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US Environmental Law

In the United States of America, environmental law has been a discipline of its own since approximately 1970.  Since that time, one can find constitutional provisions, statutory law, administrative regulations and binding court case decisions in US Federal and State legal systems that are exclusively characterized as “environmental.”  Prior to that time, some of the same problems were addressed, but not addressed under one label, and instead were part of the law of obligations or real property, for example. What one should realize is that this body now known as public environmental law, like all law, was produced by concretely-identified social needs—domestically and internationally.  Some of the needs were social unrest due to new awareness that the industrial processes that enabled rapid growth in wealth, also came with great costs to the social and natural worlds.  These themes have again surfaced, most pronouncedly due to the climate crisis.
In its first generation, the discipline of environmental law thus came about as an attempt to provide specific legal tools to conserve natural resources and protect human health and the natural world.  In its second generation, through the principle of sustainable development, environmental law now also includes economic and social concerns.

Upon successful completion of this course, U.S. Environmental Law, a student should:

1.        Understand the function of law in solving the U.S. society’s problems concerning human exploitation of the natural world, as those problems are presented to society through the natural and social sciences.
2.        Learn some U.S. sources of environmental law, including federal and state constitutions, statutes, administrative regulations and binding case decisions of federal and state courts.
3.        Learn some U.S. institutions of environmental law, including federal and state legislatures, executive administrative agencies, and scientific bodies.
4.        To make yourself a better lawyer in your own system by having studied a foreign system.  This is a main goal of all comparative law study.