Environmental law is a body of federal, state, and local legislation plus court-made legal doctrines governing activities affecting natural resources and public health. Environmental law concerns not only the natural environment (the physical condition of the land, air, and water), but also the human environment (health and safety, jobs and housing, historic sites, community character, and aesthetics).
Environmental law, then, concerns not only pollution control, but also land use control, resource conservation, worker safety, and public health.
Environmental law is firmly established, with a scientific basis recognized by the courts. It has created new federal, state, and local agencies, new policies, new programs, and new paperwork. Specific agency programs cover a smorgasbord of subjects: air pollution, billboards, coastal zone management, dredging and filling, drinking water, earth removal, energy facility siting, fish and game and shellfish, forests and shade trees, hazardous waste and toxic substances, historic sites and structures, noise and odor pollution, pesticides and herbicides, radiation, recreational vehicles, scenic rivers and roads, sewage disposal, solid waste, subdivisions of land, water pollution, wetlands and floodplains and zoning and non-zoning control of land use. New laws preserve wilderness, endangered species, and wildlife. New planning concepts compel comprehensive review of the environmental effects of proposed development. Grant programs and tax benefits foster conservation and innovative technology.
Environmental law is not isolated, however, from other legal specialties. It concerns itself with criminal responsibility as well as civil liability for money damages. It borrows heavily from tort and property law. It involves interpretation of contracts and the complexity of tax law. Since environmental harms can influence human health, it is linked to personal injury litigation. Since it influences industrial conduct, environmental law has links to corporate law and anti-trust law. It encompasses aspects of municipal law, energy law, and public utility law. Since it deals with administrative decision making, it emphasizes constitutional due process and citizen access to agencies and public information.
Our legal and consulting services mirror this complex interdependence of environmental law with other fields of law and scientific and social disciplines. We draw on our training and experience across these disciplines in our environmental law work.