The Crag Law Center and its client, the Center for Biological Diversity, announced today that they reached a settlement with EPA on a first-of-its kind lawsuit targeting the agency’s regulation of ocean acidification – the “other CO2 problem.”  Crag filed the case in May of this year.

As our oceans absorbs more and more carbon dioxide they become more acidic over time.  The increased acidity threatens the ability of sea creatures to build shells and protective skeletons they need to survive.  Ocean acidification threatens the entire food web as everything from plankton to corals and shellfish will be impacted, and scientists have already identified corrosive sea waters during seasonal upwellings off the West Coast.

Scientists monitoring water quality off of the Washington coast have reported that ocean acidification is already affecting seawater quality and marine ecosystems. The Center for Biological Diversity requested that Washington list its ocean waters as impaired under the Clean Water Act due to lower pH levels. Washington refused, and EPA then approved Washington’s list of impaired waters without addressing the ocean acidification issue. On behalf of the Center, Crag filed a federal lawsuit against EPA for approving Washington’s list of impaired waters without addressing this problem.

This lawsuit filed by Crag and the Center was the first legal case ever to target ocean acidification, and the settlement requires EPA to issue a national guidance on how it intends to regulate the problem through the Clean Water Act.  Under the CWA, states set limits on the acidity or pH of marine waters in order to protect sea life.  In the guidance documents required by the settlement, EPA will determine how the Clean Water Act will be used to address increasing acidity resulting from carbon dioxide emissions.  To this point, neither EPA nor the states have been addressing this problem through the Clean Water Act.

Staff Attorney Chris Winter handled the case, working with Miyoko Sakashita from The Center for Biological Diversity.

The press release is available here.

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