environmental law violations

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The United States government regulates activities that impact the environment through a complex scheme of statutes and agency regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bears the responsibility for carrying out the regulations set forth in Congressional legislation but also wields the authority to promulgate additional regulations of its own. These regulations impact the depth and course of streams, plant life, wildlife habitats, animals, soil quality, air quality, water quality, control of hazardous waste, limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and effects on recreational locations.

However, compliance with environmental regulations usually requires the expenditure of significantly increased overhead for businesses. In an attempt to avoid these additional costs, some businesses will refuse to comply with the regulations. Sometimes, businesses openly refuse to comply and will pay governmental fines rather than pay the compliance costs, which surpass the total costs of the fines. Other businesses, however, will try to hide their noncompliance, such as by dumping hazardous waste into rivers, streams, oceans, or otherwise secluded areas rather than paying to have it taken to a chemical treatment plant. Other common types of environmental law violations include littering; improper waste disposal; the use of illegal pesticides in agriculture; releasing particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone in amounts surpassing the regulatory caps; oil spills; the destruction of wetlands; burning garbage; improperly removing and disposing of asbestos; falsifying lab data pertaining to environmental regulations; smuggling illegal chemicals into the country; and committing fraud relating to environmental regulations.

U.S. criminal law characterizes an environmental law violation as a form of white-collar crime. If convicted, violators face fines, probation, jail time, or some combination thereof. Typically, a sentence of jail time is used when dealing with individuals, while corporations face stiff fines. The fines endeavor to offset the financial gain of conducting the illegal activity.

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)
  • CRS Annotated Constitution
Code of Federal Regulations
  • 40 C.F.R. - Protection of Environment
Federal Judicial 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, 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)
State Judicial Decisions
  • N.Y. Court of Appeals:
    • Environmental Cases
  • Appellate Decisions from Other States

International Material

Conventions and Treaties
  • Dealing with Biodiversity
  • Dealing with Marine and Coastal Areas
  • Dealing with Other Environmental Topics
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
  • ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
  • Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide
  • Elsevier Environmental Directory
  • Policy Instruments Database
  • Greenpeace
  • Environmental Law Institute

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

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Federal Material

U.S. Constitution and Federal Statutes

Code of Federal Regulations

Federal Judicial Decisions

State Material

State Statutes and Regulations

State Judicial Decisions

International Material

Conventions and Treaties

Other References

Key Internet Sources

Useful Offnet (or Subscription - $) Sources

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