4 Things That Fall Under Environmental Law

Environmental law applies to a wide range of activities in modern life. Although we generally think of environmental law practice as mostly applying to corporate activities, there are plenty of scenarios that also apply to residential ones. It's wise to know whether you might have to comply with environmental regulations before you buy a property, start a project, or expand your activities. Let's look at what environmental law applies to and how that might impact you. 

Air Quality

The Clean Air Act was passed into law in 1963, and it has been updated by other forms of federal legislation since. Also, there's a good chance your state and local governments have passed laws limiting air pollution and requiring you to meet certain air quality standards. These air quality rules apply to the emissions of substances like carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone. Likewise, there are rules that restrict air pollution that crosses state boundaries, a fairly common problem in border areas and smaller states.


Issues involving water extend beyond pollution. While discharges are a major problem in any environmental law practice involving water, there are also concerns about upstream usage. For example, if you build a dam on a property to create an artificial lake, it might affect folks downstream. Those parties are likely to have grounds to sue you.

On the discharge side of the ledger, there are many rules about what can be released into the water. Problematic discharges can include chemicals, nutrients, radiation, and organisms like bacteria. Generally, operations that intend to discharge water into a watershed have to prove they're taking sufficient measures to prevent contamination.


Threats to the habitats of various living things are also taken seriously. Endangering activities can be surprisingly diverse. While you can easily picture the issues with something like felling trees in a protected habitat, you might be surprised to learn that noise emissions may also run afoul of environmental regulations.

Preparedness and Emergencies

Activities that take place every day tend to dominate the discussion of environmental compliance. However, there are also rules aimed at mitigating what might happen in the event of a disaster. Notably, you may have to have a plan in place for emergencies you're unlikely to cause. For example, an industrial plant located near a river would likely need to have plans for scenarios where flooding caused unintended discharges of chemicals. You may have to file these plans with environmental agencies too.

Contact an environmental law practice for additional information and help.