Activists Celebrate Win in Fight Against Chemical Oil Dispersants

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      For decades, chemical dispersants have been listed on the EPA’s National Contingency Plan (NCP) Product Schedule, a list of products that are available for use in response to oil spills. This, despite well-documented evidence that dispersants are hazardous to humans, marine ecosystems, and wildlife — and that, when mixed with oil, they can be more toxic than oil alone.

      The lawsuit was filed in early 2020 in the US District Court for the Northern District of California by ALERT, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Cook Inletkeeper, the Center for Biological Diversity, an Alaskan Native health aide, and a Gulf Coast commercial fisher. The plaintiffs sought to require the EPA to update its regulations governing offshore oil spill planning and response to reflect current science and technology — including the science demonstrating that chemical dispersants pose a dire risk to both human health and the environment.

      “We can’t allow toxic chemicals to be added to a toxic oil spill for the benefit of the spillers,” said plaintiff Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, an Iñupiat tribal leader and activist who has worked with tribal councils to pass resolutions banning dispersant use in Arctic waters where Alaskan Natives hunt and fish.

      Although dispersants were never explicitly approved by the EPA, their usage has in effect been authorized by the federal government by way of the NCP, which governs federal response to oil spills and other hazardous substance releases. Over time, the oil industry has fallen back on use of dispersants as the foundational contingency plan for responding to oil spills, rather than developing actual prevention measures or comprehensive response plans. Because they are included in the NCP, big oil corporations have been shielded from liability when people and the environment are harmed by exposure to the chemicals.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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