Environmental law is a multifaceted and interlocking body of treaties, conventions, statutes, regulations, and common law that, very broadly, operate to regulate the interaction of humanity and the rest of the biophysical or natural environment, toward the purpose of reducing the impacts of human activity, both on the natural environment and on humanity itself.
The topic may be divided into two major areas: (1) pollution control and remediation, and (2) resource conservation and management. Laws dealing with pollution are often media-limited - i.e., pertain only to a single environmental medium, such as air, water (whether surface water, groundwater or oceans), soil, etc. - and control both emissions of pollutants into the medium, as well as liability for exceeding permitted emissions and responsibility for cleanup. Laws regarding resource conservation and management generally focus on a single resource - e.g., natural resources such as forests, mineral deposits or animal species, or more intangible resources such as especially scenic areas or sites of high archeological value - and provide guidelines for and limitations on the conservation, disturbance and use of those resources. These areas are not mutually exclusive - for example, laws governing water pollution in lakes and rivers may also conserve the recreational value of such water bodies. Furthermore, many laws that are not exclusively "environmental" nonetheless include significant environmental components and integrate environmental policy decisions. Municipal, state and national laws regarding development, land use and infrastructure are examples.
Pollution does not respect political boundaries, making international law an important aspect of environmental law. A plethora of legally-binding international agreements now encompass a wide variety of issue-areas, from terrestrial, marine and atmospheric pollution through to wildlife and biodiversity protection.
While the bodies that proposed, argued, agreed upon and ultimately adopted existing international agreements vary according to each agreement, certain conferences - including 1972's United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, 1983's World Commission on Environment and Development, 1992's United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and 2002's World Summit on Sustainable Development have been particularly important.
Laws from every stratum of the laws of the United States pertain to environmental issues. The United States Congress has passed a number of landmark environmental regulatory regimes, but many other federal laws are equally important, if less comprehensive. Concurrently, the legislatures of the fifty states have passed innumerable comparable sets of laws. These state and federal systems are foliated with layer upon layer of administrative regulation. Meanwhile, the U.S. judicial system reviews not only the legislative enactments, but also the administrative decisions of the many agencies dealing with environmental issues. Where the statutes and regulations end, the common law begins.
Consistent with the federal statutes that they administer, U.S. federal agencies promulgate regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations that fill out the broad programs enacted by Congress. Primary among these is Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, containing the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency. Other import CFR sections include Title 10 (energy), Title 18 (Conservation of Power and Water Resources), Title 21 (Food and Drugs), Title 33 (Navigable Waters), Title 36 (Parks, Forests and Public Property), Title 43 (Public Lands: Interior) and Title 50 (Wildlife and Fisheries).
The federal and state judiciaries have played an important role in the development of environmental law in the United States, in many cases resolving significant controversy regarding the application of federal environmental laws in favor of environmental interests. The decisions of the Supreme Court in cases such as Calvert Cliffs Coordinating Committee v. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (broadly reading the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act), Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill (broadly reading the Endangered Species Act), and, much more recently, Massachusetts v. EPA (requiring EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act) have had policy impacts far beyond the facts of the particular case.
Education and training
Environmental law courses are offered as elective courses in the second and third years of JD study at many American law schools. Curricula vary: an introductory course might focus on the "big five" federal statutes - NEPA, CAA, CWA, CERCLA and RCRA (or FIFRA) - and may be offered in conjunction with a natural resources law course. Smaller seminars mights be offered on more focused topics. Some U.S. law schools also offer an LLM or JSD specialization in environmental law. Additionally, several law schools host legal clinics that focus on environmental law, providing students with an opportunity to learn about environmental law in the context of real world disputes involving actual clients. U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked University of Oregon School of Law, Vermont Law School, Lewis & Clark Law School, Pace University School of Law, Tulane University School of Law, and Georgetown University Law Center as among the best Environmental Law programs in the United States.
Many law schools host student-published law journals. The environmental law reviews at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and NYU law schools are regularly the most-cited such publications. The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law is a network of some 60 law schools worldwide that specialise in the research and teaching of environmental law.
International environmental lawyers often receive specialized training in the form of an LL.M. degree after having a first law degree – often in another country from where they got their first law degree.
reference - wikipedia.org
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