Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Great American Court Cases » Environmental Law - Overview, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Resource Conservation And Recovery Act

Environmental Law - Sanctions

principles government requirements federal

Administrative, civil, and even criminal sanctions may be used to enforce environmental laws. The possible types of restrictions may include denial or revocation of operational permits, the closing of operations, poor publicity, economic sanctions, fines, or even imprisonment. These sanctions occur at various levels of environmental enforcement--national, regional, and local.

The United States has had much experience in enforcing environmental requirements against public authorities. With only a few exceptions, the U.S. federal government has waived its exemption from fines and financial penalties. It has given both state governments and citizens the right to take the federal government and its agencies to court if the government authorities do not comply with federal, state, or local environmental requirements. However, it is easier for environmental associations such as Greenpeace and Sierra Club, and not individuals, to seek legal action as they have greater resources and expertise for advancing public interests in court. Based on the U.S. Constitution's Article III "case or controversy" requirement, a plaintiff's alleged injury must show fact, causation, and redressability. Proving these three requirements can be difficult for a single citizen.

Despite the comprehensive scope of diverse environmental laws, many corporate and individual polluters go undetected. General principles or guidelines are necessary to interpret and implement a flexible environmental law. These principles must include precautions in regulating pollution, cooperation between the regulating bodies and industry, maintenance of biodiversity, non-degradation of natural resources, the idea of polluter-pays, access to information and participation, and the theory of burden of proof. As stated by Sevine Ercmann in Environmental Law, "These principles should orient the decision-makers when they take decisions interpreting or enforcing certain issues under different circumstances. National and global environmental deterioration has gone too far, and confidence and patience in experimenting with new tools of enforcement are diminishing." As international environmental destruction escalates at a greater rate than in the United States, it is important to remember that everyone is made vulnerable by environmental problems wherever they occur. The destruction of the tropical rainforest, the widespread damage done by acid rain, global warming, ocean dumping, and ozone depletion are but a few of the international concerns for countries throughout the world. Strict comprehensive, enforceable treaties dealing with these issues will require nations to relinquish some autonomy in their economic activities. However, without these measures in place, the future of the environment is in jeopardy.

Environmental Law - Further Readings [next] [back] Environmental Law - Endangered Species Act

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or