Environmental Law & Policy

Communities of all sizes, from townships to the national government, establish laws that govern how individuals acting within the community are to conduct themselves. The environment is arguably one of the newest considerations to be decided by and incorporated into the body of the law. The body of law relevant to the environment includes full dedicated statutes, smaller pieces of larger legislation, international treaty agreements, and the immense body of regulatory law, which is promulgated by federal, state, and local agencies. In the 21st Century, the environment has also become a consideration in all types of laws from building codes, customs and shipping laws, finance law, and even space law. This section examines the law (both current laws and the evolving process of legislation), the agencies that administer and develop the law, and the policies that influence developing and current law.

  • America's Climate Choices Featured News Article America's Climate Choices America's Climate Choices

    A report released May 12, 2011, from the National Research Council reiterates the pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare... More »

  • Environmental Lessons from China Featured Article Environmental Lessons from China Environmental Lessons from China

    This Commentary, written by Justin V. Remais and Junfeng Zhang*, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the... More »

  • Environmental Assessment Featured Article Environmental Assessment Environmental Assessment

    The International Association for Impact Assessment has defined environmental assessment (or environmental impact assessment) as “. . . the process of identifying the... More »

  • World Environment Day: 5 June 2012 Featured Article World Environment Day: 5 June 2012 World Environment Day: 5 June 2012

    World Environment Day (WED) is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment... More »

  • National Ocean Policy Action Plan Featured News Article National Ocean Policy Action Plan National Ocean Policy Action Plan

    National Ocean Policy Action Plan draft requests public comments on actions Federal agencies will take to improve the health of oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes.... More »

Recently Updated
Subsidies and market interventions Last Updated on 2015-03-05 20:24:45 Government interventions encompass a wide range of regulatory, fiscal, tax, indemnification, and legal actions that modify the rights and responsibilities of various parties in society. Interventions can increase or decrease costs to particular groups, effectively acting either as a subsidy or as a tax. Some of these policies increase societal welfare, while others subsidize powerful groups in society, sometimes making societal imbalances worse. This article provides a general overview of many types of subsidy policies, and describes how to calculate net subsidies to a particular sector.     Subsidies represent government policies that benefit particular sectors of the economy. Government subsidies are common in most countries and benefit many industries. When these subsidies reduce the prices of natural resources or natural resource-intensive products, they... More »
Agriculture and Climate Change Last Updated on 2014-11-15 15:30:18 The agriculture sector is a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which many scientists agree are contributing to observed climate change. Agriculture is also a “sink” for sequestering carbon, which might offset GHG emissions by capturing and storing carbon in agricultural soils. The two key types of GHG emissions associated with agricultural activities are methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Agricultural sources of CH4 emissions mostly occur as part of the natural digestive process of animals and manure management at livestock operations; sources of N2O emissions are associated with soil management and fertilizer use on croplands. This article describes these emissions on a carbon-equivalent basis to illustrate agriculture’s contribution to total national GHG emissions and to contrast emissions against estimates of sequestered carbon. Emissions from... More »
Agriculture and Greenhouse Gases Last Updated on 2014-11-09 17:57:31 In both industrialized and developing nations, agricultural production of greenhouse gases (GHG) is a significant component of worldwide GHG emissions. There are major contributions to methane production from livestock grazing and rice farming, as well as incomplete combustion of petroleum products in mechanized agricultural equipment. In developing countries agricultural production of greenhouse gases is a much higher percentage of total GHG emissions than for developed countries. For example, rice farming in China and Southeast Asia and livestock grazing in several South American countries contributes proportionately more agricultural GHG than corresponding farming activity in most Western countries. Elimination of overgrazing practises and reduction of dependence of rice farming provide significant opportunities for reducing GHG emissions. There are also large contributions to... More »
National Forest System (NFS) Roadless Area Initiatives Last Updated on 2014-07-01 15:36:04 Roadless areas in the U.S.National Forest System (NFS) have received special attention for decades. Many want to protect their relatively pristine condition; others want to use the areas in more developed ways. Two different roadless area policies have been offered in the last decade. On January 12, 2001, the Clinton Administration’s roadless area policy established a nationwide approach to managing roadless areas in the National Forest System to protect their pristine conditions. The Nationwide Rule, as it will be called in this report, generally prohibited road construction and reconstruction and timber harvesting in 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas, with significant exceptions. The Bush Administration initially postponed the effective date of the Nationwide Rule, then issued its own rule that allowed states to plan how roadless areas were managed. It issued a... More »
Asian Carp and the Great Lakes Region Last Updated on 2014-06-20 13:48:30 Alien species of Asian carp are a significant ongoing adverse ecological threat to the Great Lakes of North America. Chief pathways for the introduction of these species has been from the waterways of the city of Chicago, Illinois. The U.S. Congress and federal regulatory agencies are investigating protocols to reduce alien species influxes from Chicago waterways into the Great Lakes, whose fishery value is approximately seven billion dollars per annum. The city of Chicago has resisted environmental protection initiatives, on the grounds that the city's commercial interests may be harmed. Four species of non-indigenous Asian carp are expanding their range in U.S. waterways, resulting in a variety of concerns and problems. Three species—bighead, silver, and black carp—are of particular note, based on the perceived degree of environmental concern. Current controversy... More »