Environmentalists Sue EPA for Pollution That Acidifies Ocean

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Environmentalists sued the Trump administration Tuesday, claiming it refused to enforce the Clean Water Act to stop ocean acidification – which strips shellfish and coral of calcium and has caused billions of oysters to die in Oregon’s coastal waters.

The Center for Biological Diversity claims in federal court that the Environmental Protection Agency refused to regulate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and pollution runoff that together reduce the ocean’s pH and make it more acidic.

The Center cites research showing that the world’s oceans are 30 percent more acidic than in preindustrial times – primarily because of the 22 million tons of carbon dioxide oceans absorb each day. According to the lawsuit, that spells disaster for marine animals, from plankton to coral to whales.

Under the Clean Water Act, states must identify “impaired” water bodies that don’t meet state quality standards. Every two years, states submit their lists to the EPA, which is supposed to either approve or disapprove the waters included within 30 days of receipt.

But the EPA waited two years to partially disapprove the 2012 list submitted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, on the basis that it failed to include 332 impaired water bodies within the state. The EPA also asked Oregon to include data on ocean acidification off its shores. But the EPA never finalized approval of a revised list, which would have triggered mandatory rulemaking in which either the state or the EPA must set a limit on the amount of pollution that can enter impaired bodies of water. That has meant a “continued influx of pollutants,” according to the 16-page complaint.

In June, President Trump revoked an Obama-era rule that protected oceans and replaced it with an order rolling back environmental protections in the name of economic growth and national security. He removed language from the National Ocean Policy that referenced “conservation,” “stewardship” and “biological diversity” and added directives for state and federal agencies and tribal groups to “facilitate the economic growth of coastal communities and promote ocean industries.”

Represented by Kristen Monsell and Emily Jeffers, the Center for Biological Diversity wants a declaration that the EPA violated the Clean Water Act and an order requiring it to set rules on pollution that contributes to ocean acidification off the coast of Oregon. The required rules would force the government to properly manage waterways, and would also result in education for policymakers and the public, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit names the EPA, acting administrator Andrew Wheeler and EPA Region 10 administrator Chris Hladick as defendants. EPA spokesman Mark MacIntyre said the agency is not commenting on pending litigation.

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