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Center for a Livable Future Expert Tackles Water Pollution Trading in the Chesapeake Bay

Jan 17, 2014

Water pollution trading, commonly referred to as “nutrient trading,” remains a dirty deal for public health and the Chesapeake Bay. This is according to public health and policy experts from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) who recently participated in a Congressional Briefing on water pollution trading and concerns surrounding its implementation in the Bay. The educational briefing was sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Energy and Environment Task Force and addressed problems with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to restore water quality to the Bay by 2025.

“Pollution in the Bay, by nutrients and co-pollutants, creates not only environmental harms such as dead zones and algal blooms, but also creates significant threats to public health,” said Robert Lawrence, MD, a panelist at the event and the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and professor with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. Lawrence cited “blue baby syndrome” and exposure to harmful pathogens as risks associated with the pollution.

To restore water quality in the Bay and comply with the Clean Water Act, EPA is proposing a cap and trade plan to buy and sell “credits” towards complying with pollution limits. Under the plan, pollutors could sell these credits to other sources that would purchase them instead of reducing their own releases.  In Maryland, agriculture accounts for 37 percent of nitrogen and 48 percent of phosphorous pollution released into the Bay, with poultry “concentrated animal feeding operations” or CAFOs on the Delmarva Peninsula responsible for the majority.

Dr. Lawrence believes that a cap and trade plan would provide a loophole for concentrated animal feeding operations to be paid to pollute. “The better approach is more active enforcement by the EPA and state government. The Clean Water Act is an example of a tried-and true regulatory strategy which has been shown to be effective when enforced.”

In addition to Dr. Lawrence, the briefing featured several prominent speakers including former Maryland Senator Joseph D. Tydings; Michele Merkel, Co-Director of Food and Water Justice at Food and Water Watch; Fred Tutman from Patuxent Riverkeeper.

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future media contact: Natalie Wood-Wright at 443-287-2771 or