Today, the U.S. EPA, in partnership with the USDA, reaffirmed its commitment to water quality trading. Link to the full press release here. Such market-based approaches, properly bounded by regulatory oversight and requirements, are absolutely essential to helping us fix big environmental problems without crippling our local economies. The pull quotes from the heads of EPA, Gina McCarthy, and USDA, Tom Vilsack,
“New water quality trading markets hold incredible potential to benefit rural America by providing new income opportunities and enhancing conservation of water and wildlife habitat,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Additionally, these efforts will strengthen businesses across the nation by providing a new pathway to comply with regulatory requirements.”
“EPA is committed to finding collaborative solutions that protect and restore our nation’s waterways and the health of the communities that depend on them,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We’re excited about partnering with USDA to expand support for water quality trading, which shows that environmental improvements can mean a better bottom line for farmers and ranchers.”
Water quality trading provides a cost-effective approach for regulated entities to comply with EPA Clean Water Act requirements, including water quality-based effluent limits in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. Trading would allow regulated entities to purchase and use pollutant reduction credits generated by other sources in a watershed. Cost savings and other economic incentives are key motivators for parties engaged in trading. Water quality trading can also provide additional environmental and economic benefits, such as air quality improvements, enhanced wildlife habitat, carbon capture and storage, and new income and employment opportunities for rural America.
Kudos to EPA and USDA for helping to establish the correct incentives that will produce real and lasting sustainability. I’ve blogged previously on the importance of these emerging markets here and here.
[Update: On December 13, 2013, a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit by an environmental group challenging EPA’s water quality trading approach.
A victory for common sense regulation and another regulatory tool to fixing the Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico and other water bodies impaired by nutrients. Linking to the decision here, ENV_DEFENSE-#665659-v1-FWW_Opinion_on_MTD]
[Update: linking to an Oct 2013 resolution by NAHB on trading NAHB Trading Resolution adopted Oct 2013]
[Featured Image Photo credit to Rich Niewiroski, Jr.; Wikimedia Commons]