Earth Island's ALERT Project, along with a coalition of environmental justice groups and individuals, is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to compel the issuance of rules on the use of chemical agents such as Corexit to clean up oil spills. Instead of mitigating environmental harm, Corexit dispersants have proven to be more toxic to humans and the environment than the oil alone. The use of dispersants like Corexit is an oil spill response method outlined in a set of federal regulations called the National Contingency Plan, which governs our nation’s oil and chemical pollution emergency responses. The Clean Water Act directs EPA to periodically review the Plan and update it to account for new information and new technology. But the EPA has not updated the plan since 1994, and that update did not even incorporate lessons learned from the long-term ecosystem studies following the Exxon Valdez disaster that occurred 30 years ago on March 24, 1989 — much less the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
In response to public pressure from Dr. Riki Ott, ALERT's project director, and other plaintiffs involved in the filing, the EPA finally initiated a rulemaking proceeding and invited public comment on the use of Corexit in oil spill response actions. By the time the rulemaking comment period closed in April 2015, the agency had received over 81,000 responses, the majority of which called for reducing the use of chemical dispersants while decreasing their toxicity and increasing their efficacy. Since that time, the EPA has been silent on the issue.
The EPA’s failure to conclude the process to issue updated regulations violates the agency’s administrative obligations under the law and puts at risk the 133 million or so Americans who live near the coasts, making up 39 percent of the U.S. population, and the millions more who live near lakes, rivers, or along oil pipeline corridors and who are in harm’s way of the next “big one.”
A fact sheet on Corexit is available here.
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