The Implementation of Environmental Law

MacDonnell, Lawrence J. ; Vogely, William A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 9
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
This section begins with an introduction to several key environmental laws. This is followed by a discussion of some of the issues raised by such environmental regulation. Finally the subject of regulatory reform is addressed. Overview of Selected Major Environmental Laws The number, type and complexity of environmental laws and regulations affecting mineral resources development have grown at an astonishing rate since the 1960s. The most significant laws and regulations are those addressing the use of the public lands; those concerned with air quality, water quality, and surface reclamation; and those defining government responsibility for its actions having important environmental consequences. The laws and regulations governing activities on the public lands will be taken up in the section 5.15C, "Minerals and Land Management." In this section we will concentrate on five primary laws: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The Clean Air Act: The legislative and regulatory framework for controlling air pollution has developed in a series of steps. Most important for present purposes are the Clean Air Act of 1970 (P.L. 9 1-604) and the 1977 Amendments (P.L. 95-95). The rather complex air quality control scheme includes four key elements-national ambient air quality standards, state implementation plans, the prevention of significant deterioration program, and the non- attainment program. National Air Quality Standards. The 1970 Clean Air Act is a landmark law because it contains the first explicit recognition that pollution is a nationwide problem requiring a national control program. The federal government through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was to establish national air quality standards for at least the six pollutants named in the Act (sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, total suspended particulates, photochemical oxidants, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen dioxide). These standards were to be established so as to protect public health, "allowing an adequate margin of safety." The cost of achieving these standards is not to be considered. The 1970 Act unrealistically required that these standards be achieved in all areas of the country by 1975. As the program has developed, the air quality control regions are now to be designated as "attainment" or "nonattainment" with respect to each of the national standards. State Implementation Plans. Under the Act the states are given the primary role in achieving the ambient standards. States are to develop and implement control plans governing emissions from all existing and new sources. These plans can include emission limitations for existing stationary sources, transportation control plans to reduce emissions from mobile sources, and pre- construction review of new stationary sources to assure compliance with new source performance standards. The EPA must approve all state implementation plans. Sanctions are given to the EPA to be applied if states fail to submit acceptable
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