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For Immediate Release, October 18, 2012

Contact:  Emily Jeffers, (415) 779-4253 or

EPA Urged to Overturn Standards That Allow Corrosive Seawater

Legal Petition Seeks Stricter Rules to Prevent Ocean Acidification, Save Marine Wildlife

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal petition today urging that the Environmental Protection Agency override water-quality standards for 15 coastal states and territories because those standards are too lax to protect wildlife from the harmful effects of ocean acidification. The Clean Water Act requires that all states have standards for ocean pH (acidity), and many states are not meeting the EPA’s recommendation needed to protect aquatic life.

“Imagine visiting Hawaii and seeing the coral reefs crumble away before your eyes. Well, right now that’s what Hawaii would allow, without even recognizing there was a water-quality problem,” said Emily Jeffers, an oceans attorney at the Center.

As the petition demonstrates, there are many states whose water-quality standards are inadequate to protect marine life from being exposed to corrosive waters. Carbon dioxide pollution from factories, cars and power plants causes ocean acidification, which impairs the ability of shellfish, corals and other animals to build the skeletons and shells they need to survive. The EPA’s water-quality criterion recommends that seawater acidity should not change more than 60 percent (0.2 pH units) as a result of anthropogenic causes; but under many states’ current standards, the acidity of ocean waters would be allowed increase hundredfold — become 100 times higher — without any action being taken to address the problem.

“The Clean Water Act turns 40 today, and it’s time that it grows up and takes on one of the toughest and meanest water-quality crises in America’s history — water pollution caused by fossil fuels,” Jeffers said. “Some 22 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution are dumped on our oceans every day. If we don’t act soon, that’s going to have massive, irreversible effects on marine life and the oceans that we love and rely on.”

The states and territories whose water quality standards don’t go far enough to protect sea life from ocean acidification are Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Puerto Rico and Virginia.

Bringing state water-quality standards up to par will ensure that waters that are in trouble from ocean acidification are identified and managed to protect fish, shellfish and other marine animals; this in turn will help protect the people and economies that depend on ocean resources.

In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center in 2009, the EPA affirmed that states must assess and identify marine waters that are impaired by ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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