USDA, EPA partnership aims to support water quality, economy - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

USDA, EPA partnership aims to support water quality, economy

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency announced an expanded partnership Dec. 3 to focus on water quality trading and other market-based approaches to support both the environment and the economy.

"New water quality trading markets hold incredible potential to benefit rural America by providing new income opportunities and enhancing conservation of water and wildlife habitat," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Additionally, these efforts will strengthen businesses across the nation by providing a new pathway to comply with regulatory requirements."

Water quality trading provides a cost-effective approach for regulated entities to comply with EPA Clean Water Act requirements, including water quality-based effluent limits in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits.

"EPA is committed to finding collaborative solutions that protect and restore our nation's waterways and the health of the communities that depend on them," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "We're excited about partnering with USDA to expand support for water quality trading, which shows that environmental improvements can mean a better bottom line for farmers and ranchers."

Trading would allow regulated entities to purchase and use pollutant reduction credits generated by other sources in a watershed.

Both organizations will: coordinate and enhance communications and outreach to states, agricultural producers, regulated sources and interested third parties on water quality trading; engage expertise across agencies in the review of grants, loans or technical assistance programs focused on water quality trading; share information on the development of rules and guidance that have the potential to affect water quality trading; collaborate on developing tools and information resources for states and credit generators to guide decision making, reduce costs in program design and implementation, improve environmental performance as well as foster consistency and integrity across regional initiatives; and co-host a workshop by 2015 to share available resources.