Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Riverkeepers Sue to Kill Nutrient Trading

Fresh off their Chickenshit losses, the Riverkeepers are now going after the energy companies for using legally permissible tactics for meeting their pollution goals:

NRG Chalk Point Power Plant on Patuxent River
Groups File Notice Letter to Sue NRG Energy for Massive Pollution
Today Food & Water Watch, Patuxent Riverkeeper and Potomac Riverkeeper – represented by Public Justice and Columbia University School of Law Environmental Law Clinic – announced the filing of a Clean Water Act notice of intent to sue the energy company NRG Energy, Inc. for water pollution violations at three of its coal-fired power plants—violations revealed in documents obtained by Food & Water Watch. ...“It’s critical to enforce the Clean Water Act to the letter if we want a clean Bay,” said Michele Merkel at Food & Water Watch. “Here we have three sources of pollution who are unable to meet their discharge limits, so instead of upgrading their technology, they’re attempting to mask their violations by entering into a convoluted scheme of credit transfers and offsets. None of those maneuvers, however, changes the fact that these facilities are exceeding their permit limits.”
This is easily the most refreshingly biased article on environmental issue I've found on the Chesapeake Bay in some time.  I say refreshingly because I've become bored with articles that try to disguise their essential bias against industry, energy production and agriculture.  This one makes no bones about their opposition.

What concerns them is the use of nutrient trading (also called cap and trade) to satisfy the requirements of the 'Chesapeake Bay Diet.'  In nutrient trading, the amount of a nutrient (let's say nitrogen) allowed to be released into the Bay is capped at the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) divided up among the polluters in proportion to their output, and then the polluters are allowed to buy and sell nutrient credits.  In this case agriculture, who can make reductions relatively cheaply, chooses to sell it's rights to power producers, which face a much more expensive process for remove nitrogen from their waste stream.  Then the power companies continue to pollute, and pay agriculture for the privilege, while agriculture reduces their nitrogen use, and offsets their loss in production with money from the power company.

If the TMDL is not being met, we need to find out why, but the nutrient trading scheme is currently past of the system being used to meet the TMDL.  The Riverkeepers never wanted the "cap and trade" system; they wanted each polluter to suffer for their own sins.
“NRG, one of the worst polluters in the Bay area, should never be allowed to cover up its illegal discharges by obtaining credits from agricultural operations, the other biggest offenders in terms of nutrient pollution,” said Jessica Culpepper, the Public Justice attorney representing the plaintiffs on the Notice Letter. “What’s happening at NRG with these three power plants underscores everything wrong with the Bay TMDL plan and makes a mockery of the Clean Water Act.”
Will they get slapped around again for overreach, or will this suit succeed?  Stay tuned.

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