The Legal Status of Environmental Credit Stacking

46 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2014 Last revised: 5 Mar 2014

See all articles by Royal C. Gardner

Royal C. Gardner

Stetson University - Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy

Jessica Fox

Electric Power Research Institute

Date Written: 2013


Environmental credit markets have been established to offset impacts to wetlands, endangered species habitat, water quality, and the global climate system. As these markets mature, participants are exploring the concept of credit stacking, whereby a conservation project or parcel produces different types of mitigation credits for multiple markets (such as wetland and endangered species credits or water quality and carbon sequestration credits). If these stacked credits are unbundled, they may be sold in different credit markets to offset impacts from different activities. Such transactions raise concerns about additionality, interagency coordination, verification of ecological improvements, monitoring and management, and transparency. This Article examines eight different credit stacking scenarios and the emerging rules that govern the sale of credits. Generally, there is diversity in how different federal and state agencies handle credit stacking, and they have not issued clear rules on when unbundling stacked credits is permissible. The Article closes with considerations that agencies could take into account in developing a credit stacking protocol to avoid double counting and ecological loss. The credit stacking scenario where it may be most appropriate to consider unbundling is when the accounting units are pollutant-specific, such as is the case with water quality and carbon markets.

Keywords: environmental markets, credit stacking, unbundling, wetlands, mitigation banking, endangered species, conservation banking, water quality trading, carbon offsets, ecosystem services

JEL Classification: A12, D40, K32, Q18, Q24, Q25, Q28

Suggested Citation

Gardner, Royal C. and Fox, Jessica, The Legal Status of Environmental Credit Stacking (2013). Ecology Law Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 4, 2013, Stetson University College of Law Research Paper No. 2014-2, Available at SSRN:

Royal C. Gardner (Contact Author)

Stetson University - Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707-3299
United States

Jessica Fox

Electric Power Research Institute ( email )

3412 Hillview Avenue
P.O. Box 10412
Palo Alto, CA 94304-1395
United States

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