MACo: Nutrient Trading Bill Too Broad, Lacks Stakeholder Input

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified on opposition to legislation (HB 325) that would allow the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to use Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) monies to purchase nutrient trading credits at the House Environment and Transportation hearing on February 10, 2016. While Knapp expressed support for the overall concept of nutrient credit trading he voiced concerns that the bill’s language was vague and needed further development through stakeholder input. The bill was sponsored by MDE.

From the MACo testimony:

HB 325 is a departmental bill from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) that would allow MDE to use monies from the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) Wastewater Account to purchase nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient credits in support of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. MDE must adopt regulations regarding the use of BRF funds in conjunction with the Maryland Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

While MACo could support a limited, one-time use of BRF funds to help “jumpstart” the pending nutrient credit trading market, the bill’s provisions are broad and ill-defined. There are no limits placed on when MDE may purchase credits, what the credits apply to, and how much BRF monies MDE may use to make the purchase. These are critical details that must be addressed in advance before MACo would be comfortable supporting such a proposal.

While well-intentioned, HB 325 lacks many details that should be developed with stakeholder input. This can be done through the existing advisory workgroup within MDE or some other stakeholder gathering.

Maryland Secretary of the Environment Benjamin Grumbles and the Maryland Realtors testified in support of the bill. Grumbles noted that there needed to be a discussion with stakeholders.

The Maryland Farm Bureau and Maryland Grain Producers supported the bill with amendments to cap the amount of BRF funds MDE could use, limit the use of the funds for a pilot program, and analyze the impact of a nutrient credit trading program on farmland.

Beside MACo, the bill was opposed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the Maryland Municipal League.

Useful Links

HB 325

MACo Testimony on HB 325

Committee Hearing on HB 325

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Nutrient Credit Trading

Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles Webpage

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.