PA nutrient trading plan deserves looking into
Nutrient trading is quickly becoming one of the major strategies in the Chesapeake Bay restoration process. Enabling the least-cost pollution reductions in subwatersheds to occur first and bringing market forces to bear on cleanup efforts helps to ensure that the citizens of the region get the most pounds of nutrient and sediment pollution reduction per dollar expended.
Legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly earlier in 2005, and signed by Gov. Mark Warner, established the first point source, watershed-based, nutrient trading system in the Bay region. This plan allows point source dischargers in the state’s subwatersheds to buy and sell credits from each other to help meet their 2010 nutrient reduction goals.
In September 2005, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued draft policies that would establish the first point source and nonpoint source nutrient trading program in the Bay watershed. In addition, it would allow for third party participation in the purchase or exchange of nutrient credits. This is a major step.
Pennsylvania’s proposed policies allow for the trading of nutrient, (nitrogen or phosphorous) or sediment reduction credits. The trades must involve comparable pollutants (such as nitrogen for nitrogen) and there is no provision for nutrient or sediment equivalencies (nitrogen can not be traded for phosphorous).
For point sources to generate and sell credits, they must already be below the discharge loading limit listed on its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.
A particularly interesting part of the proposal is the criteria for nonpoint source credit generation—both agricultural and urban runoff. For agricultural nonpoint sources to be eligible to create credits they must implement and maintain an approved nutrient management plan for nitrogen and phosphorous and either keep a 100-foot setback from streams for manure application or have a 35-foot vegetative buffer along their streams.
For nonagricultural nonpoint sources without NPDES, Total Maximum Daily Loads or other required performance limits, the threshold of eligibility for credit generation will be the level of pollutant load associated with existing land uses and management practices that comply with applicable state and local regulations.
While the creation and trade of pollution credits will not be limited by the Pennsylvania DEP, nonpoint trades involving riparian forest buffers, cover crops and advanced nutrient management are of particular interest.
Gov. Ed Rendell and DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty should be lauded for this innovative, more cost-effective approach to reducing Bay pollutants.
This program also has the added benefit of bringing more nonpoint source stakeholders to the table in a positive fashion. This can only add to their understanding of Bay watershed restoration issues and may help to create affirmative dialogue and action among sectors that have not seen watershed cleanup as an issue or priority.
The states in the watershed are functioning as laboratories of innovation in trying to meet Chesapeake 2000 goals in multiple ways. This is a major advantage of cooperative solutions where the states and federal agencies involved are able to express their individual perspectives and use their talents.
If we had had a Chesapeake Bay watershedwide TMDL in the year 2000, would Maryland have developed the flush fee, or would Virginia or Pennsylvania have developed nutrient/sediment trading programs? I do not think so. If the Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions have to develop and implement a watershedwide TMDL in 2010, what innovations will never be conceived or applied because of the rigid nature of a TMDL?
It is important that we reach the Chesapeake 2000 goals by 2010, because it is only by working together that we can finish the job of Bay restoration.
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay Opportunities:
VA citizen monitors meeting - The Alliance and Virginia Save Our Streams invite citizen monitors to attend a meeting 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 29 at Longwood University in Farmville to discuss the creation of a cohesive statewide volunteer monitoring program. Lunch is provided. Contact Stacey Moulds at mailto:email@example.com or 804-775-0951 or visit www.acb-online.org/events.cfm.
Businesses for the Bay - The Businesses for the Bay Annual Meeting takes place 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD. The 2005 Businesses for the Bay Environmental Excellence Awards for Outstanding Achievement will be presented at that time. An agenda and registration form are available at www.b4bay.org.
Tree planting volunteers needed - The Prettyboy Watershed Association and the Alliance are looking for volunteers to plant trees 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 4 & 8 at the future site of Leister Park in Hampstead, MD.Wear sturdy shoes and clothes that can get muddy. Refreshments, shovels and light gloves will be provided. Contact the Alliance at 410-377-6270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monitoring volunteers needed - The Little Patuxent Watershed Association and the Alliance are looking for people to take part in World Water Monitoring Day. Volunteers will take water samples at streams and lakes in the Little Patuxent watershed to test the local water quality, with results to be submitted to the World Water Monitoring website. Contact the Alliance at 410-377-6270 or email@example.com.
BayScaping volunteers needed - Join the Alliance for a BayScaping project in October at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Learn how native plants help the Anacostia watershed. Contact the Alliance at 410-377-6270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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