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Environmental Laws

Laws protecting our shared waterways, air, trees and other natural resources are meant to ensure a more sustainable future for generations to come. While environmental laws may seem burdensome to small business owners, just remember that your competitors also must abide by them. This section broadly covers environmental laws pertaining to businesses, with articles on indoor and outdoor air pollution, identifying and disposing of hazardous waste, overviews of federal environmental protection laws, and more.

Overview: Key Federal Environmental Laws

There are an array of federal laws relating to the protection of the environment and the health and safety of U.S. residents. In addition to the following major federal regulations dealing with the environment there are additional laws at the federal, state, and local levels that also regulate business's environmental impacts. However, the preeminent federal laws are:

  • The Clean Air Act - sets goals for clean air and contains detailed provisions for regulating emissions from various different sources.
  • The Clean Water Act - makes it unlawful for any person or business to discharge any pollutant from a source point into navigable waters of the United States without a special permit from the EPA.
  • The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) - addresses the handling of uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites, accidents, spills, and other emergency releases of pollutants or contaminants into the environment.
  • The Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) - provides assistance to local communities in protecting the public health, safety, and environment from chemical hazards.
  • The Endangered Species Act - is intended to protect and assist in the repopulation of threatened or endangered plants, animals, and animal habitats.
  • The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) - regulates the sale, distribution, and use of pesticides for the protection of human life and health as well as the life and health of threatened and endangered species.
  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) - ensures that the government researches and properly considers the environmental impact of federal actions such as large construction projects.
  • The Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) - requires employers to provide their workers with a safe workplace.
  • The Pollution Prevention Act - seeks to reduce the amount of pollution in the environment by making changes in the production, operation, and use of raw materials.
  • The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) - authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to control the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste.
  • The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) - addresses issues relating to the quality and safety of drinking water.
  • The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) - reauthorized CERCLA to continue efforts to clean-up hazardous waste abandonments, spills, and releases.
  • The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) - allows for the testing, regulation, and screening of all chemicals produced or imported into the U.S. before they reach the consumer market place.

What is Hazardous Waste?

Many of the environmental regulations involve the creation, handling, and disposal of hazardous waste. Waste is generally considered hazardous if it is ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or contains a certain amount of toxic chemicals. The EPA maintains a list of some 500 specific hazardous wastes. Hazardous waste may be disposed of on-site or elsewhere on an off-site disposal facility. In either case recordkeeping must be scrupulous so that future tenants on lands are aware of contamination and disposal.

Learn About Environmental Laws