Nutrient pollution trading allows a new or existing source of pollution (such as a development or wastewater treatment plant) to reduce its impact by purchasing “credits” generated through water quality improvements elsewhere. These “credits” can be created by reducing pollution from existing sources, such as farms or areas with untreated stormwater runoff.
Pollution trading is a market-based approach that can, if set up correctly, help with the financial costs of reducing pollution and restoring the Chesapeake Bay. But, if executed without careful planning, trading could actually make things worse.
The Hogan Administration is pushing to get a trading infrastructure set up in Maryland, but has not yet designed the system or instituted regulations. In the 2017 legislative session, MCAC provided testimony in opposition to a bill that would divert up to $10 million per year from the Bay Restoration Fund – a proven tool to reduce water pollution – to launch a trading program that to date has not found consensus for how it should be designed.
We are also concerned that a hastily set up pollution trading scheme could cause an environmental justice problem: buying credits from one area to pollute in another could create “hot spots” of pollution and degrade local water quality.
MCAC continues to follow the progress of setting up nutrient pollution trading in Maryland and will hold the state accountable to ensure any trading scheme is verifiable, transparent and enforceable.
Updated: April 2017