Principal Environmental Laws In USA

By Jessica Banks | Civil Law

Jan 02

In past few decades US congress has amended several main environmental statutes which are enforced through various regulations by US Environmental Protection Agency, US Army Corps of Engineers and US Department of the Interior. Federal government has authority of enforcing and assuring compliance of these and state governments may even adopt more rigorous regulations than allowed under federal law. Local governments on the other hand may generally adopt more strict environmental laws but they are obligated to cohere with federal laws. Congress is the one that gives money to the EPA, other agencies and states to enforce these rules.

Key environmental legislation

Clean Air Act (CAA)

Is consisted of two objectives. Primary objective is human health and secondary is agriculture, aesthetics and other non-health objectives. It regulates air quality and addresses air pollution by setting goals for the concentration of various pollutants in our surrounding.


Essential thing is to set these goals in order to make the health risk zero. Usual air pollutants are HCs, CO, Pb, SOx, NOx ozone and particulates which emission limits are made by specific standards in technology. These standards are set for various industrial categories such as petrochemical plants, refineries, power plants, car factories, airplane factories and other sources.

Clean Water Act

Also consisted from two objectives, where primary eliminates discharge of all pollutants and secondary maintains and restores quality of the nation’s waters. Quality is based on fishing and swimming possibility in these waters.  This Act sets standards for which pollutants may be released into rivers, streams lakes and other waters. Permits to do so are extremely rigorous. There are also standards for specific industry categories which specify limits treating wastewater disposed in a water body. First point of this act were industrial point sources but with time there are also added requirements for the control in urban and agriculture runoff.

Safe Drinking Water Act

With three key objectives where primary ensures potable water, secondary ensures palatable water while tertiary protects the quality of underground source of the water. Potable water is one regarding human health while palatable water considers aesthetic characteristics such as color, odor and taste.


This Act by regulating public water systems regulate the public drinking water supply. Other regulations in this Act also take control over important factors regarding healthy waters such as permits, operations, constructions and underground wells. There are four categories met here and those are chemical, physical, radiological and biological. All standards set allowed maximum contaminant levels that must be met and are enforceable.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

Is the one responsible of controlling the handling, transportation, storage, treatment and transfer of dangerous wastes from very beginning of their production to their final disposal. It contains various sections to regulate various activities such as characterization of the waste, tracking framework, requirements for waste facilities and treatment specification of the waste.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act

Where main objective is to clean up abandoned and dangerous waste resources and sites. It must provide proper industrial waste management practices to every community. It is known as a Superfund that provides money based on taxes assessed to the petroleum and chemical industry in order to clean up every site of significant risk.

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