The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency generally likes what the state Division of Water Quality proposes to do to deal with the controversial practice of allowing those who restore a stream or wetlands to sell credits against development that destroys more than one site.
This double dipping, as critics call it, became a hot issue this week when The News & Observer reported that the state is paying a Maryland company $911,000 for restored sites that the state several years ago had previously paid $1.8 million.
Officials are calling for reviews of the state Ecosystem Enhancement Program, which spent the $911,000. The state Division of Water Quality, meanwhile, is proposing new rules that would prevent such double payments. Both agencies are under the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
At a water quality division meeting today, an EPA representative said the federal agency finds the proposed rules "largely consistent" with federal policy because they do not allow a restored site to be double counted against multiple, similar-sized parcels of damaged streams or wetlands.
But the representative, Kathy Matthews, said the EPA does not have standing to challenge state restoration programs, which have contributed to the double dipping issue because they resemble the federal restoration requirements.
Water quality officials took comments at the meeting from environmentalists, developers and companies in the environmental restoration business. The division expects to introduce the proposed rules to the Environmental Management Commission next month for approval.