First ocean acidification lawsuit filed against EPA

The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Administrator Lisa Jackson over the agency’s failure to recognize the impacts of ocean acidification on waters off the state of Washington.

Brought under the federal Clean Water Act, the lawsuit is the first legal action in the country to address ocean acidification. The case tests whether the reach of the Clean Water Act extends to the greenhouse gas carbon dixoide, CO2, as a pollutant.

“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, CO2 is one of the biggest threats to our ocean waters.”



The oceans readily absorb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other human activities, causing the seawater to become more acidic, lowering its pH, a standard measure of acidity. This process, known as ocean acidification, impairs the ability of marine animals to build the protective shells and skeletons they need to survive.

Studies have found that ocean acidification hurts nearly every marine animal with a shell, including oysters, urchins, sea stars, and crabs. It weakens and dissolves the thin shells of certain plankton that form the base of the marine food web.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeks to compel EPA to amend Washington’s impaired waters list to include any ocean waters that are failing to attain water quality standards as a result of ocean acidification.

The Clean Water Act requires states to identify as impaired those water bodies failing to meet federal water quality standards. The Act also requires the EPA to oversee the states’ impaired waters lists, approve or disapprove state-submitted lists, and add any waters failing to attain water quality standards to the impaired list when those waters are omitted by a state.

Environment News Service, 14 May 2009. Full article.

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