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Environmental/Natural Resources Law: Statutes

Federal Statutes

United States Code (USC):  Arranged topically with 51 titles, there are two annotated versions of the United States Code, United States Code Annotated (USCA—burgundy in color) and United States Code Service (USCS—black).  They are produced by different publishers and can differ in the annotations they provide, so it’s a good idea to check both sets.

Some statutes dealing with environmental law issues can be found in Titles 16, 30, 40, and 43.  Other statutes may be found elsewhere—use the index volumes at the end of the set to find what you need, or there are volumes listing acts by popular name (National Environmental Policy Act, etc.)

Federal statutory and legislative material can also be found online in the following places:

Major Environmental Acts

  • Clean Air Act (CAA)
    • Passed in 1963, this statute created a national policy regarding the control of air pollution. It authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to create regulations to protect health from airborne contaminants. Currently codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401 et seq.
  • Clean Water Act (CWA)
    • Passed in 1972, this statute created a national policy regarding water contamination.  It established national goals to improve the quality of surface water and prevent the release of toxic substances that may impact health or environmental quality.  Currently codified at 33 U.S.C. §§  1251 et seq.
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA)
    • Also known as "Superfund", was originally enacted in 1980 to address the threats to human health and environment from abandoned hazardous waste disposal sites.  CERCLA was substantially modified by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986.  Currently codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601 et seq.
  • Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)
    • Enacted to help local communities against chemical hazards.  It requires each state to establish a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC).  Each state SERC is then directed to divide their state into Emergency Planning Districts and appoint a Local Emergency Planning Committee for each district.  These state emergency commissions must also establish procedures for receiving and processing requests from the public for information under this law.  Commonly known as SARA Title III as it was enacted simultaneously.  Currently codified at 42 U.S.C. § 11001.
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA)
    • The ESA was enacted to conserve threatened and endangered plants and animals as well as their habitats.  In order to receive protection under the ESA, a plant or animal species must be placed on the Federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is part of the US Department of the Interior.  Currently codified at 7 U.S.C. § 136 & 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq.
  • Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA)
    • The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act) prohibits the dumping of material into the ocean that would unreasonably degrade or endanger human health, welfare, or amenities, or the marine environment, ecological systems, or economic potentialities. Currently codified at 33 U.S.C. §§ 1401 et seq.
  • National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)
    • Passed in 1970, this statute established a national policy regarding environmental protection and created the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).  Currently codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4347.
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
    • RCRA governs hazardous and/or toxic waste.  It was significantly amended by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984 (HSWA).  Under HSWA, Subtitle C established the national hazardous waste management program and requires the EPA to identify hazardous waste characteristics and list specific substances as hazardous wastes.  Currently codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 6901- 6987.
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
    • Gives the EPA ability to track industrial chemicals currently produced or imported into the United States.  Authorizes the EPA to ban the manufacture and import of chemicals it believes are dangerous to public health.  TSCA supplements the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Release Inventory.  Currently codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 2601- 2697.

State Statutes

State codes:  Annotated state codes work very much like the federal codes, but may have a different topical organization.  For example, in Ohio, statutes dealing with conservation of natural resources are contained in Title 15 of the Ohio Revised Code.  The Taggart Law Library has state codes for all 50 states in the state materials section on the south side.

Environmental Laws by State

The EPA has helped to create two online tools for locating state environmental agencies, regulations, and other resources:

Lexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline all provide surveys of environmental laws by topic and state:

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