Bay Journal Op-Ed: Say “No” to Nutrient Credit Trading

In a Bay Journal op-ed (2018-01-31), Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) Director of Communications Tom Pelton questioned whether nutrient pollution trading was hurting the Chesapeake’s key waterways. Virginia and Pennsylvania have nutrient credit trading programs in place. Maryland is currently considering its own set of nutrient trading regulations. [Note: MACo supports the general concept of having a nutrient credit trading program as another “tool in the toolbox” to help meet local water quality goals. However, nutrient credit trading is not a “magic bullet” that can single-handedly solve all local water pollution issues.]

Pelton argued that a 2017 EIP report, Sewage & Wastewater Plants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, shows 21 wastewater treatment plants in the Bay watershed are in violation for discharging excessive nitrogen and phosphorus into waterways like the Monocacy and Shenandoah rivers. The report alleged that nutrient credit trading actually makes these violations worse. From the article:

More broadly, the report discusses the problem of local pollution “hot spots” caused by pollution trading systems in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and the threat of a similar scheme proposed in Maryland. …

But here’s what the EIP’s research found that was most troubling: In Virginia and Pennsylvania, far more wastewater plants exceeded their permit limits than in Maryland. But Virginia and Pennsylvania judged almost none of these plants to be in violation of the law because these states engage in systems of “pollution trading.” Trading allows polluters to essentially buy their way out of permit limits (and therefore, legal jeopardy for excessive dumping) by sending money — through the purchase of pollution credits — to other plants or facilities that pollute less. …

The bottom line is that the Chesapeake region’s historic waterways like the Shenandoah and Monocacy rivers deserve better protections than they are receiving today. And the answer is stronger enforcement of pollution limits for individual plants, not trading schemes that blur the lines between legal and illegal waste dumping.

EIP Website

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Nutrient Credit Trading