WASHINGTON (CN) – Environmentalists sued the EPA, claiming it lists a plethora of oil dispersants that can be used on an oil spill, but not the toxicity of the chemicals, nor whether they are safe to be used in specific bodies of water.
Eight environmental groups, from five states, claim the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its Administrator Lisa Jackson violate the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.
The lead plaintiff, the Alaska Community Actions on Toxics, says the EPA has a mandatory duty to publish a list of chemical agents that disperse oil into small droplets. The agency does that on its website, but does not identify the waters in which these agents may be used or the quantities that can be used safely water.
“The combination of oil and dispersant can be toxic and, depending on the specific circumstances, may be more or less toxic than the dispersant alone or the oil alone,” the complaint states. “As a result, the use of dispersants in responding to an oil spill on water is a trade-off – decreasing risk to the water surface and coastal habitats while increasing risk to life in the water column and on the ocean floor – which ‘require[s] risk-based decisionmaking at the time of a spill.'”
The Clean Water Act requires the EPA to prepare a national contingency plan, or NCP, which must include a schedule identifying dispersants and other oil spill control agents eligible to respond to a spill, the waters in which they can be used and the quantities that can safely be used.
According to the complaint, the most recent NCP product schedule – which was updated last week – contains 111 products, including 18 dispersants, 52 surface washing agents, two surface collecting agents, 25 bioremediation agents, and 14 miscellaneous oil spill control agents.
E-Safe, Sheen-Magic, Oil Spill Eater II and the Green Beast Oil Spill & Odor Remediator are among the products listed.
“Because products listed on the NCP Product Schedule are presumptively the ones that will be used in the event of a spill, EPA’s failure to include statutorily required information about the waters and quantities in which such products may be used safely in these waters has significant adverse impacts on the nation’s ability to respond to oil spills,” the complaint states. “EPA’s failure to obtain, and in turn include on the NCP Product Schedule, this statutorily-mandated information has seriously hobbled emergency response to oil spills, most recently the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.”
The groups claim that the EPA’s listing of Corexit allowed 1 million gallons to be applied to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and 565,000 gallons under the surface, during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, despite BP’s finding that five other dispersants would be less toxic but as effective as Corexit.
“These choices led to the release of nearly 1.84 million gallons of dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico, including some 771,000 gallons nearly a mile below the ocean’s surface, in the absence of knowledge of the short- and long-term impacts of subsea dispersant application,” the complaint states.
“Had EPA performed its duty under the Clean Water Act, it already would have determined in which waters oil spill control agents, such as Corexit, could be used and what quantities could be safely used in such waters.”
Numerous residents of the Gulf Coast have filed lawsuits, claiming they suffered severe health injuries caused by Corexit.
Plaintiffs include Cook Inletkeeper, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Gulf Restoration Network, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, the Sierra Club and the Waterkeeper Alliance.
They seek declaratory judgment that the EPA violated the Clean Water Act by failing to publish such information, and an order vacating the current NCP product schedule in favor of a new one.
The groups are represented by Timothy Ballo of Earthjustice.