Lawsuit launched over feds ignoring ocean acidification in Oregon

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to recognize that Oregon’s coastal waters are impaired by ocean acidification related to climate change, so that action can be taken to combat the problem.

It cited scientific evidence that carbon pollution is turning the waters more acidic, which is interfering with the development of shellfish, pteropods, seabirds and other marine life.

Under the Clean Water Act, state and federal officials must develop a biennial list of impaired waterways that triggers pollution controls and other protective measures for those waterways. Ocean acidification — the result of waters absorbing carbon dioxide emissions and becoming more acidic — is a condition climate scientists expect to worsen steadily.

“The ocean acidification that’s being driven by our oil addiction is devastating to Oregon’s coastal waters. We need the Biden administration to recognize this threat and take action,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney at the Center. “Carbon pollution is harming Oregon’s oysters and the plankton that whales and salmon rely on. It’s time to stop ignoring the big and growing impact that climate change is having on our oceans.”

Oregon’s oyster farms first began experiencing mass mortalities from ocean acidification in 2005. Warm ocean conditions and coastal upwelling make the West Coast particularly vulnerable: Acidification is affecting the Pacific Northwest’s coastal waters at rates and magnitudes greater than scientists had previously estimated. It has already reached levels that were not predicted until the end of the century.

Ocean acidification severely erodes the shells of small plankton called pteropods, an important base of the marine food web. Corals worldwide are endangered by ocean acidification, and some are already stunted.

Other species around the globe, such as clownfish, suffer brain damage and behavioral problems because of corrosive waters. The oceans absorb 22 million tons of CO2 pollution every day, which is changing the water’s chemistry.

Center for Biological Diversity, 31 March 2021. Article.

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