[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 71 (Wednesday, April 15, 2009)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-8638]
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Ocean Acidification and Marine pH Water Quality Criteria
AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
ACTION: Notice of data availability (NODA).
SUMMARY: This NODA provides interested parties with information
submitted to EPA on ocean acidification and solicits additional
pertinent data or information that may be useful in addressing this
issue. In addition, EPA is notifying the public of its intent to review
the current aquatic life criterion for marine pH to determine if a
revision is warranted to protect the marine designated uses of States
and Territories pursuant to Section 304(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act.
The NODA also solicits additional scientific information and data, as
well as ideas for effective strategies for Federal, State, and local
officials to address the impacts of ocean acidification. This
information can then be used as the basis for a broader discussion of
ocean acidification and marine impacts. EPA also requests information
pertaining to monitoring marine pH and implementation of pH water
DATES: Comments must be received on or before June 15, 2009.
ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-
2009-0224, by one of the following methods:
http://www.regulations.gov: Follow the on-line
instructions for submitting comments.
E-mail: [email protected].
Mail: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; EPA Docket
Center (EPA/DC) Water Docket, MC 2822T; 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.,
Washington, DC 20460.
Hand Delivery: EPA Docket Center, 1301 Constitution Ave,
NW., EPA West, Room 3334, Washington DC. Such deliveries are only
accepted during the Docket's normal hours of operation, and special
arrangements should be made for deliveries of boxed information.
Instructions: Direct your comments to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2009-
0224. EPA's policy is that all comments received will be included in
the public docket without change and may be made available online at
http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information
provided, unless the comment includes information claimed to be
Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose
disclosure is restricted by statute. Do not submit information that you
consider to be CBI or otherwise protected through http://www.regulations.gov or e-mail. The http://www.regulations.gov Web site
is an ``anonymous access'' system, which means EPA will not know your
identity or contact information unless you provide it in the body of
your comment. If you send an e-mail comment directly to EPA without
going through http://www.regulations.gov your e-mail address will be
automatically captured and included as part of the comment that is
placed in the public docket and made available on the Internet. If you
submit an electronic comment, EPA recommends that you include your name
and other contact information in the body of your comment and with any
disk or CD-ROM you submit. If EPA cannot read your comment due to
technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA
may not be able to consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid
the use of special characters, any form of encryption, and be free of
any defects or viruses.
Docket: All documents in the docket are listed in the http://www.regulations.gov index. Although listed in the index, some
information is not publicly available, e.g., CBI or other information
whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other material, such
as copyrighted material, will be publicly available only in hard copy.
Publicly available docket materials are available either electronically
in http://www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the Water Docket/EPA/
DC, 1301 Constitution Ave, NW., EPA West, Room 3334, Washington DC.
This Docket Facility is open from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., EST,
Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. The telephone number
for the Public Reading Room is (202) 566-1744, and the telephone number
for the Water Docket is (202) 566-2426.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lisa Huff, Health and Ecological
Criteria Division (4304T), U.S. EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.,
Washington, DC 20460; (202) 566-0787; [email protected].
I. General Information
A. Does This Action Apply to Me?
1. This information may be useful to scientists involved in
studying mechanisms of carbon dioxide absorption, conversion, and
retention in marine waters as well as those studying the effects of the
formation of carbonic acids and lowered pH on altered carbon cycles and
carbonate structures necessary to aquatic life.
2. This information may be useful to Federal, State, Tribal, and
Territorial managers of water quality programs.
3. This information may be useful to ocean and coastal managers.
B. What Should I Consider as I Prepare My Comments for EPA?
Information submitted in response to this NODA should address the
nature and characteristics of altered carbon chemistry in marine
waters, including changes in pH and biological calcification processes.
It should also address the significance of potential modification to
the national marine pH criterion for State and Federal Water Programs
authorized by the Clean Water Act. EPA is soliciting additional
scientific information, data and ideas for effective strategies for
Federal, State, and local officials to use to address the potential
impacts of ocean acidification. Specifically:
1. EPA is soliciting technical information on measurement of ocean
acidification in marine coastal waters, including:
a. Technological advances in rapid, continuous, or remote
measurement of pH;
b. Long-term empirical pH data and carbon chemistry measurements,
especially those that may demonstrate ocean acidification;
c. Empirical data to demonstrate spatial and temporal variability
of pH in near-coastal waters;
d. Methods to statistically evaluate variability of pH in near-
e. Other approaches (e.g., carbon chemistry), methods and
indicators that could reflect ocean acidification.
2. EPA is soliciting technical information on effects of ocean
acidification on marine biota, including:
a. Survival, growth, reproduction, and recruitment of reef-building
corals and crustose coralline algae;
b. Anticipated persistence of coral reef communities under future
c. Survival, growth, reproduction, and recruitment of other (non-
coral) marine calcifying organisms;
d. Potential changes in community structure and marine trophic
e. Variability of effects in tropical, temperate and polar regions;
f. Estimates of response rates (e.g., rapid, gradual, non-linear)
of populations and communities to ocean acidification;
g. Adaptability to ocean acidification and broad implications for
h. Methods or estimates of the combined and relative importance of
ocean acidification in concert with other natural and anthropogenic
stressors (e.g., storm damage, pollution, overfishing).
3. EPA is soliciting scientific views on the information presented
in the bibliography of this notice.
4. EPA is soliciting information related to EPA's current CWA
304(a) recommended pH criterion for marine waters, including how the
criterion could be best expressed, particularly with respect to natural
5. EPA is soliciting information regarding State and Territorial
implementation of the pH criterion related to new information on ocean
6. EPA is soliciting potential strategies for State and Federal
water programs to coordinate and enhance Federal data collection
a. Approaches to designated uses for water quality standards that
account for different pH regimes (e.g., specific designated uses for
areas with organisms that may be more sensitive to significant pH
fluctuations such as coral, shellfish, other calcifying organisms) (CFR
131.10, for additional information on designated uses http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/about/uses.htm);
b. Scientifically defensible approaches to set and monitor pH
7. EPA is soliciting information that may be used to develop
guidance and information on ocean acidification pursuant to Clean Water
Act Section 304(a)(2) for States and the public. This information may
include information on the mechanisms of ocean acidification,
methodology development for analysis, and statistical analysis.
II. Background on Ocean Acidification
Ocean acidification refers to the decrease in the pH of the Earth's
oceans caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the
atmosphere. Oceans have been absorbing about one-third of the
anthropogenic CO2 emitted into the atmosphere since pre-
industrial times. As more CO2 dissolves in the ocean, it
reduces ocean pH, which changes the chemistry of the water. These
changes present potential risks across a broad spectrum of marine
Biological effects are projected based on models that predict lower
pH regimes in marine waters over the next 50-100 years. Using these
predictions, reduced pH conditions and/or increased CO2
saturation have been simulated in the lab and have shown the potential
to impact marine life. The majority of the effects observed in lab
studies have occurred at pH levels beyond the allowed variability of
0.2 units in the CWA 304(a) recommended criteria for marine pH. For
instance, ocean acidification related reductions in pH is forecast to
reduce calcification rates in corals and may affect economically
important shellfish species including oysters, scallops, mussels,
clams, sea urchins, crabs, and lobsters. A recent field study on marine
plankton described reduced shell weight over time ``consistent with
reduced calcification today induced by ocean acidification'' (Moy et
al. 2009). One study demonstrated effects at pH changes of less than
0.2, describing effects on squid metabolism (0.2 is the allowed pH
variation from normal conditions under current EPA criteria
recommendation) (Portner 2008). Impacts to shellfish and other
calcifying organisms that represent the base of the food web may have
implications for larger organisms that depend on shellfish and other
calcifying organisms for prey.
Current research indicates the impact of ocean acidification on
marine organisms will largely be negative, and the impacts may differ
from one life stage to another. There may be interactions between
CO2 saturation, temperature, and other stressors which are
not fully understood. Preliminary projections indicate that oceans will
become more acidic over time and overall, the net effect is likely to
disrupt the normal functioning of many marine and coastal ecosystems.
The first comprehensive national study of how CO2
emissions are absorbed into the oceans has been commissioned by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The National
Academies' Committee on the Development of an Integrated Science
Strategy for Ocean Acidification Monitoring, Research, and Impacts
Assessment is charged with recommending priorities for a national
research, monitoring, and assessment plan to advance understanding of
the biogeochemistry of carbon dioxide uptake in the ocean and the
relationship to atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, and to reduce
uncertainties in projections of increasing ocean acidification and the
potential effects on living marine resources and ocean ecosystems. The
18-month project started on September 16, 2008 (http://dels.nas.edu/osb/acidification.shtml).
A. Examples of EPA Activities and Publications Related to Ocean
EPA is currently involved in a number of initiatives both solely
and in partnership with other Federal agencies. Below is a list of
current and future projects related to the issue of ocean
acidification, the development of biocriteria to help classify and
protect marine resources, and tools for the assessment of potential
impacts to marine resources that comprise marine designated uses.
EPA released the ``Stony Coral Rapid Bioassessment
Protocol'' (RBP); EPA/600/R-06/167, July 2007, which provides a
methodology for assessing the health and condition of stony corals,
calcifying organisms that are sensitive to ocean acidification. Use of
the RBP by interested States and Territories provides the ability to
establish a baseline for coral reef structural health, provides the
capacity to derive biocriteria for corals and reef structures, and
provides a scientifically defensible method for assessing use
attainment in marine waters, as well as evaluating the impact of
stressors, such as ocean acidification on corals and coral reef
structures. http://www.epa.gov/bioiweb1/coral/coral biocriteria.html.
EPA is also developing a technical guidance framework to
aid States and Territories in their development, adoption, and
implementation of coral reef biocriteria in their respective water
quality standards. EPA plans to publish this coral biocriteria
framework document by December 2009 to assist in this effort. This
document will complement the ``Stony Coral Rapid Bioassessment
Protocol'' (RBP) described above.
EPA has supported the development of the Coral Mortality
and Bleaching Output (COMBO) model to project the effects of climate
change on coral reefs by calculating impacts from changing sea surface
temperature and CO2 concentration, and from episodic high
temperature bleaching events. Having been applied to Hawaii and the
Eastern Caribbean, the model is intended to serve as a tool for climate
change policy analysis, and for use by resource managers and biologists
in projecting coral reef impacts at local-to-regional scales.
The Coastal Research and Monitoring Strategy presents a
basic assessment of the Nation's coastal research and monitoring needs,
and recommends an integrated framework to address the needs of the
Nation and the coastal States and Tribes in order to protect vital
coastal resources. http://www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/nccr/H2Ofin.pdf.
The National Coastal Condition Report III (NCCR III),
December 2008, is the third in a series of reports describing the
ecological health of U.S. coastal waters at a regional and national
scale. First issued in 2001 and updated periodically thereafter, the
NCCR is one of only a few statistically-significant measures of U.S.
water quality on a nationwide basis. NCCR III assesses the condition of
the Nation's coastal waters, including Alaska and Hawaii, based
primarily on coastal monitoring data collected in 2001 and 2002. It
presents an analysis of temporal changes in estuarine condition from
1990 to 2002 for the Nation's coastal waters and by region. http://www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/nccr3/downloads.html.
EPA, working with other Federal agencies, as well as
State, regional, and local partners, undertakes site-specific
monitoring of coastal and ocean waters. For example, EPA and the State
of Florida, in consultation with NOAA, implement the Water Quality
Protection Program (WQPP) for the Florida Keys National Marine
Sanctuary. The WQPP includes a water quality monitoring program which
has funded three long-term monitoring projects: overall water quality;
coral reef and hardbottom community health; and seagrass community
III. What Are Water Quality Criteria?
Water quality criteria are scientifically derived values that
protect aquatic life or human health from the deleterious effects of
pollutants in ambient water.
Section 304(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act requires EPA to develop
and publish and, from time to time, revise, criteria for water quality
accurately reflecting the latest scientific knowledge. Water quality
criteria developed under section 304(a) are based solely on data and
scientific judgments on the relationship between pollutant
concentrations and environmental and human health effects. Section
304(a) criteria do not reflect consideration of economic impacts or the
technological feasibility of meeting the chemical concentrations in
ambient water. Section 304(a)(2) requires EPA to develop and publish
and, from time to time, revise, information, including information on
factors necessary to restore and maintain the integrity of navigable
waters, ground waters, waters of the contiguous zone, and the oceans;
protection and propagation of shellfish, fish, and wildlife; and
measurement and classification of water quality.
Section 304(a) recommended criteria provide guidance to States and
authorized Tribes in adopting water quality standards that ultimately
provide a basis for controlling discharges or releases of pollutants.
The criteria also provide guidance to EPA when promulgating Federal
regulations under section 303(c) when such action is necessary.
Under the CWA and its implementing regulations, States and
authorized Tribes are to adopt water quality criteria to protect
designated uses (e.g., public water supply, recreational use,
industrial use). EPA's section 304(a) recommended water quality
criteria do not substitute for the CWA or regulations, nor are they
regulations themselves. Thus, EPA's recommended criteria do not impose
legally binding requirements. States and authorized Tribes have the
discretion to adopt, where appropriate, other scientifically defensible
water quality standards that differ from these recommendations.
A. Why Is EPA Reviewing the Aquatic Life Criteria for pH for Marine
EPA's current CWA 304(a) recommended criterion for marine pH
states: ``pH range of 6.5 to 8.5 for marine aquatic life (but not
varying more than 0.2 units outside of the normally occurring range)''.
This criterion applies to open-ocean waters within 3 miles of a State
or Territory's shoreline where the depth is substantially greater than
the euphotic zone.
On December 17, 2007, EPA received a petition from the Center for
Biological Diversity asking EPA to revise its recommended national
marine pH water quality criterion for the protection of aquatic life
and also asked EPA to publish information and provide guidance on ocean
Following careful consideration of the petitioner's request and
supporting information, EPA is issuing this notice to solicit
additional scientific information and data to fill data gaps to inform
EPA's next steps and determine whether changes in existing criteria are
In this NODA, EPA is only requesting information and data relevant
to addressing ocean acidification under the CWA. After the comment
period closes on this NODA, EPA plans to evaluate the information
received in considering whether the revision of the recommended marine
pH criterion is warranted at this time. EPA intends to make final its
decision regarding the evaluation of the information received within
one year. If necessary, additional public review and comment will be
requested during revision of the pH criterion.
IV. References Related to Ocean Acidification
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Oceans Commission, pg. 90 (2003).
Andersson, A.J., et al., Coastal Ocean CO2--Carbonic
Acid--Carbonate Sediment System of the Anthropocene. Global
Biogeochemical Cycles, 20:GB1S92 (2006).
Andersson, A.J.; Mackenzie, F.T.; Bates, N.R. Life on the Margin:
Implications of Ocean Acidification on Mg-calcite, High Latitude and
Cold-Water Marine Calcifiers. Marine Ecology (ISSN: 0171-8630);
Volume 373, No., pp. 265-273; 2008.
Atkinson, M.J.; Cuet, P. Possible Effects of Ocean Acidification on
Coral Reef Biogeochemistry: Topics for Research. Marine Ecology
(ISSN: 0171-8630); Volume 373, No., pp. 249-256; 2008.
Balch, W.M.; Fabry, V.J. Ocean Acidification: Documenting its Impact
on Calcifying Phytoplankton at Basin Scales. Marine Ecology (ISSN:
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Bindoff, N.L., et al., Chapter 5: Observations: Oceanic Climate
Change and Sea Level, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science
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Report of the IPCC (2007).
Bradley, P., W. Davis, W. Fisher, H. Bell, V. Chan, C. LoBue, W.
Wiltse. Biological criteria for protection of U.S. coral reefs.
Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, July 7-
Buddemeier, R.W., P.L. Jokiel, K.M. Zimmerman, D.R. Lane, J. M.
Carey, G.C. Bohling, J.A. Martinich. (2008) A modeling tool to
evaluate regional coral reef responses to changes in climate and
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Caldeira, K. & Wickett M.E., Anthropogenic Carbon and Ocean pH.
Nature 425:365 (2003).
Caldeira, K. and 25 others, Comment on ``Modern-age Buildup of
CO2 and Its Effects on Seawater Acidity and Salinity'' by
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Dore, J., et al., Climate-driven changes to the atmospheric
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Gattuso, J.P., et al. Effect of Calcium Carbonate Saturation of
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Dated: April 9, 2009.
Michael H. Shapiro,
Acting Assistant Administrator for Water.
[FR Doc. E9-8638 Filed 4-14-09; 8:45 am]
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