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Environmental Law: Primary Law

Primary Authority in Environmental Law

Atomic Energy Act

  • 42 U.S.C. § 2011 et seq.
  • "The Atomic Energy Act (AEA) established the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to promote the "utilization of atomic energy for peaceful purposes to the maximum extent consistent with the common defense and security and with the health and safety of the public."

Clean Air Act

  • 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401-7671
  • "The Clean Air Act (CAA) is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Among other things, this law authorizes EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants."

Clean Water Act ( formerly known as Federal Water Pollution Control Act)

  • 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq.
  • "The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters"

Coastal Zone Management Act

  • 16 U.S.C. § 1451-1456
  • "The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) provides states, with federally approved coastal management programs, the authority to review federal activities that have a reasonably foreseeable effect on any land use, water use, or natural resource of the coastal zone."

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, & Liability Act (Superfund)

  • 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq.
  • "Superfund is the federal government's program to clean up the nation's uncontrolled hazardous waste sites."

Endangered Species Act

  • 7 U.S.C. § 136 et seq.
  • "The Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found"

Food Quality Protection Act / Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)

  • 7 U.S.C. § 136 et seq.
  • "The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) provides for federal regulation of pesticide distribution, sale, and use"

Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA)

  • 33 U.S.C. §1401 et. seq.
  • "The primary Federal environmenatl statute governing transportation of dredged material (soil or excavated material) for the purposes of disposal into ocean waters.            

National Environmental Policy Act

  • 42 U.S.C. § 4321-4370
  • "The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was one of the first laws ever written that establishes the broad national framework for protecting our environment. NEPA's basic policy is to assure that all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment."

National Historic Preservation Act

  • 16 U.S.C §470 et seq.
  • “The National Historic Preservation Act is legislation intended to preserve historical and archaeological sites in the United States of America. This act requires federal agencies to evaluate the impact of all federally funded or permitted projects on historic properties  through a process known as Section 106 Review."

Oil Pollution Act

  • 33 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.
  • "The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 streamlined and strengthened EPA's ability to prevent and respond to catastrophic oil spills."

Resource Conservation & Recovery Act

  • 42 U.S.C. § 6901 et seq.
  • "The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) gives EPA the authority to control hazardous waste from the "cradle-to-grave." This includes the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste"

Safe Drinking Water Act

  • 42 U.S.C. §300f et seq.
  • "The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was established to protect the quality of drinking water in the U.S. This law focuses on all waters actually or potentially designed for drinking use, whether from above ground or underground sources."

Toxic Substances Control Act

  • 15 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.
  • "The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 provides EPA with authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures. Certain substances are generally excluded from TSCA, including, among others, food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides."

Updating Tools for Primary Law

Once you find your primary law, it is important to ensure it is still "good law". KeyCite and Shepard's Citation are the citation research services developed by West and LexisNexis, respectively.

 They provide updates for the following:

  • Direct appellate history of cases and administrative decisions
  • Negative citing references for cases and administrative decisions
  • Identification of repealed or superseded state or federal statutes and regulations
  • Citations to session laws or rules amending or repealing a statute or regulation
  • Recent federal and state agency activity that amends or repeals state or federal regulations
  • Citations to cases declaring state or federal statutes or regulations unconstitutional in whole or in part
  • Proposed legislation affecting the United States Code (USCA & USCS) and statutes from all 50 states
  • Proposed regulations affecting the CFR and administrative codes from all 50 states
  • Citing references to uncodified session laws relating to state or federal statutes
  • Credits and historical/statutory notes for state and federal statutes and the CFR