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For Immediate Release, March 11, 2010

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

Legal Settlement Will Require EPA to Evaluate How to Regulate Ocean Acidification Under Clean Water Act

SAN FRANCISCO— The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to consider how states can address ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. The settlement responds to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity that challenged EPA’s failure to recognize the impacts of acidification on coastal waters off the state of Washington. The suit, brought under the Clean Water Act, was the first to address ocean acidification.

“This settlement marks a crucial step toward combating ocean acidification with our nation’s strongest water-quality law, the Clean Water Act,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. “We already have the legal tools we need to limit ocean acidification, and the Clean Water Act has a history of success reducing pollution.”

Ocean acidification, the “other carbon dioxide problem,” results from the ocean’s absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere, which increases the acidity of the ocean and changes the chemistry of seawater. The primary known consequence of ocean acidification is that it impairs the ability of marine animals to build and maintain the protective shells and skeletons they need to survive. Nearly every marine animal studied to date has experienced adverse effects due to acidification.

“Ocean acidification is global warming’s evil twin, and CO2 pollution is one of the biggest threats to our marine environment,” said Sakashita. “We need prompt action to curb CO2 emissions to avoid the worst consequences of acidification.”

According to the settlement, EPA will initiate a public process for the EPA to develop guidance on how to approach acidification under the federal Clean Water Act. Specifically, EPA will consider a provision of the Act that requires states to identify threatened or impaired waters and set limits on the input of pollutants into these waters.

Scientists have confirmed widespread ocean acidification due to CO2 pollution. A survey off the West Coast of the United States showed that waters affected by ocean acidification are already upwelling onto the continental shelf and exposing marine life in surface waters to corrosive conditions. The Arctic also faces imminent consequences, and areas of the Arctic are expected to become corrosive by 2016.

On March 15, EPA will submit for publication in the Federal Register a notice soliciting public comments on how to evaluate waters threatened by acidification and address the problem. The Center is represented in the suit by Chris Winter of Crag Law Center.

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