On Dec. 10, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced rules for developing a voluntary water quality trading program to facilitate pollution reduction and protect the quality of state waterways. The rulemaking addresses essential elements of DEQ’s water quality trading program, with appropriate standards for accountability, enforceability, and provisions to ensure transparency.

A lack of regulatory certainty has been a significant barrier for water quality trading programs across the U.S. However, Oregon’s rulemaking is intended to provide consistency and regulatory certainty for eligible entities, other stakeholders, and the public.
The proposed rules enable water quality trading as a voluntary compliance option in water quality permits and water quality certifications issued under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rules also establish mechanisms for DEQ to evaluate, approve, and oversee implementation of water quality trades.

The rules require traders to submit to DEQ for review and approval plans with specific elements of the proposed trade. That trading plan is required to go through a public notice and comment period along with the permit or certification. If approved, the elements of the approved trading plan are incorporated into the permit or water quality certification as enforceable conditions. Finally, the rules require annual reporting to ensure that trading projects are implemented and verified and that credits are developed as intended under the trading plan.