U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, chaired a hearing Wednesday that examined the effectiveness of ongoing nutrient trading programs and the requirements for building a potential federal or interstate nutrient trading framework. Nutrient pollution is devastating water bodies across the country -- none more than the Chesapeake Bay -- with harmful algal blooms, dead zones, and other impacts. Agriculture represents the largest single source of nutrient pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, and storm runoff represents the fastest-growing segment of nutrient pollution. Together, these non-point sources provide the best opportunity for achieving cost-effective nutrient reduction.
"Maryland has spent $100 million annually for the last decade to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay, but the water quality is still diminished because one state cannot do this alone. Pollution does not stop at a state border. We must address the pollution in the Chesapeake by dealing with all the pollution in the entire watershed. Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania all have nutrient trading programs designed to help reduce pollutants in the Bay, but a coordinated effort is necessary to restore this national treasure. The same is true of other water bodies across the country, ranging from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and from Long Island Sound to San Francisco Bay.
"A nutrient trading program also has to be fair. We must continue to look at best ways to build fairness into a nutrient trading system, and how to avoid unfairly burdening some communities with added pollution. There are more than 400 dead zones around the globe today, up from 305 in 1995, 162 in the 1980s, and just 49 in the 1960s. The Chesapeake Bay contains one of the most famous of these zones.
"EPA has recommended basic ground rules for trading, including specifying elements of credible trading programs, including existence of clearly defined units of trade, and the existence of standardized practices for verification of nutrient reductions. These guidelines are important first steps, but more coordination is needed to create an effective interstate framework."