Monday, June 22, 2015 Lycoming County Passes $250K In Nutrient Credits Sales In 2014

As reported by earlier in June, The County of Lycoming paid a total of $51,363.70 to local farmers whose nitrogen and phosphorus credits were sold in 2014 through the Lycoming County Nutrient Trading Program.
Combined with previous credit sales since 2011, the program has sold a cumulative $253,764 in nutrient credits.
Each nutrient credit represents one pound of pollution (nitrogen or phosphorus) that will not reach the Chesapeake Bay. These pollution reductions were created by farmers who have voluntarily implemented conservation practices on their farm operations, improving the quality of local waters and the Bay.
Exactly 33,413 nitrogen and 406 phosphorus credits were generated in 2014 by 22 Lycoming County farmers.
“Successful trades over the past four years have proven to our local producers that there is a benefit to participating in this effort,” said Mark Davidson, manager of the Lycoming County Conservation District. “We’ve enjoyed a high level of interest from our cooperating farmers within Lycoming County and even beyond the county lines.”
Multiple agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) have been implemented on the participating farms, including riparian buffers, no-till and cover cropping, off-stream watering, rotational grazing and manure hauling.
The practices generating the credits were certified by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP). Nutrient reductions were verified by Lycoming County Conservation District staff members who performed required checks during and at the end of the growing season.
To be eligible to participate in the program, farms are required to go above and beyond the minimum legal requirements (in program terms, “baseline” and “threshold”) to do more than what is considered the farm’s fair share of pollution reduction.
The participating farmers are essentially local leaders in environmental stewardship, creating local environmental benefits such as aquatic and riparian habitat improvements and erosion reduction.
In the fourth year of active trading for the Lycoming County Nutrient Trading program, the county completed two local trades. In the first local trade, 9,000 nitrogen credits were supplied to the West Branch Regional Authority (WBRA). In the second local trade, 5,000 nitrogen credits were sold to the Tiadaghton Valley Municipal Authority.
Lycoming County has also helped to facilitate additional local trades between point sources within the County to help match local supply and demand and keep as many dollars local as possible.
“Nutrient trading has been a vital part of our process; it gave us the time necessary to consolidate four existing municipal sewer systems and plan for a new regional treatment plant and still remain in compliance with the Chesapeake Bay requirements,” said Eric Moore, Executive Director of WBRA. “WBRA has worked with the County and our municipal partners in the County to keep as much of the cost of credits in our local area as possible.”
In addition to the local trades, the County regularly seeks external buyers to purchase agriculturally-generated credits that were not sold locally.
In 2014, Lycoming County sold 895 nitrogen credits and 55 phosphorus credits through a statewide nutrient credit auction facilitated by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST), and 9,500 nitrogen credits through a private sale to a municipal authority in a neighboring county.
“We can’t necessarily predict at the beginning of the year how many credits will be verified by the end of the year, because the number of credits generated on each farm operation varies based on farm management decisions that may change from one year to the next,” said Megan Lehman, Lead Planner for Lycoming County Planning Department, who is responsible for marketing the County’s nutrient credits.
“We often have credits left near the end of the year that we could have sold locally, but by the time we know they are available, our local buyers have already locked into other contracts to fulfill their remaining needs,” said Lehman. “Therefore, building relationships outside our County will become even more important as most of our local facilities complete their upgrades and go from credit generators to credit buyers.”
Seventy-five percent of the revenue received by the County in the nutrient trading program is paid out to the participating farm operations. There are no restrictions on the income, allowing farmers to use it however they choose. The remaining twenty-five percent of the revenue is retained by Lycoming County to recoup the costs of operating the program.
Participation in the nutrient trading program and the PENNVEST auction requires County staff to engage in a lengthy process of credit certification, verification, determination of auction eligibility, and auction enrollment.
The statewide nutrient trading program was designed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) as an optional tool to decrease the cost of compliance with Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction mandates.
Credit trading allows regulated point sources, such as sewer plants, to purchase credits in lieu of making costly upgrades to their on-site wastewater treatment facilities. In many cases, purchasing credits can dramatically reduce the cost of complying with nutrient reduction mandates, saving ratepayer dollars and increasing economic competitiveness.
In addition to agricultural projects, nutrient credits can also be generated by wastewater treatment facilities that go beyond their required pollution reductions.
Both TVMA [Tiadaghton Valley Municipal Authority] and WBRA [West Branch Regional Authority] have recently completed construction of state-of-the-art regional treatment plants. In future years, they anticipate having credits to sell. Additional practices in stormwater management and stream restoration may be incorporated into the program as credit generating BMPs.
The Lycoming County Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy (CBTS), originated in 2008, has brought together stakeholders from across the County to craft an innovative program that provides flexible options to wastewater treatment plants, preserves economic opportunities, and improves the environment here at home.
Development of the Lycoming County CBTS initiative has been supported by grant funding from PA DEP, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.
For more information, visit the Lycoming County CBTS home page, which can be accessed online. Features include information about the County program, a news archive, photo slideshows, and links to external resources.
NewsClip: Lycoming County Passes $250K In Nutrient Credits Sales In 2014

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