Environmentalists sue EPA over ocean acidification

The Center for Biological Diversity has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to revise water-quality standards that would protect sea life from ocean acidification and climate change.

In April 2013, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal petition requesting that the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) develop new water-quality standards to monitor and detect ocean acidification as required by the Clean Water Act.

But in the 12-page lawsuit it filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, the Center charges that the EPA failed to respond to the petition and has taken no steps to address the growing threat of ocean acidification to marine life – despite the agency acknowledging back in 2010 that it has the duty and authority to address ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act.

“The EPA is ignoring the threat of ocean acidification, and that’s very dangerous. We need to act now to protect oysters, corals and other marine animals that are already being hurt by the deadly effects of ocean acidification,” said Emily Jeffers, a Center attorney.

The oceans absorb 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide pollution every day, which is changing the ocean chemistry and making it more acidic.

Ocean acidification interferes with the ability of shellfish and corals to turn calcium carbonate into protective shells, leading for instance to massive oyster die-offs in the Pacific Northwest. Corals worldwide are endangered by ocean acidification.

But current water-quality standards, which are measured by pH, are 40 years old, making them both out-dated and inadequate to protect marine life from ocean acidification.

“Scientists are telling us we need new water-quality standards, but the federal agency charged with protecting our water is turning a blind eye to the problem,” said Jeffers. “If we want to save our fisheries and coastal ecosystems, we need standards that reflect the best scientific knowledge.”


Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey

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