Greens Sue Feds Over |Water-Quality Standards

     WASHINGTON, D.C. (CN) — The Environmental Protection Agency dragged its feet in responding to a request by an environmental watchdog group that sought a change in decades-old water-quality regulations to combat water acidification, the group claims in court.
     The Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a lawsuit Thursday in Washington, D.C., Federal Court, had petitioned the EPA in 2013 to finally issue a long-awaited report on water acidification.
     The EPA promised states in 2010 that it would issue a report on water acidification and water-quality standards, but the absence of either the guidance or a response to the 2013 petition shows the EPA is violating federal administrative procedural regulations, the lawsuit states.
     Noting that water-quality standards have not changed for roughly four decades, the complaint states that “the potential for irreversible environmental damage caused by ocean acidification requires that water quality criteria keep pace with the best available science.”
     “EPA’s failure to provide a timely response to petitions like this one [from 2013] effectively subverts the ability of interested persons to meaningfully participate in the rulemaking process,” the lawsuit continues, noting that “marine species and habitats enjoyed by the Center and its members are being degraded and harmed by EPA’s inaction.”
     Ocean acidification is at least partially the result of increased human carbon emissions, according to many experts, and has caused problems in oysters and other shellfish. Oysters, for example, have been shown to have trouble forming their shells due to the increased acidification in ocean waters.
     Most organisms function at a pH level range of 6.5 to 8.5, but acidification has caused those levels to decrease—and therefore become more acidic—in certain waters.
     The Center for Biological Diversity claims that oceans absorb more than 22 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution daily.
     In 2010, the EPA informed states it would conduct a study on the issue and provide guidance to state governments on how to combat it. Such guidance has not yet been published.
     The Center for Biological Diversity, which has sued the EPA on a host of other issues, says the agency needs to act now.
     “The sooner that EPA and states can take action to identify waters impaired by ocean acidification, the sooner that they can take action to manage, mitigate, and adapt to ocean acidification,” the lawsuit states.
     The EPA is required under the Clean Water Act to rely on new scientific information in setting those criteria, but the agency currently uses outdated information, according to the Center.
     “According to 20 scientific experts, the existing water quality criteria for pH are not scientifically valid for application to ocean acidification, are not based on current science, nor are they ecologically relevant,” the complaint states.
     The current criteria for measuring ocean acidity was developed in 1976, the group states.
     In 2010, the EPA responded to a 2007 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity stating it would not revise its marine pH criterion, citing comments noting that pH alone was not a good indicator of ocean acidification and that pH fluctuated naturally in shallow coastal waters.
     The EPA declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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