environmental law

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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
  • 7 U.S.C. Chapter 6 - Insecticides and Environmental Pesticide Control
  • 16 U.S.C. -Conservation
  • 22 U.S.C. § 274a - International Biological Program for the Earth's Ecology
  • 22 U.S.C. § 2151p - International Environmental and Natural Resources
  • 22 U.S.C. § 2151p-1 - Tropical Forests
  • 22 U.S.C. § 2151q - Endangered Species
  • 26 U.S.C. Chapter 38 - Environmental Taxes
  • 33 U.S.C. Chapter 9 - Protection of Navigable Waters
  • 33 U.S.C. Chapter 26 - Clean Water Act
  • 33 U.S.C. Chapter 27 - Ocean Dumping
  • 33 U.S.C. Chapter 33 - Prevention from Pollution from Ships
  • 33 U.S.C. Chapter 40 - Oil Pollution
  • 42 U.S.C. § 300g-1 - National Drinking Water Regulations
  • 42 U.S.C. Chapter 23 - Atomic Energy
  • 42 U.S.C. Chapter 55 - National Environmental Policy
  • 42 U.S.C. Chapter 65 - Noise Pollution
  • 42 U.S.C. Chapter 73 - Development of Energy Sources
  • 42 U.S.C. Chapter 82 - Solid Waste Disposal
  • 42 U.S.C. Chapter 85 - Clean Air Act
  • 42 U.S.C. Chapter 103 - Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • U.S. Constitution
Code of Federal Regulations
  • 40 C.F.R. - Protection of Environment

Federal Judicial Decisions
  • Recent Environmental Law Decisions 

State Material

State Statutes and Regulations
  • Dealing with Natural Resources
  • Dealing with Water
  • State Environmental Regulations
  • Uniform Laws:
    • Uniform Transboundary Pollution Reciprocal Access Act (adopted by Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, and Wisconsin)
    • Uniform Conservation Easement Act (adopted by Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, US Virgin Islands, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming)
International Material
  • UNEP 2022
  • Paris Agreement
Key Internet Sources
  • Federal Agencies:
    • Environmental Protection Agency
      • ENVIROFACTS (EPA Database)
    • Department of the Interior
    • National Resources Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture
    • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce
    • Office of Environmental Management of the U.S. Department of Energy
  • ​Additional Resources
    • Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide
    • Policy Instruments Database
    • Greenpeace
    • Environmental Law Institute

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