Thursday, October 12, 2017

Maryland Rolls Out New Nutrient Trading Regs

 The Maryland Department of the Environment has proposed regulations to establish the Maryland Water Quality Trading Program and accelerate the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay while bringing economic benefits to Maryland. The regulations are proposed under Maryland environmental law to ensure enforcement and accountability under the federal Clean Water Act.

The proposed regulations are designed to provide greater flexibility and reduce costs in achieving Maryland’s goals under its blueprint to meet federal pollution limits for the Bay. The voluntary program would establish a marketplace for private sector participation in meeting Bay cleanup goals.

Nutrient and sediment credit trading offer attractive alternatives to more costly traditional approaches for improving water quality and have the potential to achieve results more quickly and at a lower cost, accelerating efforts to restore and improve water quality. The trading program that would be established by the proposed regulations expands opportunities for all sources by giving them access to a water quality marketplace and flexibility in meeting and maintaining their pollution limits by acquiring credits generated from load reductions in local watersheds in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
. . .
The Maryland Water Quality Trading Program will allow agricultural sources that have reduced their pollution beyond the required “baseline” to produce credits that can be purchased by counties or municipalities to meet Bay cleanup requirements to reduce polluted stormwater runoff. The cost of reducing nitrogen could be as low as $200 per pound in the agriculture sector, compared to an estimated $3,800 per pound for urban retrofits to reduce stormwater runoff.
So really, this allows the relatively clean agriculture industry to sell their cleanliness to the dirty cities like Baltimore instead of cleaning up their own shit. I approve of the idea in principle, but we are constantly being bombarded with "news" about how dirty agriculture is, and how hard the cities are trying to get their shit together, when the truth is approximately the direct opposite.

Praise was not exactly universal:
 Officials with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for bay restoration, said the regulations are an important step but have some flaws they believe should be fixed.

For example, credits can be traded within three regions: the Potomac River watershed, the Patuxent River watershed and a third area that includes the rest of the Western Shore, Eastern Shore and the Susquehanna River.

Doug Myers, a senior scientist at the bay foundation, said that third region is just too big, creating the possibility that polluters in one area could buy a lot of credits from areas across the bay — and still allowing localized pollution.
An excellent point. The urban pollution is concentrated in three areas, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area. The agriculture is located a fair way outside these areas. If trading allows continued nutrient input in the urban centers, the waterways nearby will continue to be sewers.

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