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Water Quality Trading Policy, Washington, D.C.

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
on announcing the
Water Quality Trading Policy
Washington, D.C.

January 13, 2003

Thank you, Tracy (Mehan). I want to thank you and all of the people in our Office of Water for the commitment and dedication you bring to your work at the Agency. One of my goals as Administrator is to leave America = s water purer than we found it. It = s the Office of Water, working with all our various partners, that will make sure we meet that goal, and they = re doing a fine job.

Today I am pleased to announce EPA = s latest effort to improve the quality of America = s waters B the adoption of our Water Quality Trading Policy. This new, innovative policy will use the power of the market to achieve the next generation of environmental progress in water quality.

Over the past 30 years, the United States has made considerable progress in improving water quality. This progress reflects the fact that we have largely eliminated the problems caused by the direct discharge of pollutants into waterways.

Nevertheless, about half of our rivers, streams, and lakes still suffer from pollution. This pollution comes from non-point sources, such as run-off from farms and streets, that may be miles away from the nearest river or lake.

As a quote I came across recently puts it, A Water links us to our neighbor in a way more profound and complex than any other.@ That = s a good description of a watershed B and because water truly does link our communities in profound and complex ways, the Bush Administration is committed to using a watershed approach to achieving further water quality improvements.

The Water Quality Trading Policy I am announcing today recognizes that within a watershed, the most effective and economical way to reduce pollution is to provide incentives to encourage action by those who can achieve reductions easily and cost-effectively. Let me give you an example.

Within a particular watershed, you may have a farmer who can inexpensively reduce sediment and nutrient runoff by changing his farming practices B perhaps by reducing the use of fertilizer or planting a buffer strip next to a stream. That same watershed may also contain a municipal wastewater treatment plant that would have to make a major capital investment to meet its phosphorus of nitrogen limits.

Under our new Water Quality Trading Policy, the treatment plant could pay the farmer to make the changes at the farm that would achieve the same level of reductions B or better B the plant is required to achieve. This is a win-win-win situation. The farmer benefits from extra income. The treatment plant (and its rate payers) benefit from fewer expenses. And, what = s most important, the watershed benefits because it is receiving less sediment and nutrient runoff, which means cleaner, purer water for all those who live within the watershed.

This approach is very similar to that used in the highly successful Acid Rain Cap and Trade Program, which has reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by one-third compared to1990 levels at a fraction of the anticipated cost B and with nearly-universal compliance.

There is also some important experience with water quality trading in several specific areas around the country. In Connecticut, for example, nitrogen trading among publicly owned water treatment plants that discharge into Long Island Sound will achieve the required reductions while saving an estimated $200 million in control costs B costs that would have been passed onto consumers.

There = s no doubt in my mind that our new Water Quality Trading Policy will result in cleaner water, at less cost, and in less time. It provides the flexibility needed to meet local challenges while demanding accountability to ensure that water quality does improve.

In addition, this policy will deliver important ancillary benefits, including the creation and restoration of wetlands and the expansion of wildlife and waterfowl habitat. This is yet another benefit of a watershed approach.

Water Quality Trading and similar market-based approaches truly are the wave of the future in environmental protection. They not only harness the power of the market, they build effective partnerships among EPA, state, local and tribal governments, and other stakeholders around shared values and common goals.

One of the most exciting partnerships this policy will help develop is between the agricultural and environmental communities. I = d like to thank the USDA, which is here today, for their help in developing this policy.

I should also note that this announcement, coupled with our announcement about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations last month, shows the truth of something I have long believed B that those who make their living off the fruits of the earth truly know how important it is to be good stewards of our environment.

There = s something else this policy proves B that environmental protection and economic prosperity can go hand in hand. Through innovative policies such as water quality trading, the price of environmental protection doesn = t have to cost people their jobs.

As a down-payment of sorts on our commitment to the partnerships our new Water Quality Trading Policy will help build, EPA is providing funding and support to 11 trading projects to address a broad range of water quality challenges across the country.

This check for eight-hundred-thousand dollars will help support trading efforts from the Chesapeake Bay to the Sacramento River and at nine places in between. The projects this money will help support will not only benefit the watersheds in which they are located, we also expect them to become models for other watersheds all around America.

EPA = s new Water Quality Trading policy truly does represent B and I apologize for this B but it truly does represent a watershed event in the way we approach our obligation as stewards of the earth to the water which sustains all life on this planet.

We look forward to the partnerships we will build and the progress we will achieve toward our goal of making America = s water purer for our children and grandchildren.

Thank you.