|January 6, 2014|
Previously published on December 2013
The Maryland Department of the Environment (“MDE”) is expected to propose new regulations to implement the State’s Accounting for Growth (“AFG”) policy in early 2014. The AFG policy is one component of the State’s efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay and is intended to address the increase in the State’s pollution load from increased population growth and new development. Each of the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including Maryland, is required to reduce the levels of nutrients (primarily nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment) that are currently going into the Bay and to prevent and mitigate pollution from new development. By some estimates, Maryland is expected to add approximately 478,000 households by 2035. The AFG plan assumes that large wastewater treatment plants will expand out to their existing full capacity and then all other nutrient loads (from stormwater, septics, and in excess of existing capacity) will have to be offset by obtaining nutrient credits. A nutrient trading program to buy and sell credits will be based on the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Net program already in place.
A stakeholder workgroup including representatives from agriculture, commercial and residential development, environmental organizations, and local governments met throughout 2013. The workgroup submitted its final report and recommendations to MDE in August 2013. The workgroup was able to reach consensus in concept on many issues, but was not able to reach consensus regarding, inter alia, the baseline condition from which to measure the amount of offset required and whether there should be a fee-in-lieu of offsets for phosphorous in addition to nitrogen. Initial estimates of the cost to offset phosphorous could be as high as $30,000 per pound, compared to $3,000 per pound for nitrogen. Criticisms of a phosphorous component include concerns that the current data does not justify that new development increases phosphorous loads and a lack of available phosphorous credit opportunities separate from or in combination with nitrogen credits.
Another stakeholder meeting is scheduled for December 23, 2013 at which the workgroup will try to reach consensus on the remaining issues. Draft regulations have not yet been circulated, but are expected in early 2014.