Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke. -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
The United States does not have one, overarching environmental framework law. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. secs. 4321-4370c, contains the closest thing to a national environmental policy. Congress declared in NEPA that it is "the continuing policy of the federal government, in cooperation with State and local governments, and other concerned public and private organizations, to use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and to fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans." 42 U.S.C. sec. 4331(a).
The Federal government has the continuing responsibility "to use all practicable means, consistent with other national policy, to improve and coordinate Federal plans, functions, programs, and resources to the end that the Nation may: (1) fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations; (2) assure for all Americans safe, healthful, productive, and aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings; (3) attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, risk to health or safety, or other undesirable and unintended consequences; (4) preserve important historic, cultural and natural aspects of our national heritage and maintain, wherever possible, an environment which supports diversity and variety of individual choice; (5) achieve a balance between population and resource use which will permit high standards of living and a wide sharing of life's amenities; and (6) enhance the quality of renewable resources and approach the maximum attainable recycling of depletable resources." 42 U.S.C. sec. 4331(b). This national policy statement does not substantially influence the development or implementation of environmental laws.
Implementation of Agenda 21
The President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) is currently thecountry's only national effort to implement Agenda 21 (although the Executive Ordercreating the PCSD does not explicitly mention Agenda 21). Exec. Order No. 12,852,58 Fed . Reg. 35,841(1993). The PCSD's mission is (i) to develop and recommend a national sustainabledevelopment action strategy that will foster economic vitality; (ii) to develop an annualPresidential Honors Program recognizing outstanding achievements in su stainabledevelopment; and (iii) raise public awareness and participation in sustainable developmentissues. The PCSD is solely an advisory council empowered only to make recommendationsto the President.
Summary of Enviromental Law in the United States - CEC
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