Maryland’s plan to bring water pollution trading to the state is nothing short of a polluter buy-out program that allows polluters to increase their own discharges by purchasing “credits” from other polluters. And it has a proven track record of failing.
Pennsylvania has allowed farms to sell nutrient credits to industrial polluters for over ten years and the only result is that the same level of unaccountability that attaches to agriculture, the largest source of pollution to the Bay, now goes for industrial point sources too.
The Clean Water Act is premised on the notion that it is illegal to pollute. Water-quality trading, in contrast, gives the right to pollute our public trust resources solely on their ability to pay.
It is not regulations which have failed, it is lack of regulation over agriculture which is killing the Bay. Trading simply extends that failure to other industries instead of fixing the problem. No one who is serious about water quality should support trading.
These market-based schemes, like all markets, are designed so that there are clear winners and losers. And with water pollution trading, polluters win while the Bay loses.