple effects for decades.

Invest massively in bus transit by replacing and upgrading every single fleet of every region in the nation. The struggling automakers can learn how to make buses, right? Fast-track all of the mass transit projects in the books, and revitalize what we already have. This includes light rail, subways, rapid transit and freight rail. Make everything state of the art. This will take cars and trucks off the roads, reduce our infrastructure upkeep costs, decrease the check amounts we write to foreign countries for fuel and cut carbon emissions at the same time.

These investments should be the priority of the economic stimulus when it comes to transportation. The stakes couldn’t be higher. What do we want for our money? Good news, or “good news?” Change, or more of the same? Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major. He can be reached at

November 12, 2008

Couple of Columns

I have a couple of columns to bring attention to. One was written today by me, the link for that is right here:

That one is about urban sprawl, and an inportant issue regarding transfer development rights in Prince George’s County.

This one is about the ICC, a friend of mine wrote it, it’s insightful:

October 14, 2008

Inter County Connector

Filed under: Dernoga,MD Politics,Sprawl — Matt Dernoga @ 10:14 am
Tags: , , , ,


So I have a column out today about the ICC and how it’s going to affect transportation funding, as well as general funding around the state. Enjoy!1

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