Washington Law Review


Our Corrosive Oceans: Exploring Regulatory Responses and a Possible Role for Tribes

March 21, 2016 | 91 Wash. L. Rev. 361

Abstract: The world’s oceans act as a carbon sink, absorbing roughly twenty-five percent of humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, ocean acidity has increased sixty percent since the beginning of the industrial era. Acidification is a burgeoning ocean health crisis—present levels of acidity already threaten species of oyster, plankton, and salmon. Disturbingly, the capacity of the American legal system to respond is unclear: the complexity of climate change-related harms typically precludes a remedy at common law. With respect to mitigating near-shore acidification, this Comment argues that a regulatory strategy utilizing the Clean Water Act’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regime holds more promise than a tort response. Furthermore, in the Pacific Northwest, it may be possible to bolster TMDL regulation of non-point pollution through engagement with often-overlooked stakeholders: the Stevens Treaties tribes.

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