EPA Releases Innovative Approach to Cleaner Water
- 11 Pilots Receiving More than $800,000 in Funding
release from EPA
via Family Farm Alliance
January 13, 2003
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie
Whitman has announced a new Water Quality Trading Policy to cut industrial,
municipal and agricultural discharges into the nation's waterways.
The trading policy seeks to support and encourage states and tribes
in developing and putting into place water quality trading programs
that implement the requirements of the Clean Water and federal regulations
in more flexible ways and reduce the cost of improving and maintaining
the quality of the nation's waters. The policy will help increase
the pace and success of cleaning up impaired rivers, streams and lakes
throughout the country.
"The Water Quality Trading Policy I am announcing today recognizes
that within a watershed, the most effective and economical way to
reduce pollution is to provide incentives to encourage action by those
who can achieve reductions easily and cost-effectively," said
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Our new Water Quality Trading
Policy will result in cleaner water, at less cost, and in less time.
It provides the flexibility needed to meet local challenges while
demanding accountability to ensure that water quality does improve."
"Trading can be a cheaper answer to solving water quality problems
in the United States and around the world," said Paul Faeth,
managing director of World Resources Institute. "It creates a
win-win solution for everyone involved and the new policy will allow
states and others to take advantage of the newly created conservation
innovation grants program in the 2002 Farm Bill."
"The States recognize the short and long term benefits of the
approaches by EPA and are pleased that the Agency has formalized an
effective Trading Policy. The Association of State and Interstate
Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA) is enthusiastic about
the potential for trading or exchanging pollutant credits. The process
outlined by EPA provides greater flexibility to the States in addressing
extremely complex pollution problems; can result in significant cost
savings; provides an opportunity to regulate pollutants on a watershed
basis; and accelerates pollutant reduction efforts," said Roberta
(Robbi) Savage, Executive Director of ASWIPCA.
"This policy will provide market-based incentives to encourage
America's farmers, ranchers and woodlot owners and operators to do
even more to maintain and improve the quality of our environment,"
said Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Bruce Knight. "The
conservation programs in the 2002 Farm Bill will help farmers and
ranchers improve water quality."
Whitman noted that the agency is providing more than $800,000 in fiscal
year 2002 funding support for technical and other support for 11 trading
projects around the country. A list of the 11 pilots is attached.
"Trading can be an important tool for states like Connecticut
as we clean up our waters. Working with New York, Connecticut has
spearheaded the efforts to keep the Long Island Sound clean. This
assistance from the EPA will help Connecticut to continue to improve
the Sound's water quality," said Connecticut Governor John G.
Water quality trading uses economic incentives to improve water quality.
It allows one source to meet its regulatory obligations by using pollutant
reductions created by another source that has lower pollution control
costs. The standards remain the same, but efficiency is increased
and costs are decreased. Under the policy announced today, industrial
and municipal facilities would first meet technology control requirements
and then could use pollution reduction credits to make further progress
towards water quality goals.
In order for a water quality trade to take place, a pollution reduction
"credit" must first be created. EPA's water quality trading
policy states that sources should reduce pollution loads beyond the
level required by the most stringent water quality based requirements
in order to create a pollution reduction "credit" that can
be traded. For example, a landowner or a farmer could create credits
by changing cropping practices and planting shrubs and trees next
to a stream. A municipal wastewater treatment plant then could use
these credits to meet water quality limits in its permit.
Joining Whitman at today's press conference were: Bruce Knight, Chief,
Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture;
Paul Faeth, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, World
Resources Institute (WRI); Thomas Morrissey, Director of Planning
and Standards, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
and Immediate Past President, Association of State and Interstate
Water Pollution Control Administrators; and Thomas R. "Buddy"
Morgan, General Manager, Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board, Montgomery,
Al., and Board Vice President of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage
The policy could save the public hundreds of millions of dollars
by advancing more effective, efficient partnerships to clean up and
protect watersheds. The policy encourages incentives to maintain high
water quality where it exists as well as restoring impaired waters.
In addition, the policy describes provisions of credible trading programs
that are consistent with the Clean Water Act and federal regulations.
An independent study of three watersheds in Minnesota, Michigan and
Wisconsin looked at the cost of controlling phosphorous loadings.(World
Resources Institute 2000) This study found that the cost of reducing
phosphorous from controlling point sources - traditional pipe-in-the
water dischargers regulated by the Clean Water Act - to be considerably
higher than those based on trading between point and non-point sources
which are not regulated by the Clean Water Act.
Water Quality Trading Projects
In addition to releasing its final policy on water quality trading,
EPA is supporting 11 trading projects to address a range of water
quality challenges across the country. EPA supplied over $800,000
in fiscal year 2002 funding support and EPA Regional offices are providing
technical and other support to the projects.
Trading to Reduce Nitrogen Loads in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed -
Conestoga River, PA. A project to reduce nitrogen loads in a Chesapeake
Bay tributary and strive for additional environmental benefits such
as creation of habitat.
Create an Electronic Marketplace for Nutrient Trading in Chesapeake
Bay. Develop an internet-based board of trade for nitrogen trading
in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, with the potential to be adapted
for other watersheds.
Outreach on Trading to the Agricultural Community. Through a partnership
with the National Association of Conservation Districts, provide information
to extension agents and agricultural producers on the concept, mechanics
and potential benefits of water quality trading.
Trading to Reduce Selenium Loads to the Lower Colorado River. Develop
trading framework aimed at reducing high selenium levels in tributaries
to the Lower Colorado River requiring a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
Selenium loads in the tributaries come from point sources and (mainly)
nonpoint sources such as irrigation flows.
First-Year Assessment of Nitrogen Trading in Connecticut. Evaluate
the first year's implementation of a trading program among 79 wastewater
treatment plants to meet a nitrogen TMDL in Long Island Sound. Project
will assess nitrogen reductions achieved, the utility of a watershed
permit used for the 79 facilities, and the potential for expanding
the program to include nonpoint sources.
Trading to Reduce Impacts from Urban and Agricultural Runoff near
Montgomery, Alabama. Project to explore trading's potential to reduce
sediment pollution and create additional environmental benefits in
the Coosa and/or Tallapaloosa Rivers.
Pilot Feasibility Assessment of Trading to Reduce Mercury Loads to
the Sacramento River. The Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment
Plant has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
permit that requires the plant to develop a proposal for reducing
mercury discharges to the watershed from sources that are either not
regulated or cannot be readily controlled. This pilot project supports
the Sacramento Regional Country Sanitation District's efforts to assess
the feasibility of achieving net reductions in mercury loadings through
such offset actions.
Increasing In-Stream Flow in the Upper Charles River Watershed, MA.
This project seeks innovative ways to address problems of water quality
and reduced in-stream flow in the Charles River by exploring the option
of wastewater treatment plants taking actions upstream to increase
groundwater recharge and decrease stormwater runoff in lieu of increasing
treatment capacity downstream.
Evaluate Feasibility of Reducing Acid Mine Drainage in the Cheat River,
WV. This stakeholder-driven project will assess the potential for
trading to achieve greater reductions in acid mine drainage pollution
than would be achieved under current NPDES permits through actions
to abate drainage from abandoned mines. Project outcomes will be tied
to improved ecological conditions in the Cheat River.
Nitrogen Trading in the Neuse River Basin, NC. Establishment of operational
guidelines for a trading program to reduce nitrogen loads from a group
of wastewater treatment plants to meet a TMDL.
Pilot Trading Framework for State of Wisconsin. Development of a trading
framework that the State may use to guide development of future nutrient
trading programs in Wisconsin.