Environmental Health Law
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About Environmental Health Law
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, 1986)
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, was enacted by Congress on December 11, 1980. This law created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. Over five years, $1.6 billion was collected and the tax went to a trust fund for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (1986)
The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986 created EPCRA, also known as SARA Title III, a statute designed to improve community access to information about chemical hazards and to facilitate the development of chemical emergency response plans by state/tribe and local governments. EPCRA required the establishment of state/tribe emergency response commissions (SERCs/TERCs), responsible for coordinating certain emergency response activities and for appointing local emergency planning committees (LEPCs).
Federal Clean Air Act (CAA, 1963)
The enactment of the Clean Air Act of 1970 (1970 CAA) resulted in a major shift in the federal government’s role in air pollution control. This legislation authorized the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit emissions from both stationary (industrial) sources and mobile sources. Four major regulatory programs affecting stationary sources were initiated: the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS, pronounced “knacks”), State Implementation Plans (SIPs), New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs). Furthermore, the enforcement authority was substantially expanded. The adoption of this very important legislation occurred at approximately the same time as the National Environmental Policy Act that established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA was created on December 2, 1970 in order to implement the various requirements included in these Acts.
Federal Clean Water Act (CWA, 1972)
The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. The basis of the CWA was enacted in 1948 and was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, but the Act was significantly reorganized and expanded in 1972. “Clean Water Act” became the Act’s common name with amendments in 1972.
Federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA, 1972)
The U.S. Congress recognized the importance of meeting the challenge of continued growth in the coastal zone by passing the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) in 1972. This act, administered by NOAA, provides for the management of the nation’s coastal resources, including the Great Lakes. The goal is to “preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the nation’s coastal zone.”
Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA, 1976 )
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) gives EPA the authority to control hazardous waste from the “cradle-to-grave.” This includes the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. RCRA also set forth a framework for the management of non-hazardous solid wastes. The 1986 amendments to RCRA enabled EPA to address environmental problems that could result from underground tanks storing petroleum and other hazardous substances.
Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA, 1974)
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans’ drinking water.Under SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.
SDWA was originally passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply. The law was amended in 1986 and 1996 and requires many actions to protect drinking water and its sources: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells. (SDWA does not regulate private wells which serve fewer than 25 individuals.)
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 1969)
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was one of the first laws ever written that establishes the broad national framework for protecting our environment. NEPA’s basic policy is to assure that all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.
Occupational Health and Safety Act (1970)
Congress passed the Occupational and Safety Health Act to ensure worker and workplace safety. Their goal was to make sure employers provide their workers a place of employment free from recognized hazards to safety and health, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions.