Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Tuesday 12/03/13

EPA, USDA Join Forces on Water Quality Trading Programs

In a news release Tuesday, EPA and USDA announced they are expanding their partnership for water-quality trading and other market services for the environment.

The partnership makes sense because neither EPA nor USDA has been able to gain a whole lot of traction on ecological markets until now. Some states have developed their own initiatives while EPA and USDA have been trying to build efforts in areas such as the Chesapeake Bay.

“New water quality trading markets hold incredible potential to benefit rural America by providing new income opportunities and enhancing conservation of water and wildlife habitat,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release. “Additionally, these efforts will strengthen businesses across the nation by providing a new pathway to comply with regulatory requirements.”

“EPA is committed to finding collaborative solutions that protect and restore our nation’s waterways and the health of the communities that depend on them,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We’re excited about partnering with USDA to expand support for water quality trading, which shows that environmental improvements can mean a better bottom line for farmers and ranchers.”

As the news release stated, "Water quality trading provides a cost-effective approach for regulated entities to comply with EPA Clean Water Act requirements, including water quality-based effluent limits in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. Trading would allow regulated entities to purchase and use pollutant reduction credits generated by other sources in a watershed. Cost savings and other economic incentives are key motivators for parties engaged in trading. Water quality trading can also provide additional environmental and economic benefits, such as air quality improvements, enhanced wildlife habitat, carbon capture and storage, and new income and employment opportunities for rural America."

Under the collaboration, USDA and EPA will:

Coordinate and enhance communications and outreach to states, agricultural producers, regulated sources, and interested third parties on water quality trading;

Engage expertise across agencies in the review of grants, loans or technical assistance programs focused on water quality trading;

Share information on the development of rules and guidance that have the potential to affect water quality trading;

Collaborate on developing tools and information resources for states and credit generators to guide decision making, reduce costs in program design and implementation, improve environmental performance, and foster consistency and integrity across regional initiatives;

Co-host a workshop by 2015 to share tools and resources available to assist in stakeholder decision making and opportunities.

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Posted at 10:47AM CST 12/03/13 by Chris Clayton
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