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Land-Use Control

Environmental Controls

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW and regulation have significantly affected land development. With the passage of the NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT OF 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 4321 et seq.), the public and private sectors were obligated to conform to certain environmental standards. The interrelationship of the objectives of NEPA and more traditional forms of land-use control under police power are illustrated by NEPA's stated objectives, which relate not only to the environment but also to ensuring aesthetically pleasing surroundings, protecting health and safety, preserving historic and cultural heritage, and preserving natural resources.

NEPA requires that every federal agency submit an environmental impact statement (EIS) with every legislative recommendation or program proposing major federal projects that will most likely affect the quality of the surrounding environment. An EIS may be required for projects such as the rerouting of an interstate highway, construction of a new dam, or expansion of a ski resort on federally owned land.

The EIS is a tool to assist in decision making, providing information on the positive and negative environmental effects of the proposed undertaking and alternatives. The EIS must also examine the effect of not implementing the proposed action. This "no-action" alternative may result in the agency's continuing to use existing approaches. Although NEPA requires agencies to consider the environmental consequences of their actions, it does not force them to take the most environmentally sound alternative, nor does it dictate that they pursue the least expensive option.

The effect of environmental policies on land use has been substantial. State governments followed the lead of the federal government and passed statutes that create water and air pollution control agencies. Some states require EISs, and a number have comprehensive legislation.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Labor Department - Employment And Training Administration to Legislative PowerLand-Use Control - Private Land-use Restrictions, The Master Plan And Official Map, Planned Communities: Read The Fine Print