Stakeholders Continue Work on “Accounting for Growth”

A wide group of stakeholders, organized by the Maryland Department of the Environment and including counties, continues to meet to work out mechanics of a forthcoming policy to create offsets for nutrient loads arising from continued development in the state.  The overall effort, labeled “Accounting for Growth,” (or AFG) is likely to yield regulations by the end of the year.

MDE’s webpage on “Accounting for Growth” includes this summary:

Maryland’s plan for addressing pollution load from new development centers on: 1) the strategic allotment of nutrient loads to large wastewater treatment plants to accommodate growth; and 2) the requirement that all other new loads must be offset by securing pollution credits. To ensure that there are sufficient credits available, the State is designing its AFG policy to induce a robust nutrient trading market in Maryland, which would, in turn, lower pollution reduction costs, especially for local government, developers, tax and rate payers, and accelerate the Bay’s restoration.

The workgroup met on Friday, May 10, to review progress made by several sub-groups in recent weeks, and to further refine its attentions across a wide range of outstanding issues. The workgroup has stated a goal to complete its own work by the end of June, and expects to hold three further meetings in the coming weeks to do so.

Among the major issues remaining are:

-how to calculate the amount of nutrients required to be offset under the AFG policy — which involves defining both the “before development” and “after development” nutrient loads, and the special cases raised by agricultural land being converted to other more intensive uses that may not generate as much nutrient runoff

-the creation and fostering of a robust trading program, where an actor proposing a new development may seek credits to offset its added nutrient load, by purchasing them from other sources — this debate involves both the calculation and geography of such a trading program, and a a desire to “retire” credits as part of these exchanges

-the responsibility for verifying and observing load-reducing efforts — including a debate over the timing of such offsets (permanent of fixed in time) and the oversight duty (state, county, or third party)

MACo and county governments have been formally represented on the workgroup by Harford County Council Member Mary Ann Lisanti, Talbot County Planner Sandy Coyman, and Shannon Moore from Frederick County’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources.  Steve Stewart from the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management has also been an active participant and Les Knapp from the MACo staff has been closely involved in both a policy and technical capacity.

For more information about the AfG workgroup and MACo’s involvement, contact MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties