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Environmental Law Research

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Related Papers

Frank T Manheim

environmental law research paper pdf

Progress in Organic Coatings

Stephen DeVito

John Scalia

As part of the framework of environmental laws and regulations, the EPA has identified more than 700 substances as hazardous to the environment. Other substances — through not hazardous — may otherwise be considered environmental pollutants if discharged into the Nation’s waterways. The U.S. Departments of the Interior and Commerce have identified more than 1,500 species of wildlife as endangered or threatened.

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

Paul Bohannon

Brian J . Gerber

Lawrence E Susskind

ABSTRACT State environmental agencies face opposition when they revise or propose new regulations. Environmental regulations are typically challenged because they impose costs, are perceived to be unfair, or the scientific basis of the regulation carries some degree of uncertainty. The difficulty of crafting regulations is compounded by the existence of multiple interest groups that are affected by rules and rulemaking in different ways.

Cameron Getto

Public Land and Resources Law Review

Jeffrey Renz

Law and Contemporary Problems

Alfred Marcus

Anthony Maciorowski


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Environmental Law

Interested in more content from Environmental Law? Take a look at  Yearbook of International Environmental Law

Explore OUP’s Higher Education Resource: Conservation of Nature, Ecosystems, and Biodiversity (new coverage of biodiversity and wildlife from Birnie, Boyle, and Redgwell's International Law and the Environment (4th edn) by Alan Boyle and Catherine Redgwell

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Environmental Law Research

Secondary sources, federal legislation & regulations, state legislation, news & current awareness, epa library, getting help.

This guide contains recommended primary and secondary source resources for researching  Environmental Law .  The focus is on the United States, but selected international materials are also included.

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Using Secondary Sources

Whether you're looking for a general overview of environmental law or an in-depth treatment of a specific law or subject area, there are secondary sources that can help.  Visit the following guide to learn more about secondary sources and how to use them:

  • Secondary Sources: ALRs, Encyclopedias, Law Reviews, Restatements, & Treatises by Catherine Biondo Last Updated Apr 12, 2024 4481 views this year

Treatises and Other Texts

For a general overview, try Environmental Law in a Nutshell or Understanding Environmental Law .  For treatises on specific legislation, see also the items under the federal legislation section.

Cover Art

Research Databases and Websites

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Visit the Environmental Protection Agency's website to begin research on environmental topics including air, water, climate change, pollution/chemicals, waste, mold and radon. Find laws and regulations by topic and business sector.
  • Energy & Environmental Law Secondary Sources - Westlaw For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • Environmental Law Secondary Sources - Lexis For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • Environmental Law Reporter (ELI) Access is controlled by HLS IP address and is limited to the Harvard Law School community. Off-campus access is controlled by HLS Account username and password. The Environmental Law Reporter is published by the Environmental Law Institute. Find the full text of federal statutes, state and international materials, recent agency and court developments, and articles and analysis of environmental law issues.

Environmental Law Journals

Although you may find articles about environmental law in any law journal, there are many journals that specialize in this area. For example:

  • Environmental & Energy Law & Policy Journal
  • Environmental Lawyer
  • Environmental Law Reporter News and Analysis
  • Harvard Environmental Law Review
  • Journal of Environmental Law & Litigation

Links are to the Law Journal Library in HeinOnline, which is an excellent source for PDF versions of articles. Search for other publications via the database link below.

  • Law Journal Library (HeinOnline) Access via HarvardKey Full-text, page image access to law reviews and journals. Coverage begins with a journal’s first volume but does not usually include its most recent issues. Use the HeinOnline ScholarCheck citator to locate bar journals and law reviews that cite an article.

Westlaw and Lexis also offer a number of journals.  For interdisciplinary research, look to the Environment Index database.

  • Energy & Environmental Law Journals - Westlaw For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • Environmental Law Reviews and Journals - Lexis For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • Environment Index Access via HarvardKey Find abstracts and indexing for over 1,000 titles covering environmental policy and studies, and citations for nearly 700,000 articles published since 1973. Areas covered include agriculture, ecosystem ecology, energy, environmental law, geography, marine and freshwater resources, public policy, social impacts, urban planning, and more. Updated monthly.

Major Federal Legislation

Each drop down box below covers the major federal environmental laws. Links are provided to the text of the law and its major amendments, selected legislative history materials, and some websites and treatises to further your research. 

Note that there may be additional legislation for minor changes to the laws. Check the history sections of the codified version at Lexis or Westlaw for complete history of any given section.

Clean Air Act (CAA)

To improve, strengthen, and accelerate programs for the prevention and abatement of air pollution.

United States Code 

  • Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C § 7401 et seq. (Chapter 85)  - via GovInfo
  • Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C Clean Air Act, § 7401 et seq. (Chapter 85) in U.S. Code Annotated  -- Annotated edition of the U.S. Code from Westlaw. Historical editions also available on Westlaw to 1990.
  • Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C Clean Air Act, § 7401 et seq. (Chapter 85) in U.S. Code Service -- Annotated edition of the U.S. Code from Lexis.

Statutes at Large

  • Clean Air Act of 1963, P.L. 88-206, 77 Stat. 392  - via GovInfo
  • Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970, P.L. 91-604, 84 Stat. 1676  - via GovInfo
  • Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977, P.L. 95-95, 91 Stat. 685  - via GovInfo
  • Clean Air Act Amendments of 1989, P.L. 101-549, 104 Stat. 2399  - via GovInfo

Legislative History

  • Legislative History of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 by the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division of the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress
  • Legislative History of the Clean Air Act of 1990 Public Law 101-549
  • Legislative History materials for the CAA Amendments of 1990 on ProQuest Congressional  -- A full legislative history is not available. At the link, use the search by number option to search for P.L. 101-549.
  • Proquest Congressional Legislative History of the CAA Amendments of 1977  -- Proquest legislative histories contain the text of bills, hearings, House and Senate reports, CRS reports, and other material related to the passage of the law.
  • Proquest Congressional Legislative History of the CAA Amendments of 1970
  • Legislative History materials for the Clean Air Act of 1963 on Proquest Congressional  -- A full legislative history is not available. At the link, use the search by number option to search for P.L. 88-206.

CAA Treatises

  • Clean Air Act Handbook  (via Westlaw)
  • Clean Air Act: Essentials, Roy S. Belden, 3d ed. (2021) - Harvard Law School Library - KF3812.B45 2021
  • The Clean Air Act Handbook, Julie R. Domike and Alec C. Zacaroli eds, 3d ed. (2011) - Harvard Law School Library - KF3812 .C554 2011
  • More environmental law treatises - for more treatises covering environmental law generally, click here to go to this guide's secondary sources page

CAA Websites

  • Air Pollution and the Clean Air Act (EPA)
  • Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act (EPA)

Clean Water Act (CWA)

Formally known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

United States Code  

  • Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq. (Chapter 26)  - via GovInfo
  • Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq. (Chapter 26) in U.S. Code Annotated  - Annotated edition of the U.S. Code from Westlaw. Historical editions also available on Westlaw to 1990.
  • Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq. (Chapter 26) in U.S. Code Service - Annotated edition of the U.S. Code from Lexis.
  • Clean Water Act Amendments of 1977, P.L. 95-217, 91 Stat. 1566  - via GovInfo
  • Clean Water Act of 1972, P.L. 92-500, 86 Stat. 816  - via GovInfo
  • Clean Water Act of 1977 by Covington & Burling (legislative history)
  • Proquest Congressional Legislative History of the Clean Water Act of 1977  - Proquest legislative histories contain the text of bills, hearings, House and Senate reports, CRS reports, and other material related to the passage of the law.
  • Proquest Congressional Legislative History of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972

CWA Treatises

  • The Clean Water Act Handbook, Mark A. Ryan, ed., 4th ed. (2018) - Harvard Law School Library KF3790.C545 2018
  • Clean Water Act, Joel M. Gross, 2d ed. (2012) - Harvard Law School Library KF3790.G76 2012

CWA Websites

  • EPA Water website
  • Summary of the Clean Water Act (EPA)
  • EPA Agriculture Clean Water Act website

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)

See also Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) 

  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq. (Chapter 106)  - via GovInfo
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, P.L. 96-510, 94 Stat. 2767  - via GovInfo
  • Superfund: A Legislative History:  the evolution of selected sections of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act

CERCLA Texts and Treatises

  • CERCLA : Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund), Carole Stern Switzer and Peter Gray, 2d ed. (2008) - Harvard Law School Library KF1299.H39 S953 2008
  • The Superfund Handbook: A Practitioner's Guide to CERCLA Litigation, Peter L. Gray (2016) - Harvard Law School Library KF1299.H39 G73 2016 

CERCLA Websites

  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (EPA's Agriculture website)
  • CERCLA Overview (EPA Superfund website)
  • Natural Resource Damages: A Primer (EPA)

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6901 et seq. (Chapter 82)  - via GovInfo
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, P.L. 94-580, 90 Stat. 2795  - via GovInfo
  • Proquest Congressional Legislative History of the RCRA of 1976  - Proquest legislative histories contain the text of bills, hearings, House and Senate reports, CRS reports, and other material related to the passage of the law.

RCRA Texts and Treatises

  • RCRA: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, John Teets (2003) - Harvard Law School Library KF3946 .T44 2003
  • RCRA Demystified: The Professional's Guide to Hazardous Waste Law, David B. Kopel (1996) - Harvard Law School Library KF3946 .K67 1996

RCRA Websites

  • Summary of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (EPA)

Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)

  • Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, 42 U.S.C. § 11001 et seq. (Chapter 116)  - via GovInfo
  • Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, P.L. 99-499, 100 Stat. 1613  - via GovInfo
  • Proquest Congressional Legislative History of EPCRA  - Proquest legislative histories contain the text of bills, hearings, House and Senate reports, CRS reports, and other material related to the passage of the law.

EPCRA Texts and Treatises

  • EPCRA compliance manual : interpreting and implementing the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986

EPCRA Websites

  • EPA's Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) website

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

United States Code

  • National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. (Chapter 55)  - via GovInfo
  • National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, P.L. 91-190, 83 Stat. 852  - via GovInfo
  • National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 by Covington and Burling  - 2-volume set containing hearings, reports, debates, and other materials related to NEPA's passage through Congress
  • Sources of Compiled Legislative History: NEPA  - Bibliography of books and journal articles about NEPA.

NEPA Texts and Treatises

  • NEPA Law and Litigation 2d  (via Westlaw)

NEPA Websites

  • NEPA Compliance (EPA website)
  • Department of Energy NEPA website

50 State Surveys

  • 50 State Surveys - Environmental Law (Lexis) For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • 50 State Surveys - Environmental Law (Westlaw) For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • State Codes - Environmental Law (Lexis) For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • Energy & Environment Statutes and Court Rules (Westlaw) For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.

Environmental Law Cases

  • Energy & Environment Cases - Westlaw For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • Environmental Law Cases (Federal) - Lexis For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • Environmental Law Cases (State) - Lexis For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.

Legal blogs ("blawgs") can be a great way to tap into the conversations scholars, practitioners and interested organizations are having about current issues.  Justia and ABA are two aggregators of blawgs on a range of subjects. Besides environmental law, you might also check out related areas like energy law, animal law, and agricultural law.

  • Justia - Environmental Law Blawgs
  • ABA Journal - Environmental Law Blawgs
  • Law360 Access is available on the Harvard Law School campus. Off-campus access is available to current HLS affiliates and controlled by Harvard Key. Law360 contains the latest legal news with the ability to filter news results on over thirty practice areas, nine jurisdictions, and eighteen industries. Law 360 also includes expert analysis on breaking legal issues.
  • E&E News (via Politico Pro) Access via Harvard Key Energy industry and environmental news
  • Legal Newspapers and Newsletters - Westlaw For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.
  • Environmental Law Legal News - Lexis For HLS affiliates only. Individual login required.

EPA Region 1 Library

  • Region 1 Library Services The EPA region 1 library, which serves Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and the NE Tribal Nations, is located at 5 Post Office Square in Boston, and is open to the public Monday-Thursday 9:00am-12:00pm and 12:30pm-3:30pm. Please call ahead to make sure the librarian is available. The region 1 library may be able to suggest the best way to search for something online or help you find obscure EPA documents.
  • EPA National Library Network

Many materials published by the Environmental Protection Agency can be found by searching the EPA National Library Catalog or the  National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP) . Some materials will be available directly in PDF, while others will be at one of the EPA libraries in print or microfiche. If they are available in one of the latter formats, you can request them through HLS's interlibrary loan form.

  • National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP)

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Environmental Law Research Paper Topics

Academic Writing Service

This page presents a comprehensive collection of environmental law research paper topics , tailored for students studying law and interested in exploring the complexities of environmental issues. Environmental law is a vital field that addresses the legal aspects of protecting the environment, ensuring sustainable practices, and regulating human activities that impact the planet. From climate change and biodiversity conservation to environmental policies and international treaties, students will find a wealth of thought-provoking topics to delve into. Whether you are passionate about environmental advocacy or seeking to understand the legal implications of environmental challenges, this page is a valuable resource to expand your knowledge and refine your research skills.

100 Environmental Law Research Paper Topics

Environmental law encompasses a wide array of legal issues related to the protection and preservation of our planet’s natural resources and ecosystems. This comprehensive list of environmental law research paper topics is designed to inspire students and researchers alike to explore the intricate and ever-evolving landscape of environmental law. The topics are organized into ten distinct categories, each focusing on different aspects of environmental law and its significance in shaping environmental policies and practices.

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Environmental Policy and Regulation

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of environmental policies in achieving sustainability goals.
  • Analyzing the role of government regulations in addressing environmental challenges.
  • The impact of international environmental agreements on global conservation efforts.
  • Legal frameworks for addressing climate change and promoting renewable energy.
  • The role of public participation in shaping environmental policies and decision-making.
  • The legal implications of environmental impact assessments in policy formulation.
  • Balancing economic interests and environmental protection in policy development.
  • The role of judicial review in upholding or challenging environmental policies.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of market-based approaches in environmental regulation.
  • The impact of political ideologies on environmental policy formulation.

Biodiversity and Wildlife Protection

  • The legal implications of conserving endangered species and habitats.
  • Analyzing the role of wildlife protection laws in combating illegal trafficking and poaching.
  • Legal challenges in balancing human development with wildlife conservation.
  • The impact of habitat destruction on biodiversity and legal measures for preservation.
  • The role of international treaties in promoting cross-border wildlife protection.
  • The legal aspects of wildlife rehabilitation and reintroduction programs.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of protected areas in biodiversity conservation.
  • Legal challenges in addressing invasive species and their impact on ecosystems.
  • The role of private landowners in wildlife conservation efforts.
  • The intersection of indigenous rights and wildlife protection.

Pollution Control and Remediation

  • The legal framework for regulating air and water pollution.
  • Analyzing liability and compensation mechanisms for environmental damages.
  • Legal challenges in hazardous waste management and cleanup.
  • The role of environmental impact assessments in pollution prevention.
  • The legal implications of emerging contaminants and their regulation.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of pollution trading and offset programs.
  • Legal challenges in addressing plastic pollution and marine litter.
  • The role of corporate environmental liability in pollution prevention.
  • Analyzing the impact of industrial pollution on public health and communities.
  • The legal aspects of noise pollution and its regulation.

Water Resource Management and Conservation

  • Legal considerations in managing and allocating water resources.
  • Analyzing the impact of water pollution on ecosystems and public health.
  • Legal challenges in protecting and restoring aquatic habitats.
  • The role of water rights and agreements in transboundary water management.
  • The legal implications of water scarcity and drought management.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of water conservation and efficiency measures.
  • Legal challenges in addressing groundwater contamination and depletion.
  • The role of ecosystem-based approaches in water resource management.
  • The legal aspects of water privatization and its implications for access and equity.
  • The intersection of water law and indigenous water rights.

Land Use and Sustainable Development

  • The legal framework for sustainable land use planning and urban development.
  • Analyzing the impact of mining and extraction industries on the environment.
  • Legal challenges in regulating deforestation and promoting reforestation.
  • The role of property rights in promoting conservation and sustainable land practices.
  • The legal implications of land use conflicts and dispute resolution.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of land conservation easements in sustainable development.
  • Legal challenges in balancing agriculture and conservation on agricultural lands.
  • The role of zoning laws and land use ordinances in urban planning.
  • The legal aspects of land restoration and brownfield redevelopment.
  • The impact of climate change on land use and legal responses for adaptation.

Energy Law and Climate Policy

  • Analyzing the legal aspects of renewable energy development and integration.
  • The role of international agreements in promoting sustainable energy practices.
  • Legal challenges in transitioning to a low-carbon energy economy.
  • The impact of energy regulation on achieving climate change goals.
  • The legal implications of energy subsidies and their impact on sustainable energy.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of carbon capture and storage technologies.
  • Legal challenges in promoting energy efficiency and conservation measures.
  • The role of energy law in promoting decentralized and distributed energy systems.
  • The legal aspects of energy infrastructure development and environmental concerns.
  • The intersection of energy law and indigenous rights in energy development.

Environmental Justice and Human Rights

  • The legal implications of environmental discrimination and equitable access to resources.
  • Analyzing the role of human rights in environmental protection and advocacy.
  • Legal challenges in seeking remedies for environmental harm and social injustices.
  • The intersection of environmental justice and indigenous rights.
  • The role of environmental litigation in advancing environmental justice.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of public interest litigation in environmental cases.
  • Legal challenges in addressing environmental racism and marginalized communities.
  • The role of environmental ombudsmen and their impact on justice and accountability.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of community-based environmental monitoring and advocacy.
  • The legal aspects of citizen engagement in environmental decision-making.

Climate Change Law and Adaptation

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of climate change adaptation policies and strategies.
  • Analyzing the legal implications of carbon pricing mechanisms and emissions trading.
  • Legal challenges in implementing climate change agreements and commitments.
  • The role of litigation in holding governments and corporations accountable for climate actions.
  • The legal aspects of climate-induced migration and displacement.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of climate adaptation finance and funding mechanisms.
  • Legal challenges in promoting nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation.
  • The role of climate law in integrating climate resilience into infrastructure planning.
  • The legal implications of climate engineering and geoengineering technologies.
  • The impact of climate change on indigenous rights and legal responses for adaptation.

International Environmental Law and Governance

  • Analyzing the role of international organizations in environmental governance.
  • Legal challenges in enforcing global environmental treaties and agreements.
  • The impact of climate change litigation on international law and policy.
  • The role of soft law in shaping international environmental norms.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of international dispute resolution mechanisms in environmental cases.
  • Legal challenges in addressing environmental crimes and transnational environmental harms.
  • The role of corporate social responsibility in international environmental governance.
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of international environmental impact assessments for development projects.
  • The legal aspects of trade and environmental protection in international law.
  • The intersection of human rights and international environmental law.

Emerging Issues in Environmental Law

  • Legal challenges in regulating emerging technologies and their environmental impact.
  • The role of legal frameworks in promoting circular economy practices.
  • Analyzing the legal implications of biotechnology and genetic engineering on the environment.
  • The impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning on environmental decision-making.
  • Legal challenges in addressing e-waste and electronic waste management.
  • The role of environmental law in governing nanotechnology applications.
  • Analyzing the legal aspects of ocean governance and marine conservation.
  • Legal challenges in addressing space debris and its impact on the environment.
  • The impact of legal principles on sustainable development in the digital era.
  • The legal aspects of protecting biodiversity in the face of emerging threats.

This comprehensive list of environmental law research paper topics provides a diverse and thought-provoking selection of themes to explore, offering valuable insights into the complex relationship between legal frameworks and environmental issues. Whether you are a student embarking on your research journey or a seasoned scholar seeking new avenues of inquiry, these topics are designed to stimulate critical thinking and foster a deeper understanding of the intricate world of environmental law.

Environmental Law: Exploring the Range of Research Paper Topics

Environmental law is a dynamic and evolving field that encompasses a wide range of legal issues concerning the protection, conservation, and management of the environment. As global concerns about climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss continue to grow, environmental law plays a crucial role in addressing these challenges and shaping policies that promote sustainability. This section delves into the vast array of research paper topics within environmental law, highlighting key areas of interest and discussing the significance of exploring these subjects to address pressing environmental issues.

Climate Change and Mitigation Strategies

One of the most pressing issues in environmental law is climate change, and researchers have a plethora of topics to explore in this domain. Some potential research paper topics include the legal framework for international climate agreements like the Paris Agreement, the role of governments and corporations in climate change mitigation, the impact of climate litigation on policy formulation, and the legal challenges in transitioning to renewable energy sources.

Biodiversity Conservation and Wildlife Protection

Preserving biodiversity and protecting wildlife are essential aspects of environmental law. Researchers can delve into topics such as the legal framework for wildlife protection, the role of national parks and protected areas in biodiversity conservation, the impact of illegal wildlife trafficking on ecosystems, and the legal challenges in regulating bioprospecting and genetic resource exploitation.

Environmental Impact Assessment and Regulation

Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are crucial tools for evaluating the potential environmental consequences of development projects. Research papers can focus on the effectiveness of EIAs in different countries, the role of public participation in the EIA process, the legal aspects of strategic environmental assessment, and the challenges in regulating emerging technologies through EIAs.

Pollution Control and Waste Management

Pollution is a significant environmental concern, and environmental law plays a pivotal role in regulating and mitigating its impacts. Researchers can explore topics such as the legal framework for air and water pollution control, the role of liability and compensation in environmental damage cases, the challenges in regulating electronic waste and plastic pollution, and the legal aspects of hazardous waste management.

Natural Resource Management and Conservation

The sustainable management of natural resources is critical for the long-term health of the environment. Research papers can delve into topics such as the legal framework for sustainable forestry and fisheries management, the role of indigenous and local communities in natural resource conservation, the legal challenges in water resource management, and the impact of land use planning on biodiversity conservation.

Environmental Justice and Equity

Environmental law intersects with social justice and equity issues, as certain communities may bear a disproportionate burden of environmental harm. Researchers can explore topics such as environmental racism and its legal implications, the role of environmental impact assessments in addressing environmental justice, the legal challenges in ensuring access to clean water and sanitation for marginalized communities, and the impact of climate change on human rights.

Renewable Energy and Green Technology

The transition to renewable energy sources and green technologies is a critical aspect of addressing climate change. Research papers can focus on topics such as the legal framework for promoting renewable energy projects, the role of intellectual property rights in green technology innovation, the challenges in regulating offshore wind energy, and the legal aspects of carbon capture and storage.

Environmental issues transcend national boundaries, necessitating international cooperation and governance. Researchers can delve into topics such as the legal framework for transboundary pollution control, the role of international organizations like the United Nations Environment Programme, the challenges in enforcing international environmental treaties, and the impact of trade agreements on environmental protection.

Corporate Environmental Responsibility

Corporations play a significant role in environmental impact, and environmental law seeks to regulate their activities responsibly. Research papers can explore topics such as the legal framework for corporate environmental reporting, the role of sustainability certifications and eco-labeling, the challenges in holding corporations accountable for environmental harm, and the impact of green finance initiatives on corporate behavior.

Land Use Planning and Urban Environmental Law

Land use planning and urban development have a profound impact on the environment and human well-being. Researchers can focus on topics such as the legal aspects of urban planning for sustainable cities, the role of environmental zoning and conservation easements in land use regulation, the challenges in balancing urban development with environmental conservation, and the legal implications of green infrastructure projects.

The field of environmental law offers a vast and diverse range of research paper topics, each contributing to a deeper understanding of environmental challenges and the legal mechanisms to address them. From climate change to biodiversity conservation, pollution control to renewable energy, environmental law provides an avenue for researchers to explore innovative solutions and policy frameworks that safeguard the planet’s future. By delving into these research topics, students can make valuable contributions to environmental protection and contribute to a sustainable and resilient world.

How to Choose Environmental Law Research Paper Topics

Choosing the right research paper topic is crucial for a successful and fulfilling academic journey. When it comes to environmental law, selecting a relevant and engaging research topic is not only essential for earning good grades but also for making a meaningful contribution to the field. Here are some valuable tips to help you navigate the process of choosing environmental law research paper topics that align with your interests, academic goals, and the current environmental challenges:

  • Identify Your Passion and Interests : Passion is the driving force behind exceptional research. Begin by reflecting on the aspects of environmental law that pique your interest the most. Consider whether you are more intrigued by climate change, wildlife conservation, pollution control, or any other specific area within environmental law. Identifying your passion will make the research process more enjoyable and motivate you to delve deeper into the topic.
  • Stay Updated with Current Environmental Issues : Environmental law is constantly evolving to address new challenges and emerging issues. Keep yourself informed about the latest environmental developments, global climate conferences, landmark legal cases, and policy changes. Staying up-to-date with current environmental issues will help you identify relevant and timely research topics that have real-world implications.
  • Consider the Practical Implications : An essential aspect of environmental law research is understanding how legal frameworks translate into practical applications. Evaluate how your chosen topic impacts communities, industries, ecosystems, and global sustainability efforts. Research topics that have tangible and practical implications are likely to generate greater interest and contribute to meaningful discussions.
  • Review Previous Research : Before finalizing your research topic, conduct a thorough literature review of existing studies in environmental law. Analyze the gaps in the literature and identify areas that require further exploration. Building upon existing research can provide a solid foundation for your own work and ensure its relevance in the field.
  • Seek Guidance from Professors and Experts : Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from your professors, advisors, or other experts in environmental law. They can offer valuable insights, suggest potential research topics, and help you refine your ideas. Engaging in discussions with knowledgeable individuals can lead to fresh perspectives and help you choose a research topic aligned with current academic interests.
  • Balance Complexity and Feasibility : While it’s essential to select a research topic that challenges you intellectually, be mindful of the practical constraints of your project. Ensure that the research topic is feasible within the given time frame and resources. Striking a balance between complexity and feasibility will lead to a well-executed and comprehensive research paper.
  • Consider Comparative Studies : Comparative studies in environmental law allow you to analyze legal frameworks and their effectiveness in different countries or regions. Investigating how various jurisdictions address similar environmental issues can provide valuable insights and open doors for cross-cultural learning.
  • Emphasize Interdisciplinary Approaches : Environmental law is inherently interdisciplinary, encompassing elements of science, economics, policy, and ethics. Consider topics that allow you to explore these interdisciplinary connections. For instance, you can investigate the economic impact of environmental regulations, the ethical implications of wildlife conservation policies, or the scientific basis for climate change mitigation strategies.
  • Evaluate the Policy Implications : Environmental law research often has a policy-oriented focus. Analyze how your chosen research topic aligns with existing policies or how it can influence policy formulation. Understanding the policy implications of your research will add practical significance to your work.
  • Brainstorm and Refine : Take the time to brainstorm multiple research ideas and then refine them gradually. Discuss your potential topics with peers and instructors to get feedback and suggestions. The iterative process of brainstorming and refining will lead you to a well-defined and compelling research paper topic.

Selecting an environmental law research paper topic is an important and exciting step in your academic journey. By identifying your passion, staying updated with current environmental issues, considering practical implications, and seeking guidance from experts, you can choose a research topic that not only interests you but also contributes meaningfully to the field of environmental law. Remember to balance complexity and feasibility, explore interdisciplinary connections, and evaluate the policy implications of your chosen topic. With thoughtful consideration and dedication, you can embark on a rewarding research endeavor that advances environmental law knowledge and addresses critical environmental challenges.

How to Write an Environmental Law Research Paper

Writing an environmental law research paper requires a systematic approach and a keen understanding of legal concepts, environmental issues, and academic writing conventions. Whether you are a seasoned researcher or a student new to the field, mastering the art of crafting an effective research paper is essential to convey your findings and insights convincingly. Here are ten essential tips to guide you through the process of writing a compelling and well-structured environmental law research paper:

  • Conduct Thorough Research : Begin your environmental law research paper by conducting in-depth research on your chosen topic. Utilize academic journals, books, reputable websites, and legal databases to gather relevant and credible information. Analyze previous studies, court cases, and legislation related to your topic to develop a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.
  • Outline Your Paper : Creating a clear and organized outline is fundamental to the success of your research paper. Develop a well-structured outline that includes the introduction, thesis statement, main arguments, supporting evidence, counterarguments, and conclusion. A well-crafted outline will serve as a roadmap, ensuring your paper flows logically and cohesively.
  • Craft a Strong Introduction : The introduction is the gateway to your research paper. It should provide essential background information on the topic, state the purpose of the study, and present your thesis statement. A compelling introduction captures the reader’s attention and sets the tone for the rest of the paper.
  • Develop a Strong Thesis Statement : The thesis statement is the central argument of your research paper. It should be clear, concise, and specific, outlining the main point you aim to prove or discuss. Ensure that your thesis statement reflects the scope of your research and aligns with your chosen environmental law topic.
  • Use Clear and Precise Language : Environmental law research papers require clarity and precision in language. Avoid jargon and use straightforward terms to communicate complex legal concepts and environmental issues. Clearly define any legal terms or specialized vocabulary to ensure your readers understand the content.
  • Support Your Arguments with Evidence : As you present your main arguments, back them up with relevant and credible evidence. Cite case law, legislation, expert opinions, and empirical data to support your claims. Properly referenced evidence strengthens the credibility of your research and demonstrates your thorough understanding of the subject matter.
  • Address Counterarguments : Anticipate potential counterarguments to your thesis and address them in your paper. Acknowledging counterarguments and offering thoughtful responses demonstrate critical thinking and strengthen the overall argument of your research paper.
  • Analyze and Interpret Data : If your research involves data analysis, take the time to interpret the results accurately. Present your findings in a clear and organized manner, using charts, graphs, or tables if necessary. Analyze the implications of your data on environmental law and draw well-supported conclusions.
  • Discuss Policy and Practical Implications : Environmental law research often involves exploring policy implications. Discuss how your research findings can influence or inform environmental policy, regulation, or legal frameworks. Consider the practical implications of your research and offer recommendations for addressing environmental challenges.
  • Write a Convincing Conclusion : In your conclusion, summarize the key points of your research and restate your thesis statement. Emphasize the significance of your findings and how they contribute to the broader field of environmental law. Avoid introducing new information in the conclusion and end with a thought-provoking final remark.

Writing an environmental law research paper demands careful research, meticulous planning, and effective communication of ideas. By following these ten tips, you can craft a compelling and well-structured research paper that not only showcases your knowledge of environmental law but also makes a valuable contribution to the field. Remember to proofread your paper thoroughly and adhere to citation guidelines to ensure academic integrity. With diligence and attention to detail, you can produce a high-quality environmental law research paper that showcases your expertise and passion for the subject.

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Environmental Law

Download PDF version of guide for print

Environmental law is a complex mix of federal, state and local laws, regulations, policy choices, science, and health concerns. In addition, it is a dynamic area of the law with changes occurring rapidly. Researching environmental law requires awareness that this area of the law is more than just a collection of laws and regulations and is, in fact, a constantly changing legal system.

This guide provides an overview of federal, North Carolina-specific, and international environmental law sources. For additional sources, including different state materials, researchers may wish to consult other relevant research guides and portals such as Vermont Law School's Environmental Law Research Resources , and/or the Environmental Law guide prepared by Lewis & Clark Law School's Paul L. Boley Law Library.

I. Beginning Research

A. current awareness services.

It is possible to begin environmental law research in primary legal sources, such as an annotated code and the Code of Federal Regulations . However, because of the complexity of the subject, the importance of varied regulatory material, and the frequent changes in law and regulations, specialized research tools have been created. There are two major electronic and looseleaf services which can greatly aid in researching this complex area of the law: the Environmental Law Reporter and the Environment Reporter .

Environmental Law Reporter (ELR) published by the Environmental Law Institute (KF3775 .A59 E58 & online ) covers recent developments in the courts, Congress, and agencies and contains primary law sources and articles and analysis of environmental law issues. ELR includes the full text of important federal environmental statutes and major treaties and agreements, as well as state and international materials. No password is needed when accessing this resource on the Duke campus. For off campus access, Duke Law students and faculty can request the password at the Reference Desk. Since 2003, the print version contains only the News & Analysis section, which reports on major environmental law developments.

Environment Reporter , published by the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) (also available on LexisNexis/Westlaw), includes primary and secondary material covering federal environmental laws, regulations, all significant federal and state court cases relevant to environmental law, policies, executive orders, current developments and, prior to July 1994, state environmental laws.

BNA also publishes a topical service for international environmental law, which is available electronically to the Duke Law community: the International Environment Reporter . This series provides daily updates, as well as biweekly reviews, covering major international environmental developments.

E&E Publishing (Environment & Energy) provides daily coverage of environmental and energy policy through three main publications: Greenwire , which summarizes environmental news coverage from print, broadcast, and online sources; Environment & Energy Daily , which tracks Congressional environmental news; and ClimateWire , focusing on the politics surrounding climate change specifically. 

Legislative committees also provide current information on new laws under consideration.  The House Committee on Natural Resources considers legislation about American energy production, mineral lands and mining, fisheries and wildlife, public lands, oceans, Native Americans, irrigation and reclamation. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works provides the latest information on the Committee's work regarding federal energy and environmental policy as well as our nation's transportation and infrastructure systems.  More generally, allows users to monitor actions on specific bills related to environmental policy, as well as gather information on upcoming committee meetings.

B. Secondary Sources

The Law Library has a number of materials to aid your understanding of environmental law.

Hazelton, Penny A., ed., Specialized Legal Research , 2d ed. (Ref Desk KF240 .S642). This annually-updated volume contains a chapter called "Environmental Law and Land Use Planning."

Findley, Roger W. & Farber Daniel A., Environmental Law in a Nutshell , 9th ed. (Reserve KF3775.Z9 F56 2014). Addresses major topics in environmental law such as judicial review, federalism, toxic substances, pollution control, risk management and preservation.

Grad, Frank P., Treatise on Environmental Law . (KF3775 .G72 through 1998; full-text and up-to-date on Lexis Advance ). Comprehensive treatise on environmental law issues by Professor Grad, including analysis of climate change initiatives domestically and internationally. Professor Grad's work has been cited in numerous environmental law cases.

Novick, Sheldon M., Stever, Donald W. & Mellon, Margaret G., Law of Environmental Protection (KF3775 .N68 1987) (Updated annually). A treatise on the legal aspects of the release of pollutants, wastes and toxic substances into the environment. Includes a section by section analysis of the nine principle federal environmental statutes administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Riesel, Daniel. Environmental Enforcement Civil and Criminal . 1997- . (KF3775 .R53) (Updated irregularly). A treatise dealing with the complex system of civil and criminal enforcement of federal and state environmental laws.

Rodgers, William H., Environmental Law , 2d ed. (Reserve KF3812 .R63 1994). This single-volume hornbook, written specifically for law students, provides detailed treatment of issues, legal principles, and current law. The author's four-volume treatise, Rodgers' Environmental Law , is available electronically in WestlawNext .

Salzman, James & Thompson, Barton H. Jr. Environmental Law and Policy , 4th ed. (KF3775 .S25 2014). An overview of the major themes and issues in environmental law, including air and water pollution, endangered species protection, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Selmi, Daniel P. & Manaster, Kenneth A., State Environmental Law (KF3775.Z95 S45 1989; also available on WestlawNext) (Updated annually). This treatise focuses on four areas: air quality, water quality, current hazardous waste management, and cleanup of hazardous waste from past activities.

Weinberg, Phillip & Reilly, Kevin A., Understanding Environmental Law , 3d ed. (KF3775 .W45 2013). Provides a comprehensive yet compact discussion of the major issues in environmental and land use law in the United States.  Although the focus is on the federal framework, chapters include some information on state-specific laws as well.

2. Dictionaries

King, James, J., The Environmental Regulatory Dictionary , 4th ed. (Ref KF3775.A68 K56 2005). Designed to be a supplement to researching environmental regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 40, Protection of Environment. It is a compilation of terms from both Title 40 of the CFR (as of July, 1987) and material in the Federal Register pertaining to Title 40 (as of June, 1994).

Robinson, Nicholas A., Environmental Law Lexicon (Ref KF3775 .A68 R67 1992) (updated through 2010; also available on Lexis Advance ). Compilation of the principal definitions used in environmental statutes, regulations and management systems in the United States.

3. Finding Books in the Online Catalog

Many more books and treatises written about environmental law topics can be located using the Duke Libraries Online Catalog . A particularly useful approach to searching for these secondary sources is to perform Subject searches. For example, a search using the subject heading environmental law will return a result with many subheadings. If you are researching a particular subject or narrower subtopic, you can narrow your search by using the "Refine Your Search" feature in the left sidebar. Below are some suggestions for common environmental law subject headings. Note: the catalog will auto-fill subject headings.

  • Environmental law -- United States .
  • Environmental law -- North Carolina .
  • Air -- Pollution -- Law and legislation .
  • Water -- Pollution -- Law and legislation -- North Carolina .
  • Liability for environmental damages

You can also try a title keyword search using various environmental law terms such as the following examples: Clean Air Act , Clean Water Act, Superfund, CERCLA, RCRA, NEPA , or Toxic Substances Control Act.

4. Finding Articles

LegalTrac contains citation information for articles from all major law reviews, law journals, specialty law and bar association journals, and legal newspapers. The articles range in date from 1980 to the present.

One useful approach is to use the "Subject Guide Search" setting for environmental law . This will retrieve a very large number of articles, but it will also display many narrower subdivisions and related subjects from which to choose relevant material. For example, one of the related subjects, Liability for Environmental Damages , is divided into many narrower subdivisions which you can scan for relevant material. Note that you will have to enter the related subject as a new search in order to access the narrower subdivisions.

Other databases which will provide citations to articles and full text of articles on environmental law topics include the law review databases on Lexis and Westlaw and Index to Legal Periodicals .

C. Lexis Advance & WestlawNext

1. Lexis Advance

A listing of the environmental law resources on Lexis Advance can be located using the Browse > Sources > By Practice Area > Environmental Law . Lexis' environmental law resources contain primary law material, legislative histories of major acts, regulatory material, EPA site records, secondary sources, and news sources.

2. WestlawNext

WestlawNext contains more than 150 environmental law databases covering all aspects of environmental law. A list of these databases can be found using the Practice Areas tab and selecting Energy & Environment which will place you in the Practitioner Insights for Energy & Environment . Resources will be listed in the right sidebar and include primary law, legislative history, regulatory material, secondary sources, and news. 

Various environmental records are also available on WestlawNext from the Practitioner Insights for Energy & Environment page in the Tools & Resources sidebar on the right. To view a list of available environmental records select Environmental Data Resources.

WestlawNext also has access to Rodgers’ Environmental Law under Energy & Environment Texts & Treatises. This four-volume treatise contains environmental statutes, court decisions, and administrative regulations governing air and water pollution, land management, toxic and hazardous wastes, and pesticides.

II. Federal Materials

A. major federal statutes.

There are many laws that make up the federal environmental law field. A few of the most important laws are summarized below. These and other important federal environmental laws can be accessed from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website .

  • National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370). "NEPA is the basic national charter for protection of the environment. It establishes policy, sets goals, and provides means for carrying out the policy." The most important provision in NEPA is § 102(c) (at 83 Stat. 853, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 4332(c)) which requires federal agencies to document their consideration of environmental factors by writing environmental impact statements (EIS) during their decision-making processes.
  • Clean Air Act (CAA) (42 U.S.C. §§ 7401 et seq.) (1970). The CAA regulates air emissions from area, stationary, and mobile sources. It authorizes the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and the environment. Under the CAA, each state must submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to the EPA, for the implementation of NAAQS. The result of eleven separate Acts of Congress, the CAA is the longest and most complex statutory and regulatory scheme for any of the environmental laws in the United States. A legislative history of the CAA is available.
  • Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 et seq.) (1977). The 1972 amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 set the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into waters of the United States. The 1977 amendments recodified the Act and stated that it "may be cited as the 'Clean Water Act of 1977'". A legislative history of the Clean Water Act is also available, as well as one of the Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 .
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) (42 U.S.C. §§ 9601 et. seq.) (1980). CERCLA was originally enacted in 1980 to address the threats to human health and the environment from abandoned hazardous waste disposal sites. CERCLA is commonly known as "Superfund" because it established the Hazardous Substance Superfund for response action and provides for federal and state sharing of response costs.  CERCLA was substantially modified by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA). A legislative history of CERCLA is also available. 
  • Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) (42 U.S.C. §§  9601 et seq.) (1986). SARA significantly amended CERCLA. SARA emphasized the importance of finding permanent remedies for cleaning up hazardous waste sites, increased State involvement in Superfund activities, focused on human health problems associated with hazardous waste, and encouraged citizen participation in hazardous waste cleanup decisions. SARA also directed the EPA to revise the Hazard Ranking System (HRS) to ensure that the relative degree of risk to human health and the environment posed by uncontrolled hazardous waste sites was taken into account when deciding which sites were placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) .
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA) (7 U.S.C. § 136 & 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq.) (1973). The ESA was enacted to conserve threatened and endangered plants and animals as well as their habitats. In order to receive protection, a plant or animal species must be placed on the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants , maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (42 U.S.C. §§ 6901-6992k) (1976). RCRA governs hazardous substances and toxic waste. It requires the EPA to promulgate standards that apply to generators and transporters of hazardous waste and owners and operators of facilities which treat, store and dispose of such waste. RCRA was significantly amended by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984 (HSWA).
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (15 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq.) (1976). TSCA gives the EPA the ability to track the approximately 85,000 industrial chemicals currently produced or imported into the United States. Existing chemicals are listed on the TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory .
  • Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) (33 U.S.C. §§ 1401 et seq.).  The primary Federal environmental statute governing transportation of dredged material (soil or excavated material) for the purposes of disposal into ocean waters.

B. Rules and Regulations

In general, environmental statutes grant power to administrative agencies, such as the EPA, to propose and promulgate regulations. These regulations have the force and effect of law. Environmental law is often characterized by legal disputes between private parties and government agencies rather than between private parties. As a result, regulations promulgated by the EPA and state agencies are fundamentally important sources of environmental law. Regulations explain how various environmental statutes are interpreted and enforced.

The vast majority of federal regulations governing environmental law issues are found in Title 40 (Protection of Environment) of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Relevant regulations are also found in Titles 5, 10, 15, 18, 26, 33 and 50. The current print version of the CFR is located in the Federal Alcove; previous editions are located on Level 1 in Law Documents (AE 2.106/3). The CFR may be found online in PDF via GPO's Federal Digital System (FDSys) , 1996-current edition; and HeinOnline , 1938-previous edition. provides a searchable database of proposed and final rules, along with notices. You can easily run a basic search and use the filters provided on the results page to refine your search by agency, category, or type of document.

The Federal Register is the official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of all federal agencies and organizations. Beyond the traditional daily print editions of the Federal Register , electronic versions are available that make searching for specific areas, such as environmental regulations, easier. provides the current daily issue and back issues to 1994 in PDF, as well as a various search features.

Many of the regulations promulgated by the EPA and other federal agencies first begin as proposed regulations, and interested members of the public can comment on the proposed regulations in a process known as "informal" rulemaking or "notice and comment" rulemaking. The EPA's Docket Centers provide information about the rulemaking process. A docket is established each time a rulemaking process is announced. A docket is assigned a tracking number and contains Federal Register documents, supporting documents and public comments.

C. Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970 as an independent agency by Presidential Executive Order 11472 . The EPA is the primary enforcer of all federal environmental laws. The major laws that form the legal basis for the EPA's regulatory power can be found at the EPA's site . The EPA also has a helpful A-Z index of keywords that website users most frequently use, and links to pages covering statutory, regulatory, and other materials related to those keywords.

The EPA provides online access to many of its technical and public information documents . To locate studies, a search of the EPA website or viewing the EPA's topical webpages is recommended. The National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP/NEPIS) , which is a central repository for all EPA documents, contains thousands of titles in both print and electronic format. The Envirofacts Data Warehouse provides the public with direct access to EPA data.

The Environmental Appeals Board is the final agency decision-maker on administrative appeals under all major environmental statutes that EPA administers. Many of the Environmental Appeals Board's formal written opinions are available online through this site.

The EPA's Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) is an independent office in the Office of the Administrator of the EPA. Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) conduct hearings and render decisions in proceedings between the EPA and persons, businesses, and government entities that are regulated under environmental laws. All decisions issued by an ALJ are subject to review by the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). Decisions and orders of the ALJ (1974-present) are available at .

A branch of the EPA National Library Network is located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The Library is open to U.S. EPA staff; on-site contractors; and the public during limited hours.

To identify and learn about other divisions of the EPA, consult the EPA website or the United States Government Manual .

D. Other Federal Agencies

While the EPA is the federal agency most directly involved with environmental law issues, no single agency is in charge of administering and enforcing all federal environmental programs.  The federal agencies listed below also have some environmental law responsibilities.

The Environment and Natural Resources Division , which is part of the Department of Justice handles environmental and natural resources litigation on behalf of the United States. It is divided into nine litigating sections sections focusing on specific types of litigation. For example, the Environmental Enforcement Section brings civil enforcement cases on behalf of its client agencies, primarily the EPA. The Environmental Crimes Section is responsible for prosecuting individuals and industries which have violated federal environmental statutes.

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) was established by Congress within the Executive Office of the President as part of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). NEPA assigns CEQ the task of ensuring that federal agencies meet their obligations under the Act and plays a central role in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. The CEQ also assists and advises the President. While the CEQ does not have authority to enforce its regulations, courts often grant considerable deference to its guidelines.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) , an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the principal federal public health agency involved with hazardous waste issues. It is the lead agency which implements the health-related provisions of CERCLA, and it is charged under the Superfund Act to assess the presence and nature of health hazards at specific Superfund sites. ATSDR also assists the EPA in determining which substances should be regulated and the levels at which substances may pose a threat to human health. The ATSDR's Toxic Substances Portal provides access to information about toxic substances and how they affect our health.

The United States Department of the Interior is the nation's principal conservation agency, and maintains most of our nationally owned public lands and natural resources. Established in 1849, the Department of the Interior is comprised of a number of bureaus and offices including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Office of Surface Mining, the Office of Insular Affairs, and the Office of the Secretary.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers works on engineering projects aimed at protecting and restoring the environment, including hurricane and storm damage reduction infrastructure.  The Army Corps shares responsibility with the EPA for the regulation of the several hundred million cubic yards of sediment dredge produced annually.

The United States Department of Energy was formed in 1977, consolidating the former Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Federal Power Commission, and several other programs.  It is chiefly concerned with the policy and regulation surrounding energy and safety in producing, handling, and disposing of radioactive waste and products of nuclear programs.  The Office of Energy Management is directly responsible for clean-up of 107 designated Cold War legacy sites.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration , a part of the United States Department of Transportation , is the body responsible for regulating the safe and secure movement of hazardous materials by all modes of transportation. This includes oversight of design, construction, operation, maintenance, and spill response to the over 2 million miles of natural gas and liquid transportation pipelines in the United States.

E. Federal Data Sources

Several federal agencies, while they may not have direct or significant regulatory responsibility, can be sources for essential environmental data crucial to policy-making decisions. Some of the more significant sources are below.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is an office of Congress which prepares nonpartisan research reports to help Congress understand public policy issues, including technical and policy reports covering environmental issues. Although not all reports are made available to the public, the U.S. Department of State has a topical list of some of the more recent reports, including those covering environmental issues ( available online ). More sources of CRS reports can be found on our Federal Legislative History Research Guide .

The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) acquires and manages the national operational environmental satellites, as well as operates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Data Centers . The Data Centers include Environmental Information, Oceanographic Data, Climactic Data, and Geophysical Data.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) , under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), publishes the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards . The Guide provides basic, key information and data in abbreviated or tabular form for several hundred chemicals/classes, primarily workers and employers who may have to deal with hazardous materials.

The Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program maintains the TOXicology Data Network, or TOXNET . TOXNET is a collection of databases that covers information on chemicals and drugs, diseases and the environment, environmental health, risk assessment and regulations, and toxicology, among other areas. The Hazardous Substances Data Bank , a part of the collection, contains information on regulatory requirements for thousands of potentially hazardous chemicals. Citations to the relevant scientific literature are included.

III. North Carolina and Other State Materials

Despite the importance of federal environmental law, state and local governments have responsibility for enforcing most environmental laws. Generally, states are the primary authority for issuing permits and enforcing the laws subject to federal intervention only if they do not enforce environmental laws effectively enough. At the state level, an environmental agency carries out the pollution control laws, whereas an agriculture agency often handles regulation of pesticides. In most communities, the responsible agency is the city or county health department.

The American Association of Law Libraries publishes a reference guide to various state materials, State Practice Materials: Annotated Bibliographies (KF1 .S73 & online in HeinOnline ).  The bibliography provides state-by-state information on accessible sources including cases, statutes, administrative materials, periodicals, encyclopedias and treatises on all subjects, including those related to environmental law and policy.  Cheryl Rae Nyberg has also compiled an annotated bibliography, Subject Compilations of State Laws (Reference KF1 .F67 & in HeinOnline ) .   The collection provides access to state materials on environmental law generally, as well as environmental audits, impact statements, and protection and other more specific topics.

For more information on the states’ involvement with environmental regulation, see Selmi &  Manaster's State Environmental Law (KF3775.Z95 S45 1989; also available on WestlawNext ). This annually-updated treatise explains the role of state and local governments in the implementation of federal environmental law, and also discusses environmental laws within specific states.

The agency in North Carolina with the primary responsibility for environmental issues is the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) . Additionally, the EPA has divided the United States into 10 regions . Each EPA Regional Office is responsible within selected states for the execution of EPA programs. North Carolina is in Region 4 .

A. North Carolina Environmental Laws

North Carolina's environmental laws are found in the General Statutes of North Carolina, Annotated , located in the North Carolina Alcove, and available online . Most North Carolina environmental laws are found in Chapters 113 (Conservation and Development), 113A (Pollution Control and Environment), and 143, Article 21B (Air Pollution Control). Some of the key North Carolina environmental statutes are listed below:

  • Air Pollution Control, Chapter 143, §§ 143-215.105, et. seq.
  • North Carolina Environmental Policy Act of 1971, Chapter 113A, §§ 113A-1, et. seq.
  • Solid Waste Management law, Chapter 130A, §§ 130A-290, et. seq.
  • Hazardous Chemicals Right to Know Act, Chapter 95, §§ 95-173, et. seq.
  • North Carolina Drinking Water Act, Chapter 130A, §§ 130A-311, et. seq.
  • Oil Pollution and Hazardous Substances Control Act of 1978, Chapter 143, §§143-215.75, et. seq.
  • Water and Air Resources, Chapter 143, §§ 143-211, et. seq.

B. North Carolina Environmental Regulations

North Carolina's environmental regulations are found in the North Carolina Administrative Code , located in the North Carolina Alcove, and available online . Some of the key environmental regulations are listed in Title 15A (Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources); Title 1 (Department of Administration), Chapter 25 (North Carolina Environmental Policy Act); and Title 4 (Department of Commerce), Chapter 18 (North Carolina Hazardous Waste Management Commission).

C. Secondary Sources

Locate additional materials in the Duke Libraries Catalog with a subject search for Environmental law -- North Carolina .

Basics of Environmental Law (KFN7754.A75 B37 2003). A North Carolina Bar Association Foundation publication which contains an overview of primary federal and state environmental laws, underground storage tank regulations, criminal enforcement, environmental science, environmental audits, and the North Carolina Administrative Procedure Act. The 2011 edition contains a less-extensive overview of the primary laws.

Environmental Legislation and Regulatory Update (KFN7754.Z9 E54 2004). A North Carolina Bar Association Foundation publication which covers North Carolina environmental legislation as well as significant federal environmental case law, legislation and regulations.

The North Carolina General Practitioner’s Guide to Litigation (available in Bloomberg Law : Search & Browse > Books & Treatises > North Carolina CLE), published in 2012, has a chapter dedicated to familiarizing practitioners with environmental issues that they may face in connection with various other legal matters.  It also includes a list of DENR regional office and a sample environmental indemnification clause.

IV. International Materials

A. books & treatises.

Alam, Shawkat, Routledge Handbook of International Environmental Law (K3585 .R68 2013) consists of individual essays by experts in the field and meant to be an in-depth, comprehensive analysis of the key issues in international environmental law.  In addition to general issues, the Handbook also covers those particular to individual regions.

Brunée, Jutta et al., The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (K3585 .O94 2007 & online )  includes recent developments in international environmental law as well as analysis of its core assumptions and concepts.  The Handbook contains 47 chapters, attempting an interdisciplinary stance on the subject.

Guruswamy, Lakshman D. International Environmental Law in a Nutshell , 4th ed. (Reserve K3585 .G87 2012). This book addresses international issues such as global climate change, trans-boundary pollution, and the impact of world population on environmental law.

Kiss, Alexandre & Shelton, Dinah, Guide to International Environmental Law , (K3585 .K56 2007) addresses in particular the reciprocal relationship between international environmental systems and obligations and national/local ones.  It also addresses the potential interactions between environmental law and international trade, human rights, and refugee policies.

Koivuru, Timo, Introduction to International Environmental Law (K3585 .K6513 2014) provides a concise introduction to the basic issues, history, development, principles, branches, and issues of responsibility in environmental law in the international context.

Krämer, Ludwig, EU Environmental Law , 7th ed. (KJE6242 .K73 2010) focuses on environmental law for the European Union.

Stephens, Tim, International Courts and Environmental Protections (K3585 .S74 2009) provides the first comprehensive examination of international environmental litigation, looking at the variety of adjudicative bodies engaged in the settlement of environmental disputes.

B. Dictionaries  

Robinson, Nicholas A. et al., Dictionary of Environmental and Climate Change Law (Reference K3584.6 .D53 2013) defines terms employed in international agreements related to comparative and international environmental law.  It includes pinyin translation for each term in order to facilitate access to Mandarin variants.

C. Electronic Materials  

The American Society of International Law (ASIL) has published a series of topical guides, known collectively as the Electronic Resource Guide (ERG) since 1997.  The international environmental law chapter, compiled by Anne Burnett, provides a description of primary and secondary sources available electronically, focusing on materials available on the internet but including CD-ROMs, library catalog, and commercial services. In addition to providing information and access to many sources, the ERG also suggests search strategies.

ECOLEX is a simple, searchable database aimed at providing a comprehensive source of global environmental law. Its search engine interface allows you to limit your searches to treaties, legislation, court decisions, and general literature.

rev. Wickliffe Shreve 10/2015

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