"Trading pollution 'credits' to reduce the cost of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay risks endangering the health of the region's poor and minority communities, a new report warns."
"The report by the Washingon-based Center for Progressive Reform contends that without explicit safeguards, water-quality trading programs being launched in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia could result in localized concentrations of nutrient pollution, most likely in urban areas with already degraded waters.
All three states have set up market-oriented trading programs aimed at reducing nutrient pollution fouling the bay. Farmers can earn "credits" by reducing largely unregulated runoff from their fields, which they can then sell to municipalities and industries that are under government orders to curb their discharges of the same pollutants.
Advocates contend trading programs can ease the fiscal burden municipalities face in trying to reduce pollution washing off their streets and seeping out of household septic tanks. Less costly cleanup options are needed, proponents say, as local governments face estimated cleanup costs in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars.
But the center warns that allowing municipalities and industries to pay farmers to reduce nutrient pollution elsewhere in the bay watershed could result in degraded "hot spots" where water quality gets worse - or at the least, does not improve."