Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C. based environmental advocacy group, has filed an appeal challenging Pennsylvania’s nutrient credit trading program. The appeal, filed with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (“EHB”) on February 10, 2017, specifically asks the EHB to overturn the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (“DEP”) approval of a NPDES water discharge permit issued by DEP to Michael Foods Egg Products, Inc., located in Schuylkill County.
The Pennsylvania Nutrient Trading Program is a voluntary, market-based program designed to assist Pennsylvania’s efforts to meet requirements related to nutrient discharges to the Chesapeake Bay. Under Pennsylvania’s trading program, nutrient sources (such as municipal wastewater treatment facilities) that exceed established nutrient load levels are permitted to reduce/off-set those levels through the purchase of nutrient load credits from other sources (such as agricultural operations or other wastewater treatment facilities) that have reduced nutrient load levels below established levels.
In its appeal, Food and Water Watch alleges that the use of credits to meet NPDES permit requirements violates the federal Clean Water Act, national antidegradation requirements, and the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. If the appeal is successful in undermining the nutrient credit trading program, it would constitute a significant setback for Pennsylvania’s efforts to meet its obligations to reduce the release of nutrients that adversely impact Chesapeake Bay water quality. Pennsylvania is already lagging in complying with legal requirements related to the Chesapeake Bay. The appeal, EHB Docket Number 2017-008-M, can be found here.