Different Environmental Laws

There are many federal and state statutes that exist to protect this country’s natural resources, from air to water and resources in between. The different environmental laws were enacted at various times in United States history, but a majority were enacted in the 1970s. This article provides an overview of some of the most well-known federal laws.

THE CLEAN AIR ACT

42 U.S.C. §7401 et seq. (1970)

Enacted in 1970, the Clean Air Act (CAA) controls air emissions from both fixed and moveable sources. The CAA is one of the different environmental laws that gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to create National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants.

By 1975, the CAA set to achieve the NAAQS and different environmental laws protective of air quality in all states so that the country’s concerns related to air pollutants would be addressed. Through that initiative, the CAA also mandated that states draft and implement a State Implementation Plan, which serves to regulate industrial sources in the state.

The CAA was amended in 1977 and 1990 and created new deadlines by which to achieve NAAQS attainment to set new goals (dates) for achieving attainment of NAAQS since many areas of the country failed to meet the previous deadlines. A different environmental law section of the CAA deals with emissions of hazardous air pollutants by requiring that major sources adopt technology-based standards. “Major sources” are defined as a stationary source or group of stationary sources that emit or have the potential to emit 10 tons per year or more of a hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of hazardous air pollutants.

THE CLEAN WATER ACT

33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq. (1972)

The Clean Water Act (CWA) was originally enacted in 1948 as a different environmental lawthe Federal Water Pollution Control Act. After a substantial expansion and reorganization in 1972 the Act was renamed the Clean Water Act, as it is known today.  CWA determines the regulations of pollutant discharge and surface waters quality standards for United States’ waters.

Pollution control programs were put into effect by the EPA under the CWA, such as maintaining existing requirements to set national water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters.

Under the CWA, a permit must be obtained to discharge any pollutants from a point source into navigable waters. Point sources can be a discrete conveyance from which pollutants are or may be discharged. These discharges are managed by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) by the EPA.

THE COMPREHENSIVE ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSE, COMPENSATION, AND LIABILITY ACT 

42 U.S.C. §9601 et seq. (1980)

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or sometimes known as Superfund) is a different environmental law that allows the federal government to step in and begin clean up procedures, including spills or accidental contaminations.  The power to identify and begin action in restoring these sites is valid across the United States and its territories. The EPA works with local state governments to facilitate this process.

EPA, under CERCLA, has the power to search for potentially responsible parties and seek either funds or cleanup efforts as reparations for their mistreatment of the site.  The EPA utilizes the courts to obtain orders, consent decrees and settlements to contribute to the cost of these efforts.

THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT 

42 U.S.C. §4321 et seq. (1969)

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a statute that expresses support for strong relations between government branches and the prevention of further damage to the environment. When Federal land use activities are proposed, even under different environmental laws, NEPA is invoked. An example of the type of project is development of highways or airports, a major federal action that has the potential to impact the quality of human health or the environment.  Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments are the most common product of the NEPA, as they are required by all federal agencies that are subject to NEPA.

These different environmental laws can be confusing and daunting. Desautel Law is the team you need to assist you and your business’s efforts to adequately address your statutory environmental issues.

To learn more about Desautel Law and how its attorneys can help you, call us at 401.477.0023 today.

Scroll to top