The Clean Water Act on the Cutting Edge: Climate Change and Water Quality Regulation
Natural Resources & Environment, Vol. 24, No. 2, p. 14, Fall 2009
5 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2009 Last revised: 28 Oct 2013
Date Written: September 18, 2009
On January 16, 2009, the EPA agreed to review the Center for Biological Diversity's December 2007 petition requesting that the EPA revise its marine pH water quality criteria pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act to reflect current knowledge about ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is the result of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As a result, the petition and the EPA's response to it raise very basic questions about what, if anything, the Clean Water Act can do about climate change.
This short article first describes how climate change is likely to impact water quality. It then reviews how courts have been linking other environmental statutes to climate change issues, concluding that these intersections highlight three climate change problems: information generation; climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation.
Using the Center for Biological Diversity's petition as a focus, the article then reviews how various aspects of the Clean Water Act are likely to interact with climate change. It concludes that the Clean Water Act is best viewed as a climate change adaptation tool and indeed suggests that the Act may require increased flexibility to respond rationally to climate change impacts on water quality.
Keywords: climate change, Clean Water Act, adaptation, ocean acidification, water quality, pH, temperature, Center for Biological Diversity
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