Can Market-based Approaches Help to Clean Up the Great Lakes? Why the Heck Not?

Earlier this week, EPA announced grants for the development of market-based programs to address water quality problems in the Great Lakes, as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  I’ve spent more than a little time criticizing EPA’s actions under this Administration.  Having spent the better part of 30 years pushing for market-based approaches to environmental regulation, it has been more than a little distressing to have this president give regulatory reform such a bad name.

There’s no question that market-based approaches work.  This has been demonstrated repeatedly with respect to air emissions, from the Acid Rain program to RGGI.  Nutrient trading is another great opportunity to use markets to reduce pollution.  Let’s hope that these grants lead to some creative programs to reduce nutrient loading to the Great Lakes.  As the accompanying picture shows, addressing nutrient pollution in the Great Lakes will be no small task.

And just so my friends don’t think I’ve gone over to the dark side in encouraging these market-based approaches, I will note that the $1.8 million in grants feels like a drop in the proverbial bucket given the scope of the problem – and it’s hard to imagine EPA doing much more to restore the Great Lakes, given that the President’s requested budget would decrease overall EPA funding by more than 25%.  Moreover, in another great Trump irony, at almost the same time EPA announced the $1.8 million in grants under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, his budget proposes to slash funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts by 91%, from $85 million to $7.3 million!

Why am I not surprised?

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