The Florida Legislature has approved HB 713 (CS), which removes a limitation on water quality credit trading, or the selling of “credits” by those who exceed certain water quality standards to those who do not meet them. Previously, credit trading has only been available as part of a pilot program in the Lower St. Johns River Basin. HB 713 deletes that limitation and provides that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection may authorize water quality credit trading as part of its Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs). BMAPs are revised and updated at least every five years.
As with long-established air quality credit trading, water quality credit trading allows those who can remove pollutants (here, most likely to be the nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus) more efficiently, to exceed minimum standards and sell credits to entities for whom marginal gains in water quality can be expensive. An example would be an agricultural landowner diverting water through wetlands to remove nutrients more cost-efficiently than a municipal utility could remove the same nutrients through technology. The bill does not exempt anyone from meeting technology standards or from maintaining best management practices. However, BMAPs allocate the total permissible amount of pollutants among the various interests with a watershed, and credit trading allows for those who meet legal pollution standards, but exceed their allocated “load” according to the watershed plan, to pay others to lower their discharges instead.
A copy of HB 713 is attached here: HB 713 ER water quality credits
Dean Mead’s Agribusiness Industry team will continue to monitor developments relating to water quality credit trading. If you have questions, please contact Dennis Corrick at Dean Mead’s Fort Pierce office at DCorrick@deanmead.com.