Monday, March 15, 2010

EPA Agrees To Consider Ocean Acidification Under CWA

Mar 11: U.S. EPA has agreed to consider how states can address ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act (CWA) in a  settlement that responds to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) which challenged EPA's failure to recognize the impacts of acidification on coastal waters off the state of Washington. The suit, brought under CWA, was the first to address ocean acidification. Miyoko Sakashita, CBD oceans director said, "This settlement marks a crucial step toward combating ocean acidification with our nation's strongest water-quality law, the Clean Water Act. We already have the legal tools we need to limit ocean acidification, and the Clean Water Act has a history of success reducing pollution."

    Ocean acidification, the "other carbon dioxide problem," results from the ocean's absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere, which increases the acidity of the ocean and changes the chemistry of seawater. The primary known consequence of ocean acidification is that it impairs the ability of marine animals to build and maintain the protective shells and skeletons they need to survive. Nearly every marine animal studied to date has experienced adverse effects due to acidification. Sakashita said, "Ocean acidification is global warming's evil twin, and CO2 pollution is one of the biggest threats to our marine environment. We need prompt action to curb CO2 emissions to avoid the worst consequences of acidification."

    Under the settlement, EPA has agreed to initiate a public process to develop guidance on how to approach acidification under the Federal Clean Water Act. Specifically, EPA will consider a provision of the Act that requires states to identify threatened or impaired waters and set limits on the input of pollutants into these waters. On March 15, EPA was to submit for publication in the Federal Register a notice soliciting public comments on how to evaluate waters threatened by acidification and address the problem. Scientists have confirmed widespread ocean acidification due to CO2 pollution. The Arctic, for example, faces imminent consequences, and areas of the Arctic are expected to become corrosive by 2016.

    Access a release from CBD and link to more information (click here). Access links to extensive documentation related to the agreement (click here).