Environment Law - Environmental and Natural Resources Law

What is Environmental Law?

Environmental Law is a complex combination of state, federal, and international treaty law pertaining to issues of concern to the environment and protecting natural resources. For example, environmental laws often relate to issues such as pollution of soil, air, or water; global warming; and depletion of oil, coal, and clean water.

Administration of Environmental Regulations

In the United States, the chief government agency for administering environmental regulations is the Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, many states have their own environmental enforcement agencies. In both cases, these bodies administer the laws designed to protect both human health and the natural environment. They usually have the capacity to pass regulations on environmental issues and to enforce those regulations through the imposition of fines, legal action, or even the institution of criminal proceedings.

Pollution Control and Remediation

Generally, environmental law is broken into two categories: pollution control and remediation on the one hand, and conservation of natural resources on the other. The source of authority for these laws derives from many sources, and is heavily influenced by international treaties. Many of these treaties pertain to matters like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, prohibiting the hunting or fishing of endangered species, or even banning the testing of environmentally destructive weapons, such as atomic bombs.

Violations of Environmental Law

Usually, violations of environmental laws are handled in a civil manner, with the imposition of fines and civil damages to injured parties. But an emerging trend is spreading through the field of environmental law in favor of the enactment of state laws criminalizing environmentally destructive behavior. This has led to prison time for those who violate property use laws in protected environments (such as building a home on protected wetlands) and business executives who allow their companies to pollute.

Other Areas That Affect Environmental Law

Environmental laws also have relevance to product design in the form of emissions control, environmentally friendly materials, and energy-efficient electronic devices. They have relation to tax laws in the form of incentives for activities intended to benefit the environment, like fuel efficient vehicles and the installation of solar panels. They affect housing codes in the form of requirements for insulation, heat transfer through windows, and non-polluting construction materials. In other words, environmental laws are all around us and affect nearly every aspect of our daily lives in one way or another.

The resources below will assist you in understanding environmental law and the various issues pertaining to this expansive field of practice. Additionally, you can find information about law firms that focus a portion of their practice on environmental issues under the Law Firms tab, above.

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Articles on HG.org Related to Environmental and Natural Resources Law

  • Property Excavation Due to Neighbor’s Invasive Plants – Who Pays?
    The underground spreading and invasion of plants may cause serious damage to neighboring property. Excavation may be the only remedy a neighbor has to understand and identify just how extensive the damage is to their property. Bamboo is one example of an invasive plant that may cause legal issues.
  • Buying Oil or Gas Wells in a Bankruptcy Auction
    For auctions from a bankruptcy lot, it is important to consider all factors involved in the sale that may also include taxes for any oil or gas wells, property rights and unclaimed rights of another that owns a portion of the land or well. Before finalizing the deal, it is crucial to consult with a real estate or bankruptcy lawyer about these circumstances.
  • You Must Have Effective Policies in Place Before Allowing Pets at Work
    We adore our pets. Actually, we adore our pets to the point where many corporations currently allow pets in the workplace on a regular basis as a benefit for their employees. For instance, Petsmart has a "take your pet to work" day. Amazon has installed "doggie drinking fountains" for its employees' pets. Google even offers special dispensation for employees who bring their pets to work.
  • Small Businesses and Disposal of Hazardous Waste
    While working under the United States Environmental Protection Agency and ensuring that all guidelines are in adherence, the small business owner is able to ensure that hazardous waste and other protocols do not incur violations. To accomplish this, the owner and management must ensure these harmful chemicals and substances transfer to disposal units properly.
  • Environmental Laws Every Small Business Owner Must Know
    Small business owners facing potential violations with environmental laws should research these matters before the event ends in disaster. This requires a forewarning in environmental law and keeping with federal regulations by knowing what rules apply to the situations with the company such as waste management and treatment of employees.
  • What Causes Indoor Air Pollution and When Am I Liable?
    Air pollution is a serious problem for workers and those that reside indoors for most of the day or night, and these issues could lead to litigation. The Environmental Protection Agency becomes involved in these matters when the pollution affects others, and this could lead to negative consequences through a lawsuit against the individual or company liable.
  • Sales Tax Surge to Help Texas to Keep Its Books in Balance
    Keeping the books of the state of Texas balanced can be something of a challenge. The past session of the Texas Legislature balanced the 2018-19 budget, albeit barely. The next session, due to start in a year, is going to face quite a challenge in making sure that spending matches tax receipts.
  • Hazardous Air Pollutants from Mobile Sources
    Air pollution is still a problem in the United States, and when these issues arise from mobile sources, it is crucial to control the equipment. Filtration and reduction of air pollution is essential to the breathable air, to remove possible sources of injury to the citizens in the country and to keep from violating the Clear Air Act.
  • Environmental Contamination Cases that Need Testimony from an Expert Witness
    Environmental contamination affects thousands around the country each year when there is a breach from contaminated sources into the drinking water. The testimony of an expert witness is necessary to explain what happened and how to correct the issue.
  • What You Need to Know about Wetland Protection Laws
    The Environmental Protection Agency protect the wetlands, and it is important to know what these details entail for those that may reside or pass through the locations. The protection laws in place may require certain persons to stay off the land, for certain activity to cease and for others to assist in restorations.
  • All Environmental and Natural Resources Law Related Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Environmental and Natural Resources including: agricultural law, animal law, energy, environmental law, equine law, forestry and fisheries, natural resources, oil and gas.

Environmental and Natural Resources Law - US

  • ABA - Environment, Energy, and Resources Section

    The Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources is the premier forum for lawyers working in areas related to environmental law, natural resources law, and energy law. The Section is committed to providing members with opportunities to enhance professional skills, stay on top of current developments, and dialogue in these substantive areas. Section membership will add to your professional skill set and broaden your knowledge.

  • Clean Air Act

    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

    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. The basis of the CWA was enacted in 1948 and was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, but the Act was significantly reorganized and expanded in 1972. "Clean Water Act" became the Act's common name with amendments in 1977.

  • Energy Policy Act

    The Energy Policy Act (EPA) addresses energy production in the United States, including: (1) energy efficiency; (2) renewable energy; (3) oil and gas; (4) coal; (5) Tribal energy; (6) nuclear matters and security; (7) vehicles and motor fuels, including ethanol; (8) hydrogen; (9) electricity; (10) energy tax incentives; (11) hydropower and geothermal energy; and (12) climate change technology. For example, the Act provides loan guarantees for entities that develop or use innovative technologies that avoid the by-production of greenhouse gases. Another provision of the Act increases the amount of biofuel that must be mixed with gasoline sold in the United States.

  • Environmental Law Institute

    The Environmental Law Institute provides information services, advice, publications, training courses, seminars, research programs and policy recommendations to engage and empower environmental leaders the world over. ELI’s audience is leading environmental professionals in government, industry, public interest groups and academia

  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

    NRDC is the nation's most effective environmental action organization. We use law, science and the support of 1.3 million members and online activists to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things.

  • United States Environmental Policy - Wikipedia

    The environmental policy of the United States is federal governmental action to regulate activities that have an environmental impact in the United States. The goal of environmental policy is to protect the environment for future generations while interfering as little as possible with the efficiency of commerce or the liberty of the people and to limit inequity in who is burdened with environmental costs. This policy grew mainly out of the environmental movement in the United States in the 1960s and '70's during which several environmental laws were passed, regulating air and water pollution and forming the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Laws and Regulations

    The mission of EPA is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment -- air, water and land -- upon which life depends. A number of laws serve as EPA's foundation for protecting the environment and public health. However, most laws do not have enough detail to be put into practice right away. EPA is called a regulatory agency because Congress authorizes us to write regulations that explain the critical details necessary to implement environmental laws. In addition, a number of Presidential Executive Orders (EOs) play a central role in our activities.

Environmental and Natural Resources Law - International

  • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal

    The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive global environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes.

  • Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)

    The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) is a non-profit, public interest organization established in 1970 to use existing laws to protect the environment and to advocate environmental law reforms.

  • Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

    The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is a nonprofit organization working to use international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human health, and ensure a just and sustainable society.

  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

    The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force on 29 December 1993. It has 3 main objectives: 1. The conservation of biological diversity 2. The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity 3. The fair and e.quitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources

  • Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative

    Peacefully resolving the overriding political, economic and social concerns of our time requires a multifaceted approach, including mechanisms to address the links between the natural environment and human security. UNDP, UNEP, OSCE, NATO, UNECE and REC have joined forces in the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative to offer countries their combined pool of expertise and resources towards that aim.

  • Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW)

    The Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) gives public interest lawyers and scientists the training and resources they need to help communities protect the environment through law.

  • Environmental Law Foundation

    The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) is the national UK charity founded in 1992 that helps people use the law to protect and improve their local environment and quality of life. Through our network of specialist lawyers and consultants across the UK, we provide free guidance and continuing support to those in need of assistance.

  • European Commissioner for the Environment

    The main role of the European Commission's Environment Directorate-General (DG) is to initiate and define new environmental legislation and to ensure that agreed measures are put into practice in the EU Member States.

  • European Environmental Law Network

    The EU's environmental laws help protect against water, air and noise pollution and control risks related to chemicals, biotechnology and nuclear energy within the Union.

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

    The IPCC was established to provide the decision-makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information about climate change.

  • Kyoto Protocol

    The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions .These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.

  • North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC)

    Since 1994, Canada, Mexico and the United States have collaborated in protecting North America's environment through the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). The NAAEC came into force at the same time as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and marks a commitment that liberalization of trade and economic growth in North America would be accompanied by effective cooperation and continuous improvement in the environmental protection provided by each country.

  • Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

    The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

  • United Nations Environment Programme

    The mission of the UN'S Environment Programme is: To provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

    Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty -- the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. More recently, a number of nations approved an addition to the treaty: the Kyoto Protocol, which has more powerful (and legally binding) measures. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the climate change process, particularly the COP, the subsidiary bodies and their Bureau.

  • Vienna Convention to Protect the Ozone Layer

    "The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer" is a treaty on the framework for international cooperation concerning the protection of the ozone layer, which was adopted in 1985 and entered into force in 1988. It provides observations, research and information exchange on the ozone layer.

Organizations Related to Environmental and Natural Resources Law

  • AIDA - Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense

    Founded in 1998, AIDA is a nonprofit environmental law organization that works across international borders to defend threatened ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them. Environmental health and human rights can no longer be protected by working within the political boundaries of individual nations – the 35 countries of our hemisphere are united under a common environmental flag. International problems call for international responses, and AIDA develops transnational strategies to address the environmental and human rights challenges of the 21st century.

  • Bellona Foundation

    The Bellona Foundation is an international environmental NGO based in Norway. Founded in 1986 as a direct action protest group, Bellona has become a recognised technology and solution-oriented organization with offices in Oslo, Brussels, Washington D.C., St. Petersburg and Murmansk. Altogether, some 75 engineers, ecologists, nuclear physicists, economists, lawyers, political scientists and journalists work at Bellona.

  • Biofuelwatch

    Biofuelwatch actively supports the campaign for an EU moratorium on agrofuels from large-scale monocultures. Agroenergy monocultures are linked to accelerated climate change, deforestation, the impoverishment and dispossession of local communities, bio-diversity losses, human rights abuses, water and soil degradation, loss of food sovereignty and food security.

  • Conservation International

    We imagine a healthy prosperous world in which societies are forever committed to caring for and valuing nature for the long-term benefit of people and all life on Earth. Conservation International is committed to helping societies adopt a more sustainable approach to development – one that considers and values nature at every turn.

  • Conservation Law Foundation (CLF)

    The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) works to solve the most significant environmental challenges facing New England. Since 1966, CLF's advocates have used law, economics and science to create innovative strategies that conserve natural resources, protect public health and promote vital communities in our region.

  • Earth Charter Initiative

    “The Earth Charter Initiative” is an extraordinarily diverse, global network of people, organizations, and institutions that participate in promoting and implementing the values and principles of the Earth Charter.

  • Earth Island Institute

    Earth Island Institute is a non-profit, public interest, membership organization that supports people who are creating solutions to protect our shared planet.

  • Earth Policy Institute

    The Earth Policy Institute (EPI) was founded in 2001 by Lester Brown, the founder and former president of the Worldwatch Institute, to provide a plan of a sustainable future along with a roadmap of how to get from here to there. EPI works at the global level simply because no country can fully implement a Plan B economy in isolation. EPI’s goals are (1) to provide a global plan (Plan B) for moving the world onto an environmentally and economically sustainable path, (2) to provide examples demonstrating how the plan would work, and (3) to keep the media, policymakers, academics, environmentalists, and other decision-makers focused on the process of building a Plan B economy.

  • Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA)

    The Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA) aims to protect and restore the environment in West Africa. For over 15 years, EFA has led: * environmental education (EE) and awareness raising campaigns; * restored degraded lands and conserved pristine forests; * minimized the impacts of civil war on the environment and its inhabitants and; * equipped thousands of people with sustainable livelihood skills such as agroforestry.

  • Environmental Investigation Agency

    The non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency is an international campaigning organization with offices in Washington, DC, and London, UK. Since 1984, EIA has used pioneering investigative techniques to expose environmental crimes and campaign against illegal wildlife trade and threats to our global environment.

  • Forests and the European Union Resource Network

    FERN is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) created in 1995 to keep track of the European Union’s involvement in forests and coordinate NGO activities at the European level. Our work centres on forests and forest peoples’ rights and the issues that affect them such as trade and investment and climate change. All of our work is done in close collaboration with social and environmental organisations and movements across the world. The name FERN was chosen because ferns are one of the few species that grow in all forests.

  • Friends of Nature

    With over 500,000 members in 50 member and partner organisations, the Friends-of-Nature movement, founded in 1895, is one of the largest non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worldwide. Our work is focused on shaping the sustainable development of our societies.

  • Friends of the Earth International

    We are the world's largest grassroots environmental network and we campaign on today's most urgent environmental and social issues. We challenge the current model of economic and corporate globalization, and promote solutions that will help to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.

  • Greenpeace International

    Greenpeace exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions. It needs change. It needs action. Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

  • International Environment House (IEH)

    The International Environment House (IEH) gathers under a common roof a range of United Nations and non-governmental organizations active in the field of environment and sustainable development.

  • International Institute for Sustainable Development

    The institute champions global sustainable development through innovation, research and relationships that span the entire world. It is devoted to the ongoing communication of its findings as it engages decision-makers in business, government, non-government organizations and other sectors.

  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

    IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. It supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world and brings governments, non-government organizations, United Nations agencies, companies and local communities together to develop and implement policy, laws and best practice.

  • Nature Conservancy

    Welcome to The Nature Conservancy — the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.

  • NatureServe

    NatureServe is a non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to provide the scientific basis for effective conservation action. NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs are the leading source for information about rare and endangered species and threatened ecosystems.

  • Nicodemus Wilderness Project

    The Nicodemus Wilderness Project was founded because of the need for environmental restoration, stewardship, and protection of neglected public lands. Our organization coordinates volunteer events worldwide that utilize the resources of the community to provide long-term environmental benefits for natural areas

  • Stockholm Environment Institute

    SEI is an independent international research institute. We have been engaged in environment and development issues at local, national, regional and global policy levels for more than 20 years. The Institute was formally established in 1989 by the Swedish Government and celebrated its 20th anniversary in October 2009. SEI has established a reputation for rigorous and objective scientific analysis in the field of environment and development. Our goal is to bring about change for sustainable development by bridging science and policy. We do this by providing integrated analysis that supports decision makers.

  • World Business Council for Sustainable Development

    Our mission is to provide business leadership as a catalyst for change toward sustainable development, and to support the business license to operate, innovate and grow in a world increasingly shaped by sustainable development issues.

  • World Resources Institute (WRI)

    WRI works with business partners, governments and civil society to confront today’s most urgent environmental challenges. We have over 50 active projects working on aspects of global climate change, sustainable markets, ecosystem protection, and environmentally responsible governance.

  • Worldwatch Institute

    Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society.

Publications Related to Environmental and Natural Resources Law

  • Environmental News Network (ENN)

    When ENN was started over sixteen years ago, it was our intention that our service would bring attention to the present and future environmental issues facing the health of our planet and the people it supports. Now, in a world where these issues have migrated to the mainstream, we are looking forward and asking: what more can we do to help? ENN has a serious editorial mission. Our mission is to inform, educate, enable and create a platform for global environmental action.

  • Journal of Environmental Law

    The Journal of Environmental Law has become an authoritative source of informed analysis for all those who have any dealings in this vital field of legal study. The Journal exists primarily for academics and legal practitioners, but should also prove accessible for all other groups concerned with the environment, from scientists to planners.

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