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For Immediate Release, March 22, 2010

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 632-5308

EPA Solicits Input on Ocean Acidification and Carbon Dioxide Limits Under Water Pollution Law

SAN FRANCISCO— The Environmental Protection Agency launched an effort today seeking public input on how to address ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. The notice, published in the Federal Register, comes in response to a settlement of a lawsuit concerning ocean acidification brought by the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Today’s action by EPA marks the first step toward creating limits on CO2 pollution causing ocean acidification,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “EPA is acknowledging the reach of the Clean Water Act as a tool that may be able to reduce acidification, which is poised to become the most serious water-quality threat to our oceans.”

EPA is soliciting information on what the agency should consider to determine if waters are impaired by ocean acidification; impaired waters are those requiring limits on pollution to protect water quality. EPA’s action aims toward issuing guidance on how to approach ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. 

“As ocean acidification becomes more severe, every coastal region will need to worry about what that means for marine life, fishing, and coastal resources,” said Sakashita. “The sooner EPA takes steps to address ocean acidification, the more likely it is we can avoid the unraveling of ocean ecosystems as we know them.” 

The oceans absorb about 22 million tons of CO2 every day – a process causing seawater to become more acidic – and are about 30 percent more acidic from burning fossil fuels. The primary known consequence of ocean acidification is that it impairs the ability of marine life to build the protective shells and skeletons they need to survive. Scientific studies have shown that corals, shellfish, and plankton all suffer adverse impacts from acidification. Scientists have already found that marine life in certain areas are already being detrimentally exposed to corrosive waters.

EPA’s notice is the result of a settlement of a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity under the Clean Water Act, which challenged EPA’s failure to address ocean acidification off the coast of Washington. Chris Winter of Crag Law Center represented the Center in the suit.

EPA will accept public comments on ocean acidification until May 21, 2010 at (Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OW–2010–0175). For more information, and EPA’s specific inquiries, see the notice.

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