The Dernogalizer

November 3, 2010

One Big Win Last Night

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 11:29 am
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It’s no secret that the results last night were pretty disastrous for Democrats, particularly in the House.  However, of the bright spots, the best in my opinion is the resounding defeat of Prop 23 in California.  California is one of the 10 largest economies in the world, and its climate law will be carried out thanks to the defeat of Prop 23.  With 93% of precincts reporting in California, Prop 23 has gone down with 61.4% of voters rejecting it, and 38.6% supporting, an impressive margin of victory for environmentalists and clean tech companies in California which opposed it.




November 2, 2010

Vote Today

Filed under: National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 8:55 am

Today is election day, please vote!  Consider the environment positions of your candidates before you pull the lever.  If you’re unsure, check to see if they have an endorsement from the Sierra Club and/or League of Conservation Voters.  This is a good indication they are a green candidate.

October 27, 2010

My Offshore Wind Question for Governor O’Malley, and Candidate Ehrlich

Filed under: Energy/Climate,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 8:28 pm
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I’m very pleased that the College Park Patch’s interview with Governor O’Malley started off by asking my question “Do you support offshore wind, and if so what will you do to make it a reality over these next four years”. Not only did Governor O’Malley answer the question in support of offshore wind and list steps he has taken, but he proceeded to discuss clean energy and energy efficiency policy for a full six minutes!  This is pretty good for an election where the the environment and clean energy policy has scarcely come up in debates or the media.  For more background on why O’Malley should be re-elected Governor, see my op-ed in the Diamondback from a few weeks ago.  On an even more positive note, the question after mine was about the Purple Line Light Rail.

Interestingly, my offshore wind question also was asked by the Patch to Ehrlich, although in a slightly different format.  He somehow starts at offshore wind and ends at drilling for oil in ANWAR.  See the video at the 2:25 mark…


October 20, 2010

Vice President Gore Urges “No” Vote on Proposition 23

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:18 pm
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From the Repower America website

WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Today, Former Vice President Al Gore and the Climate Protection Action Fund have released a new video statement urging opposition to a harmful California ballot initiative, Proposition 23. In the statement, Vice President Gore asked Californians to vote against the ballot proposal that would effectively overturn the state’s pioneering energy and climate law.

“The fight for America’s clean energy future is taking place right now, and it’s come to California,” Vice President Gore said. “This is a fight we simply cannot afford to lose.”

Proposition 23 would suspend the state law known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, or AB 32. This law sets limits on the greenhouse gas pollution that is changing our climate, while creating incentives for the production of clean, renewable energy. The funding in support of Proposition 23 has come overwhelmingly from out-of-state oil companies.

The Climate Protection Action Fund is working to defeat Proposition 23 by sending staff members to California for voter outreach and education.

“This is a pivotal moment, and all of us need to be involved,” Vice President Gore said. “The polls show that Proposition 23 is a close vote. We need everyone in California to get out and vote ‘no’ on Proposition 23.”

Environment Maryland endorses Gov. O’Malley

Filed under: environment,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:20 am
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An excellent articulation by Brad Heavner of Environment Maryland on why it’s important that voters choose Martin O’Malley over Bob Ehrlich if they want to see progress on environmental issues such as the Chesapeake Bay.

October 4, 2010

MD Governor’s Race Op-Ed

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:56 am
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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

Matt Dernoga is a graduate student in public policy. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com

September 15, 2010

End of Maryland Primary Day, More Blogging!

Filed under: MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:00 pm
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Well, primary day ended yesterday in Maryland, and a lot of exciting and interesting races came to a finish.  I myself was managing the Prince Georges County Council District 1 campaign of Mary Lehman, and she was victorious yesterday night, taking 41% of the vote in a 5-way race.  All around there were some races that ended the way I wanted them to and others that disappointed.  I was surprised to see very low turnout by the Democrats, poll workers at most locations in District 1 told me that things were very slow for most of the day.  A couple seasoned  politicians I talked to at polling locations exclaimed they hadn’t seen such low turnout at polls in quite awhile.  This concerns me as it doesn’t bode well for the Democrats in November for the Governor’s race in Maryland.  I hope turnout has been better in other areas of the country, but based off what I’ve read it has not.

The other thing I’ll address is that since I’ve been so consumed by the elections, I have blogged less consistently and done more re-posts than usual as opposed to original posts.  Although I’ll be catching my breath this week from the campaigning, I expect to pick up the pace of my writing next week and write about some important environmental issues facing us in the elections nationwide as well as Maryland with the November elections right around the corner.

Stay tuned

August 31, 2010

Slinging it: A political necessity

Filed under: Dernoga — Matt Dernoga @ 7:57 pm
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My first column for this semester is out in the Diamondback, and it’s less environmental and more about the need for elected officials to take greater risks to solve problems, and the need for voters to tolerate those risks.  Enjoy!

Slinging it: A political necessity

By Matt Dernoga

I wrote a farewell column in May to my readers (mom, girlfriend, livid tea partiers). But now I’m enrolled in graduate school and writing for another semester. A friend told me that by writing a farewell column and then un-retiring, I was following in the footsteps of NFL quarterback Brett Favre, who has made an annoying ritual out of this. I actually admire Favre for his approach to football. He goes out there and slings it around like it’s his last game. He wins big by taking risks and, consequentially, loses big by the same measure.

I contrast that from what I see too often from decision-makers in politics, who toe the line between constituencies on two sides of an issue. Most legislation nowadays is inconsequential and more effective in scoring political points than in tackling big-picture problems. Instead, major issues such as a multibillion-dollar structural budget deficit in this state, a Chesapeake Bay on the ropes and the Purple Line are tackled in broad rhetoric. This is especially striking in this year’s election season, with primary day on Sept. 14. The fear of backlash prevents serious proposals from being put on the table so voters are more informed.

You see economic plans that talk about increasing efficiencies in government — a worthy goal that, after major cuts to local and state budgets, is like reaching around in a piggy bank for that solitary penny. Tax credits are a favorite. Credits for small businesses that stand on water. Credits for mini-wind turbines on your baby’s stroller. Credits for people who apply for tax credits. Tax credits of all forms abound. In all seriousness, I like a lot of the tax credits we have, but there comes a point where you need to stop nibbling at the edges and take a bite.

Another example is the Purple Line — a proposed light-rail line that would connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and run through this campus — which practically everyone supports. But try asking a politician how they’re going to help us pay for it. In every scenario, the state will have to pony up some matching funds for any federal grant money we get. Are politicians going to cut tens of millions of dollars each year in transportation funding for other projects? Are politicians going to increase the gas tax to raise several hundred million dollars?

What’s unfortunate about this apprehension over solving problems is that we share the blame. Too many victory-starved political pundits, activists and insiders play along with bland candidate platforms they know won’t address the issues. Voters get cynical and detach from the political process or, even worse, play along with the game, hoping this time will be different.

In a competitive world where we’re just trying not to lose, we plod along, asphyxiated by the mediocrity of our politicians. But this is a democracy, and our elected officials are a reflection of the best and the worst of you and me. As individuals, we’re put into a comfort zone by our peers and society. We’re told how we’re supposed to act and think so we’ll be accepted. We drift toward voting for those who reflect that comfort zone.

If we want to break the walls down and find hard-fought-over successes in our lives and our society, we need to take more chances and have greater tolerance for leaders who ask us to trust them as they take their own chances. You could call it change. I call it going out there and slinging it.

Matt Dernoga is a graduate student in public policy. He can be reached at

August 17, 2010

Obama and the Left: A fighting chance

Filed under: National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:59 am
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I had an op-ed in the Diamondback last Thursday that addressed the recent feud between liberal activists and the White House over Robert Gibb’s comments.  Enjoy!

Obama and the Left: A fighting chance

By Matt Dernoga

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A lot of the chatter in the news cycle over the past couple days has been about White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’ outburst concerning the “professional left.” Gibbs ranted about how liberals need to quit whining about bad compromises on health care and financial reform, along with a lack of progress on progressive issues such as ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” and passing clean energy legislation. There’s also doubling down on the war in Afghanistan and moving to expand offshore drilling.

Activists on the left are said to be furious, and the media have a great story to run with this week. As someone who considers himself a progressive on most issues and is an ardent environmentalist, I find this recurring sniping between the left and the Obama administration to be overhyped to no one’s benefit.

Take it from this activist, there aren’t just debates between the left and the Obama administration about compromise, there are debates within the left all the time. Heck, when I was an undergraduate, the leaders in the environmental group I was in regularly had notable disagreements about everything from tactics to events to nuclear power. At the end of the day, we had success when we reached a decision, swept any and all drama under the rug and worked in unison to achieve our common goal.

Having seen the sheer ridiculousness of many politicians in the Republican Party, it should be pretty easy for the left to realize its goal for the next two-and-a-half months: maintaining control of Congress! It’s halftime for Obama’s first term. Activists, Congress and the White House can take credit for reforming health care, passing major financial regulatory reform and investing large amounts of money into infrastructure, state aid and clean energy through the 2009 stimulus package. Obama has successfully nominated two judges to the Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Agency is moving to regulate many pollutants the previous administration ignored, and the Justice Department recently sued Arizona over its immigration law.

The administration has also done a lot of stupid stuff that makes me upset. Not pushing hard enough on climate legislation rises to the top of my list. I have no reservations about letting the Democrats know when they’re screwing up — I’ve devoted plenty of columns to that for local and federal Democrats. I can give just as nice a rant as anyone about how if everyone did things my way over the last 18 months, we’d be living in a utopia. I’m glad to see conservative state and federal Democrats beaten by progressives in their primaries.

But at the end of the (election) day, I support Obama and the way he and the Democratic leadership go about trying to actually solve the problems in the country. I’d be relieved if Democrats remained in control of Congress, and I still want Obama to have a second term equally as badly as I wanted him to have his first. That’s enough to energize me. If others sit in a corner because they were under the illusion that politics is easy and the Senate is the devil’s hell, be prepared to fall off the table and land back on the menu.

What’s at stake is a fighting chance at progress. That’s how the White House and the left should come together and frame this one.

Matt Dernoga graduated in May with a degree in government and politics. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.

August 3, 2010

Maryland Sierra Club Endorses Mary Lehman for County Council

Filed under: environment,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:47 am
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Given the fact that I’m managing Mary Lehman’s campaign for Prince George’s County Council, District 1, it was great to see the Maryland Sierra Club endorse Mary for the seat.  Although I’m on the Prince George’s Sierra Club’s political committee, I abstained from all of the club’s conversations and interviews regarding this race.  Our campaign is putting out a press release to local reporters about the good news.  I’ve posted it below, and it will be up on her website shortly.

Maryland Sierra Club Endorses Mary Lehman for County Council

Lehman “honored” to be endorsed by one of the state’s leading environmental organizations

August 3, 2010

Contact:  Matt Dernoga, Campaign Manager: 240-593-1268

College Park, Md- One of the state’s most influential and effective environmental organizations, the Maryland Sierra Club, has endorsed Mary Lehman for Prince George’s County Council in District 1.

Lehman is one of five candidates running for the seat being vacated by Councilman Tom Dernoga due to term limits.

“In Mary, we will have a friend on the council willing to listen, understand and act” said Suchitra Balachandran, a member of the Sierra Club’s Prince George’s County Political Committee that interviewed Mary. “I have seen her efficiency and approachability on environmental issues as Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk’s (D-21) aide in Annapolis” she added.  Balachandran also cited Mary’s 20 years in civic activism, including the consistent and principled stand of the civic organization she presided over against the $4 billion ICC highway, as justification for the endorsement.

Fred Tutman, a local watershed activist, said “Mary has been proactive in her support for watershed, environmental and quality of life issues.  I think highly of Mary’s honesty, command of the issues, and her good faith toward civic and environmental causes.  I think she would be terrific on the County Council”

“I am honored to receive this endorsement,” said Lehman, “If elected, I will work hard to focus development around Metro stations, pass green building standards into law, protect our waterways, and green our existing school buildings through renovation.  By working with environmentalists around Prince George’s County, we can accomplish great things.”

Mary has already been endorsed by the outgoing Dernoga, who championed environmental issues during his nine years on the council. She worked for Dernoga for four years.

There are over 1,000 Sierra Club members in Prince George’s County, and 15,000 in Maryland.


For more about Mary Lehman see

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