Monday, March 21, 2016

Maryland Prepare for Pollution Trading

MDE, MDA join forces to establish nutrient trading - Environmentalists not thrilled.
Maryland is moving ahead with plans to launch a nutrient trading program that it hopes will set the standard for a market-based and cost-effective way to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

The state’s Environment and Agriculture departments are working together to establish a system for buying and selling nutrient pollution credits. Likely buyers include cities trying to meet state requirements that they reduce stormwater pollution running off streets and parking lots. The likely sellers would be farms willing to go beyond what’s legally required to curb runoff from their fields, feedlots and pastures.

MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles has repeatedly extolled trading’s virtues at several public forums over the last six months, including a University of Maryland agriculture law conference and a symposium at Chesapeake College on the Eastern Shore.

Grumbles announced a 32-member advisory committee that would meet monthly to give state officials feedback on how to proceed with trading. The department also introduced a bill in the General Assembly — at the request of Gov. Larry Hogan — that would let the state tap its Bay Restoration Fund to buy nutrient credits. That fund, which was created to upgrade sewage treatment plants, is financed by so-called “flush fees” paid by all utility customers and septic systems owners.
Pollution credit trading is a preferred tactic for pollution control by conservatives, because it allows the market to decide where to most efficiently control pollution, by having those with big pockets, but serious pollution issues to buy credits off polluters with smaller pockets and more cheaper means to control the pollution. Liberals generally disfavor trading because they would rather control pollution by direct mandate, especially to those out of favor with the liberal establishment. Case in point
 Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman said the panel appears to be geared toward making trading happen rather than wrestling with questions of environmental justice and equity about trades. Among the concerns Tutman has discussed over the last five years: Whether certain communities, like Baltimore City and lower-income areas along the Patuxent, will bear the brunt of increased pollution under trading while wealthy communities reap the benefits.
 When I hear or see the term "environmental justice" I check my wallet, to see if it's still there.
“Looks like a setup to me,” Tutman said of the panel. “My assumption is that trading will always be economically more advantageous than upgrading technology or compliance with a permit that has a specific limit attached to it. Literally paying to pollute is an attractive option for them.”
Damn those poor Baltimorons who might prefer to sell pollution tax credits and keep the cash, and the pollution, instead of paying out of pocket for unwanted pollution controls. 

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