When Larry Hogan bested Anthony Brown to become the third Republican governor of Maryland in half a century, environmentalists were concerned about who he might choose to lead the Maryland Department of the Environment. Many breathed a sigh of relief when Hogan appointed Ben Grumbles to the top job at MDE.And why does the environmental community oppose it?
Grumbles, a career environmental regulator, had spent five years as assistant administrator for water at the EPA. Prior to that, Grumbles, an attorney, had a nearly two-decade career on Capitol Hill and had also served as Arizona’s top environmental official.
In Grumbles, the environmental community was getting a secretary who understood the complexity of regulation, knew the law, and could work with a Republican Administration to get the money and support needed to enforce the law.
But one issue troubled some in the environmental community. They suspected Grumbles was in favor of nutrient trading and would soon push a policy that outlined how Maryland would enter into such a market.
At its core, trading means that polluters can “pay” to pollute by offsetting their pollution with credits they buy from others who are polluting less than they are allowed to under requirements. So, for example, a Baltimore power plant that cannot meet its emissions permits without a significant investment can instead invest a sum in, say, buffer strips on an Eastern Shore farm. It may also be that the buffer strip, or the bioreactor, or whatever the practice is, actually can reduce more pollution more cheaply than the power plant can following its permit to the letter.The problem is freedom. Having polluter choose who has to make the most reductions using market forces just bugs the EJWs (Environmental Justice Warriors). They much prefer the top down approach where they get to tell someone to stop producing. Never mind that you get the same amount of pollution reduction over all.
Critics say that’s the problem. Such a trade is excellent news for the Eastern Shore residents who get to look at a new stand of trees and cleaner water. It’s not quite as rosy for the Baltimore children who have to breathe more dirty air.
*Publication is made possible through grants from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office, the Campbell Foundation for the Environment, the Town Creek Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chesapeake Bay Office, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and by donations from individuals. Views expressed in the Bay Journal do not necessarily reflect those of any governmental or grant-making organization.And if you believe that final sentence, I'd be happy to sell you a carbon credit.