Senate Republicans Pass Pretend Solution To Reducing Nutrient Pollution In Chesapeake Bay Watershed Guaranteeing Taxpayers Fund Higher Cost Practices
Source: PA Environmental Digest Blog, 6/27/2019
On June 26, Senate Republicans passed Senate Bill 575 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) establishing a taxpayer funded procurement program for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reductions needed to comply with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed pollution reduction goals in all or part of 43 counties in the state.
The bill passed the Senate 33 to 17 with Republicans generally supporting and Democrats generally opposed.
The bill was introduced with the support of the Coalition For Affordable Bay Solutions, an industry-led coalition of private companies promoting manure treatment technologies and manure to energy processing plants.
As written, Senate Bill 575 would guarantee only large companies with access to lots of resources could take part in the complicated bidding process established in the bill. These companies typically promote higher cost bricks and mortar treatment solutions to deliver nutrient pollution reductions.
No small farmer, who could install much cheaper Best Management Practices in terms of cost per pound of pollution reduced through the installation of proven green infrastructure, would bother to participate in bidding with all that upfront expense and paperwork.
If the only people who can bid in these complicated process are companies with the more expensive options, this process will guarantee it presents agencies with the choice of only picking more expensive options.
Last September, Matt Johnston of the University of Maryland Chesapeake Bay Program and Dr. Emily Trentacoste of the U.S. Geological Survey presented the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee with a list of the top 11 most cost effective practices to reduce nitrogen going to the Chesapeake Bay based on all this experience and data in the Chesapeake Bay Program (page 73 of his presentation).
The practices include alternative crops on farmland at $1/pound of nitrogen reduced to exclusion fencing with grass buffers at $6/pound.
In between are — less expensive to more — were water quality conservation plans, grass buffers on row crops, barnyard runoff control, water control structures, wetland restoration, forest buffers on row crops ($2/pound), narrow buffers on row crops, narrow forest buffers on row crops and nutrient management on the land.
None of the top 11 most cost effective practices included bricks and mortar treatment solutions which, in one manure treatment configuration, can need a cost of from $10 to $13/pound to operate the promoters have said.
An existing, competitive Nutrient Credit Auction Program run by the PA Infrastructure Investment Authority resulted in nitrogen credit sales of $2.25 per pound last September.
Since the more expensive pollution reduction technology cannot compete in this market-based program because their costs are too high, a new one had to be created in Senate Bill 575.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration. There is a companion House version of the bill– House Bill 1642 (Everett-R-Lycoming).