Environmental law in the United States comprises a complex patchwork of federal, state, and local statutes and regulations, along with the traditions of common law. Most statutory environmental programs emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. In the 1960s, writings such as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) fueled environmental awareness in the United States; the first Earth Day, celebrated on April 22, 1970, symbolized the birth of vironmental law entered a new era in 1970, when President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act and the 1970 Clean Air Act Amendments. In the next decade, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments (1972), the Coastal Zone Management Act (1972), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA, 1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Toxic Substances Control Act (1976), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976), the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (1977), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or "Superfund" law (1980), formed the body of modern environmental law.
Environmental regulation in the United States derives primarily from federal and state legislation and is normally implemented by administrative agencies. Environmental law protects human health and property and natural ecosystems from air and water pollution, toxic contamination and exposure, and other harms arising from myriad commercial, industrial, and governmental activities.
Publication Information & Recommended Citation
Bromberg, Howard. "Environmental Law in the United States." Joshua I. Barrett, co-author. In Encyclopedia of Global Resources. 2nd ed., edited by Craig W. Allin. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press 2019.