State of Florida considering water-quality credit trading program
Can A Version Of Cap-And-Trade Reduce Water Pollution? Florida Hopes So
By Jessica Palombo
Florida plans to go statewide with a water-quality program that lets polluters partially off the hook if they buy credits for extra cleanup others have already done. The credit-selling program has critics in Jacksonville, the city where it started.
A few years back, the polluted St. Johns River became the test case for the voluntary water-quality credit program. The theory, state regulators say, was to foster regional cooperation by adding an economic incentive for water cleanup.
Director of the State Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, Tom Frick, says credits are one tool to push polluters toward meeting their cleanup obligations.
“That allows water quality restoration to occur quicker. It also allows water quality restoration to occur more cheaply,” he says.
The city of Jacksonville was the credit buyer and private utility company JEA was the seller. Both were already required to clean the river a certain amount, but JEA had gone above and beyond its duty. Jacksonville, which can’t clean as cost-effectively, bought credits from JEA, paying for that extra work, rather than fulfill its entire obligation. Frick says the river still got the total required amount of cleaning—and it happened faster.
But Lisa Rinaman, head of the nonprofit St. Johns Riverkeeper, says the river isn’t benefiting long-term from the program.