I’m honored to have the opportunity to testify next week before Congress on the topic of water quality trading as an emerging market-based tool that will help to accelerate the restoration of so many of our nation’s degraded waters and watersheds. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment will be holding a hearing March 25, 2 p.m. titled “The Role of Water Quality Trading in Achieving Clean Water Act Objectives.” I will be testifying on behalf of the new National Water Quality Trading Alliance, whose members are critical to helping nurture these developing markets and press for faster environmental progress. My written testimony can be found here.
Although these markets still have detractors, there is much reason to be hopeful. The theme of my testimony can be summed up:
While EPA and states have many tools in their regulatory toolbox to address water quality impairments, we cannot expect 20th Century tools and approaches, alone, to be able to tackle the challenges that face us. Nonpoint source pollution will continue to grow in scope and scale as earth’s population grows toward 9 billion. And if we are to fix this growing environmental problem, we have to acknowledge its unique attributes that are immune from 20th Century solutions. We must use science to understand and define the assimilative capacities of our environment – i.e., the daily insults which Mother Nature can withstand and yet still thrive – and promote new ways and tools for the myriad of actors, inputs and sources to work within these ecological constraints. Government alone and traditional regulations are not enough to fix the problem, and must work in concert with market forces that offer sustainable solutions and a higher quality of life.
The great work of those I mention in my testimony would not be possible without the work of my colleague and fellow Conservefewell contributor Tracy Mehan, who had the vision, wisdom and fortitude, despite significant headwinds, to adopt EPA’s 2003 trading policy, and his successor at EPA’s Office of Water and my former boss, Ben Grumbles, who, likewise, continued to press forward. And kudos to the leadership of EPA, like Nancy Stoner, Mike Shapiro, Ellen Gilinsky, and Bob Perciasepe, who understand the significance of and continue to promote these water markets. These markets are beginning to gain greater recognition, as reflected in this February Wall Street Journal article titled Trading System Tackles Waste.
Here is the testimony of my friend Peter Tennant, Executive Director of ORSANCO, and James Pletl, Director of Water Quality, Hampton Roads Sanitation District, VA, who’s testifying on behalf of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.
Update: I thought the hearing went very well. Thanks to Chairman Gibbs and Ranking Member Bishop for a very engaging and productive dialogue on the value of water quality credit programs. Here is a link to the recorded hearing.