Environmental law refers to the body of laws, agreements, regulation, and common law that regulates the manner in which human beings interact with their physical environment. Environmental law aims to protect the environment and develop laws for how people can utilize natural resources.
Environmental laws offer protection to the environment from harm as well as determine the terms of usage of natural resources. Environmental laws regulate aspects such as pollution, natural resource usage, protection of forests, animal and fish populations, and mineral harvesting.
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The scope of Environmental Laws
Environment regulations encompass a wide range of areas, such as:
These regulations protect the air from pollution. They may also include stipulations to protect the air from issues such as ozone depletion.
Water pollution also falls under the purview of environmental laws. These regulations may also establish who can use water and the handling of potential issues concerning water such as the treatment of wastewater as well as the management of surface runoff.
This class of waste management pertains to municipal waste, hazardous material, and nuclear waste.
Prevention of pollution is not the only aspect that environmental law regulates. Contaminant cleanup encompasses addressing pollution after it has occurred. These regulations may include cleanup protocols and civil and criminal punishment of offenders.
Chemical safety laws regulate items such as the use of pesticides and chemicals in products like plastic bottles.
Hunting and Fishing
Environmental regulations may govern and protect wildlife populations. Lawmakers establish who can hunt and fish as well as the regulations on these activities.
Major Environmental Legislation
The River and Harbors Act of 1889 was the first federal environmental law. Much of the Harbors Act was revised by the Clean Water Act.
This Act made it a criminal offense to direct waste into navigable waters without a proper permit. Furthermore, it made it a misdemeanor to change a harbor, or waterfront or make alterations to a waterway by means of filling or excavating it.
Other important aspects of the federal environmental legislation are:
- National Environmental Policy Act
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
- Endangered Species Act
- Clean Air Act
- Clean Water Act
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Sources of Environmental Law and the Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental laws originate from various places. A majority of federal laws are governed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations details several environmental laws created by the EPA.
Some other federal bodies that govern the environment are:
- National Park Service
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- Bureau of Land Management
- US Forest Service
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