News | February 6, 2019

EPA Announces New Water Quality Trading Policy Memorandum

EPA efforts seek to modernize the agency’s water quality trading policies to leverage emerging technologies and facilitate broader adoption of market-based programs

Recently, at an event in Dearing, Georgia, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross will highlight the Trump Administration’s efforts to accelerate investments in infrastructure and technology that will improve America’s water quality. As part of these efforts, Assistant Administrator Ross announced a new policy memorandum that will help states, tribes and stakeholders use market-, incentive- and community-based programs to reduce excess nutrients and improve water quality in their communities.

“An important part of improving our nation’s water quality is leveraging the collective resources of the federal family and improving relationships with our partners on the ground,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “Building on efforts already underway at the state, local and tribal level, EPA is taking a number of steps to help facilitate the use of a broad range of tools and technologies that will deliver critical water quality improvements at a lower cost.”

EPA has supported the use of water quality trading, offsets and similar programs for achieving compliance with regulatory requirements of the Clean Water Act for many years. Today’s memo reiterates the agency’s support for water quality trading and other market-based programs to maximize pollutant reduction efforts and improve water quality and builds on this Administration’s efforts to demonstrate that support.

EPA’s actions are part of a larger collaboration with stakeholders across the country to better coordinate and focus federal resources on some of the nation’s most challenging water resource concerns, including addressing excess nutrients in waterways. In November EPA and USDA sent a joint letter to state agricultural and environmental directors inviting engagement on market-based and other collaborative approaches to reducing excess nutrients. Earlier this week, EPA also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Water Research Foundation to develop affordable technologies to recycle nutrients from livestock manure.

“USDA has a long history of working with EPA, state governments, tribes and agricultural producers to find voluntary solutions for improving water quality,” said USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. “We are grateful for this partnership, and we look forward to continuing to support cleaner water.”

EPA’s new trading memo identifies the following six Market Based Principles designed to encourage creativity and innovation in the development and implementation of programs that reduce pollutants in our Nation’s waters:

  • States, tribes and stakeholders should consider implementing water quality trading and other market-based programs on a watershed scale.
  • EPA encourages the use of adaptive strategies for implementing market-based programs.
  • Water quality credits and offsets may be banked for future use.
  • EPA encourages simplicity and flexibility in implementing baseline concepts.
  • A single project may generate credits for multiple markets.
  • Financing opportunities exist to assist with deployment of nonpoint land use practices.

EPA’s actions are part of a larger collaboration with stakeholders across the country to better coordinate and focus federal resources on some of the nation’s most challenging water resource concerns, including addressing excess nutrients in waterways.

EPA plans to host a webinar on March 7 to discuss the trading memo and its ongoing work to reduce excess nutrients in waterways. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/nutrient-policy-data/collaborative-approaches-reducing-excess-nutrients.

SOURCE: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)