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…)

March 30, 2010


Filed under: environment,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:22 pm
Tags: , ,

This is a cross-post from the Anacostia Watershed Society’s website about the stormwater showdown happening right now in Annapolis.  I blogged about the lousy compromise the Maryland House passed.  It’s up to the Senate to say no and ensure Maryland Dept of Environment enforces the existing law.

This past Friday, March 26, 127 Maryland state delegates took a vote that is bad for the Anacostia and bad for the Bay when they passed the Holmes bill, HB1125. In the rush to get the bill to pass the House of Delegates, the potential impact on clean water was greatly understated. AWS is working with a number of partners to counter the misinformation so that the Senate does not make the same mistake as the House. The bottom line is that the bill undermines key protections for our waterways and therefore should not be passed.

Please, if you live in Maryland the time to speak out for the Anacostia is now. Please take a moment to send an email to your Senator, and copy the chair of the Senate environment committee, Joan Carter Conway, and the Senate President Mike Miller.

There are four Senators on the Senate environment committee that represent Anacostia districts. Each of them have been strong advocates for clean water, but the pressure to let the bill will be intense. If someone else is your Senator, write these four and tell them that you stand with them as a citizen of the Anacostia and an advocate for clean water. We need to make it clear that there is a large constituency for clean water in Maryland! If someone else is your Senator, write these four as a citizen of the Anacostia and ask them to stand up for our river.

Senator Mike Lenett, District 19 (
Senator James Rosapepe, District 21 (
Senator Paul Pinsky, District 22 (
Senator David Harrington, District 47 (

Also CC: these Senate leaders to make clear to them that there is widespread opposition to HB1125.
Senator Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore city, Senate Environment chair (
Senate President Mike Miller (

Key points to make in your letter:
The standards proposed under the 2007 Act are fair and the existing regulations provide developers with adequate guidance. There is no need to make concessions.

We have asked many sectors of the economy to pitch in for clean water – industry, agriculture, and wastewater treatment. It is the developers’ turn to do their part. If they continue building without adequate controls taxpayers will continue to bear the burden of damaged infrastructure, polluted waterways, and reduced fishing and tourism.

The 2007 Stormwater Management Act was passed with broad support in the General Assembly and among the development community. For three years the developers have known what is coming, so crying that the sky is falling at the eleventh hour is disingenuous at best. What has changed in the past three years that the House of Delegates would reverse itself so completely? The development community is facing hard times because of the larger economic conditions, not because of stormwater standards.

The best time to get a handle on polluted runoff was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. If not now, when?

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.

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)

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