Thumbs up: Proactive pollution reduction markets
In a perfect world, industry would embrace the Boy Scouts code of leaving the world a cleaner place. In reality, the balancing act between profit and loss makes for murkier water - literally. In response a group of government officials, farmers and electricity producers has teamed up to unleash what they say is the world's largest voluntary, market-based, multi-jurisdictional response to water pollution. Participants in the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Project will trade credits to offset nitrogen and phosphorus releases from 2012 through 2015. Select counties in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky are participating. By increasing farm-based conservation practices on up to 20,000 acres in the Ohio River watershed, participants estimate they can reduce annual water-impairing nutrient releases by about 45,000 pounds of nitrogen and 15,000 pounds of phosphorus annually. The project is the brainchild of the Electric Power Research Institute and is supported by Indiana's departments of agriculture and environmental management. More info is available at epri.com. Whether this approach amounts to more than a shell game remains to be seen, but participants deserve credit for proactive attention to pollutants rather than doubling down on attorneys to battle forced compliance with water-quality regulations.