5 Necessary Environmental Legislatures
If you’re an outdoor lover, it’s smart to be aware of environmental legislature both past and present. Many major environmental milestones have resulted from the passing of bills and the establishment of new laws. Like smog-free air? Thank the clean air act. Enjoy seeing bald eagles perched above rivers? They’re there because of the endangered species act. Before we dive into the major environmental legislation of the past, let’s start with the present. You’ve probably heard the buzz about the Green New Deal. But do you actually know what it is?
The Green New Deal is a package of legislation introduced in 2019 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). It recognizes humans’ role in climate change and seeks to address greenhouse gas emissions as well as economic and social inequality. The fourteen-page resolution is more a list of ideas than detailed plans. Some of the key points are: Increasing low-emission public transportation Ensuring all Americans have access to clean air, clean water, and healthy food Increasing clean energy jobs while limiting emissions in manufacturing Investing in zero-emissions transportation While the Green New Deal stalled in the Senate, the past shows us that changes in environmental laws take time. Here is a list of five major environmental acts that have shaped the health of the US environment.
Clean Air Act of 1963
Up until 1963, air pollution was completely unregulated. Pollutants from factories and vehicles were causing illnesses and exacerbating conditions like asthma. When Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1963, the Federal Government began to research ways to monitor and control air pollution. Over the years, the Clean Air Act was amended multiple times. In 1970, various standards were implemented to control vehicle emissions and hazardous air pollutants. In 1990, the act was amended to allow for the control of emissions that deplete the ozone layer and cause acid rain.
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980
As you’ve already learned, new environmental legislation is constantly being passed. That means we haven’t always done a great job of protecting the environment. In the past, companies and individuals often dumped toxic waste in uncontrolled and unmonitored areas.
Eventually, people realized these sites were drastically harming the health of the environment and the people that lived nearby. The problem was these sites were expensive to clean up and oftentimes the responsible party couldn’t be found.
Enter the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. Also known as the Superfund, this act was passed to help with the cleanup of these sites.
This act provides federal funds to clean up hazardous waste sites as well as waste from spills and accidents. As well as providing funding, the act gave the Environmental Protection Agency the power to find who was responsible for these hazardous waste sites and hold them responsible for corroborating in cleanup efforts.
While there are still hundreds of superfund sits around the country (you can view them here), many others have been cleaned up after 1980.
What Lies Ahead?
Although we can’t say what environmental laws will be passed in the future, it’s likely new ones will exist in ten years. If you care about the outdoors (and we know you do), keep up with environmental problems and the laws that might solve them!