This week, Virginia formally proposed Nutrient Trading Certification Regulations. The program will establish a market in phosphorus and nitrogen removal credits. Although the program is welcome news, it should be neither earthshattering nor controversial. After all, as we noted more than two years ago, a study by the Chesapeake Bay Commission demonstrated that use of nutrient trading would substantially reduce the cost of the Chesapeake Bay restoration project.
Since I have a gift for the obvious, I’ll remind readers that we’ve been trading credits in SO2 emissions for almost a quarter-century, in a program that, even in today’s completely polarized environmental debates, does not have any real critics. While there may be some additional complexities in regulating nutrient run-off from agricultural activities, the regulations seem both rigorous and practical.
It may be more hope than expectation, but my prediction is that nutrient trading systems will be considered routine a quarter century from now and, like the acid rain program, we’ll be wondering what the fuss was all about.
You’re right about additional complexities. Here’s an example: The supplies of different nutrients are “limiting”, i.e. controlling of the rates of algal growth, at different times and in different places. For example, “a pound” of phosphorus may stimulate growth one day in one place and not the next, when/where there’s already enough phosphorus and, say two pounds of nitrogen may make the critical difference.Or, light penetration or residence time may be limiting instead of either nutrient… Hence, plenty of arguments are foreseeable about what removal credit is correct for a given situation.
Charlie: You’re right, but arguably you comment proves to much. All the issues you raise about the difficult of trading nutrient credits applies equally well to the regulatory standards themselves applied in the first instance.