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Environmental Law

The US legislative framework is based on a "command and control" approach to environmental regulation. The US Congress has enacted or amended a number of environmental statutes since 1969, which seek to minimize pollution and environmental impacts through imposition of emissions standards, operating and reporting requirements, environmental management practices and environmental impact assessment requirements.

Key environmental statutes include the:

  • Clean Water Act (CWA): regulates discharges of pollutants into US waters and the quality of surface waters.

  • Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA): regulates public drinking water supply and systems, as well as the construction, operation, permitting and closure of underground injection wells.

  • Clean Air Act (CAA): regulates air quality and air pollution from stationary and mobile sources.

  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA): establishes a framework for the investigation and clean-up of contaminated properties, and a cost recovery framework to allocate liability to potentially responsible parties.

  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). regulates the handling, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes from the point of generation to their ultimate disposition.

  • Endangered Species Act: establishes protections for endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

  • National Environmental Policy Act: is the federal government's charter for protection of the human environment. Through NEPA, Congress directed federal agencies to integrate environmental considerations into their planning and decision making.

  • Toxic Substances Control Act: regulates the production, importation, use and disposal of chemical substances and mixtures.

  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act: regulates pesticide distribution, sale, and use.

  • Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act: imposes reporting requirements relating to the storage, use and release of regulated chemicals and substances.

The federal agencies which implement and enforce US environmental laws are the followings:

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA implements and enforces most of the federal environmental statutes. The EPA shares responsibility with states and other federal agencies under certain federal environmental laws.

  • Department of the Interior. The Department of the Interior administers federal laws dealing with public lands management, mining, minerals and natural resources, including various wildlife and plant conservation laws. Key sub-agencies include the:

    • Bureau of Land Management;

    • US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS);

    • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management;

    • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement;

    • Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

  • Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps). The Army Corps regulates the disposal of dredged or fill material in waters subject to federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction, as well as activities and structures in navigable waters under the Rivers and Harbors Act.

  • National Marine Fisheries Service. This is a sub-agency within the Department of Commerce which administers programmes for the conservation and management of marine resources.

  • Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ through its Environment and Natural Resources Division represents the US in litigation arising under the federal environmental laws.

  • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. This is a sub-agency of the US Department of Transportation and regulates the transportation of hazardous materials, including oil and gas.

Excerpt from Environmental law and practice in the United States: Overview. You can find the full article through below link: