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EPA & Army Corps Propose Rulemaking On Clean Water Act Jurisdiction

The proposed rule developed jointly by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Army Corps of Engineers on the Clean Water Act (CWA)  could bring millions of acres of wetlands under the authority of the CWA.  Meanwhile, the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) has held three new webinars covering biodiversity offsetting in Australia and New Zealand.

The proposed rule developed jointly by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Army Corps of Engineers on the Clean Water Act (CWA) could bring millions of acres of wetlands under the authority of the CWA. Meanwhile, the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) has held three new webinars covering biodiversity offsetting in Australia and New Zealand.

This article was originally published in the Mitigation Mail newsletter. Click here to read the original.

21 October 2013 |   Greetings! Last month, the US EPA moved on a joint rulemaking with the Army Corps to clarify once and for all which waterbodies are covered under the Clean Water Act – a question that had been contested for years, with debate hinging on whether waters connecting to “navigable waters” fell under the agencies’ authority.

 

The proposed rule has been sent to the Office of Management and Budget and isn’t publicly available, but an EPA report released last month, which serves as the scientific basis for the rule, offers some clues.
 
The report suggests a broad interpretation of authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). “Streams, regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters,” writes acting assistant administrator Nancy Stoner in a blog post. Wetlands and open waters in riparian areas and floodplains also meet the connectivity test. But the report declines to make any hard and fast rules when it comes to geographically isolated wetlands like prairie potholes – preferring to consider these on a case-by-case basis.


The rulemaking will presumably replace already-controversial 2011 EPA-Corps guidance on CWA jurisdiction. If accepted, it could bring millions of acres of wetlands under CWA protection and the end of arguing about jurisdiction one case at a time. Right now everything’s under review (or more accurately will be, as soon as the government reopens).

While you’re waiting, the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) has posted recordings of recent webinars on Australia’s EPBC Environmental Offset Policy and Offsets Assessment Guide, lessons learned on biodiversity offsetting in New Zealand, and New South Wales’ offset metrics. You can watch the webinars and view presentations here.

 
Valorando Naturaleza
, sister site to Ecosystem Marketplace will present the second webinar in its report launch series, Considering Compensations in Latin America: Carbon Management, Communities And Corporate Responsibility on Friday Oct 25th at 12pm EST. This webinar focuses on green decision making and south-south marketplace developments and will be presented in Spanish.

 

VN.org brings together private sector speakers including Keyvan Macedo of Natura (Brazil), Carlos Berner of the Santiago Climate Exchange (Chile), Valentina Lira of Concha y Toro Winery (Chile) and Sylvia Chaves of Florex (Costa Rica), to discuss how forest carbon offsets fit into their strategies and what their experience has been engaging in such deals. Register here to reserve your place!

 

Finally, if you enjoy your monthly MitMail, consider making a small donation. As a not-for-profit organization, it’s our mission to provide top-notch, freely available information on environmental markets and conservation finance, and we rely on our supporters to be able to do so. Just $150 gets you a place of honor on our sidebar, and helps us keep the lights on. Click here to donate.

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at mitmail@ecosystemmarketplace.com.



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EM Exclusives

Restoration vs. Renewable Energy: Amateurism Doesn’t Pay

Critics of renewable energy investments usually focus on the relatively high cost of the power they generate. New project proposals require sophisticated financial models that compare permitting, manufacturing, and operating costs against projected power generation rates and pricing over time. Once a project is in production, those initial projections are held up against actual outputs so that the models on which they were based get adjusted based on real data.

 

Environmental restoration proposals are rarely assessed using return on investment calculations. In fact, project developers may need only a before-and-after illustration and a willing land owner to receive funding for a new project. Restoration investments may face criticisms, but not due to their estimated output being more expensive than alternatives. Output is rarely measured using metrics that the public can understand and thus frequently not valued at all.

 

So why is it, asks Damon Hess of Sitka Technology Group, that the requirements for funding renewable energy are so much more onerous than those for environmental restoration? Public investments in renewable energy projects are meant to spur larger private investments and thus are held to a higher standard, he writes. Public investments in environmental restoration are meant to make us feel good about our commitment to “mother nature” and thus are given treated with kid gloves.

Read the opinion piece here.


Waccamaw Wetland Mitigation Bank Helps Developers And Environmentalists Make Peace In South Carolina

A large gap in Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve on the outskirts of Myrtle Beach has been filled with the long-desired acquisition of a piece of old Horry County family land known as the Vaught Tract. The 754-acre addition brings the preserve, which holds 23 of the mysterious wetlands known as Carolina Bays, to 10,444 acres.

 

The addition is being hailed as a precedent in the way it was acquired. The new parcel was donated as a wetlands mitigation bank, meaning credits can be bought from it by private owners, businesses or government agencies to compensate for wetlands they must destroy when they build something. The state’s residents got more preserved green space “next to a very urban area” without expense to the taxpayers, and the bank will make it possible for some development to proceed.

 

“Not only are we adding to the already significant Lewis Ocean Bay with easements into perpetuity, but it also allows the sale of much-needed mitigation credits to local developers,” said state Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Surfside Beach, who chairs the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and was instrumental in swaying the delegation’s vote.

Get the story here.


A Changing Climate: Implications for Business

The IPCC’s report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis is the most detailed assessment of climate science ever. Over 2,000 pages of scientific consensus make clear that climate change is real, that it is happening now and that human influence on the changing climate is more certain than ever.

 

To help the business community better understand the implications of climate change for their business model, the European Climate Foundation, which promotes energy and climate policy that reduces carbon emissions in Europe, have produced a digestible summary of the IPCC report. Published by the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School and the Programme for Sustainability Leadership and supported by the ECF, Climate Change: Actions, Trends and Implications for Business distills the key findings of the report into an easily readable, but non-the-less scientifically accurate document.

Learn more here.


Mitigation News

EPA and Corps Propose New Rule on CWA Jurisdiction

A major new report released by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month on connectivity of the nation’s waterbodies will “serve as a basis” for future rulemaking, according to acting assistant administrator Nancy Stoner.

 

In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in Rapanos v. United States that all waters with a “significant nexus” to navigable waters fall under government under the Clean Water Act – a term that’s had everyone scratching their head ever since.The EPA and the Army Corps in 2011 put out guidance to clarify jurisdictional issues, which was not received well by some industry groups. Now they appear ready to pull the guidance and instead move to rulemaking: an EPA-Corps proposed joint rule based on the report’s findings was sent to the Office of Management and Budget in late September.


The rule isn’t publicly available for the time being, though the report offers some clues. It makes a case for scientific connectivity but not how that might translate into scope of authority for the EPA. Its findings would seem to support a broad interpretation of authority under the Clean Water Act, though the EPA appears to be inclined to consider geographically isolated wetlands (which were a big question mark) on a case-by-case basis rather than offering any general rule of thumb. The report undergoes a review by a Scientific Advisory Board in December and is open for public comment this month.

E&E News has the full story.
Read the EPA report (PDF).


Alberta Rolls Out its New Wetland Policy

Alberta unveiled a new wetland policy in September that establishes a mitigation hierarchy and ranking system for wetlands, and will create an fee system for developers to support wetland restoration or public education to mitigate unavoidable impacts. It’s a big step for the province, which has been mulling a policy for the last eight years to protect threatened wetlands, especially from oilsands development in the northeast. Environment Minister Diana McQueen said that flexibility was a priority in balancing wetland preservation with continued development.

 

But as a blog post by LL.M. candidate in the University of Calgary Faculty of Law Dave Poulton notes, the policy diverges from other compensatory frameworks in some significant ways. There is no reference to no net loss, a somewhat unclear scope and timeline, and the policy only applies to permanent impacts. There’s also no mention of mitigation banking – just of the in-lieu fee option.

Read Poulton’s post here.
Get coverage at the Edmonton Journal.


Treading Carefully in Sage Grouse Habitat

A new deal deal between Chesapeake Energy and the Wyoming governor would open large swathes of land to oil drilling in the state that have been designated as sage grouse habitat. The brokers behind the agreement say it will enable drilling while sticking to the state’s sage grouse conservation strategy. Officials call the deal an ‘exception,’ but concerns have arisen that it sets an unwelcome precedent.

 

To this point, Wyoming’s “core area” strategy has been praised as a model for protecting the sage grouse, which will come up for possible listing as an endangered species in 2015. With that date looming, others are considering state-level planning to avert stricter rules under a federal ruling, including Montana and in North Dakota. A recent report suggests that federal listing would cost Coloardo and Utah millions. Chesapeake Energy says it’s committed to protecting the sage grouse, citing a commitment of $2.3 million for restoration under the deal.

Read about the new deal in Wyoming here.


Ever Wonder How Your EP&L Sausage Gets Made?

A new article by Richard Mattison, Chief Executive at Trucost, walks readers through the making of an Environmental Profit & Loss (EP&L) statement, which Trucost helped to develop for Puma in 2011. Mattison discusses the tricky conceptual questions – for example, how do you know where to look across the supply chain to understand a business’s environmental footprint? – and offers a closer look at the EP&L methodology. The piece also notes how natural capital accounting has helped shape Puma’s decision making on issues like the most sustainable approach to sourcing cotton. (The answer, by the way: Environmentally Extended Input Output modelling. It’s very advanced sausage.)

Read more here.


What Do Victoria’s New Veg Clearing Rules Mean for Biodiversity?

New changes to vegetation clearing laws in Victoria have some conservation-minded observers uneasy. The new rules, which purport to cut “green tape,” slim down on-site assessment requirements; now only projects on moderate or high risk lands trigger an assessment and offset requirements. But as an article on the Conversation points out, the maps of species impacts underpinning the system narrowly focus on threatened and endangered species and appear to contain a number of classification errors. There’s also a shift in language from “net gain” to “no net loss.” On the plus side, publicly-available maps are a positive development, bugs and all. The new system also provides much-needed clarification on the assessment process.

Learn more at The Conversation.


PES: A Confused Debate?

Amidst the recent boom in research and practice around payments for ecosystem services (PES), something is going unnoticed: the discussion is getting muddled. Terminology and classification systems are often too broad, inconsistent, and confusing, according to a new paper. The paper suggests distinguishing between “genuine” market based instruments (MBIs) and those simply involving monetary transactions. The terms are often used interchangably, but perhaps PES, with “with very little or no feature of market governance or commodification” doesn’t wear the MBI hat very well after all.

Access the paper here.


The Monthly Roundup

Last but never least, here’s a roundup of news bites on mitigation from around the web:

 

  • A 364-acre Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) mitigation bank is underway off Highway 101 near Seaside. Completed by Henderson Environmental Design on a parcel owned by the North Coast Land Conservancy, the bank does double-duty as a credit source for ODOT and a means for controlling frequent flooding on the 101.
  • We have a sighting of that rarest of wetland beasts: a credit price. The Zachary, Louisiana City Council will pay the Gum Swamp Mitigation Bank $56,000 for 1.3 acres of wetland to mitigate for a new bypass road, or about $43,000 an acre.
  • Meanwhile in Marin and Sonomia Counties, California, Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) has acquired 56 acres of tidal wetlands habitat to develop its own bank. County officials say commercial mitigation bank credits are too expensive, having risen “as high as $1 million per acre” thanks to competition for credits.
  • An MOU between the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Green Mountain Power (GMP) requires the latter to pay $18,438 into a bat conservation fund. GMP’s 21-turbine wind project is permitted to ‘take’ four bats listed as endangered (none have been recorded killed to date). GMP also curtails its turbines during conditions when bats are likely to be out and about.
  • A 867.9 acre wetland and stream bank’s been approved serving north & central Louisiana. The Little Eva Mitigation Bank, developed by Resource Environmental Solutions, LLC, aims to restore and protect bottomland hardwood wetlands, stream and riparian buffer habitats to meet offset demands in the Red River Drainage Basin.

 


EVENTS

 


Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development

The Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development will bring together business leaders, NGOs and policy-makers from around Southeast Asia to discuss commitments and policy recommendations to increase sustainability across seven sectors – agriculture & forestry, palm oil, consumer goods, mining, financial services, building & urban infrastructure and energy.The forum will discuss the transformational journey to the green economy and offer practical ways to accelerate business solutions and policy frameworks for a more sustainable world. 18-19 November 2013. Singapore.

Learn more here.


World Forum on Natural Capital

The inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital will be the first major global conference devoted exclusively to turning the debate on natural capital accounting into action. It will build on the enormous private sector interest shown at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012 and the many developments that have taken place since. The World Forum on Natural Capital will bring together world-class speakers, cutting edge case studies and senior decision makers from different sectors, in order to turn the debate into practical action. Lively plenaries and interactive breakout sessions in four conference streams will explore the risks and opportunities for business, allow access to the very latest developments and provide an opportunity to help shape the debate through dialogue between policymakers, business leaders and prominent experts in the field. 21-22 November 2013. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Learn more here.


2014 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on training and education sessions and important regulatory updates. Learn from & network with the 400+ attendees the conference draws, offering perspectives from bankers, regulators, and users. Submit proposals for panels and presentations online by October 1st! 6-9 May 2014. Denver, Colorado.

Learn more here.


Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration

CEER is a Collaborative Effort of the leaders of the National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) and the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). It will bring together ecological and ecosystem restoration scientists and practitioners to address challenges and share information about restoration projects, programs, and research from across North America. Across the continent, centuries of unsustainable activities have damaged the aquatic, marine, and terrestrial environments that underpin our economies and societies and give rise to a diversity of wildlife and plants. This conference supports SER and NCER efforts to reverse environmental degradation by renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats for the benefit of humans and nature. CEER is an interdisciplinary conference and brings together scientists, engineers, policy makers, restoration planners, partners, NGO’s and stakeholders from across the country actively involved in ecological and ecosystem restoration. 28 July – 1 August 2014. New Orleans, LA.

Learn more here.


JOBS

 


Chief Investment Officer

Ecotrust Forest Management – Oregon USA

Ecotrust Forest Management (EFM) is seeking a Chief Investment Officer (CIO) to lead the execution of all financial planning and investment analysis functions for the forestland investment funds managed by EFM. The CIO will oversee the investment process, including due diligence, presentation to the Investment Committee, and ongoing portfolio management, evaluating and recommending buy/hold/sell decisions on forestland properties while optimizing EFM’s desired mix of timber and non-timber income sources, such as carbon sales, conservation easements, and tax credits. He/she will participate in short and long term planning and analysis of the Manager’s forestland under management as well as forecasting of fund-level performance. This person will advance the development of forestland modeling tools and systems that support these processes. Finally, the CIO will be pivotal to developing new strategies for future funds and investment products.


The CIO is a key member of the EFM team with significant responsibility in the areas of investment performance and investment opportunity analysis. There are meaningful long-term growth and compensation opportunities in the firm for the individual who excels in this role.

Learn more here.


Administration and Finance Officer

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at mitmail@ecosystemmarketplace.com.


Forest Trends’ Fundraising Challenge

Forest Trends’ work doesn’t grow on trees – we rely on readers’ generosity to help keep them standing.

Now through November 22, (and for the cost of a typical lunch!), donations to Forest Trends’ Crowdrise campaign could leverage up to $1 million in matching awards through the Skoll Foundation’s Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. Help Forest Trends expand our vital services to communities and experts on the front lines of ecosystem conservation. $10 will go a long way!

Support us on Crowdrise


EM Exclusives

Restoration vs. Renewable Energy: Amateurism Doesn’t Pay

Critics of renewable energy investments usually focus on the relatively high cost of the power they generate. New project proposals require sophisticated financial models that compare permitting, manufacturing, and operating costs against projected power generation rates and pricing over time. Once a project is in production, those initial projections are held up against actual outputs so that the models on which they were based get adjusted based on real data.

 

Environmental restoration proposals are rarely assessed using return on investment calculations. In fact, project developers may need only a before-and-after illustration and a willing land owner to receive funding for a new project. Restoration investments may face criticisms, but not due to their estimated output being more expensive than alternatives. Output is rarely measured using metrics that the public can understand and thus frequently not valued at all.

 

So why is it, asks Damon Hess of Sitka Technology Group, that the requirements for funding renewable energy are so much more onerous than those for environmental restoration? Public investments in renewable energy projects are meant to spur larger private investments and thus are held to a higher standard, he writes. Public investments in environmental restoration are meant to make us feel good about our commitment to “mother nature” and thus are given treated with kid gloves.

Read the opinion piece here.


Waccamaw Wetland Mitigation Bank Helps Developers And Environmentalists Make Peace In South Carolina

A large gap in Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve on the outskirts of Myrtle Beach has been filled with the long-desired acquisition of a piece of old Horry County family land known as the Vaught Tract. The 754-acre addition brings the preserve, which holds 23 of the mysterious wetlands known as Carolina Bays, to 10,444 acres.

 

The addition is being hailed as a precedent in the way it was acquired. The new parcel was donated as a wetlands mitigation bank, meaning credits can be bought from it by private owners, businesses or government agencies to compensate for wetlands they must destroy when they build something. The state’s residents got more preserved green space “next to a very urban area” without expense to the taxpayers, and the bank will make it possible for some development to proceed.

 

“Not only are we adding to the already significant Lewis Ocean Bay with easements into perpetuity, but it also allows the sale of much-needed mitigation credits to local developers,” said state Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Surfside Beach, who chairs the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and was instrumental in swaying the delegation’s vote.

Get the story here.


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