PA Faces Another Costly EPA Mandate

President Obama’s energy tax—also known as the Clean Power Plan—is just one of many EPA mandates stifling Pennsylvania’s economy.  One mandate in particular imposes enormous costs on Pennsylvania farmers and taxpayers.

Chesapeake Bay Mandates place caps on nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that can flow from rivers to the Chesapeake Bay. Historically, one of the largest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus run-off is livestock farms.

Last month, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary John Quigley estimated it would cost Pennsylvanians $3.6 billion up-front, or $378.3 million annually to meet EPA’s mandated reductions. But compliance needn’t come at such a painful price tag.

The burdensome costs to farmers and taxpayers stems from the DEP’s reliance on what they call Best Management Practices (BMPs). These “best practices” have failed to meet the standard their name implies—the commonwealth is far behind EPA mandated targets at a cost of nearly $4 billion thus far.

In contrast, compliance costs can be dramatically reduced by using competitive bidding for verified nitrogen reduction credits. A 2013 Legislative and Budget Finance Committee study estimates a competitive bidding process could cost 80 to 85 percent less than modeled BMPs.

In addition to lower costs, a competitive bidding process also reduces taxpayer risk. The commonwealth would only pay for nutrient credits after they have been produced and then verified by the DEP. No special grants, tax credits or penalties on farmers would be necessary.  Senate Bill 724 sets up the competitive bidding process.

Absent repeal of these stringent regulations by Congress, state lawmakers and DEP should consider more affordable alternatives to comply with these mandates.