Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland/York) and Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D-York) recently introduced legislation that seeks to strengthen Pennsylvania's existing nutrient credit trading policy.
A more robust nutrient credit trading program is seen as providing a lower cost alternative for some wastewater treatment plant upgrades prompted by implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy. It also can provide a mechanism to accommodate growth because additional nutrient discharges associated with new housing must be offset by reductions elsewhere.
Senate Bill 767 and House Bill 1213 establish authority for the nutrient credit trading program in statute and require its formation through the regulatory process, to allow stakeholders to have more input into its design. The bills also create a state board that would be authorized to serve as a clearinghouse for the purchase and sale of credits as a supplement to direct exchanges between buyers and sellers. The Department of Environmental Protection currently maintains a nutrient credit trading program; however, it exists only as a department policy.
"Ratepayers ultimately benefit from the availability of alternatives to costly facility upgrades," Vance said. "One of the barriers to a successful nutrient trading program is uncertainty. If farmers are uncertain about the market for credits, they will not make the investments necessary to create them. Municipal authorities cannot make plans to use credits in place of wastewater treatment plant capital upgrades unless they are sure the credits will be available when they are needed."
"Nutrient credit trading holds promise as a cost-effective way to meet the mandated nutrient reduction targets," DePasquale said. "However, the promise has not yet been fulfilled on a wide scale. Our legislation proposes reforms that will improve the program and help us to address the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay." (click here for full announcement)