Important Environmental Acts & Treaties
Act/Law Year Key Points
Requires EPA to set and enforce rules regarding:
--mobile source limits (cars)
--ambient air quality standards
--hazardous air pollutant discharge standards (what can
come out of smokestacks)
Clean Air Act 1970
--standards for new pollution sources
--acid rain reduction
--ozone depletion protection
EPA works with areas that don’t attain clean air standards.
Wild & Scenic Restricts development along rivers with important scenic,
Rivers Act recreational, fish and wildlife, or other values.
Safe Drinking Established a federal program to control and monitor pollutant
Water Act levels in public drinking water supplies. Overseen by EPA.
Regulates and enforces program for discharges into US waters;
Clean Water Act
1972 Regulates wetland destruction/construction; establishes sewage
treatment construction grants program.
Made it unlawful for any person to dump, or transport for the
1972 purpose of dumping, sewage sludge or industrial wastes into
Created greatly in response to Exxon Valdez oil spill. Makes
party responsible for spill pay for clean up. Established a trust
Oil Pollution Act 1990
fund (financed by a tax on oil) available to clean up spills if
company cannot pay. Mandates spill clean up procedures.
Regulates the handling of wastes from “cradle to grave”;
establishes rules for the handling of such waste from the time it
is generated, while it is packaged, stored, while it is transported,
and how it is disposed, and the disposal sites themselves.
Conservation & Major areas of regulation include:
Recovery Act --landfills
(RCRA) --underground storage tanks
--hazardous waste disposal
--permits to possess, treat, or dispose waste
--recordkeeping and reporting
Comprehensive EPA locates dumps and sets priorities of worst sites, known as
Environmental National Priority List; includes mining sites, nuclear sites,
Response, military sites, and industrial sites. Sets up guidelines on how to
Compensation & clean up sites. The polluter is required to pay for the cleanup.
Liability Act Set up a fund to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites,
(CERCLA) where polluters cannot be identified or are unable to pay.
All states are responsible for the low-level radioactive waste
Established both the Federal government’s responsibility to
Nuclear Waste provide a place for the permanent disposal of high-level
Policy Act radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, and the generators’
responsibility to bear the costs of permanent disposal.
Insecticide, Governs pesticide use: amount and locations; Creates a
Fungicide, 1947 pesticide registry—bans some; Food and Drug Administration
Rodenticide Act also administers.
Amended the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938 and
Food Quality Established pesticide residue limits for raw produce and
Protection Act processed foods; the increased susceptibility of infants and
children are considered in the established limits; reduced the
time it takes to ban a pesticide considered dangerous from 10
years to 14 months.
International An international agreement between governments that ensured
Trade in 1975 that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants
Endangered do not threaten their survival.
Prohibits the commerce or harm (including destroying habitat) of
1973 species of fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened
or endangered in the US or elsewhere.
Amendment to ESA that allows landowners to “take” (injure, kill,
or modify the habitat of) a rare species of the “taking” doesn’t
threaten the survival or recovery of the threatened or
endangered species on that property.
1976 Governed the conservation and management of ocean fishing
Established a federal responsibility to protect marine mammals
from falling below their optimum sustainable population levels
Created the Council on Environmental Quality that resulted in
National the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It
Environmental 1970 also mandates that federal agencies prepare environmental
Policy Act impact statements (EIS’s). Only paperwork and research need
to be completed; no other activities mandated.
Required by NEPA to accompany every federal
recommendation or proposal for legislation.
--The nature of the proposal and why it is needed
--The environmental impacts of the proposal (including short-
term and long-term effects)
--Alternatives to lessen the adverse effects
Required participating countries to cut their greenhouse gas
Kyoto Protocol 1997
emissions. US has not ratified it.
Montreal Cut the emissions of CFCs and other ozone-depleting
Protocol chemicals that damage the ozone layer.
First environmental act to promote source reduction (stop
1990 pollution from being produced). EPA tests products and works
with companies mostly on voluntary basis.
Established a program for regulating surface coal mining and
Surface Mining reclamation activities. Established mandatory standards for
Control & 1977 these activities on state and federal lands, including a
Reclamation Act requirement that adverse impacts on fish, wildlife, and related
environmental values be minimized.
Established a review of road-free areas of 5,000 acres or more
and islands within the National Wildlife Refuges or the National
Wilderness Act 1964
Park System for inclusion in the National Preservation System.
Restricted activities in these areas.
General Gave the president the authority to establish forest reserves on
Revision Act public (federally owned) land
Give the president the authority to create national monuments
Antiquities Act 1906
at sites that had scientific, historic, or prehistoric importance
Established the soil conservation service, which deals with soil
1935 erosion problems, carries out soil surveys, and does research
on soil salinity.
Farm Bill (aka Requires farmers with highly erodible land to develop and adopt
Food Security a 5 year conservation plan for their farms that includes erosion-
Act) (Including control measures. CRP is a voluntary subsidy program that
Conservation pays farmers to stop producing crops on highly erodible
Reserve farmland. Requires the planting of native grasses or trees on
Program) land and then retire it from use for 10 to 15 years.
Protection 1990 Moratorium on mineral exploration for 50 years in Antarctica
Protocol to the
Set minimum efficiency standards for numerous categories of
A landowners sells some or all ownership rights, such as the
Forest Legacy right to develop the land, to the US government, which then
Program holds a conservation easement, a legal agreement that protects
(provision of privately owned forest or other property from development for a
Farm Bill) specified number of years. The landowner continues to live
and/or work on the land.
Food, Drug, and Assures the safety, wholesomeness, efficacy, and truthful
Cosmetics Act 1938 packaging and labeling of food, drugs, cosmetics, and medical
Amendment Required the establishment of acceptable and unacceptable
(Miller levels of pesticides in food.
Delaney Clause Stated that no substance capable of causing cancer in test
of FDCA animals or in humans would be permitted in processed food.
Allows countries to export hazardous waste only with prior
1989 informed consent of importing country and any country wastes