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Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Draft Water Quality Trading “How-To” Manual and Guidance Are Open for Public Comment

Under its new policy to solicit public comment on draft guidance documents before they are finalized, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has opened a 21-day public comment period on two documents related to water quality trading:

  1. Water Quality Trading How-To Manual (WQT How-To Manual)
  2. Guidance for Implementing Water Quality Trading in WPDES Permits (WQT Guidance)

The public comment period is open through the close of business on Friday, April 26, 2013.

These two documents are the most recent addition to a set of materials WDNR is developing to guide implementation of Wisconsin’s new phosphorus rules.

The WQT How-To Manual is primarily directed to WPDES Permit holders and their consultants, to help individual permittees assess whether water quality trading is a viable compliance option for them and, if so, how to go about putting together successful trades. The WQT Guidance is a slightly more technical presentation, primarily directed to WDNR staff to assure consistency in the way the water quality trading option is incorporated into WPDES Permits as they are issued to industrial and municipal dischargers. Both documents provide links to additional resources and both address the following trading elements:

  1. credits and credit thresholds
  2. trade ratios
  3. trading partners
  4. trading timing

Water quality trading is one of the options available to WPDES permittees to comply with WDNR’s new phosphorus effluent limitations. In its simplest form, water quality trading is a voluntary exchange of pollutant reduction credits. A facility with a higher control cost can buy a reduction "credit" from a facility with a lower control cost, thus reducing its cost of compliance. Trades can take place between two or more point sources, between point and nonpoint sources or between two or more nonpoint sources; trades can be done directly or through a third party "broker," such as a watershed organization or county conservation office. Any discharger required to meet water quality based effluent limitations is eligible to participate in a water quality trade and the pollutants are not limited to phosphorus.

Other compliance options include the traditional "bricks and mortar construction" of new or upgraded treatment facilities, an innovative but as-yet-untried approach called adaptive management, and variances. For more information about DNR’s phosphorus rules and these compliance options click here.

To review the draft How-To Manual and/or submit comments on it, click here.

To review the draft Guidance and/or submit comments on it, click here.

To review WDNR’s new policy and/or to subscribe to emails announcing when new guidance is available for comment click here

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About this Author

linda h, bochert, partner, michael best law firm, environmental regulation
Of Counsel

Linda has spent her career in the arena of environmental regulation. Bringing her 17 years of experience as a state regulator, for 24 years she has continued to help our clients establish and maintain effective working relationships with state and federal environmental regulatory agencies. Linda has served in various policy advisory roles to state agencies, from both inside and outside of state government, including the Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Revenue. 

Clients have consistently benefited from her unique understanding of the workings of regulatory...

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