There are many different state and federal environmental laws. Congress has authorized many federal agencies to investigate environmental matters and enforce federal environmental regulations and laws. Most commonly the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigates and enforces federal environmental laws. Many states have their own environmental laws specific to their regional needs, and state agencies that enforce these laws. The following are just a few environmental provisions:
- The Clean Water Act – Congress passed the Clean Water Act to regulate and prosecute those who pollute the water. Specifically, the Clean Water Act makes it illegal to discharge pollutants into any navigable water without a special permit. Both the EPA and private citizens can prosecute an individual or business for discharging pollutants into water.
- The Clean Air Act – Congress passed the Clean Air Act to regulate air emissions from certain sources. The EPA has set various standards for the acceptable level of emissions from these sources. The EPA has set air emission guidelines specific to various regions throughout the country.
- Hazardous Clean-up (CERCLA) – If there are environmental hazards on property requiring a clean up, both present and past owners can be held responsible for the clean up costs under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Under CERCLA, a federal superfund was created to control and clean up hazardous waste sites, spills and other polluted lands.
- Innocent Owner – CERCLA offers an innocent owner defense. Under CERCLA, if an owner made all reasonable inquiry into the past use of the land and did not find anything that would make her think that the land may have been the site of a hazardous waste spill, disposal or accident, a court will not find the owner liable for the clean up.
Should I Consult an Environmental Attorney?
There is a multitude of environmental laws specific to region, state and type of industry. A government lawyer can help you sift through all the laws and determine which apply to your land or project. An environmental attorney can also help you to comply with the various environmental laws. Additionally, an environmental lawyer can help you if the EPA has begun to investigate or is prosecuting you for an environmental violation.