EPA Petitioned to Reduce Black Carbon 'Soot' Under Clean Water Act

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Matt Vespa, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 632-5309

EPA Petitioned to Reduce Black Carbon 'Soot' Under Clean Water Act

Potent Global Warming Pollutant Accelerates the Melting of Sea Ice and Glaciers

SAN FRANCISCO - Today the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the
Environmental Protection Agency to take action to reduce black-carbon pollution
under the federal Clean Water Act. The petition is the first to explicitly seek
protection of water in its solid form; it asks EPA to set water-quality
criteria for concentrations of black carbon on sea ice and glaciers under the
Clean Water Act - the first step toward reducing black-carbon emissions
from diesel engines and other sources due to their role in accelerating the
loss of sea ice and glaciers.

"Black
carbon, or soot, is not only dangerous to breathe but also a potent global
warming pollutant that is greatly accelerating the melt of Arctic sea ice and
glaciers around the world," said Matt Vespa, a senior attorney with the
Center. "The Clean Water Act provides important tools to reduce this
dangerous pollutant, which will slow global warming and protect public health."

Generated
from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass, black
carbon is a solid particle that warms the atmosphere in two ways. In the
atmosphere, its dark color absorbs heat and raises the temperature of the air.
When it lands on ice and snow, it darkens these surfaces, thereby absorbing
heat and increasing melting. Over the course of the Arctic spring,
black-carbon-contaminated snow and ice can melt weeks earlier than clean snow
and ice. Due to its warming effects in the air and on ice and snow, black
carbon is considered one of the largest contributors to global warming after
carbon dioxide pollution. In addition to its strong warming effect, black
carbon also has profound impacts on public health, contributing to hundreds of
thousands of premature deaths each year.

If
current
trends continue, many of the glaciers in the continental United States,
including all of the glaciers in Glacier National Park, will disappear
within the
next 25 to 30 years. Scientists believe the Arctic
could be ice free in the summer by 2030. Summer sea ice has already
decreased
by nearly 40 percent, or one million square miles, from what was
present in the
1970s.

Because
black carbon stays in the atmosphere for less than a month, however, reductions
in black-carbon emissions yield immediate environmental and public health
benefits. "Reducing black-carbon pollution today buys critically needed
time to achieve the deep reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse
gases that are ultimately necessary to preserve sea ice and glaciers,"
said Vespa. "But the window of opportunity to act, like the sea ice, is
shrinking rapidly."

If
EPA were to adopt water-quality criteria for black carbon, each state with
glaciers (Alaska, California,
Colorado, Idaho,
Montana, Oregon,
Nevada, Utah,
Washington, and Wyoming)
or sea ice (Alaska)
would either need to adopt the EPA standard or set their own. Those standards
then become the basis for developing controls on the release of black carbon in
order to protect sea ice and glaciers from this dangerous pollutant. Emissions
from diesel engines, particularly from ships and older heavy-duty vehicles and
construction equipment, is a primary domestic source of black carbon.

A copy of the petition and other information on black carbon
can be found at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/climate_law_institute/global_warming_what_how_why/black_carbon/pdfs/EPA_CWA_Black_Carbon_Petition_2-22-10.pdf.

 

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Share This Article

More in: