District Mayor Vincent Gray was chosen Monday to lead the group overseeing the clean up of the Chesapeake Bay as area officials consider applying a "cap-and-trade" approach to those anti-pollution efforts.
The Chesapeake Executive Council named Gray to succeed Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator who headed the council for the last two years. Gray promised to help states and localities find cost-effective ways to save the country's largest estuary.
"Economy and environment are not opposite goals, and they are not strange bedfellows," Gray said. "They are compliments."
The bipartisan group from the seven affected jurisdictions -- including the District, Maryland and Virginia -- also used its annual meeting to outline plans for regional nutrient-reduction credits, or "nutrient trading," similar to the "cap-and-trade" plan that federal officials considered to reduce carbon emissions -- and against which national Republicans have railed for years.
Nutrient trading sets a cap for the level of nitrogen and phosphorus a company can release into the bay. Companies releasing a high amount of pollutants would be allowed to do so after purchasing credits from facilities that produce fewer pollutants than allowed.
Republican and Democratic officials heralded the strategy as a key component to the Chesapeake cleanup efforts. Some local programs are already in place and could be extended to the entire region, they said.
"It's not the panacea that some say it will be," but it is an important tool, said Virginia Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.
Since 2008, the board has implemented two-year benchmarks to monitor progress in its cleanup efforts after decades of lofty long-term goals yielded disappointing results. Virginia, D.C. and Maryland appeared to be meeting many of their milestones.
EPA officials lauded Maryland for doubling its "flush fee" on those living in the Bay watershed to pay for sewage treatment plant upgrades and for helping revive the blue crab population. Virginia, meanwhile, cut nitrogen levels far above their 2010-2011 goals and contributed $88 million to water quality improvement.
The District installed 800,000 "green roofs" and audited 2,400 homes to assess pollutants coming from residential properties.
By 2013, the seven jurisdictions must reduce sediment by 482 million pounds.