We were recently made aware that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking comments on its updated Water Quality Trading Guidance. Specifically, EPA is looking for comments on its proposal to expand the implementation of water quality trading and other market-based mechanisms to accomplish water quality improvements. EPA released guidance in 2003 and updated it in 2009 to assist in the use and implementation of market-based strategies. In seeking to update this guidance, EPA released a memorandum in 2019 titled “Updating the EPA Water Quality Trading Policy to Promote Market-Based Mechanisms for Improving Water Quality.” The memo moves these goals forward with updates and provides additional guidance and reiterates support for market-based approaches. To achieve the goals, the 2019 memo identified six market-based principles:

  1. States, tribes, and stakeholders should consider implementing water quality trading and other market-based programs on a watershed scale
  2. EPA encourages the use of adaptive management strategies for implementing market-based programs
  3. Water quality credits and offsets may be banked for future use
  4. The EPA encourages simplicity and flexibility in implementing baseline concepts
  5. A single project may generate credits for multiple markets
  6. Financing opportunities exist to assist with deployment of nonpoint source land use practices

EPA is proposing to provide additional guidance on several of the market-based principles identified in the 2019 memo.  This proposal seeks comment from the public on:

  1. Additional draft guidance related to nonpoint source baseline issues
  2. A variety of tools and approaches that could be used to develop and implement nonpoint source trading baselines
  3. Other topics addressed in the 2003 policy and the 2009 toolkit update that should be clarified, updated, or otherwise modified to be consistent with the 2019 memo

Here is the link to the Federal Register page: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/09/19/2019-20324/water-quality-trading-under-the-national-pollutant-discharge-elimination-system-program

We want to bring this to members’ attention especially if your facility is involved with water quality trading, or you have dealt with issues surrounding trading. We are currently evaluating to determine if this is something that MESERB should submit comments on for the organization. If you choose to submit comments, they must be submitted by 11:59 PM EDT on Wednesday, Dec. 18 online at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OW-2019-0415-0001.