In the United States since the 1960s, public concern for ensuring a healthy environment has given rise to a complex multilevel system of environmental laws that includes federal, state, tribal, and municipal statutes, regulations, and court decisions. The system of environmental law addresses a wide and evolving array of concerns, from air and water pollution to biodiversity and ecosystem protection. Environmental engineers and scientists and environmental managers in private and public sector organizations play critical roles in ensuring that their organizations comply with these legal requirements and in shaping the requirements through public rulemaking processes and through legally binding agreements that are tailored to individual parties.
For purposes of this chapter, we define environmental law as the system of laws and legal procedures that aim to prevent, minimize, remedy, or compensate for actions that could harm the environment or harm public health and welfare through environmental pathways. This system stems from the following sources of law: