The subject of environment spans across a wide range of disciplines that deals with issues involving legislations, policies and commercial practices that directly relate to the management of the country's natural resources, such as mineral, precious metal, water, fossil fuel and the wildlife. Of late, the subject has been increasingly politicized and has turned into one of the most polarizing issues between the right and the left over its impact on the country's long term resource management, business efficiency and energy extraction.
Historically, environment-related legislations first came into prominence starting from the late 1960s. The federal government initiated laws that attempted to monitor, enforce and legislate air and water pollution related activities in an effort to protect the population, geophysical system and the ecosystem. Most notable of these pioneering laws were the Clean Air Act of 1963, National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972 (now known as the Clean Water Act), which eventually led to the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by President Richard Nixon on December 2, 1970.
The EPA is granted explicit authority in enforcing national environmental statutes and regulations, as well as Presidential Executive Orders related to the environment. Currently, the EPA's scope of authority is determined by 28 federal legislations and three Executive orders.
♦ Atomic Energy Act (AEA)
♦ Chemical Safety Information, Site Security and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act
♦ Clean Air Act (CAA)
♦ Clean Water Act (CWA) (original title: Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972)
♦ Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund)
♦ Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)
♦ Endangered Species Act (ESA)
♦ Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA)
♦ Energy Policy Act
♦ Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
♦ Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments - See Clean Water Act
♦ Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) - See FFDCA and FIFRA
♦ Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act)
♦ National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
♦ National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA)
♦ Noise Control Act
♦ Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA)
♦ Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA)
♦ Ocean Dumping Act - See Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act
♦ Oil Pollution Act (OPA)
♦ Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) - See FIFRA
♦ Pollution Prevention Act (PPA)
♦ Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
♦ Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
♦ Shore Protection Act (SPA)
♦ Superfund - See Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
♦ Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) - See Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
♦ Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
♦ EO 12898: Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations
♦ EO 13045: Protection of Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks
♦ EO 13211: Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)
Over the next several decades, environment-related legislations expanded to international environmental concerns, on issues such as the ozone layer, transnational toxic disposal, the decreasing biodiversity of flora and fauna, fisheries, rain forest preservation, sustainable industrial practice and the climate. This in turn led to the implementation of international agreements and accords designed to meet growing concerns about the deterioration of the world's environment.
♦ The 1992 Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, produced Agenda 21, which is a series of pledges geared at sustainable development.
♦ The 1997 Kyoto Protocol (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), was aimed at achieving "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner."
♦ The 2000 United Nations Millennium Development Goals, comprise of eight goals and 18 targets to be achieved by 2015, as agreed upon by 23 international organizations and 192 countries. These objectives include the reduction of extreme poverty and child mortality rates, combating disease epidemics, and creating a global partnership for development.
♦ The 2002 Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, roped in third-world nations into the battle for sustainable development.
However, environmental legislations have also adversely affected other aspects of the economy and society as a whole, most notably, on the business practice of private enterprises. There is a school of thought that believes that environmental regulations are designed to fulfill a specific sociopolitical agenda and are not supported by hard science, and instead, are driven by emotions and a flawed sense of idealism. As a result, many claim that American businesses are losing their competitive edge over their international rivals in the face of more onerous and stringent environmental laws and enforcements. It also drive operating costs up, leading to slower expansion and job-creation rates.
In The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America, author Robert H. Nelson posits that these two competing ideology represents a form of secular religion, dogmatic and unyielding in its belief to the point where facts no longer play a part in the decision-making process.
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