Environmental law consists of all legal guidelines that areintended to protect our environment. Much of the envi-ronmental legislation in the United States is initiated at thefederal level. Various regulatory agencies may then pre-pare regulations, which define how activity must be con-ducted to comply with the law. In practice, the terms
are often used interchangeably.Regulations are generally more volatile than laws(statutes), of more applicability in determining compliance.However, to obtain copies of laws or regulations, onemust differentiate between statutes (laws) and regulations.Laws can be accessed through their public law numberfrom the U.S. Printing Office and are compiled under the
United States Code (USC).
Regulations are printed in the
Federal Register (FR)
and are compiled annually in the
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
Regulatory compliance is a significant aspect of con-ducting business today. The scheme of obligations posedby environmental legislation represents two costs: the ef-fort and expenditure required to achieve compliance andthe fines, penalties, and liabilities that may be incurred asa result of noncompliance. Whether preparing for envi-ronmental audits, developing an emergency response plan,or participating in an environmental impact study, envi-ronmental engineers must be conversant in environmentallaw and environmental policy. Ignorance of regulatory re-quirements is viewed by federal, state, and local govern-ments as no excuse for noncompliance.An overview of federal environmental laws is providedin this chapter. The chapter is divided into four sectionsand an appendix.
Government Agencies and Administrative Law.
This sec-tion outlines some of the procedures under which laws aredeveloped and applied. It is a “broadbrush” characteriza-tion of administrative law which focuses on the practiceof government agencies.
This section includes statutes used togather and disseminate information as a central part of their regulatory schemes. This section includes theNational Environmental Policy Act and the EmergencyPlanning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Natural Resource Laws.
This section includes statutessuch as the Endangered Species Act and the Coastal ZoneManagement Act which protect habitat and regulate landuse.
Pollution Control Laws.
Statutes discussed in this sec-tion, such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, ResourceConservation and Recovery Act, and Toxic SubstancesControl Act, generally focus on regulating the pollutantswhich create risk to human health and the environment.
Federal Environmental Protection Agencies.
The organi-zation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the ad-dresses and telephone numbers of the headquarters andregional offices and state and territorial agencies are pre-sented in the appendix.This chapter provides an overview and a general un-derstanding of the key features of the major environmen-tal statutes. The discussions of statutes should pave a wayfor further, in-depth study into the environmental laws.It should be noted that environmental laws are dynamicand subject to change, interpretation, and negotiation.Although the following discussions of these federal lawsprovide important information, the reader is advised todetermine if any updates or revisions of these laws are ineffect. The information provided on these statutes is nosubstitute for up-to-date advice from licensed practition-ers.
©1999 CRC Press LLC