New Report: Three Fundamental Flaws in Maryland's Water Pollution Trading Regulations

by Evan Isaacson | December 18, 2017

On December 8, the Maryland Department of the Environment published its long-awaited nutrient trading regulations, capping more than two years of effort to develop a comprehensive environmental market intended to reduce the amount of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. 

A trading market would allow people, companies, and governments required by law to reduce the amount of pollution they discharge to purchase "credits" for pollution reduction efforts undertaken by someone else. In theory, water pollution trading ensures overall discharges are capped over time and encourages reductions to happen where they can be achieved at the lowest cost. If done right, a trading program may provide an incentive for some to reduce pollution beyond what is required of them by law. 

Pollution trading has been credited with major achievements across the United States. But it is not a one-size-fits-all solution to environmental degradation. Much depends on the type of pollutants, how they are introduced into the environment, and where and how they cause harm. Trading has worked in the right circumstances. It is rightly credited with reducing the pollutants that cause acid rain, and it is seen as a useful tool in reducing climate-change-inducing greenhouse gases – in both cases because much of the pollution comes from power plants with smokestacks that can be monitored and controlled. But now Maryland is proposing to start a trading program with water pollution sources such as farm fields and parking ...

Trading, Manure, and the Free Market

by Evan Isaacson | March 18, 2016
Recently, I have been noticing a number of connections between the environmental policies or issues that I’ve been studying and modern economic doctrine. I’m not sure if the number or strength of these connections are enough to claim that we’re seeing a rise in “laissez faire environmentalism” in the Chesapeake Bay region, but the implications are interesting to consider nevertheless. Nutrient trading is the best example. There is little question that the notion of pollution trading stems directly from economic ...

Toxicity, Trading and Watershed Restoration: Seeking a More Holistic Approach

by Evan Isaacson | March 02, 2016
The mysterious deaths of 13 bald eagles on Maryland's Eastern Shore last month captured headlines around the country. While a tragic story, it was also a reminder of just how far bald eagle populations and those of other birds of prey have recovered over the last several decades. From a population of fewer than 1,000 in 1963, almost as many bald eagles now soar in the skies over Maryland alone. The iconic bird's recovery is a case study in the ...

Tackling the Issue of "Fraud" in Carbon Trading

by Victor Flatt | February 12, 2010
The concept of cap and trade took another hit recently with disclosures that hackers had been able to get into the accounts of several holders of carbon emissions allowances in Europe and steal some of the account balance. This, along with the continued snowstorm in Washington, D.C. seems to fill those opposing a federal comprehensive cap and trade plan with glee. While the issue of record setting snows in D.C. should be addressed with basic scientific education (trends and averages ...

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