Environmental laws are designed to protect and preserve the natural beauty and resources of the US. Numerous regulations cover this area, but each works in a specific way. Applied in unison, they are designed to ban harmful chemicals, cut nationwide emissions and minimize the production of waste. The end goal of each legislation is to protect the environment for years to come, promote a rich biodiverse landscape, and support human health.
Legislation is a force for change
Most forms of legislation are aimed at the processes that take place in factories and other production sites. They establish standards for how waste materials are managed after they have been used and when they leave the site. Without these regulations, it is possible that companies would have no inclination or incentive to cut their emissions or consider the environmental impact of their waste disposal.
Regulations such as those passed in the US and other countries around the world have made a huge impact on the take-up of eco-friendly practices, but there is still a long way to go. Some companies have found ways to bypass laws while still maintaining their green credentials in public. Other organizations have found eco-friendly practices too difficult to implement or expensive and resent having to add these to their outgoings.
Ensuring that laws are upheld
To ensure that the law is enforced and to inform the way that environmental laws are designed, we frequently rely on legal cases. People who are passionate about the environment and want to protect the natural world can take a Juris Doctorate degree online at Cleveland State University. This course blends expert tuition with practical courtroom experience and professional mentorship to ready students for life as an attorney.
Although legal action is often seen as a last resort, many organizations might not commit to lowering the amount of pollution they produce or cutting their emissions without this happening. The reason why these actions are so often successful is that they are backed by law, which essentially gives businesses and individuals no choice.
Environmental laws ensure our wellbeing
Protecting the environment has had to become a legal requirement – otherwise, conserving our natural resources, ensuring that ecosystems can thrive, and maintaining human health would be far more difficult. Furthermore, it has often been the case that action to support the environment leads to the growth of sustainable energy solutions. Indeed, a recent press release from the White House revealed that President Biden is planning to boost investment in clean energy technology that harnesses wind, solar and battery power. It is hoped that this official backing will attract global investment and ensure that the US becomes a hub for the manufacture of clean energy. This could spur the uptake of reusable energy that is produced in the US and avoid our continued reliance on fossil fuels. In the long run, it could also lower the costs of running a business, as green energy is cheaper, and simultaneously safeguard the environment.
What are the most important US environmental laws?
In 2022, a bill was passed that directed funds to climate change causes and the enhancement of our environment. This was the Inflation Reduction Act, which provided tax incentives for people who build solar panels into their homes and businesses that lower their carbon footprint. It also established a series of federal-level limits on the use of substances that are harmful to human health and the environment, such as methane.
- Clean Air Act
The state of California went a step further by establishing a fresh set of environmental standards. These include a plan to ban gas-powered cars from 2035 and a corresponding initiative that will enhance public transport in the state. This will act to lower emissions considerably and will complement the nationwide Clean Air Act of 1970. This act has been amended over the years to cover the combined effects of pollution and ozone reduction. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2020 alone, more than 230,000 premature deaths were prevented because of the significant decrease in ‘ambient particulate matter’.
- Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was passed with bipartisan support and has been an incredibly successful law. Of the animals that it was designed to protect, 99% have not become extinct. Furthermore, it has encouraged the idea that supporting wildlife is more important than short-term economic gain because once a species is lost, it is gone forever. Key species that were covered by this act are Florida panthers, bald eagles and grizzly bears, all of which were facing extinction 40 years ago. The act has worked well because it has supported small local economies, created jobs that involve supporting the environment, and engaged with communities to protect wildlife and natural areas. In preserving habitats, the act has also created more beautiful and healthy places for humans to live, with clean air and safe water.
- Clean Water Act
Although the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, it is still in regular use when it comes to protecting our natural waterways and seas. Over the decades, it has frequently been amended to ensure that the regulations it contains are still relevant in preventing over-pollution or outright destruction. The act is also a valuable tool in regard to protecting flora and fauna that live in and around our waters. Before the establishment of this act, it was common practice for companies to pump sewage and waste directly into rivers, lakes and seas, leading to a huge loss of habitat and threatening the health of Americans.
Legislating for a sustainable future
By regulating the use of natural resources and how humans interact with them, environmental laws play a key role in protecting the planet at a local and global level. The threat of climate change means that these laws will remain of central importance when it comes to mitigating the effects of pollution, maintaining biodiversity and supporting the production of sustainable energy.