The Dernogalizer

September 22, 2010

Action Alert: Prince George’s County Clean Water Bill

In March 2010 Maryland witnessed cowardice in Annapolis as its General Assembly voted to roll back storm water regulations passed in 2007 at the request of developers.  Montgomery County passed legislation enacting the stronger standards which the state shelved.  Now Prince George’s County is attempting to follow suit.  See the Action Alert below for information about this legislation.

Attention Anacostia Advocates-

This Thursday at 10am the Prince George’s County Council’s Transportation, Housing, and Environment (THE) committee will take up CB-80, the clean water bill. Earlier this summer, advocates achieved a major victory for clean water in the Anacostia with the unanimous passage of Montgomery County’s new stormwater regulation. It is now Prince George’s County’s turn to step up to the plate and do its part. (more…)

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.


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.


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.”

April 15, 2010

Chesapeake Bay’s Blue Crab Population Up 60%!

Filed under: environment,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 5:12 pm
Tags: ,

Finally, some good news from the Baltimore Sun’s Timothy Wheeler on the bay.  Excerpts below.

“The Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population has bounced back from dangerously low levels, Maryland officials announced Wednesday, reporting that a newly completed survey of the crustaceans counted more than have been seen in more than a decade.”

“Based on the annual winter dredge survey of crabs waiting out cold weather on the bottom of the bay, Maryland and Virginia scientists estimate there are 658 million of them, the greatest abundance since 1997. The population has increased by 60 percent over the previous winter, the scientists said, improving on the 50 percent rebound seen during the first year after catch restrictions were imposed.

“It’s the best news in 10 years,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, made up of legislators from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. She said it was “resounding” evidence that managing fisheries based on scientists’ advice works.”

“But O’Malley pointed out that the crab harvest grew last year even with tighter limits in place because there were more crabs to catch. Officials estimated that 53.7 million pounds of crabs were taken from the bay, 10 percent more than the year before but still below the level that might threaten the long-term sustainability of the population.”

“Larry W. Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, said his members weren’t surprised by the survey results because they’d been seeing a lot of young, little crabs. But he conceded that the catch restrictions, particularly on females, appeared to bear fruit.

“The proof’s in the pudding,” he said. “Mother Nature does a lot of things that we don’t know about, but I would say that restricting the harvest of female crabs had to help.”

This winter’s survey, which samples 1,500 places around the bay for slumbering crabs, found that the number of juveniles had doubled — evidence that protecting the females has paid off, scientists say.”

“William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, hailed the news and said it shows the bay can be resilient with a little help. Science-based policies and the cooperation between states have brought crabs back, he said. Now, the states and the federal government need to apply the same approach to cleaning up the bay’s pollution, he said.

Pointing to the crabs in the basket, Baker said, “These guys are going to spur the economy. They are the symbol of a bay that is fighting to come back. This shows us, with some good news that we really greatly need, that the bay can be saved.”

March 27, 2010

Maryland House Passes Storm-water Compromise, Environmentalists Split

Filed under: environment,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 4:38 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve said before most legislators in the Maryland General Assembly aren’t willing to do even close to what is necessary to restore the Chesapeake Bay.  Unfortunately, the showdown over storm-water regulations  has proven this to be true once again.  In 2007 the General Assembly passed the Storm-water Management Act, which set storm-water standards for the Maryland Department of Environment to implement.  The showdown over what that implementation would look like happened this session.  There was the threat of legislation to roll back the standards, and some environmental groups and lawmakers forged compromise legislation with the developers for many of their redevelopment projects to be grandfathered in, and sheltered from the new regulations for quite some time.

Link“The measure sets statewide stormwater standards that redevelopment projects must meet to reduce run off. The bill was born out of a need to deal with a new set of state rules defining the way water could run off new or re-developed properties. Developers had objected to the rules, saying they were so restrictive they would stop growth–or re-direct it into undeveloped areas, away from “smart growth” sites near urban cores. Developers had hired some of the biggest lobbying firms in the capital to stop the measure.

But some environmental groups weren’t happy with this move…

“More than 30 Maryland environmentalists–including a former governor, a former U.S. senator and a former congressman–held a press conference today in Annapolis to denounce efforts to revise rules on pollution flowing to the Chesapeake Bay through storm sewers.  The event, led by former U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings (D-Md.), was another sign of a fracturing in Maryland’s green community over an arcane area of environmental law.”

“Under that deal, some un-finished projects could be “grandfathered” in, built under the old stormwater rules, if they received the right kind of permission. Also, some projects could face looser restrictions in “in-fill” developments.

At today’s press conference, activists said that was giving developers too long a leash.
“The compromise was not a good deal,” said former Maryland state Senator Gerald W. Winegrad (D). “This is an environmental outrage. Let’s stop it now.” Also speaking were former Gov. Harry Hughes (D) and former U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R).

Afterward, Dottie Yunger–whose title is Anacostia Riverkeeper–said that these groups had come together to disprove the notion that the two organizations in those meetings had achieved the best deal possible for the environment.

“No, you didn’t,” she said. “You negotiated the best deal you thought you could get, and you didn’t represent the rest of the environmental community.”

In the end, the bill passed the House of Delegates by a wide margin.  Below my take is a good article by Hometown Glenburnie writer Pamela Wood, which presents the points of view and explains what’s next.

My take on this is that politicians in Maryland need to be forced to start taking tough votes on the Bay.  I sometimes favor the “incrementalist” strategy being taken by the environmental groups that brokered the compromise, but in this case, in an election year, we should be pushing the envelope.  These new rules are so weak I’d hardly call them progress.  Get politicians on the record siding with big developers, and hammer them this fall for it.  By forging a compromise, we gave the General Assembly lawmakers such an easy vote, now they can all look good for voting on” storm-water regulations” and “protecting jobs”.  If we truly want to make progress on the Bay, we need to keep our friends in office and throw the bums out.  This vote blurs the line between the two.



Stormwater pollution has been the biggest environmental issue facing the state this year, with lawmakers, lobbyists and activists dividing themselves into camps according to how stringent they think the new rules should be.

And now environmental activists are divided, too.

More than 30 riverkeepers and other activists lined up in the State House in Annapolis Wednesday for a news conference to call on lawmakers to summon the political courage to ensure that stricter stormwater-pollution controls on new development are implemented as planned.

They had three Maryland political legends on their side: former governor Harry Hughes, former congressman Wayne Gilchrest and former U.S. senator Joe Tydings.

Notably absent from the news conference were the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other environmental groups that are sticking by a compromise, hammered out in recent weeks, that weakens the new rules.

“All it takes is for the people in this building who hold the reins of power not to give up that power,” Gilchrest said, encouraging lawmakers not to cave in and accept the compromise.

Gilchrest said lawmakers should “hold onto the reins of power and do the right thing,” which earned a standing ovation from the activists gathered at the event.

Polluted stormwater runoff is a vexing problem for those trying to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

When it rains, the water rushes along rooftops,parking lots, driveways and highways. It picks up nutrients, sediment, chemicals and trash as it rushes into streams and creeks that feed the bay.

Polluted stormwater from urban and suburban areas is the only source of bay pollution that is increasing.

Bay advocates said putting state-of-the-art stormwater controls on new construction sites is important because it will mean less pollution from developed areas for their entire lifetime. And it can prevent the need for expensive restoration projects.

The current effort to clamp down on polluted stormwater runoff goes back to 2007. That year, Maryland lawmakers passed a bill requiring new construction projects to have stepped-up pollution controls. Ideally, the flow of water from new development should mimic the flow before construction, the bill said.

Building industry and local government groups eventually came on board.

The Maryland Department of the Environment then spent the next few years writing detailed requirements for construction projects. The new rules were set to go into effect May 4, but builders and local government balked.

They said the requirements were onerous and expensive, especially for redevelopment projects in cities, where there are space constraints.

They found sympathy in lawmakers, who introduced bills to weaken the new requirements.

But those bills all were put on hold while a compromise was hashed out between the parties involved. A key feature of the compromise was exempting more projects “in the pipeline” from the rules through an expanded grandfathering provision.

Environmentalists weren’t thrilled, but some groups – including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and 1000 Friends of Maryland – accepted the deal.

But the compromise didn’t impress one key lawmaker. The reworked requirements would have to gain approval from a joint House-Senate committee that reviews administrative regulations.

The chairman, Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, a staunch environmentalist, said he wouldn’t let the rules pass.

Square one

So now environmentalists, builders, local government officials and state lawmakers are back to square one on the stormwater fight.

But this time, environmentalists are split.

One faction of environmental groups is pushing for a result that looks like the compromise. The other faction – the 30-plus gathered this week – is pushing for the original rules to stand.

Kim Coble, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, acknowledged that the compromise on the stormwater rules was not ideal. But she said it’s better than sending a bill through the General Assembly that could end up with even weaker rules.

“The compromise language in the bill reflects just that, a compromise,” Coble said in a prepared statement. “There are some areas in which the environmental agenda was strengthened, and some in which we slid back.”

In Maryland politics, environmental groups often are faced with the choice of sticking to their guns or bending somewhat in order to get a new policy passed, rather than see it not pass at all.

In this case, Coble said, the better choice was to bend.

“A public relations victory is not worth the gamble if stormwater controls in Maryland are further weakened,” she said.

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

July 9, 2009

Chesapeake Bay: Speake of the Devil

I have a column out today about how despite the fact that every elected official in Maryland talks about the need for saving the Chesapeake Bay, the policies we have been passing(and not passing) are contradictory.  A lot of these issues such as highway construction over mass transit and unchecked growth are interconnected with our dependency on fossil fuels and our contribution to global warming.  This is one of my harsher columns, but called for in my opinion.  Sources are at the bottom.

Chesapeake Bay: Speake of the devil


Issue date: 7/9/09

Save the Bay! No really, I mean it. Back in 1987, federal and state officials set a target to finish restoring the Chesapeake Bay by 2000, whose value 20 years ago was pegged at $678 billion by University of Maryland economists. Inflation alone would push that value over a trillion dollars. Maybe we were counting on 2000 being the end of the world, but when computers failed to take over and clean the bay themselves, we were forced to set a target of 2010. Whoops.

So now the Environmental Protection Agency and state officials, including a number from Maryland, have gotten serious. They’ve said enough is enough: It’s time to set a target to which leaders can be held accountable. The new deadline for getting the bay off the list of the nation’s most impaired waters is now 2025, with two-year milestone goals sprinkled in between. Governor Martin O’Malley boldly declared Maryland would hit its own nutrient reduction goals by 2020. 

O’Malley and every other elected official in Annapolis will tell you they’re for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. It’s as easy as saying you’re for fighting cancer or for education. A closer look at our own state policies provides a clue as to why despite lawmakers’ happy proclamations on behalf of the bay, it still remains in shambles.

Doesn’t anyone find it ironic that we decided to have the words “Treasure the Chesapeake” engraved on the back of license plates? License plates which happen to be attached to cars running on roads which has sediment pollution runoff that is ruining the Chesapeake. This is symbolic of our problem. Our largest expenditure to affect the bay’s health thus far consists of billions of dollars spent on the maligned InterCounty Connector. This road blows through the Anacostia Watershed, which feeds into the bay. The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) is now considering granting a permit for the cross-county connector. This new Charles County highway would drive right through the Mattawoman Watershed, which flows into the bay.

Annapolis recently ensured we’ll continue our happy highway construction by weakening a smart growth bill this past session that would have put some teeth behind responsible development and anti-sprawl benchmarks. Poor land-use planning and highway construction have become coordinated catastrophes that make our clean-up deadline of 2025 a flatline. From his policies, it’s tough to tell whether O’Malley’s personal 2020 target is to clean up Maryland’s pollution contribution or finish the bay off once and for all. 

The policies’ harmful effects are magnified by MDE dragging its feet on enforcing stormwater management rules passed in early 2007. The Stormwater Management Act has encountered two years worth of deliberations by MDE to figure out what to do with it. This culminated in a “please?” ordinance to county governments and local municipalities to only mitigate the runoff impact of 50 percent of impervious surfaces for redevelopment projects. Half-hearted by both my math and their effort.

News flash to Annapolis and O’Malley: When you build mega-highways across waterways which connect to the bay; when you water down smart growth bills that would encourage and enforce responsible development; when you water down our stormwater management laws so our runoff continues to pollute the bay – you’re not saving the bay. You’re killing it.

Now if only we could fit that onto the back of a license plate.

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

Sources: (death of smart growth bill) (blown deadline) (blown deadline) (2025 target) (value of the Bay) (O’Malley setting higher goal for Bay) (on Cross County Connector) (Stormwater management Act, to go to next page to see delays, go down to bottom and check archives) (pg 13 on stormwater management)

May 25, 2009

Save The Bay!

Image that is a finalist in CBF "Save the Bay" Photo Contest. Credit - Eugene Huskey

Image that is a finalist in CBF "Save the Bay" Photo Contest. Credit - Eugene Huskey

Hey everyone!

I don’t think I mentioned it in my introduction post, but I do freelance photography.  As a matter of fact, my website is one of the links on the right side of this page. (Eugene Huskey Photography) The reason I am posting about my website and photography is I have entered into a  “Save the Bay” photo contest sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation was seeking images from around the watershed that illustrate the beauty, benefits, and bounty of the Bay and its surrounding areas. I entered several pictures into the contest. One of my images has been selected as one of 10 finalists. There are 3 prizes that are determined by the judging panel.  A 4th picture that receives the most votes by viewers on the contest’s website will also win a prize. I am asking that you go to this website and vote for my image. You can vote as many times as you like and for as many of the pictures as you like. However, I am asking that you exclusively vote for my picture!

Here is a link to the photo contest’s web page:

“Save the Bay” Photo Contest

I hope you all are enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend!



I also want to thank Matt for giving me the permission to post the info about the contest and my site on his blog!

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?

March 27, 2009

Algae to Biofuels for a Healthier Bay

Filed under: energy — Matt Dernoga @ 9:36 pm
Tags: , ,

There’s a very in depth and interesting article in Chesapeake Quarterly about a way of using algae to help clean the Chesapeake while at the same time being used to make biofuels.  Definitely worth the read!

Some excerpts are below:

“Walter Adey sees this pollution chokepoint at the Susquehanna River in a unique light. For him, the neck of the funnel represents a golden opportunity to set things right for the Chesapeake. This veteran ecologist from the Smithsonian Institution has a bold idea, one more than 30 years in the making. His concept could rid Susquehanna River water of excess phosphorus and nitrogen before it enters the Bay and inject oxygen into bottom waters at the same time. He’s calculated that his approach would cost a lot less than current estimates for cleaning up nutrients in the watershed”

“the goal of their project is ambitious: Harness the power of fast-growing, photosynthesizing algae to take up nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from polluted water. In turn, let the algae pump the water full of oxygen. Then vacuum up the algae and feed it to a reactor for making a biofuel — in this case, butanol. Clean the Bay, tap into an emerging market for alternative energy, and create a revenue stream to drive the clean-up effort — all in one fell swoop.”

“They also remove or sequester carbon from the atmosphere and release oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. Algae grow fast and are 5 to 10 times more efficient at photosynthesis than their more complex plant cousins. To keep photosynthetic rates high, the algae must be harvested every 6 to 12 days, which maintains their peak growth rate. These frequent harvests also mean that plenty of algae become available as raw material for producing a biofuel.”

“A Maryland-based company, Living Ecosystems, founded by Adey’s former graduate student Tim Goertemiller, has built its business constructing and selling Algal Turf Scrubber systems. Now they’re expanding the enterprise to become a “lawn service” for algae harvesting, beginning with the project on the Susquehanna River and another pilot project on the Eastern Shore. They don’t have many algae customers yet, but they’re hoping for business to grow.

“The notion of job creation is real. We’re trying to build an economy, not just an academic experiment,” says Kangas. Adey and Kangas hope that producing a biofuel will be the key driver that sets this new economy into motion.”

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