Third Time’s a Charm? Workgroup Tackles Nutrient Credit Trading

A newly formed Maryland Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee held its first meeting on January 21 in a third attempt to create a nutrient credit trading policy among different water pollution sectors (agriculture, nonpoint sources like stormwater, and point sources like wastewater treatment plants.) The a successful trading policy can help county governments achieve their water quality goals under both the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits.

The previous two attempts were combined with the State’s efforts to create a required water pollution offset policy for new growth, dubbed “Accounting for Growth.” Currently, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), in concert with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), is tackling the trading policy first and will work on the offset policy (now called “Aligning for Growth”) separately.

From a MDE press release (2016-01-20):

“Nutrient trading means upgrading and accelerating the Bay cleanup through teamwork and innovation,” Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles said. “The committee members’ knowledge and insight will be critical to the development and implementation of a trading program that boosts our environmental progress, with clear and verifiable results.”

“The Maryland Department of Agriculture, like our partner, the Department of the Environment, believes water quality trading can be a valuable tool in restoring the Bay and its tributaries. The department has helped to lay the foundation for a successful program by leading the development of an online trading platform, establishing the Agricultural Certainty Program and developing regulations to support trading activities,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder.

In recent years, nutrient trading has emerged as a promising strategy for bringing cost-effectiveness and market-driven efficiency to the achievement of nutrient reduction goals. Nutrient trading is an important element of Maryland’s approach for restoring the Bay by creating opportunities for the sectors facing the highest costs to meet a portion of their responsibilities by purchasing offsets or credits created by other sources. …

The path forward on nutrient trading includes the issuance, with input from the Maryland Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee, of a policy manual and guidelines that would be used to initiate trades within Maryland.  It also includes the adoption of regulations proposed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture establishing the requirements and standards for the generation, verification and certification of nutrient and sediment credits on agricultural lands. …

The Maryland Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee will act as an ongoing consultative group to provide direction to the overall trading program and to oversee further enhancement of the trading infrastructure.  Its first task will be to review and refine a comprehensive Maryland Trading Manual document.  A series of four initial meetings is anticipated, with the goal of finalizing a manual document and identifying other necessary actions by the end of April.

County members include: (1) Erik Michelsen, Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works; (2) Shannon Moore, Frederick County Sustainability & Environmental Resources Office; (3) Jim Caldwell, Howard County Office of Community Sustainability; (4) Lisa Feldt, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection; and (5) Leslie Knapp, Jr., MACo. Candace Donoho is representing the Maryland Municipal League and Chris Pomeroy of AquaLaw is representing the Maryland Association of Municipal Wastewater Agencies and the Maryland Municipal Stormwater Association.

Other members include representatives from various Maryland departments, the General Assembly, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the development, agricultural, academic, and environmental communities. The Workgroup’s next scheduled meeting will be in Annapolis on February 22.

Useful Links

MDE and MDA Nutrient Credit Trading Policy Statement (2015-10-23)

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Accounting for Growth Policy