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The Main Federal Environmental Laws You Should Know If You Have A Business In The USA

At least 10 of the major federal laws address the protection of the environment and the health and safety of American residents. This is in addition to the multitude of other federal laws, rules and administrative environmental regulations. There are also dozens of environmental laws that have been enacted by the state and local government. The following is a summary of the major federal environmental laws.

The Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 and contains detailed provisions regulating emissions to the atmosphere from various sources. Ensuring compliance with the Act, as with most other federal environmental laws, is the responsibility of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In this regard, EPA was empowered by the Act to create National Standards for Ambient Air Quality (NAAQS), which establish acceptable levels of emissions from fixed and mobile sources.

The Act was amended in 1990 to address areas of concern that had come to the fore in the 20 years after it came into effect. For example, the initial version of the Law did not or did not sufficiently address issues such as acid rain, ozone layer depletion, and air toxins.

The Clean Water Law

The Clean Water Act It was approved in 1977 and is enforced by the EPA, with assistance in private matters from state agencies or entities. The Act makes it illegal for anyone to dump any pollutant from a point of origin into navigable waters of the United States unless they have obtained a special permit allowing such activity from the EPA. Ten years after its enactment, the Clean Water Act was amended to include provisions that focused on toxic pollutants, authorized citizen lawsuits (as opposed to government enforcement measures), and funded wastewater treatment plants.

The Comprehensive Environmental Responsibility, Compensation and Response Act (CERCLA)

In 1980, Congress approved CERCLA for the purpose of addressing how hazardous waste sites, accidents, spills, and other emergency releases of uncontrolled or abandoned contaminants or contaminants should be managed. The Act creates a federal “superfund” to clean, contain, or remove pollutants and hazardous materials in these situations.

Under the Act, EPA has the power to track down parties responsible for the unsafe abandonment, spill, or release and requires their participation in cleanup efforts. If the releaser cannot be found, or refuses to cooperate, the Act gives EPA the responsibility to clean up orphan sites or situations. Once a “response action” to a situation is completed, CERCLA allows EPA to recoup the costs of the action from financially sound individuals and companies that were involved.

See also the “Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA)” below.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)

In 1986, Congress enacted the EPCRA, which is also known as Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA). EPCRA is designed to assist local communities in protecting public health, safety, and the environment from chemical hazards.

Under EPCRA, each state must create and maintain a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), which is divided into Emergency Planning Districts. Each district must have a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). SERCs and LEPCs are responsible for providing the community with information on chemical hazards that may affect the public and disseminating procedures to follow in the event of a dangerous emergency situation.

Endangered Species Law

The Endangered Species Act it is a unique law that was passed in 1973. The purpose of the law is to protect and hopefully repopulate, threaten or endanger plants, animals, and animal habitats. Many species of plants and animals are in danger of extinction due to the impact of humans and the pollutants, irritants and toxins released into their environments.

USA. The Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a list of more than 600 endangered plant and animal species, and nearly 200 threatened species. Under the Endangered Species Act, anyone can request the prohibition of activities that may have an adverse effect on threatened or endangered species.

Federal Law on Insecticides, Fungicides and Rodenticides (FIFRA)

FIFRA was passed by Congress in 1972 and is enforced by the EPA, which has the power to prohibit the sale, distribution, or use of pesticides such as insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides under the Act. If a threatened or endangered species extinction is adversely affected, the EPA may also issue an emergency suspension of certain pesticides.

FIFRA requires farmers, utility companies, and other pesticide users to register when they purchase pesticides. These individuals are also required by law to take and pass a certification exam for applying pesticides. The law FIFRA it also contains provisions that require all pesticides used in the United States to be approved and licensed by the EPA.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

NEPA is one of the oldest federal environmental protection laws, passed in 1969. The overall purpose of NEPA is to ensure that the government adequately investigates and considers potential environmental effects before taking any major federal action, such as building a new one. highway. As part of this consideration, the government must complete Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for any action it contemplates.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

In 1970, concerned about the growing lack of workplace and worker safety, Congress passed OSHA. OSHA’s primary goal is to require employers to provide their workers with a safe workplace. Although some OSHA requirements do not directly affect the environment (such as requirements regarding worker safety in elevated locations), other provisions specifically address environmental issues (such as the use of toxic or hazardous substances in the workplace) .

OSHA is one of the few federal laws that relate to the environment that is not controlled by the EPA. Instead, OSHA is implemented by the United States Department of Labor in concert with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which was created specifically to address OSHA issues. Additionally, many states have their own workplace safety and health laws. State acts must have provisions in place that meet, if not exceed, federal OSHA requirements.

Pollution prevention law

The Pollution Prevention Law, passed in 1990, includes provisions designed to reduce the amount of pollution in the environment through changes in the production, operation and use of raw materials by private industry and the government. In other words, the Act is proactively focused on reducing sources of pollution, rather than reactively focusing on how to deal with pollution once it has entered the environment. One area of ​​the Pollution Prevention Act that has had a dramatic and recognizable impact on the general public is the drive toward recycling and reusing materials.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

This law allows EPA to control the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. The Law also contains provisions for the management of non-hazardous solid waste. In practice, RCRA complements CERCLA and the two, together, provide mechanisms to control all hazardous waste situations. While RCRA focuses on active and future installations, CERCLA deals with abandoned or historic sites and emergency situations.

In 1984, the Federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) were passed by Congress, amending RCRA to require the phase-out of hazardous waste. To achieve this goal, and to address other shortcomings in RCRA, HSWA also created greater enforcement authority for the EPA and stricter hazardous waste management standards.

With the phasing out of hazardous waste disposal on the ground, the EPA soon found that new storage problems were coming to the fore. Therefore, in 1986, an amendment to RCRA was passed that allowed EPA to focus and address specific issues and concerns related to the underground storage of oil and other products.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

This 1974 law, as the name implies, addresses issues related to the quality and safety of drinking water in the United States. Under the law SDWA, EPA is authorized to establish purity standards for above-ground and groundwater sources that are designated for, or potentially designated for, human consumption. SDWA contains both health-related standards and nuisance-related standards. Both are enforced with the cooperation of state governments.

Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA)

This 1986 federal law reauthorized CERCLA to continue its efforts to clean up abandoned hazardous waste, spills, and releases. Some provisions of SARA specifically address issues or concerns that arose at specific CERCLA sites involved.

Title III of the SARA also created the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), as described above.

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

The purpose of TSCA, an Act of Congress of 1976, is to allow the testing, regulation and review of all chemicals produced or imported in the United States before they reach the consumer market.

TSCA also allows the tracking of all existing chemicals that pose health or environmental risks and the implementation of clean-up procedures in the event of contamination from toxic materials. TSCA supplements other federal laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Release Inventory under EPCRA.

Compliance with Federal Environmental Laws: Get Legal Help

Even an innocent mistake that violates a key federal environmental law can have devastating effects on small businesses. If you need help identifying and complying with the environmental laws relevant to your business, you may want to speak with a business and commercial law attorney for help.