Cross-posted from Legal Planet.
As Cara and Dan have explained, ocean acidification is the other big climate change problem. As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, more CO2 dissolves in the oceans. That in turn increases ocean acidity, which changes the ecology of the seas, most obviously by reducing the ability of corals and a variety of other marine organisms to build their “skeletons” and protective shells from calcium carbonate.
Ocean acidification is a pollution problem, just as acid rain and climate change are. So just as the Clean Air Act ought to have something to say about atmospheric dumping of greenhouse gases, the Clean Water Act should have something to say about the accumulation of CO2 in the oceans. (Note: I’m not saying these first-generation pollution control laws are the best way to deal with climate change, but they do provide some tools that are worth trying in the absence of GHG-specific legislation.)
The Center for Biological Diversity has been pushing the argument that the CWA covers ocean acidification, and EPA under Lisa Jackson is beginning to agree. Over a year ago, Sean noted that EPA had responded to a Center petition by agreeing to evaluate the possible application of the CWA, and last April EPA issued a notice that it would review its ocean acidity water quality criteria. As I pointed out at the time, that put EPA on board for eventual ...