United States environmental law

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In the United States, there are numerous environmental laws.[1] [2][3] Although they have diverse purposes, they all relate to the protection of the natural environment and other environments, which include the control of pollution and the protection of natural resources, and which result in the protection of both human and other life forms' health and well-being.

Major federal environmental laws[edit]

As an introduction, a few examples of federal statutory environmental laws are provided here.

There are many more environmental laws in the United States, both at the federal and state levels. The common law of property and takings also play an important role in environmental issues. In addition, the law of standing, relating to who has a right to bring a lawsuit, is an important issue in environmental law in the United States.


The history of environmental law in the United States can be traced back to early roots in common law doctrines, for example, the law of nuisance and the public trust doctrine. The first statutory environmental law was the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which has been largely superseded by the Clean Water Act. However, most current major environmental statutes, such as the federal statutes listed above, were passed in the time spanning the late 1960s through the early 1980s. Prior to the passage of these statutes, most federal environmental laws were not nearly as comprehensive.

Silent Spring, a 1962 book by Rachel Carson, is frequently credited as launching the environmental movement in the United States. The book documented the effects of pesticides, especially DDT, on birds and other wildlife. (See Environmental movement in the United States.)

One lawsuit that has been widely recognized as one of the earliest environmental cases is Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. Federal Power Commission, decided in 1965 by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, prior to passage of the major federal environmental statutes.[4] The case helped halt the construction of a power plant on Storm King Mountain in New York State. The case has been described as giving birth to environmental litigation and helping create the legal doctrine of standing to bring environmental claims.[5] The Scenic Hudson case also is said to have helped inspire the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act, and the creation of such environmental advocacy groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]