Environmental law, also called natural resources law is the term used to describe the network of treaties, regulations, statutes, and common and customary laws that address the effects of human activity on the natural environment. These laws are a combination of complex state, federal, and international treaty laws that pertain to issues related to the protection of natural resources. The natural resources which are protected under environmental law include soil, air, water, as well as resources such as oil, coal and gas. Other aspects of environmental law address issues such as pollution, global warming, depletion of natural resources, and availability of clean drinking water.
Agency for administering environmental regulations
The chief government agency that administers environmental regulations in the United States is the Environmental Protection Agency. Apart from the environmental protection agency, some states have their own environmental enforcement agencies. The job of both these agencies is to protect the natural environment as well as human health. They do this by passing regulations on environmental issues and they may impose fines, and other penalties in order to enforce those regulations. In some cases, the agencies my take legal action against the offender, leading to criminal proceedings.
Pollution Control and Remediation
Environmental law is divided into two main categories:
- Pollution control and remediation
- Conservation of natural resources
These laws are heavily influenced by international treaties which pertain to matters like reducing greenhouse emissions, banning the testing of environmentally destructive weapons, such as atomic bombs, and even prohibiting hunting or fishing of endangered species.
How are environmental law violations handled?
Violations of environmental laws are usually handled in a civil manner. The offender may be imposed fines along with other penalties and may also be required to pay civil damages to the injured parties. State laws are being enacted which criminalize any environmentally destructive behavior. Those who violate property use laws may have to face prison time.
Areas affecting environmental law
Apart from directly affecting the environment, environmental laws also define product design. The law governs the use of energy-efficient electronic devices and environmentally friendly materials. Incentives and tax discounts are offered to those who work to benefit the environment. For example, obvious cases of activities intended to benefit the environment include installation of solar panels and use of fuel efficient vehicles. Use of proper insulation to conserve heat and energy at homes during winters, use of proper insulation, and the use of non-polluting and non-hazardous construction materials can all have an impact on the environment as well as on our daily lives in some way or the other.
Categories of environmental law
Some of the broad categories of environmental law may be divided into the following specific regulatory subjects:
- Impact assessment
- Air quality
- Water quality
- Waste management
- Contaminant cleanup
- Chemical safety
- Water resources
- Mineral resources
- Forest resources
- Wildlife and plants
- Fish and game
If you are facing a criminal charge for violating an environmental law, you can get help from a qualified attorney or law firm that specializes their practice on environmental issues.
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