Group may sue EPA under Clean Water Act to address ocean acidification
November 14, 2008
An environmental group plans to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to uphold water standards in the face of ocean acidification.
The Center for Biological Diversity today announced its intent to file a lawsuit against the EPA if the agency does not promptly respond to a petition the environmental group submitted last year. The petition asked the EPA to impose stricter pH standards for ocean water quality and publish guidance to help states protect U.S. waters from ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification is increasingly caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Because atmsopheric concentrations of CO2 are rising, oceans are becoming more acidic. Acidification is important because makes it more difficult for marine organisms to build the protective calcium carbonate shells and skeletons they need to survive. Some of the most affected creatures are those that form the base of the marine food chain. Coral reefs are also expected to suffer.
Great Barrier Reef in Australia
The Center for Biological Diversity says it will use the federal Clean Water Act to force to the agency to "update its water-quality criteria to reflect the latest scientific knowledge." It notes that since the agency developed its pH standard in 1976, "an extensive body of research has developed on the impacts of carbon dioxide on the oceans."
According to the Center's notice of intent to sue — which gives the EPA 60 days to respond before the Center may pursue legal action — the EPA’s current water-quality criterion for pH is "outdated and woefully inadequate in the face of ocean acidification." It says that a 0.2 decline in pH — the amount currently allowed — would be devastating to marine ecosystems. Since acidification is linked to carbon dioxide emissions, the Center is essentially attempting to push the agency to regulate emissions.
"Ocean acidification is global warming's evil twin," said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity's oceans program. "The EPA has a duty under the Clean Water Act to protect our nation’s waters from pollution, and today, carbon dioxide is one of the biggest threats to our ocean waters."
"Unless we take steps now to stop ocean acidification, it could cause the collapse of our marine ecosystems," Sakashita continued. "EPA needs to take prompt action to address this serious water-quality threat facing our oceans."