The federal government has passed many statutes intended to protect the natural environment and remediate any harm that has already occurred. Many of these statutes give authority to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate various actions related to the environment. Other federal departments and agencies have their own environmental regulations as well.
The EPA’s website has a tremendous amount of information related to environmental law, including summaries and links to federal statutes, technical and scientific data, environmental news, compliance information, and subject guides intended to make the law more comprehensible.
While the EPA is the largest player in environmental law, many other departments and agencies have the authority to regulate environmental policy or collect important environmental data. These include:
The EPA site includes a list of the laws and executive orders that grant the EPA authority, and gives summaries of each. Some of the most important laws are outlined below.
|Clean Air Act (CAA)||42 U.S.C. §7401 et seq. (1970)||Regulates air emissions|
|Clean Water Act (CWA)||33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq. (1972)||Regulates discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States|
|Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund)||42 U.S.C. §9601 et seq. (1980)||Provides a federal "Superfund" to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous-waste sites|
|Endangered Species Act (ESA)||16 U.S.C. §1531 et seq. (1973)||Protects threatened and endangered plants and animals and their habitats|
|National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)||42 U.S.C. §4321 et seq. (1969)||Requires all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment|
|Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)||42 U.S.C. §6901 et seq. (1976)||Governs the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste|
|Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)||42 U.S.C. §300f et seq. (1974)||Regulates the quality of drinking water in the U.S.|
|Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)||15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq. (1976)||Regulates testing, record-keeping, reporting, and use of chemical substances.|