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.