Environmental law involves legal standards that protect and improve the natural environment of the United States. Specifically, environmental law is designed to reduce the negative impact of human activities both on people and on nature. This area of law encompasses a variety of federal, state, and local statutes as well as common law and case law precedents. All aspects of land use, zoning, energy laws, and pollution would fall within the scope of environmental law. This is an extremely complicated area of law.
Environmental lawyers deal with issues and regulations pertaining to the environment. Accordingly, they are often involved in cases regarding chemical spills, toxic waste dumping, wetland destruction, wildlife protection rights, natural resource depletion, and related issues. Environmental lawyers may represent individuals, advocacy groups, waste disposal companies, government agencies, or corporations. They will often try to prevent environmental pollution through strict implementation of legislation. Ascertaining environmental legislation can be a complicated task on its own, and holding violators accountable is even more complex.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an independent federal agency of the United States government that was created for the reason of protecting human health and the environment. The EPA enacts and enforces regulations based on the laws passed by Congress. For example, the EPA would have the authority to regulate manufacturing chemical substances that may be potentially harmful to the public. The EPA can also set tolerance levels when it comes to environmental pollutants.
There are a number of federal and state statutes that pertain to environmental concerns. When a state statute differs from a federal statute on the same topic, the federal statute will usually preempt the state statute if the federal statute provides more extensive environmental protection. If the state environmental laws are more stringent, typically these laws will govern unless there is a determination that the federal laws were intended to preempt the more stringent state laws. Determining which laws apply to a particular situation can be a tricky process, so it is best to consult an attorney who can advise individuals and companies of the standards they are to abide by.
Environmental law cases typically involve recoveries based upon the negligence of individuals or an entity associated with the source of harm. Individuals and companies must act in a reasonable and prudent manner so as not to cause harm to people, land, and the environment. State laws and federal laws are similar when it comes to allowing property owners to seek damages for environmental harm. Environmental laws protect an individual who is buying, improving, leasing, or developing real property.
Any individual can file an environmental lawsuit as long as he or she has a legally recognized cause of action. For example, if someone dumps harmful chemicals onto your property, you could take legal action against that party and have them pay for the cost of cleanup. Individuals can file environmental lawsuits against private individuals as well as companies. If a business is deemed to have violated environmental laws and regulations, that business entity could be subject to fines, probation, imprisonment, or a combination.