A lawsuit filed Thursday by three nonprofit environmental groups may force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update clean water permits issued to oil drilling platforms off the California coast. The platforms’ current pollution regulation permits are over 20 years old.
Our Children’s Earth, Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper, and Get Oil Out! were listed as the plaintiffs in a Thursday statement announcing the suit. The organizations are accusing the EPA of failing to reissue the permits regularly despite the growing list of pollutants threatening California’s water quality over the last 20 years.
“There are so many pollutants now that were not regulated when the permits were first issued,” said Tiffany Schauer, founder and executive director of Our Children’s Earth.
Schauer said she was frustrated by the government’s unwillingness to make oil companies adhere to modern water quality standards, and that she suspected the EPA is not enforcing the standards because “their hands are tied” by an anti-environmental Bush administration.
“This is another instance of the government dropping the ball,” Schauer said. “When a third party has to sue for the government to do its job, the system is clearly broken.”
The statement said the lawsuit is based on an EPA fact sheet from 2003 that revealed the presence of several toxic pollutants – including arsenic and ammonia – in oil platform discharges. If the plaintiffs win the suit, the EPA will have to issue new permits to 22 oil platforms in central and southern California, which will require that the platforms are made compliant with current regulations under the Clean Water Act.