EPA Sued over Clean Water Act | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

EPA Sued over Clean Water Act

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Sierra Club Director Louie Miller

The Mississippi Sierra Club is joining a host of organizations to demand that the United States Environmental Protection Agency write new rules regulating the use of oil dispersants and adhere to current laws overseeing the use of potentially dangerous chemicals in the environment.

"We've joined with (environmental law firm) Earthjustice and sent the government a 60-day notice-of-intent to file a suit to follow the Clean Water Act," Mississippi Sierra Club Director Louie Miller told the Jackson Free Press, adding that the EPA should be forcing oil companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to test dispersants and reveal their contents, and indicate where and how much dispersant should be used.

Oil giant BP dumped 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersant into Gulf waters in response to an underwater geyser of oil created by a destroyed deepwater drilling rig this summer. The company disregarded alarms from environmental groups warning that dispersants are a toxic combination of chemicals that could prove more ecologically devastating than the oil itself and could linger in the environment for years.

Earthjustice filed a petition this week on behalf of environmental groups The Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance, and on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Network, the Louisiana Shrimp Association and the Florida Wildlife Federation asking the EPA to write new rules regulating how and when dispersants can be used in situations similar to the historic BP incident. Other groups joining into the petition include Alaska-based environmental watchdogs Alaska Community Action on Toxics and Cook Inletkeeper.

The petition argues that "current regulations fail to establish toxicity criteria" and also "fail to require adequate toxicity testing and do not require disclosure of ingredients" for products used by companies during oil spills. The petition further argues that the EPA has the authority to impose new regulations and should exercise that authority.

On the same day, Earthjustice submitted its notice of intent to file suit for the EPA's "failure to perform nondiscretionary duties under the Clean Water Act."

The nonprofit argues that the EPA's apparent ignorance about the effects of dispersants Corexit EC9500A and Corexit EC9527A made the Gulf a "proving ground" for the historic use of the chemicals, and it criticizes the government agency for not being familiar with the chemicals. "Had the EPA performed its duty under the Clean Water Act, it already would have determined in which waters dispersants ... could be used and what quantities could be safely used," the motions states.

The Clean Water Act requires a host of testing and analysis of items like oil dispersants, which come into contact with the nation's water sources. "[D]ue to EPA's failure to abide by the law, these analyses were never done, and the result was a poorly planned, haphazard response, the effects of which will be felt for years to come," Earthjustice argues.

Gulf Restoration Network Executive Director Cynthia Sarthou stated that oil companies should never be allowed to oversee dispersant use without heavy government oversight.

"Never again should the oil industry be allowed to dump hundreds of thousands of gallons of dispersant into the sea as their preferred method of response to an oil spill," Sarthou said in a statement. "Because so little is currently known by EPA--or anyone else for that matter--about the long-term impact to fish and wildlife, the use of dispersants is a dangerous and potentially devastating experiment."

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