Limit Nutrient Offset Payments
Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: s1862
Sponsor: Sen. Vernon Malone (D-Wake)
Legislative Session: 2006
SB 1862 overturns the mitigation fee increase set by the Environmental Management Commission to protect the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico estuaries.
The nutrient offset program is a voluntary program offered by DENR to allow developers that go over their allotted nutrient loading to pay a fee per pound per acre instead of conducting the mitigation on-site. The program has been available in the Neuse and Tar Pamlico river basins for nitrogen, but phosphorous was a new addition to the Tar-Pam basin at $45 per tenth of a pound. The Senate passed the bill keeping $45 as the price for phosphorous offset, as the program had never been offered at a lower rate. The House passed a version of SB 1862 without any program for phosphorous. In a strange twist, the conference report came back with the phosphorous amount at $11, an amount it has never been and a figure woefully inadequate to address mitigation issues for the nutrient. It quickly became apparent during a House floor debate that the number for phosphorous was drawn from thin air. Rep. Paul Leubke (D-Durham) negotiated that the bill not be given final approval until another bill passed which would fix the phosphorous issue. The correcting provision allows DENR to turn down a phosphorous nutrient offset payment if the payment is not sufficient to cover the cost of mitigation (essentially protecting the phosphorous mitigation program from being ineffective). Both bills (S1862 and the correcting provision, S927 passed into law). We will be watching closely to make sure that the promised study comes forth in 2007 to fix the fee.