Environmental Protection Agency Warned to Address Ocean Acidification or Face Lawsuit

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Miyoko Sakashita,
(415) 436-9682 x 308 or
(510) 845-6703 (cell)

Center for Biological Diversity

Environmental Protection Agency Warned to Address Ocean Acidification or Face Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO - The Center for Biological
Diversity today notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of its
intent to file a lawsuit against the agency for its failure to respond to
the threat of ocean acidification. Last year, the Center filed a formal petition asking EPA to impose stricter pH
standards for ocean water quality and publish guidance to help states
protect U.S.
waters from ocean acidification. Today's notice of intent to sue
urges EPA to promptly respond to the Center's petition.

The
oceans cover about 70 percent of the Earth's surface and absorb about
22 million tons of carbon dioxide each day. The absorption of carbon
dioxide is changing seawater chemistry, causing it to become more acidic.
This process, known as ocean acidification, impairs the ability of marine
animals to build the protective shells and skeletons they need to survive.

Already,
the pH level of the ocean has decreased 0.1 units on average due to carbon
dioxide pollution caused by human activity - especially emissions
from such sources as automobiles and electrical power plants. If carbon
dioxide emissions continue unabated, seawater pH may decrease an additional
0.4 units - more than a 100 percent change in acidity. A recent
article in the journal Science noted that rapid changes in pH would have
adverse effects on a number of marine organisms and highlighted the need to
update EPA's water-quality standard for pH, according to the authors
of the July 4 Science article, "Carbon Emissions and
Acidification." "The seawater quality criteria of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency date back to 1976 ... [t]hese standards
must be re-evaluated based on the latest research on pH effects on marine
organisms," the authors wrote.

The
federal Clean Water Act requires the EPA to update water-quality criteria
to reflect the latest scientific knowledge. Since the agency developed the
pH standard back in 1976, an extensive body of research has developed on
the impacts of carbon dioxide on the oceans.

"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."

According
to the Center's notice of intent to sue, the EPA's current
water-quality criterion for pH is outdated and woefully inadequate in the
face of ocean acidification. A decline of 0.2 pH - allowed under the
current standard - would be devastating to the marine ecosystem.
Twenty-five leading scientists researching ocean acidification concluded in
a Sept. 25, 2007 commentary in the Geophysical Research Letters that
"a decrease of this magnitude would pose a risk to the physiology and
health of a variety of marine organisms."

"Unless
we take steps now to stop ocean acidification, it could cause the collapse
of our marine ecosystems," Sakashita said. "EPA needs to take
prompt action to address this serious water-quality threat facing our
oceans."

If
the EPA strengthens the pH water-quality criterion for oceans, then the
Clean Water Act requires states to adopt a water-quality standard at least as
protective as the one established by the EPA. Here, stronger water-quality
standards for pH could translate into measures that regulate pollutants
such as carbon dioxide, which is causing ocean acidification.

The
notice of intent gives the EPA 60 days to correct the alleged violations
before the Center may pursue legal action.

More
information is available from the Center for Biological Diversity at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_acidification/index.html

 

###

Share This Article

More in: