Bay Journal

Reducing pollution in watershed saves money, creates jobs

  • By Roy A Hoagland on May 01, 2010

Some claim that the cost of reducing pollution is too high. History tells a different story.

In 1972, for example, the average refrigerator consumed 1,759 kilowatt hours per year. Thirty years later, after a series of laws and regulations designed to increase energy efficiency and reduce pollution, as well as consistent innovation from industry, the average refrigerator consumed less than a third of that power-a benefit to the environment and the consumer.

The fact is, actions taken to reduce pollution can spur economic efficiency and innovation.

For example, many farmers across the Chesapeake watershed have found that installing clean water practices to reduce pollution improves the bottom line. Fencing cattle out of streams reduces pollution, improves herd health and increases weight gain 5-10 percent. This can translate into increased value of calves at $15 per head. (Visit www2.newsvirginian.com/wnv/news/local/waynesboro/article/summit_emphasizes_revitalization/54853/)

True, it costs money to fence cattle out of streams, but with state and federal cost-share reimbursement rates of 50-100 percent, many farmers realize that fencing is the way to go.

And the expenditures made funnel money into local communities.

An analysis done for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation by the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service found that every government dollar invested by the state of Virginia in agricultural clean water practices provided $1.57 in benefit for local economies. If the commonwealth were to implement those practices it has identified as necessary to sufficiently reduce pollution, it would generate $940 million in total economic activity for Virginia's economy and create more than 11,700 jobs lasting one year.

Right now, Congress is considering the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act (S. 1816 | H.R. 3852). Among the tools the CCWA will provide to reduce pollution is the creation of an interstate nutrient credit trading program. Under this program, farmers who reduce pollution below baseline levels can sell their surplus reductions to entities like operators of sewage treatment plants and urban areas that face higher pollution reduction costs. Reducing nitrogen pollution from agriculture is much less expensive than reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants or urban and suburban areas, and opens the door to a new revenue source for farmers.

A recent analysis from World Resources Institute has issued a conservative estimate that, depending on location, the types of clean water practices already instituted, and the type of farm, trading could bring in $11,000-$16,000 annually for an average 200-acre crop and poultry, or just a crop farm in Maryland. That profit is on top of the cost of achieving the baseline and implementing practices to generate credits. That's more money in the agricultural economy. Trading may also spur innovation in new pollution-reduction technologies, akin to the development of more-energy-efficient refrigerators.

The CCWA also provides significant new funding for local jurisdictions to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff. While the Bay Program estimates that since 1985, agriculture has achieved approximately 50 percent of its pollution reduction goal, urban and suburban runoff is the only pollution sector still increasing. Because retrofitting urban and suburban stormwater systems can be a costly way to reduce pollution, the CCWA authorizes $1.5 billion in funding for local jurisdictions to reduce stormwater pollution. This funding and the requirements that local jurisdictions do more are also likely to create jobs and spur innovation.

Each of us depends on clean water. Achieving our shared goal of a restoring our local rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay will require pollution reductions from each of us.

Only through strategic legislative and regulatory changes, increased funding and innovation will we succeed. The CCWA is our best hope. The CBF, along with hundreds of partners, from the members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition to individual farmers and business people, ask for your support of the CCWA.

Let your congressman and senators know that clean water matters. For information, visit cbf.org/ccwa.

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About Roy A Hoagland

Roy Hoagland is an attorney and a former vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Read more articles by Roy A Hoagland

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