The Dernogalizer

July 1, 2010

The Chesapeake Clean Water Act Passes Committee After Weakening

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:18 pm
Tags: , ,

Maryland  Senator Ben Cardin and Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings legislation “The Chesapeake Clean Water Act” came up before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee yesterday.  Below is an e-mail I received from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters on this legislation before the vote.  The outcome of the legislation in the committee is below the e-mail.

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Dear Matt,

Today, the Environment and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate is considering the Chesapeake Clean Water Act and, if all goes well, sending it to the floor of the Senate for a vote. This bill, introduced by our own Senator Ben Cardin and Representative Elijah Cummings, addresses lingering sources of pollution plaguing the Chesapeake Bay and provides a true integrated partnership of federal, state and local governments that must work together to achieve everyone’s goal of clean water.

Passing a bill out of committee is just one step — but an important one.

Please stay tuned as we pass on the fate of this important legislation in the next day or two.

Cindy Schwartz
Executive Director
Maryland LCV Education Fund

P.S. Please pass this along to your friends and family.

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The bill passed out of the panel, but not before some weakening…

“Only after some significant concessions did Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin see his controversial plan to strengthen Chesapeake Bay cleanup initiatives approved Wednesday by a Senate panel. In an exercise that could be regarded as bipartisanship statecraft, the measure was toned down to remove code-specific pollution limits for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. In deleting language that detailed so-called Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, Democrat Cardin was able to win Republican support to advance his ambitious measure to the full Senate. The House, where things are always a bit more tempestuous, has yet to act on a companion measure.”

“Despite the “watering down” of this water bill, Cardin’s measure remains quite strong. In all, some $2 billion in grants would be used to address pollution concerns. The Environmental Protection Agency would also have a redefined role, winning authority to withhold federal funds under the Clean Water Act as a way to prod states into implementing their pollution-reduction plans. The measure would also impose new conservation restrictions on commercial and residential development in the Chesapeake’s watershed to limit stormwater runoff.

A 2025 deadline for hitting pollution reduction targets was also preserved Wednesday, as was language requiring states to develop Watershed Implementation Plans and strengthening a nutrient pollution trading program. The farming community mostly opposes the somewhat over-reaching intentions of such Watershed Implementation Plans, so more debate lies ahead.”

May 11, 2010

Senator Ben Cardin Op-Ed: No New Offshore Drilling, Pass the Clean Energy Bill

I am thrilled with Maryland Senators Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun today which calls offshore drilling to be taken “completely off the map for the entire Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic and Straits of Florida planning areas.”, and also points out that we need to address our failed energy policy by passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation NOW.  Hats off to Ben Cardin, he took part in a Clean Energy Town Hall with my group UMD for Clean Energy a couple of weeks ago, and we liked what he told us then.  I really like what he’s telling Maryland now.  I’ve re-posted the entire column below.  Get Energy Smart Now has thoughts on the op-ed as well.

The catastrophic oil spill ravaging the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on coastal states is another reminder: America’s current energy policy is a disaster. We need to break our dangerous addiction to oil and promote safe and clean sources of power and fuel — and we need to begin today.

On Tuesday morning, I’ll co-chair a Senate hearing on protecting America’s coastal health. In the afternoon, that same Senate committee will meet to assess the damage the BP oil spill is doing to one of the most ecologically complex regions of the country. Already, though, it’s become painfully clear that there is no satisfactory remedy for the economic and environmental devastation that follows the blowout of an offshore oil rig.

In Maryland, we know about the importance of wetlands, fish nurseries and all the other elements of sensitive coastal ecosystems. The fragile barrier island of Assateague and ourChesapeake Bay are integral parts of our heritage as well as our environment. We cannot put them at risk in a similar way. We need a new energy future based on clean, renewable, homegrown energy sources and a national commitment to energy efficiency.

With those goals in mind, I co-authored a letter last month calling on President Barack Obama to reverse his decision to allow oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Maryland and other Atlantic Seaboard states all the way to the Straits of Florida.

Last week, the president did the right thing in suspending new offshore drilling. The president, though, needs to go further by taking the offshore drilling option completely off the map for the entire Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic and Straits of Florida planning areas.

The BP oil disaster now covers an area the size of Maryland. There is simply no guarantee against catastrophic oil spills. And there is no effective way to protect the economically, strategically and environmentally important areas up and down the Atlantic Seaboard.

Today, coal-fired power plants spew dangerous pollution into our atmosphere. Our buildings, cars and businesses are notoriously energy inefficient. Every day, we send nearly $1 billion overseas to purchase foreign oil. Too many of those petro-dollars end up funding terrorists who hate America and make the world less safe every day.

Today’s energy policy contributes to international instability, which is why the Department of Defense is so alarmed and leading military officials have called for a fundamental change in direction. Today’s energy policy also hurts our economy by sending our wealth abroad at a time when other nations, like China, are making major investments in wind and solar power. The more than $300 billion that we send overseas annually to satisfy our oil appetite should be spent here at home on sustainable energy sources and implementing energy efficiency measures.

Of course, proponents of offshore drilling like to tout it as a way to reduce our dependence foreign oil. But the fact is, we can’t drill our way to energy security.

We have to find a better way.

Nearly a year has passed since the House of Representatives approved legislation that would put millions of Americans back to work, reduce our dependence on oil and help to ensure a healthier future for all of us. It has been nearly six months since the Environment and Public Works Committee that I serve on adopted a similar comprehensive bill. These bills put a lid on emissions and make a sustained national investment in clean energy such as solar, nuclear, wind and waves, which will generate the kinds of American jobs that can’t be exported.

Now it’s time for the full Senate to act. We need to pass comprehensive clean energy legislation that will make our economy stronger and our country more secure.

The environmental damage we are causing with our current energy policy is on stark display in the Gulf of Mexico today. The unseen greenhouse pollution that is fouling our planet is even more threatening.

A responsible energy policy can put America back in control of its economic future and make the world a safer place. It can turn down the temperature on climate change. And it can do one more thing. It can help ensure the sanctity of our treasured coastal resources, like Assateague National Seashore and the Chesapeake Bay. As we’re now being reminded in the horrific stories and images from the Gulf, that’s critical too. Once squandered or despoiled, they can never be replaced.

It’s time to work together in a bipartisan way to enact a clean and sustainable energy plan that takes us into the 21st Century strong and secure. We have the opportunity to redesign our energy policy so that it enhances national security, boosts our economy and preserves our environment. The choice is ours.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. He may be contacted through the Web site cardin.senate.gov.

April 26, 2010

US Senator Ben Cardin Speaks with UMD Students about Federal Climate Legislation

This past Friday, UMD for Clean Energy hosted US Senator Ben Cardin at the University of Maryland for a Clean Energy Town Hall.  It went pretty well, we had a good turnout, I counted 70-80 attendees  at the event, tough and smart questions, and a good speech by Cardin about the need for the US to act.  While there was some disagreement with the Senator over the merits of nuclear power, common ground was largely found on the rest of his articulated positions, particularly over the need to not have offshore drilling of the coast of Maryland, which would threaten the Chesapeake Bay.  Cardin expressed appreciation for the leadership efforts of students at the university, and the strong showing of support for US leadership on climate.  He said he can go back to DC and point to examples like us to his colleagues as reasons why our country has no excuse not to act.

Below is the article in The Diamondback about the event (it called nuclear power renewable, I will ask for a correction), as well as a video UMD for Clean Energy made.  We showed it to Senator Cardin at the start of the town hall.  What’s impressive about this video is that none of these statements by students were scripted.  This highlights how knowledgeable and engaged students at UMD are on this issue.

Cardin pushes for clean energy legislation

By Leyla Korkut

An upcoming federal bill aimed at tackling the country’s numerous environmental issues should enable the country to make progress toward clean, renewable energy by offering reforms such as protecting the Chesapeake Bay from offshore drilling, Sen. Ben Cardin told a group of students Friday.

Cardin (D-Md.) spoke to a few dozen students in the Stamp Student Union’s Benjamin Banneker Room at a town hall forum sponsored by UMD for Clean Energy. The event was designed to give students a chance to question the senator about upcoming environmental legislation.

One climate bill in particular — which has already passed the House of Representatives — may come before Cardin and his colleagues in the Senate within the next week, he said.

Cardin said he hopes this bill will protect the Chesapeake Bay from offshore drilling, institute cap-and-trade policies and invest in renewable forms of energy, which are issues Cardin said should be tackled now — strengthening what he called a watered-down bill passed by the House.

“Environmental issues are mainstream America. It’s a popular issue,” Cardin said. “As a result, we’ve been able to pass some far-reaching bills — all have been passed with the last 40 years. We’re trying to protect our environment, and now that [President Barack] Obama’s been elected, the Environmental Protection Agency is actually protecting the environment.”

However, Cardin argued citizens of the state should not take this opportunity for granted because the Chesapeake Bay is constantly at risk for pollution.

“The problem today is our great water bodies are being polluted, and they’re very difficult to clean up,” Cardin said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure it’s there for future generations.”

Cardin said one of the primary ways to preserve the Chesapeake Bay and other bodies of water is to create an energy policy that will rely less on polluting fossil fuels — including oil, particularly from foreign sources — and more on renewable sources of energy, such as nuclear, solar and wind energy.

“We can argue energy policy based on national security,” Cardin said. “We spend a billion dollars a day importing oil; we’re financing people who’d like to see us go away. The only way we can become energy independent is to develop renewable sources. We know that we have to do much better on an energy policy that relies on renewable energy sources.”

Cardin also described a proposal to create a national cap-and-trade system, in which each company would be allocated an amount of pollutants its operations may emit and a company with minimal pollution could sell its allocation to one that is less eco-friendly. Cardin’s proposal would remove a set price for carbon emissions, letting the market decide the value of carbon pollution.

Students at the forum largely agreed with Cardin’s policy proposals, but junior environmental science and policy major Cara Miller said she was not completely convinced nuclear energy was worth investing in considering nuclear waste’s potential danger.

“I came in on the fence about the issue,” she said, “and he didn’t sway me one way or the other.”

Senior government and politics major Matt Dernoga, a Diamondback columnist and UMD for Clean Energy’s campaign director, said that among the numerous issues that Cardin hopes to tackle, the most important was ensuring federal standards would not prevent this state from excelling in its environmental goals.

Cardin told students Friday that he was especially optimistic about the climate bill given how much the university has improved its sustainability practices in recent years.

“I’m convinced we’ll pass a global energy climate bill,” he said. “We’re going to be able to pass those goals. I’m more optimistic today knowing what you’re doing at the University of Maryland. If UMD can do it as a campus, there’s no reason why industry can’t do it.”

korkut@umdbk.com

Image Credit: Charlie DeBoyace, Diamondback

April 21, 2010

UMD for Clean Energy Hosting Ben Cardin Friday

*** MEDIA ADVISORY***

CONTACT: Susan Sullam, 410-962-4436

April 21, 2010

SENATOR CARDIN TO ADDRESS UMCP STUDENT GROUP ON ENVIRONMENT & IMPORTANCE OF CLEAN ENERGY

Senator Urges Passage of Clean Energy Bill to Reduce Carbon Emissions

On Friday, April 23, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) will address members of the University of Maryland for Clean Energy about the need for our nation to develop a clean energy policy that will “shift us away from dirty, unsafe fuels of the 19th Century to cleaner, safer fuels of the 21st Century.”

The Senator is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and has been a strong supporter of clean energy and climate change legislation.  He has co-sponsored the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, which would provide significant investment in the clean fuels, clean vehicles and public transportation. He also has co-sponsored the International Climate Change Investment Act, which promotes the economic leadership and competitiveness of clean energy.

  • WHAT: Senator Cardin to address members of University of Maryland for Clean Energy
  • WHEN: Friday, April 23 at 2 pm.
  • WHERE: University of Maryland College Park,

Stamp Student Union, Benjamin Banneker Room (2nd Floor)

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Find out more about our event and our efforts on climate legislation here

June 26, 2009

Subcommittee Hearing on Mountaintop Removal

Filed under: environment — Matt Dernoga @ 1:05 am
Tags: , , ,

I’ve written a couple of columns on the atrocities of mountaintop removal, which can be found here and here.  Of recent, media and actions surrounding mountaintop removal have  escalated from climbing a dragline to a massive protest just a couple days ago.  How fitting then, there we have the first Senate subcommittee hearing ever on the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining.  Even better than the Senator holding this hearing is Ben Cardin of Maryland(I live in Maryland).  With this being too good to miss, and with me conveniently being in DC anyways because of climate bill-related activities, why not sit in on this firsthand?  It turned out to be quite interesting, I want to highlight a few details from my attendance below.

The hearing was slated to begin at 3:30, so I thought I’d show up at 2:30 to get a good spot in line.  It turns out it would’ve been better to arrive at 10:30!  When I showed up there was a line of 50-75 people already, so I had to go all the way to the back, which made my chances of getting into the hearing room seem pretty poor.  Most of the people in the line were mountaintop removal activists, however in front of me were 3 men that worked for the coal industry.  Soon thereafter, a large group of pro-coal supporters with shirts reading “friends of coal” showed up.  I would say the line grew by 30 or so people.  These people appeared to be guided/led by coal industry lobbyists in suits.

Then at about 3:20 a staffer came out and declared that there was no way everyone was going to fit into the room, and people near the back of the line should go to the overflow room.  Although some people around me left, I stayed in line a little longer just to see how discouraged the people in front of me got.  When they let people in, I wasn’t anywheres near the front when the room filled up.  However, when everyone in front of me asked if waiting would be a good idea, the staffer told them “very little chance any of you will get in”, and this caused everyone in front of me(a good 30-40 people) to leave.  Suddenly I was at the front of the line, where I was told I stood no chance.  About 15 minutes later someone left the hearing room, and I was in.  Slick I know.

I missed the first panelist who must’ve gone pretty fast, but he next panel had 4 speakers on it.  It included organizer Maria Gunnoe, who famously won the  Goldman Environmental Award, and has a very great story.  Others on the panel were Dr. Margaret Palmer who worked in the Chesapeake Environmental Laboratory University Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, the Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the cabinet secretary for West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection(DEP) Randy Hauffman.

The first speaker I heard was Randy Hauffman of  DEP.  Now, DEP basically works as hard to undermine environmental protection and laws in West Virginia as the Bush EPA did to undermine those nationwide.  Hauffman was pretty vague and contradictory, saying on one hand people had the right to clean water and that government had an obligation to provide that right, and then talking about the need for mountaintop removal for mining jobs and economic growth.  He also indicated he’d like the EPA to back off of West Virginia with the Clean Water Act since when it was passed it was delegated to the states to decide how to implement(or in DEP’s case, dodge).

Next was organizer Maria Gunnoe, who was by far the best speaker who really put a face to the issue, and made Hauffman’s arguments look like a joke(yeah I’m biased).  Really though you could tell why Gunnoe was worthy of an award and was an environmental leader in her community.  She spoke very boldly and didn’t hold anything back, talking about mountaintop removal mining as providing “temporary jobs and temporary energy”, and how people quite frankly can’t live around this kind of practice because of the blasting, the chokingly poor air quality, and the terrible floods.  Also, since the soil is so messed up, there’s no filtration of stormwater runoff into the watersheds, which along with all the coal pollution and sludge makes the water pollution terrible.  Gunnoe’s closing statement was the highlight, declaring that “the coal will run out, we’ll be left with no water, no air, no jobs, and no energy”.  I looked over at the DEP guy and he looked like someone had just handed him a pink slip.  Gunnoe got a standing ovation, and I felt compelled to join in the clapping.

After a short recess, Dr. Palmer was next and she discussed in further detail the impact on the water quality, and lent a very credible voice to the science around the issue.  Palmer said what we all know except in greater detail than I can recall here.  She said the environmental impacts are substantial and permanent, a very strong “I would certainly not let my children play in the streams”.  When asked by Senator Cardin what could be done to restore the watersheds after mountaintop removal mining, Palmer said there was no scientific evidence the impacts on water quality could be reversed, except for geologic time passing(ouch).

I suppose I must’ve missed the testimony of the Tennessee Deputy Commissioner, since Cardin started questioning the panelists.  A couple of noteworthy questions was Cardin asking the West Virginia regulator what could be done to preserve the headwaters and streams.  Hauffman didn’t have much of an answer, and it pretty much summed up to ‘we’ve been doing better in managing this issue, we’re for science being the driver, solutions are sought, and more money for research is needed’.  Basically, cutting through the bs the answer was “we can’t”.  The ranking Republican member Lamar Alexander who was the only other Senator there asked the Tennessee Commissioner whether or not coal mining practices in Tennessee involved mountaintop removal.  I’m not sure how true this is(perhaps I misheard), but the response was that this had not been done for the last 10-15 years.  He was also asked whether or not Tennessee companies could dump mining waste into the valley fills, and he answered no.  The implied message was that a coal producing state of Tennessee could manage just fine without mountaintop removal, while West Virginia was saying it needed to continue doing it.  When the Commissioner was asked whether or not the Federal law should be changed and applied to all the states, the Tennessee Commissioner said yes.  The last noteworthy question was Cardin asking Hauffman from DEP what kind of economic development he was referring to when defending mountaintop removal.  Hauffman was once again very dodgy and unconvincing, saying that they’ve been slow at redeveloping the areas they’ve mined, but are getting better, and will be working harder on both redevelopment and on restoring the land by planting trees.  It wasn’t very confidence inspiring.

All in all, this was a good hearing with good questions, some insightful testimony, and I liked the fact that the activists got into the hearing room, and all the coal supporters got stuck in the overflow room where no one could see them.  I’m also very appreciative of the fact that my Senator Ben Cardin is leading on this issue.  He is very good on environmental and energy issues, and very smart.  He’s also found a way to get bi-partisan support from Republican Lamar Alexander on his legislation to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to prevent the dumping of “fill material”, otherwards known as mountain mining waste, into the streams and valleys below.  This would be a big deal.  I wish him the best, and I’m proud he’s a Maryland Senator.

November 17, 2008

Action Against Coal, Politician Galore, and CCAN Retreat

So I should have pictures and press hits being linked eventually for everything I was a part of Fri-Sun. First I joined some people in protesting in front of the Bank of America since their bank has funded coal companies performing mountaintop removal to the tune of 6 billion dollars since 2001. We delivered letters from concerned students, and then did a “die-in” in front of the bank where we pretended to be dead/dying to symbolize the thousands of lives that coal and coal mining ruins and kills every year. There was a good deal of media there, and it was an interesting event. I’ve never protested anything like that, so I wanted to see what it was like.

Then Friday night I went to a Frank Kratovil victory party to celebrate, and get a picture of him with my Sierra Club buddies. So I met Kratovil, got to talk with him, and we got our pic taken with him as he wore a Sierra Club hat that said on it “here to save the planet”. Then, I realized that there were all sorts of big names in the house. I had the privilege of talking to Ben Cardin, Steny Hoyer, Congressman Dutch Rupersberger, soon to be leaving Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, and Governor O’Malley. All of my conversations went well except the O’Malley one, the Cardin one went real good. O’Malley didn’t seem to be too polite to be honest, but after thanking him for his support for the Global Warming Solutions Act, I told him in my opinion he should discontinue funding the ICC, and he pretty flatly and without elaboration said no. Not that I expected much different.

Then this weekend I went on a retreat held by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, where I met a lot of great activists, networked with people, talked about the climate movement, and did some planning for the winter and spring to achieve objectives. I had a great time, and I got to talk with Mike Tidwell too. I also got to give a speech about what students were doing.

So there will be pictures and press from some of this. Definitely pictures of some of my run-ins with the politicians to prove all this actually happened. Quite an exciting weekend!

October 19, 2008

Powervote Efforts

I just wanted to give an update on some of the activities going on in Maryland with Powervote. For those who don’t know about Powervote, it’s a nationwide campaign being headed up by the Energy Action Coalition. The goal is to get as many youth around the country as possible to sign a pledge to vote for politicians in this election that champion clean energy policies as a solution to our environmental, economic, and national security challenges. Hundreds of schools across the country are participating.

But beyond just getting pledges, we’re holding rallies to make a statement and attract media, holding educational events about issues, and having lobby meetings with our national leaders. Importantly, after the election we’ll have a large base to use to hold people who are elected accountable and make sure they push clean energy and climate change solutions hard.

If you want to read more about Powervote, check out the website Here. I also wrote a column not long ago promoting it Here. The University of Maryland group I’m part of Clean Energy for UMD also got The Diamondback to mention us in a column of their paper Here.

So the pictures I’m including below are from a rally we had on our University Mall promoting Powervote where we constructed wind turbines out of wood and put them in the grass. They actually worked like the should when the wind blew. The 2nd picture was taken after a meeting some of us had with Senator Ben Cardin’s staff where we talked about our Powervote campaign, and discussed Cardin’s positions on the issues we care about(I’m the one with the suit..)

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