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Laws

Note that the various environmental laws will be discussed multiple times in the different chapters in order for the reader to understand the complexity of environmental issues and the interrelationship of environmental media, air, land, and water, and the highly significant environmental laws that apply to a multitude of different situations. The description of the laws may seem to vary, but actually for any given circumstance or situation, a portion of a very complex legal document may apply and this is what the reader needs to know. Listing and discussing these laws in various chapters also helps the reader understand that any given situation may be subject to a variety of different actions based on the laws that apply.

The United States established a national policy for environmental sustainability in 1969 when it passed the National Environmental Policy Act. This Act required the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement when the environment was going to be affected by changes being sought, the development of a Council on Environmental Quality to Advise the President concerning Environmental Issues, the conducting of necessary research, etc. In 1970, the US EPA was created by bringing together programs from 15 different departments and agencies. Numerous additional laws were passed at the federal and state level to protect the environment and people. These laws included (see the appropriate chapters in this book for more detailed information about these laws):

1. The Clean Air Act of 1970, and its subsequent amendments, which established goals and standards for the quality of air in the United States

  • 2. The Clean Water Act of 1972, and its subsequent amendments, which established goals and standards for water quality in the United States
  • 3. The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 which allowed states and the federal government to protect the US coastal areas from environmentally destructive action and overdevelopment
  • 4. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 which protected whales, dolphins, sea lions, manatees, seals, and other marine mammals that would be endangered
  • 5. The Endangered Species Act of 1973, which protected endangered species of fish, plants, and wildlife in the United States and elsewhere by protecting habitats
  • 6. The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, as amended in 1986 and 1996, established drinking water standards, and rules for groundwater protection and underground injection
  • 7. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which provided for the protection of federal lands with scenic, scientific, historic, and ecological value
  • 8. The Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1976 which helped maintain and restore healthy levels of fish stocks and prevented over-harvesting in the future
  • 9. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 which helped prevent the creation of toxic waste dump sites by establishing standards for the management of the storage and disposal of hazardous waste
  • 10. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 gave the EPA the authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, import, and processing of specific toxic chemicals
  • 11. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 which was established to make sure that coal mining would not result in the destruction of the environment and that abandoned mine property would be used in the best interests of the public
  • 12. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, and its subsequent amendments which required the clean-up of sites contaminated by toxic wastes, even those which had been placed there many years before
  • 13. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, which required companies to inform communities about toxic chemicals that they release into the air, water, and land
  • 14. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 which enacted a rapid and well-thought-out federal response to oil spills from oil storage facilities and vessels, while making the polluters responsible for the cost and damage to natural resources
  • 15. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act of 1947 amended in 1996

Since the inception of all the new environmental laws, a very substantial number of scientific studies, changes, actions, Best Practices, and programs have been initiated throughout the country to prevent disease and injury, protect the environment, and promote sustainability. To understand this material properly, read the remainder of this book under the appropriate chapter topics as need dictates. However, it is appropriate to discuss a very limited number of introductory subjects here.

 
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