What Is Environmental Law?

what is environmental law

Environmental law is the body of law that governs the environment and protects natural resources. This body of law consists of several different regulatory regimes. The principles of environmental law have direct impact on the way natural resources are managed. In this article, you will learn about the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), CERCLA, the Pollution Prevention Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.


The EPA is an agency responsible for protecting the environment by monitoring pollution levels and setting standards for hazardous chemicals. It also investigates environmental offenses. Violations of environmental laws can be civil or criminal. The former requires no knowledge of the offender; criminal offenses require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.


CERCLA is an acronym for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980. This law establishes the federal Superfund program and is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pollution prevention act

The Pollution Prevention Act is a federal law enacted in 1990 that sets national policies to prevent pollution and to reduce it at its source. This law also encourages companies to recycle, treat, and dispose of waste in an environmentally safe manner.

National Environmental Policy Act

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federal law that promotes efforts to protect the environment and biosphere. It aims to improve public health and welfare by encouraging environmental conservation. It is based on the idea that everyone should be able to live in an environment that is healthy and safe. Therefore, it is the responsibility of each person to contribute to its preservation and enhancement.

Clean water act

The Clean Water Act is an important piece of environmental law that regulates pollution of waterways. It also protects land that is considered a natural wetland. In addition, it prohibits the disturbing of aquatic habitats by filling in creek beds, grading, drilling, and other activities that could harm natural water bodies.

Clean air act

The Clean Air Act is an important environmental law that mandates cleaner fuels and improved vehicle technology. It also requires certain areas with air pollution problems to implement passenger vehicle inspection and maintenance programs. It has been in effect since 1990, and its requirements apply to a variety of motor vehicles. In addition to regulating emissions from on-road vehicles, the law also imposes clean air standards on diesel engines and other nonroad equipment. These new standards have dramatically reduced emissions as new vehicles are introduced into the market.


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federal law that facilitates the environmental review process. Its goal is to protect the health and safety of the nation’s workers and communities, especially those of Latino descent. Latinos comprise a majority of construction and agricultural labor, and this law provides critical protection for them.

State environmental laws

The evolution of state environmental laws is not without controversy. In the early 1970s, states began cutting corners on pollution control as a way to attract business. The Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 became a symbol of the “race to the bottom” in state and local politics. But these trends have changed with the passage of time.