Environmental protection laws place restrictions on how individuals or companies can interact with the environment. This includes limitations on the disposal of chemicals or hazardous products, and regulations on interactions with soil, water, or air.
Environmental protection laws promote the public safety, but they also can do a lot more than that. Environmental law has a long history, but it truly took off in the 1970s, with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970. Various environmental laws were passed in the ensuing years to protect the environment.
These laws also limit the ability of developers and individuals to use and exploit land however they see fit. Many environmental lawsuits involve the government suing large developers and other corporations for environmental hazards. In other cases, individuals band together to sue companies that have poisoned the land or water.
Below, we will look at some of the most important environmental laws on the books today and explore how they impact all of us. If you have a question, contact a toxic torts and environmental law attorney.
Clean Air Act & Clean Water Act
These two landmark pieces of federal legislation focused on limiting pollution. The rapid industrialization in the United States, especially after World War Two, led to an increase in pollution. Economic advances also led to the development of many chemical compounds that were disastrous for the environment. Agitation by environmentalists led to increased public awareness of the effects of pollution on wildlife and on humans.
Passed in 1970 (and subsequently amended), the Clean Air Act limits how much pollutants can be released into the air. Companies might need to install equipment, if necessary, to reduce their emissions and come into compliance with government regulations. Among the pollutants the EPA regulates are lead, particulates, and carbon monoxide.
The Clean Air Act also gives the federal government the power to set emission standards for motor vehicle sold in the country. States can also set higher emissions standards, but the federal standards represent the floor.
The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972 (and subsequently amended), regulates pollutants released into the water. These limits protect public safety as well as marine life. The EPA can add new pollutants that it seeks to regulate as the agency sees fit.
If you run a business, then you need to be aware of both acts. However, even ordinary people can be ensnared by federal environmental protection laws. For example, if you want to construct buildings near waterways, you need to make sure you comply with the law.
Safe Drinking Water Act
This law was passed in 1974 and gives the EPA the power to set standards for drinking water quality. It oversees states and localities and applies to all public water systems. (Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA.)
Pursuant to this law, the EPA has set safety standards for contaminants that can affect public health. For example, it has set standards for:
- Microorganisms, such as Legionella and coliform bacteria
- Disinfectants, such as chlorine
- Disinfectant byproducts, such as chlorite and bromate
- Inorganic chemicals, such as arsenic, asbestos, and fluoride
- Organic chemicals, such as styrene and PCBs
- Radionuclides, such as radium and uranium
Toxic Substances Control Act
This law, passed in 1976, gives the EPA control over new chemicals being introduced into the mark. EPA can set testing requirements and restrict certain chemicals, banning them altogether if necessary. EPA can regulate all chemicals that pose an “unreasonable risk” to the environment or to public safety.
Endangered Species Act
Passed in 1973, this law clearly seeks to protect non-humans and plants. The EPA does not administer the Endangered Species Act; instead, it is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The federal government identifies and lists endangered species. Federal agencies are then prohibited from doing anything that could damage or destroy each endangered species’ critical habitat. Although the Act does not apply to private individuals, the reality is that many logging companies and developers need a federal permit, which can be denied.
National Environmental Policy Act
This law was passed in 1969 and requires that federal agencies consider how their actions affect the environment. Before a federal agency can undertake any project, it must analyze how the project will affect the environment and whether there are alternatives that would be less harmful to the environment. This law will not prevent an agency from taking a harmful action, but the agency must make its findings public.
Have You Suffered an Environmental Injury?
Many companies continue to violate environmental protection laws. If you have been injured, you might have a legal claim for compensation. Contact MG Law today. We offer a free consultation, which you can schedule by sending us a message.
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