The Center for Biological Diversity today notified the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its intent to file a lawsuit against the agency for its failure to respond to the threat of ocean acidification. Last year, the Center filed a formal petition asking EPA to impose stricter pH standards for ocean water quality and publish guidance to help states protect U. S. waters from ocean acidification. Today's notice of intent to sue urges EPA to promptly respond to the Center's petition.

The oceans cover about 70 % of the Earth's surface and absorb about 22 million tons of carbon dioxide each day. The absorption of carbon dioxide is changing seawater chemistry, causing it to become more acidic. This process, known as ocean acidification, impairs the ability of marine animals to build the protective calcium carbonate shells and skeletons they need to survive. Coral reefs are colonies of living sea creatures that have calcium carbonate skeleton shells and the damage from ocean acidification can already be seen in coral reefs in many parts of the world.

Already, the pH level of the ocean has decreased 0.1 units on average due to carbon dioxide pollution caused by human activity; especially emissions from such sources as automobiles and electrical power plants. If carbon dioxide emissions continue unabated, seawater pH may decrease an additional 0.4 units, more than a 100 % change in acidity.

"Ocean acidification is global warming's evil twin," said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity's oceans program. "The EPA has a duty under the Clean Water Act to protect our nation's waters from pollution, and today, carbon dioxide is one of the biggest threats to our ocean waters."

According to the Center's notice of intent to sue, the EPA's current water-quality criterion for pH is outdated and woefully inadequate in the face of ocean acidification. A decline of 0.2 pH, allowed under the current standard, would be devastating to the marine ecosystem.

"Unless we take steps now to stop ocean acidification, it could cause the collapse of our marine ecosystems," Sakashita said. "EPA needs to take prompt action to address this serious water-quality threat facing our oceans."

The notice of intent gives the EPA 60 days to correct the alleged violations before the Center may pursue legal action.

The Center for Biological Diversity: http://www. biologicaldiversity. org/

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