The Dernogalizer

November 17, 2009

ICC Debt Burdens Maryland Transit Authority

Filed under: MD Politics,transportation — Matt Dernoga @ 2:07 am

Well, I guess now we don’t need any projections about how building the Intercounty Connector was going to screw the Maryland state budget, never mind the environment .  This article in the Baltimore Sun is probably one of the most damaging stories I’ve ever seen.

“As the Maryland Transportation Authority’s revenues have declined this year, its costs for construction of the Intercounty Connector have risen to the point where the project now accounts for 53 percent of the agency’s budget – forcing delays in other road maintenance projects and making a substantial increase in tolls at some facilities a near certainty after the 2010 gubernatorial election.

According to the state Department of Legislative Services, the independent toll authority is facing the same type of recession-related squeeze that has forced the Maryland Department of Transportation to defer about $2.2 billion in projects.”

“Some increase in tolls is likely because the authority’s heavy borrowing to finance the ICC and a widening of Interstate 95 might put it close to its statutory debt limit in about five years.

“State projections show the authority’s outstanding debt – under $500 million as recently as the 2007 budget year – stands at $1.1 billion now and will approach its legal limit of $3 billion by the middle of the next decade. The authority would need authorization from the General Assembly to exceed that amount”

Much of the agency’s debt has been piled up to pay for the ICC, a $2.6 billion project that will cost $736.8 million in authority funds in the current budget year alone. That is more than all other capital, operating and debt service spending in the agency’s budget.

Freeland said the authority long anticipated that the ICC would take up a large percentage of its budget this year and the next two, tailing off after 2012.

According to legislative analysts, the authority will have to impose “substantial” toll increases in the 2012 and 2014 budget years to maintain its minimum ratios of revenue to debt. The formula is important in keeping the authority’s AA bond rating that guarantees it can borrow at favorable rates.

The authority is forecasting a 2012 toll increase that would bring in $161.4 million. According to analysts, that would amount to an increase of $1.35 in the average toll of about $3.”

“Asked to sum up the condition of his agency, Freeland chose his words carefully.

“The financial future of the transportation authority will be constrained but manageable,” he said.”

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 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?

April 12, 2009

Meeting With State Senator Jim Rosapepe

Filed under: environment,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

This photo and lobby meeting with my State Senator Jim Rosapepe took place in the middle of February, but I didn’t have access to the picture until very recent. I never talked about what happened at the meeting. I made a post back in January about how Rosapepe was finally questioning the Intercounty Connecter. Students had a meeting with Rosapepe last November about the ICC which was fairly contentious because we couldn’t get Rosapepe to take a stance on the InterCounty Connector. I wanted to make this new meeting about more than just the ICC since we already exhausted ourselves with that discussion in November. Therefore, we decided to talk with State Senator Rosapepe about smart growth bills, the bill to defund the ICC, and green jobs bills.

The bills were as follows(this was written on 2/21/09):

Smart Growth:

Performance Standards and Accountability- SB 878. This bill is first going to the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee Rosapepe is on. This is the highest priority bill of these growth bills since it’s not part of the Governor’s “Smart Growth Package”(which the next 5 bills are). This bill would set five numeric standards that local governments(excluding small towns) would have to achieve through their comprehensive plans. These standards include housing, economic development, transportation, water quality, and preservation. Local jurisdictions that are certified to meet these standards would be in the front of the line for state funds. By 2018, local jurisdictions that do not meet those standards would no longer receive state permits for growth outside of designated growth areas.

Translated Bottom line: When local county and city governments are developing, they have to meet a set of smart growth standards. When it comes to transportation, this could be developing within a half-mile of mass transit. For preservation, sensitive habitats and ecosystems are restricted, such as wetlands or forest lands. If local governments play ball, they stand a better chance of getting state funds. If they aren’t playing ball by 2018, they’re more restricted in development options.

We also talked about: Terrapin Run Fix- SB 280, 12 Visions- SB 273, Indicators and Reporting- SB 276. However, these bills basically make it easy for the state to measure growth indicators in the local governments, they don’t have any teeth and aren’t too relevant. Overall, Rosapepe supported all the smart growth bills, but thought they didn’t go far enough ot address the problems of sprawl. He thought we needed a stronger growth bill, but it was difficult because of the influence the developers have on politicians.

The InterCounty Connector: This bill would have stripped the ICC of funding killing the project. There are a lot of problems with the ICC which I’ve talked about in past posts. A good resource to go to on the ICC is here. The discussion on this was fairly short since we’d argued so much last time. Rosapepe said he wasn’t a cosponsor of the current bill to defund the ICC because it wasn’t too well written and didn’t understand how it would work, but he would be willing to sit down with the bill’s writers to understand it. Unfortunately, the bill’s writers didn’t have much patience for Rosapepe since they felt he was stonewalling them more and more on the ICC rather than taking a definitive position, so this meeting never ended up taking place. In case you don’t know, the defund the ICC bill died in the General Assembly at the end of March. Here is what the bill looked like though.

Green Jobs Bills: Welfare-to-Work Green Jobs- HB 268: Right now this bill is only in the House of Delegates, and has not been introduced in the State Senate. It is expected to though. This bill requires the Secretary of Budget and Management to develop and implement a plan for a job skills enhancement program that includes job trainings for employment in energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. The bill also requires the Secretary of Human Resources to access specified federal stimulus dollars for job training.

In plain language, Maryland has a welfare-to-work program to develop the skills of people on welfare so they can find employment. Right now this program doesn’t include developing skills for jobs that are in emerging green industries. By passing this, we can get a program and pathway in place for people on welfare to find work in the emerging clean energy economy. It also makes sure that some of the money from the Economic Stimulus that goes to Maryland goes to this program.

Overall, Rosapepe wasn’t aware of this bill, but he was very supportive of making sure that these kinds of programs were taking place.

This was in general a very good meeting without the same tension as last time. Rosapepe even wanted to get all of our contact info so that he could us know about environmental bills he was working on that he would use our support on. Although Rosapepe gets good marks, I am disappointed that he wasn’t able to sit down with the ICC bill writers and work out an understanding.

Once the General Assembly session ends, I’ll review how these bills amongst other environmental bills fared.

March 19, 2009

MD Inter County Connector Action Alert!

Breathe the Air!

Breathe the Air!

So if you live in Maryland(or if you know someone in Maryland who would be interested) this post is for you!

The bill being considered in the State Senate and House of Delegates right now would strip the Inter County Connector, a monstrous 18 mile highway being built in Maryland, of its 4 billion dollars worth of funding.  The environmental implications of this road are far-reaching, and killing it would be a huge victory.  Just related to global warming, the ICC is going to increase driving by 750 million miles a year by 2030, making it very difficult to reduce transportation emissions.  At the same time it will deplete state funds that could go to mass transit.

Here are a couple of columns myself and a friend wrote on the ICC in case you want more info:  column 1column 2

I’m pleading with you to take 5-10 minutes of your time and e-mail or call all 3 of your delegates, and your state senator asking them to support to bill to defund the ICC.  These are 4 calls/e-mails anyone who wants to stop global warming and protect the environment should be making.  The action alert is below.  Thanks so much.

ACT: Please call 1-800-492-7122 Ask your Senator and Delegates to vote FOR
House Bill 27 / Senate Bill 753 to defund the Inter County Connector highway.

FIND: your Representatives at or
or call the General Assembly switchboard at 1-800-492-7122
State Senator’s emails are

STATUS:  Soon, the bill to defund the $4 billion dollar 20 mile long toll ICC highway will be heard in the House Appropriations & the Senate Budget & Taxation committees.

Opponents will try to kill the bill in committee, because if the bill gets to the floor of the full House or Senate, it becomes very difficult for legislators to oppose such a common-sense measure in such difficult economic times.  We need your support to get this bill out of committee with a favorable committee report.

This is a good time to contact your representatives in Annapolis to let them know you want them to reduce wasteful spending and take a stand against this environmentally destructive project.

DESCRIPTION: There is debate on the amount of money that would be saved overall by not building the ICC since money has been spent already, however, let’s not throw good money after bad. The negative effects of building it (increased traffic congestion, global warming gas emissions) are too great.
Text of the bill
More information:

Please join us AND write your legislators to ask them to vote FOR HB27/SB753 to come out of committee and onto the floor.  Thank you!

January 8, 2009

Rosapepe Questioning ICC

Filed under: Climate Change,Dernoga,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 6:13 pm
Tags: ,

My local State Senator Jim Rosapepe was in this gazette article here questioning building the ICC.  This is very interesting considering the fact that he sounded completely different in this meeting I organized back in November with him on this very issue: see here

Clearly political pressure is getting to Rosapepe, or he’s starting to see the light

In case anyone wants some information on why the ICC is a bad idea, check out these two opinion columns written by myself and a friend

December 16, 2008

Column by Me

So I had a column that came out yesterday.  I usually prefer to write about specific issues and arguments pertaining to legislation etc.  However, I wanted to try something different and talk about the issue of compromise when it comes to the environmental movement.  Now although most of my column was left intact, there were a couple of edits which I think broke up the flow of my column, so I’m going to link the column to the paper’s website, and then post what I originally wrote down below:
my column

I’ll walk into a politician’s office ready to ask tough questions, make bold demands, and pile on pressure.  Then it hits me.  Doubt creeps in about whether “all or nothing” is the best way.  Sometimes it feels uneasy.  Sometimes you want to let up and appreciate what people are doing, even if it isn’t enough.
There was an article a few weeks ago about environmental activists protesting outside the Bank of America on Route One about them funding coal and mountaintop removal.  Bank of America made a reasonable concession in light of many similar protests all over the country on the same day.  They’ve decided to phase out and eventually cease funding for mountaintop removal projects, which make up a sizable portion of all coal mining.
But the bank is still funding coal companies in the rest of their activities.  What should the reaction be from environmentalists?  Should we thank the bank and back off?  Give them some breathing room?  Reward a good policy with good will?  Or dismiss the bone that’s been thrown, and go after the entire carcass?  This kind of dilemna with politicians can be even tougher.  Their postions vary across the board.  What do you say to someone who is on the right side of every environmental issue, except one big one where they’re wrong?  How hard should you push when you don’t want to alienate them?
Being uncompromising is difficult at times for me.  I recognize and appreciate when someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with me on everything is trying to accomodate.  As someone who is progressive, my four best friends I grew up hanging out with are all conservatives.  We haven’t killed each other yet.
But when it comes to environmental activism, compromising to find common ground causes the carpet to get pulled out from under your feet.  Deals constantly result in two steps back for every one step forward.  Settling for less usually gets you nothing in the end.  Our timeline for saving the planet before it descends into a fiery pit of hell probably doesn’t match yours.  It’s more of a deadline actually.  There isn’t much of a difference between failing miserably and failing gracefully.       Failing gracefully is how you end up with Barack Obama talking about clean coal when it doesn’t exist.  It’s how after decades of inaction, Congress gets credit for raising fuel economy standards to a pathetic 35 mpg by 2020.  It’s why too many politicians in Maryland think you can cut carbon emissions while building giant roads like the ICC.  It’s why the Purple Line has stayed a good idea for decades.  It’s why everyone is pro Chesapeake Bay, but the bay is in shambles.  It’s how Bank of America can claim to be environmentally concious, yet still fund coal.  None of that is leadership.
I’m still in the office.  My moment of doubt passes.  The good will turns to iron will.  The regret melts in the fire.  I straighten my shirt, check the agenda, and grip the folder.  The choice of “all or nothing” isn’t a choice.  I stand up, walk to their door, and turn the knob.  Deep breath.  No letting up.  No slowing down.  Full speed ahead.

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!

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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