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Environmental Law (United States)

Major Statutes

Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551-559, 701-706, 1305, 3344, 4301, 5335, 5372, 7521 (1946).

The APA governs the procedures that administrative agencies must follow to enact regulations.  It also establishes the procedure by which federal courts may review agency decisions.

Clean Air Act 42 U.S.C. §7401 et seq. (1970).

The CAA controls emissions from both stationary and mobile sources.  It authorizes the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

The CAA was amended in 1977 and 1990.  Legislative Histories of these amendments are available through WestLaw:

Arnold & Porter Legislative History - Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAA90-LH)
Arnold & Porter Legislative History: Clean Air Act amendments of 1977 (CAA77-LH) 

Clean Water Act of 1977, 33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq. (1972).

The Clean Water Act has its basis in the 1948 Federal Water Pollution Control Act which was amended in 1972 and again in 1977.  The Act received its current name from the 1977 amendment.  It controls the discharge of pollutants into surface waters through the EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program.

Legislative History of the 1972 Amendments available through WestLaw: Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (FWPCA72-LH) 

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C. §9601 et seq. (1980).

CERLA is also called the "Superfund Act" because it authorizes the creation of a Federal Superfund to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. 

The parties responsible for the creation of the hazardous waste sites may be required to assist with the clean up process.

The Superfund Act is administered by the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI).

Legislative History Available through WestLaw: Comprehensive Envtl Response, Compensation & Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA-LH) 

Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. §11001 et seq. (1986).

EPCRA is authorized under Title III of SARA (see below).  EPCRA orders the creation of State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) for each state.  The purpose of these SERCs is to keep communities informed about and safe from any hazardous waste sites.

Endangered Species Act of 1973, 16 USC § 1531 et seq. (1973).

The ESA establishes a program for the preservation of species threatened with extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration are generally responsible for implementing this act.  The Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) implements specific portions of the act, as well.

Energy Policy Act of 2005, 42 USC §13201 et seq. (2005).

This piece of legislation covers a broad range of topics in energy law.

Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, 7 U.S.C. §136 et seq. (1996).

This act provides for federal regulation of the distribution, sale and use of pesticides.  Pesticides must be licensed through the EPA.  In order to do so, the licensee must prove that under normal conditions the pesticide will not produce unreasonable risks to the environment.

National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. (1970).

NEPA establishes a broad framework for environmental policy within the United States government.  It's most visible requirement is that federal agencies submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) when considering a new program or project.

Oil Pollution Act, 33 U.S.C. §2701 et seq. (1990).

OPA sets forth measures that must be taken to lessen the chances of and mitigate the damages caused by oil spills.  The EPA regulates above ground storage facilities, the Coast Guard regulates oil tankers, and the Office of Emergency Management works with other agencies to enhance emergency response to oil spills.

Pollution Prevention Act, 42 U.S.C. §13101 et seq. (1990).

The PPA targets source reduction of pollutants as a method of pollutant control through regulating production, operation, and raw materials use.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. §6901 et seq. (1976).

RCRA gives the EPA regulatory control over hazardous materials from their inception to their disposal.  It also gives the EPA control over nonhazardous solid waste.

Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. §9601 et seq. (1986).

Reauthorizes CERCLA's clean up activities.  It also includes more definitions and clarification of provisions within CERCLA, and gives greater regulatory power to the EPA.  Title III authorizes the creation of the EPCRA.

Legislative History available through WestLaw: Superfund Amendments & Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA-LH)

Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq. (1976).

The TSCA gives the EPA the power to require specific testing requirements, record keeping procedures, and to place other restrictions on the production of chemical substances.  Some substances are excluded from this act including, food, cosmetics, and pesticides.

Tips for Locating Statutes

Environmental Law is heaviliy governed by statutory law.  Here are a couple of tools to help you locate appropriate statutes.

  1. Use the index to the USCA or the USCS to find appropriate sections of the Code.
  2. EPA's website - find major statutes and regulations by topic or by business sector.  There is also a FAQ section.
  3. Use the research guide for Federal Statutory Research.
  4. Use a environmental specific database to search the USCA on Westlaw


Title 40 (Protection of Environment) of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is where you will find most regulations pertaining to environmental law.

Some regulations that affect Environmental Law may be found elsewhere in the CFR.  Use an annotated code to find references to regualtions or use the CFR index to find regulations by topic.

Try using Lexis to find regulations stemming from a particular statute within the CFR.  Just locate the section of the code in the United States Code Service (USCS) using the citation listed above and then click on "Code of Federal Regulations" in the Practitioner's Toolbox along the righthand side of the page.

For more information on researching administrative law see the research guide for Researching Federal Regulations.

WestLaw provides a database for seraching only environmental regulations in the CFR:

Federal Environmental Law - Code of Federal Regulations (FENV-CFR) Contains sections of the Code of Federal Regulations related to environmental law.

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