Environmental Law began in 1306 when King Edward I of England banned the use of coal in London because of the smoke it produced. The twentieth century movement called environmentalism has brought about many environmental protection laws at the local, state and national level. These laws create liabilities for businesses that pollute air, water and soil, or improperly dispose of waste. They also create a lot of litigation for environment attorneys in the United States.
The Clean Air Act is a federal law enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and sets limits on how much of a pollutant can be in the air anywhere in the United States. Currently, 380 pollutants are regulated. The states are expected to implement the controls, which include permit applications and fees, emissions monitoring data and compliance certification.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984 regulate the generation, transport, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes. This legislation prohibits open dumping and encourages the recovery and recycling of wastes. Separate regulations cover businesses that generate only 220 to 2200 pounds of hazardous waste per month. Small businesses have to follow stringent requirements for storage, record keeping, transportation and preparedness.
Other laws studied by an environment attorney that you should be aware of include:
- The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
- The Toxic Substances Control Act
- The Clean Water Act
- The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
Learn about environmental laws concerning waste disposal and recyclingLocal environmental laws govern garbage collection and recycling.
New York City Department of Sanitation has a digest of the environmental laws with fines concerning cleaning sidewalks and streets, recycling, the placement and posting of handbills, refuse collection, hazardous waste disposal and illegal dumping. The California Waste Management Board has a site index that lists alphabetically categories of waste products and gives websites for information about each category of waste.
Become familiar with state environmental legislation and enforcement of environmental lawThe EPA expects state governments to enact their own environmental laws.
Environmental Protection Agency. There can be more than one state agency; for example, California has six separate agencies while New York has only the Department of Environmental Conservation, which has a site containing an index linking to all of New York State's environmental regulations. This is also a resource for environmental attorneys in the United States.
Seek help from the Small Business Ombudsman (SBO) concerning how environmental protection laws workThe SBO is an office of the EPA with the mission of helping small businesses comply and cope with environmental law.
SBO's website has a list of frequently asked questions covering a number of topics. When considering the purchase of an abandoned site for new business, you should check with your state to see whether it was formerly used by a gasoline station, for example. You can also check with your EPA region to see if there is any record of contamination for the abandoned site on file. There are no grant programs for business operations unless your business is involved with developing a pollution prevention system. The SBO's website also has a page titled SBO/SBAP Environment Home Page with a considerable amount of information. Contact the listserve maintained by SBO and sign up to find other businesses with your environmental concerns. You may get a better answers than from environment attorneys.
Contact environmental law firms for assistance when neededIf you think you need professional legal advice, contact an environmental lawyer.
Understand that noise pollution can be enforced differently than environmental law for each cityThere are federal standards for highway and aircraft noise, but local ordinances prohibit sound above certain levels depending on the time of day.
Department of Environmental Protection contains a considerable amount of information and documents about noise control. The Noise Pollution Clearing House also has a considerable amount of information on this subject.
- Getting a referral for an environmental lawyer from a bar association may turn out to be a bargain. For example, lawyers on the referral lists of the bar association in New York County (Manhattan) will charge only $35 for a half-hour consultation.
- SBO has a hotline (800-368-5888) to answer questions about underground storage tank notification, small quantity hazardous waste generation, used oil, asbestos compliance, pesticide registration fees and similar types of questions.