Trading Away Clean Water Progress in Maryland

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has proposed using markets to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, but the department’s new nutrient pollution trading rules are bound to stall progress on Chesapeake Bay restoration while worsening water quality in local streams and communities.

The new report notes that pollution trading has worked in some contexts, such as between power plants with smokestacks whose emissions can be monitored and controlled.  But Maryland is now proposing a trading program involving pollution sources such as farm fields and parking lots, whose runoff is diffuse and difficult to measure, is different and riskier. This could undermine accountability for polluters and the enforceability of the Clean Water Act, which would harm Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.