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Environmental Law

This guide covers U.S. state and federal environmental law

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Key Features of Environmental Law

  • Extensive, complex area of law at both state and federal levels; environmental law issues are often governed by federal statutes and programs
  • Environmental law's main primary sources are 1) statutes, 2) cases interpreting statutes, and 3) administrative regulations implementing statutes
  • Environmental law is a constantly changing area, so staying on top of recent developments is important
  • A great deal of environmental law develops through administrative and regulatory processes, so knowledge of different administrative agencies is essential
  • The duties and responsibilities of different administrative agencies often overlap in ways that can complicate research, such as: 
    • jurisdictional overlap (e.g. an environmental impact statement filed under NEPA may raise questions about satisfying specific air pollution standards)
    • same program implemented by different agencies (e.g. the Endangered Species Act is carried out by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior (terrestrial and freshwater species) and also by the National Marine Fisheries Services of the Department of Commerce (marine species).)
    • cooperative federal-state programs (e.g. state implementation plans)
  • Environmental law draws on nonlegal disciplines, often incorporating scientific, technical, and economic concepts into legal standards and policy documents.

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