environmental law

Environmental law refers to a variety of protections which share the goal of protecting the environment.  

Federal Law

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed in 1970 along with the Environmental Quality Improvement Act and the National Environmental Education Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was also formed in 1970. The main objective of these laws was to protect the environment against public and private harms. The goal of the EPA is to monitor and analyze the environment, conduct research, and work closely with state and local governments to create pollution control policies. 

Major Federal Laws

Endangered Species Act (ESA): This Act protects endangered species in order to prevent their extinction. 

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA):  This Act governs the disposal of solid and hazardous waste.

Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA): Also known as the “Superfund,” this Act is aimed at cleaning up areas which are already polluted. This statute assigns broad liability to parties associated with the improper disposal of hazardous waste. The statute also provides funding for cleaning up the impacted areas.

Clean Air Act (CAA): The CAA is designed to protect air quality by regulating stationary and mobile sources of pollution.

Clean Water Act (CWA): The CWA protects water by preventing discharge of pollutants into navigable waters from point sources.

State Law

State laws reflect similar concerns which allow adversely affected property owners to seek a judicial remedy for environmental harms. Although laws on the state level vary from state to state, many of them mirror the federal laws.

Federal Material

U.S. Constitution and Federal Statutes
Code of Federal Regulations
Federal Judicial Decisions

State Material

State Statutes and Regulations
International Material
Key Internet Sources

[Last updated in December of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team