The Dernogalizer

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)

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.

January 27, 2009

Column on Stimulus Bill

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

Environmental stimulus: Thinking like it’s 1999

Matt Dernoga

Issue date: 1/27/09 Section: Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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