February 2008, Vol. 20, No.2


Connecticut Water Quality Trading Program Honored

A program designed to reduce nitrogen discharges into the Long Island Sound has resulted in the State of Connecticut winning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) first Blue Ribbon Water Quality Trading Award.

The award highlights programs that have achieved environmental and economic benefits and showcases those that align well with EPA’s Water Quality Trading Policy. The Connecticut program was selected over other finalists from across the country, according to an EPA news release.

Every summer, the bottom waters of the western half of Long Island Sound experience hypoxia, according to EPA. Extensive monitoring of Long Island Sound has identified the excess discharge of nitrogen from human activities as the primary pollutant causing hypoxia. In 2001, EPA, along with both the State of Connecticut and State of New York, set aggressive new targets to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen that can be discharged to Long Island Sound without impairing the health of the Sound. Through 2006, the point source nitrogen load to the sound (from 106 wastewater treatment plants in New York and Connecticut) was reduced by nearly 25%, EPA notes.

One of Connecticut’s management strategies to reduce nitrogen loading was to develop an innovative nitrogen-trading program among the 79 wastewater treatment plants located throughout the state. Through the Nitrogen Credit Exchange, established in 2002, the Connecticut program has a goal of reducing nitrogen discharges by 58.5% by 2014, according to the news release.

According to EPA, the third year of the Nitrogen Credit Exchange resulted in 28 wastewater treatment plants discharging below their assigned permit limits, enabling them to sell nitrogen credits valued at $1.31 million to wastewater treatment plants in the state that are not upgrading or otherwise require purchasing credits. For more information, see www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/trading.htm.

Acid Rain Forming Emissions Fall Sharply, EPA Reports

For the first time ever, sulfur dioxide emissions from the power sector fell below 9 million Mg (10 million tons) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Acid Rain Program and Related Programs 2006 Progress Report.

In 2006, annual sulfur dioxide emissions from acid rain program electric power generation sources fell sharply, with reductions of 754,000 Mg (830,000 tons) from 2005 levels and an overall reduction of 40% from 1990 levels. Nitrogen oxide emissions decreased by more than 2.7 million Mg (3 million tons) since 1990 and had decreased to nearly half the level anticipated without the Acid Rain Program. These reductions have led to a significant decrease in acid deposition, the news release notes, resulting in improved water quality in U.S. lakes and streams.

Since 1995, the market-based cap and trade program has significantly reduced acid deposition in the United States by decreasing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

The Acid Rain and Related Programs Progress Report includes emissions, allowance market, and compliance data, status and trends in acid deposition, air quality and ecological effects, and information on implementation of the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which will further reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by about 70% and 60%, respectively, from 2003 levels.

View the 2006 progress report at www.epa.gov/airmarkets/progress/arp06.html

EPA Pushes Procurement of Materials From Recovered Waste

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is revising the list of items designated in the Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines’ landscaping products category to promote the use of materials recovered from solid waste, according to an agency news release.

EPA is expanding the description of “compost” from yard trimmings and food waste to include compost from biosolids and manure, but does not limit the designation to specific types of organic materials. In addition, EPA has added fertilizer made from recovered materials as a designated landscaping item.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act requires procurement officials to buy products containing recovered materials when the agencies spend more than $10,000 a year on that item, EPA notes. For example, if a county agency spends more than $10,000 a year on an EPA-designated item and part of that money is from appropriated federal funds, then the agency must purchase that item made from recovered materials. Agencies are required to purchase the product with the highest recovered material content level practicable, given reasonable competition, product price, performance, and availability.

For more information, see www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/procure/rman5.htm

Dairy Farms Receive Grants Toward Anaerobic Digestion

Focus on Energy (Focus; Madison, Wis.) awarded eight grants totaling more than $1.5 million to Wisconsin dairy farms to become more energy-independent. These grants will help each dairy farm install an anaerobic digester to produce heat and electricity from organic material, according to a press release from Focus, an initiative to help residents and businesses install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

“When completed, the anaerobic digesters will generate approximately 3 MW and 22,886,000 kW hours of electricity per year,” said Larry Krom, project manager for Focus. “That is enough energy to power 2298 average Wisconsin homes or over 75% of the electricity use of a city the size of Waupun.”

According to the press release, the annual environmental benefits of the projects are equivalent to offsetting 10,389 Mg (11,443 tons) of coal from being burned, the emissions from 19,407 cars, and 22,857 Mg (25,175 tons) of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

A digester for a 1000-cow dairy farm can produce enough electricity to power 150 average Wisconsin homes, Focus said.

For more information, see www.focusonenergy.com