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®: CRE Regulatory Action of the Week

EPA Uses Clean Water Act in Call for States to Address Ocean Acidification
The EPA issued a memorandum requiring coastal states to start identifying waters impacted by ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. Ocean acidification refers to the trend of decreased pH levels in the oceans. EPA declared that the oceans are becoming acidified as a result of the "uptake of carbon dioxide" absorbed by oceans. The memo recognizes ocean acidification as a threat to marine life including shellfish, coral reefs, and fisheries. The EPA memo requires coastal states to identify waters affected by ocean acidification, and include the acidified oceans on their list of impaired waters.

Environmentalists refer to ocean acidification as "global warming's evil twin." Accordingly, the memo is viewed by some as a new path to curb green house gas emissions. The EPA writes, "Ocean acidification, like climate change, is primarily caused by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere." The memorandum comes as a result of the EPA's settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity. The Center for Biological Diversity sued the EPA for failing to require the State of Washington to include acidified oceans on their list of impaired waters under the Clean Water Act. Under the settlement, the EPA agreed to receive public comments on ocean acidity, identify ways for states to treat affected coastal water, and devise methods for states to regulate "total maximum daily loads" of pollutants linked to acidification.

The move by the EPA will now allow states to go ahead and designate the affected oceans as "impaired waters." Under the Clean Water Act, states are required to take remedial steps to prevent the pollution of "impaired waters." Thus, under the memo, states will be required to prevent the cause of ocean acidification, which in this case, is the emission of carbon dioxide.

  • Click here to read the memo
  • Click here to view the EPA’s March 22, 2010 Federal Register notice.