- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

COLCHESTER, Vt. (AP) - The state Department of Environmental Conservation is going to study the possibility of creating a flexible system that places a cap on emissions to help reduce the amount of phosphorous pollution that runs into Lake Champlain from rivers and streams.

The system, called a cap-and-trade system, places a mandatory cap on emissions while providing emissions sources flexibility in how they comply, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which says they provide strict environmental accountability without inhibiting economic growth.

Vermont DEC Commissioner David Mears said the state is going to spend about $100,000 to hire experts to determine whether a phosphorus trading program might work in much the same way such a system helped reduce sulfur dioxide emissions, a component of acid rain.

“And the theory is that it becomes more economically efficient overall, if you look across the whole sector, that you’re making the best possible investments, the most cost-effective investments, to reduce pollution,” Mears told Vermont Public Radio (https://bit.ly/1wC5W0K).

The long-term cleanup of Lake Champlain could be the largest and most expensive environmental challenge facing Vermont. Much of the problem comes from phosphorous runoff from farms and other human activity.

Phosphorous is blamed for late-summer algae blooms on Lake Champlain. The phosphorous depletes oxygen in the water and eventually kills aquatic life. It can jeopardize drinking water systems.

In the 1990s some Northeastern lakes couldn’t support brook trout after they were poisoned by acid rain. Federal officials implemented the cap-and-trade program, which nearly cut in half the amount of sulfur dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere, reducing the ecological effects of acid rain. Polluters would cut their emissions or pay someone else to cut emissions for them.

The idea being considered is that phosphorous pollution could be reduced in much the same way.

Mears said a contractor to do the study will be hired by year’s end. No proposals are expected before 2016.

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Information from: WVPS-FM, https://www.vpr.net


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