Environment
9:31 am
Mon March 19, 2012

State Holds Nutrient Credit Auction

Wastewater treatment plants operating in the Susquehanna and Potomac watersheds have the chance to buy nutrient credits at auction Wednesday.

Nutrient credits allow "regulated entities," typically wastewater treatment plants, to stay within the legal limits of nitrogen and phosphorus discharges. One nitrogen credit is equal to a pound of nitrogen taken out of a watershed.

The auction will be hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST).

PENNVEST Executive Director Paul Marchetti said treatment plants aren't required to buy credits.

"They're free to meet those limits anyway they want to," said Marchetti. "This is simply an alternative that they can use if they think it makes the most sense for them."

Marchetti said they offer credits for the Susquehanna and Potomac watersheds because the state has to meet nutrient limits for the Chesapeake Bay.

"There is a similar program at the beginning stages of being developed for the Gulf of Mexico watershed, which would entail the Mississippi and, in our case, the Ohio River," said Marchetti. "So the western part of the state will, I think, eventually have this kind of option for meeting nutrient discharge requirements into the watershed that they drain into."

He said, in upcoming years, they hope to expand the credit program into a multistate trading program for the Chesapeake Bay.

Marchetti said it will be a "forward" auction where companies can buy credits years in advance. PENNVEST is anticipating charging buyers and sellers 2.5 cents per credit to offset administrative costs.