"Riverkeeper" calls nutrient trading ineffective environmental tool

While we appreciate Tom Ballentine's explanatory detail ("Nutrient trading essential to bay cleanup," Readers Respond, Sept. 1), he overlooks the fact that trading programs between point sources and agricultural non-point sources – which he asserts as a solution to cleaning up Chesapeake Bay – have never resulted in water quality improvements anywhere in the country.

According to its 2007 Water Quality Trading and Agriculture report, the American Agricultural Economics Association argued that the lack of documented success in water quality trading shows a "mismatch between theory and practice." Despite this, attempts are still plentiful. The Neuse River in North Carolina remains in disastrous condition despite a decade-long trading program. Pennsylvania's Chesapeake Tributary Strategy Implementation Plan allows for new sewage development based on un-guaranteed future credits.

With no monitoring of actual in-stream conditions attached to the program Mr. Ballentine endorses, the plan will tend to incentivize overestimated pollutant reductions, and will not encourage improvements in bay quality. Nutrient trading allows industries to continue polluting with the least amount of accountability. This clearly should not be the path supported by anyone whose first priority is a cleaner bay.

Michael R Helfrich, York, PA

The writer is a "riverkeeper" with Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna, Inc.

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