Environmental groups are suing to force the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a rule on the use of oil dispersants, arguing that current rules do not meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
Conservation, wildlife and public health groups in the Gulf of Mexico region and in Alaska allege in their suit that dispersants were used unsafely to break up crude after the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the plaintiffs said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re disappointed that the agency doesn’t seem to understand the widespread public urgency to initiate this rulemaking process,” said Jill Mastrototaro, Sierra Club Gulf Coast Protection Campaign Director. “If a spill or blowout happened tomorrow in the Gulf of Mexico, or any U.S. water for that matter, any dispersant that is used would not necessarily be safe for the waters, ecosystems, response workers, or nearby communities.”
EPA regulations governing dispersants that can be used in oil spills do not provide a threshold for safety and require only minimal toxicity testing, according to the plaintiffs.
The coalition includes members from Earthjustice, Louisiana Shrimp Association, Florida Wildlife Federation, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Alaska-based Cook Inletkeeper, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, WaterkeeperAlliance and the Sierra Club.
The Clean Water Act requires EPA to identify the waters in which dispersants and other spill mitigating devices and substances may be used, and what quantities can be used safely in the identified waters, the group said.
Approximately 1.8 million gallons of a dispersant, Corexit, were applied in the Gulf following the blowout of BP’s Macondo well in April 2010, according to a study published last month on the effects of dispersant on marine life.
The study found that the use of dispersants may have caused significant and long-lasting damage to the Gulf of Mexico food chain.
“The damage in the Gulf has already been done,” said Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Nearly two million gallons of dispersants with essentially unknown environmental effects were released into the waters. We need more effective and responsible EPA dispersant rules so that we are never caught unprepared and uninformed in a crisis situation again.”