Understanding Environmental Regulations

Environmental regulations are developed and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state/local environmental agencies. These regulations change as new information becomes available. For companies, this means that it’s important to stay informed on the current laws and also to maintain a good understanding of new laws as they may impact the way that you do business. Smaller businesses can often have a more difficult time staying up to date because they don’t have dedicated staff to manage EPA/local requirements.

The Encamp platform provides an easy to manage solution for all of your regulatory requirement needs.

One of the environmental regulations you should be aware of is the Clean Water Act. You’ll also want to stay up to date on a Clean Air Act definition. There will often be other regulations that can impact your industry, as well.

The Clean Water Act

In 1948, the United States enacted the first major water pollution law, The Federal Water Pollution Control Act. This was the foundation to help maintain clean water and monitor pollutants that were entering our natural resources. That law was amended in 1972 to add sweeping regulations as scientific evidence of best practices emerged. The 1972 Act was referred to as the Clean Water Act (CWA). Under the CWA, the EPA implemented pollution control programs which set the standards for pollutant discharging, wastewater and water quality.

Since 1972, there have been several rounds of amendments to the law.

The Clean Air Act Summary

The Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1963 was one of the most comprehensive environmental laws enacted by the United States. Major amendments to the Clean Air Act were made in 1970 and 1990, which gave more structure to the act and more authority to the EPA to regulate air pollution. The CAA set standards for reducing air pollution, protecting the ozone, reducing acid rain, toxic pollutants and improving air quality.


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed in 1970 along with the Environmental Quality Improvement Act and the National Environmental Education Act. In 1970 President Nixon proposed an executive reorganization that consolidated many federal environmental responsibilities under one agency, The EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA is composed of 10 regions, each regional office is responsible for implementing the agency’s programs within the states in their regions. Some environmental programs have been specifically delegated to states or tribal land authorities. Although state environmental laws may vary, most mirror the federal laws.

There have been several rounds of environmental laws added to the Environmental Protection Agency over the years since the EPA was first founded. There are changes to various statutes as new data and scientific evidence becomes available. Over the course of its history, the EPA, the US has dramatically improved the air and water quality nationally. With proper protocols in place, the EPA works to decrease harmful toxins and make new changes to ensure that companies and human consumption don’t deplete resources more than is necessary.

At the same time, the EPA is a balancing act to make certain that companies can meet regulatory requirements affordably and that citizens are able to access all of the tools they need to make necessary changes. For your business, it’s important that you maintain regulatory compliance. You may also note that individual citizens must maintain compliance through things like emissions testing for automobiles.

What Does the EPA Do?

The EPA is an agency of the United States federal government whose mission is to protect human and environmental health. The main purpose of the agency is to mandate and regulate environmental protection actions. Some of the functions that the EPA serves include the enforcement of environmental law, licensing, research and development, monitoring environmental issues, reporting and analyzing environmental data, and developing environmental education and guidance.

There are many laws and guidelines involved in the EPA’s oversight. The development of these acts include all matters that might impact the environment and health of the citizens, as well as concerns over damage to the planet caused by human consumption and manufacturing. EPA laws are diverse, spanning chemical safety and use, clean air, clean water, endangered species, energy policies, hazardous waste and the FDCA, to name a few. As you can see, there are many variables and each law has its own regulatory and reporting standards which may impact your individual business.

A full list of EPA regulations can be found on the Laws and Executive Orders section of the EPA website.

New EPA Regulations 2019

The EPA is not a stagnant entity. The regulatory requirements are subject to change, which is why businesses must do their part to maintain an updated understanding of current laws. In recent years, there have been many changes to EPA regulations. In an effort to make budgetary improvements and to diminish regulatory requirements for businesses, the Trump Administration has sought to streamline the way that the EPA functions. The new changes impact regulations surrounding air pollution and emissions, drilling and extraction, infrastructure and planning, water pollution, toxic substances, etc.

The Trump Administration has rolled back or repealed several measures that were put in place in previous administrations.

When Was the Clean Air Act Passed?

The Clean Air Act passed in 1963. The Act is one of the environmental laws and regulations that aims to improve the health of citizens and protect the natural health of the environment through scientific research and regulatory oversight. There have been some changes to the Clean Air Act recently affecting the environmental protection laws but if you’re wondering if the clean air act is still in effect, it very much is. There was a rollback on some requirements, which may mean that your company has a simplified way to maintain compliance.

Under the Clean Air Act, scientific data is monitored to make regulatory requirements on air pollution, such as emissions. The list of environmental policies developed and monitored by the EPA include the Clean Air Act, Atomic Energy, Chemical Safety, the Clean Water Act, and many other issues that can impact the environment. For smaller businesses, there may be several environmental laws and policies to keep track of that intersect with their model of business.

The CAA has evolved over the course of its history. Between State emissions and the EPA’s national emission standards, air quality has continually improved over the course of time since the law was first enacted. There are many environmental regulations examples included within the Clean Air Act. As new information becomes available, the agency amends current guidelines in order to maintain the safest regulatory standards for the environment, while working to improve the quality of education and guidance for companies and citizens.

As an overview, the law enacted in 1970 sought to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards, NAAQS. Those standards were revised in 1977 and again in 1990 as new scientific research became available. They have evolved to include emissions, hazardous pollutants, and technology-based standards.

Examples of Environmental Laws

The list of environmental laws and regulations evolves as new information becomes available. There are state vs Federal environmental regulation concerns to consider, as well. Different states have their own guidelines that govern the people and companies within their own home state. They also must meet the federal requirements, in addition to their state laws. The environmental laws and regulations PDF  gives a good overview of environmental regulations and policies for local government communities, though it was published in 2010. The 40 cfr pdf is the code of Federal Regulations related to Title 40, the protection of the environment.

Generally speaking, states that are predominantly Democratically controlled have stricter environmental regulations. Often states that have a great deal of energy or oil industry have less restrictive environmental laws. However state environmental regulations are mainly required to be more stringent than Federal level or make a case as to why Federal regulations are too strict for their state.

Currently, one of the states with strictest environmental regulations is California. The California EPA also has a great deal of control over the regulations that nationwide companies maintain because their economy is so robust. For instance, car manufacturers stay in regulation with California’s EPA regulations because they represent 1/5 of the US economy. It’s too large of a market to lose and in their best interest to manufacture automobiles that meet these strict standards.

State and local governments can make their own regulations that are outside of the requirements set forth by the Federal environmental regulations. These may include things specific to the state, such as the use of pesticides in states with a great deal of agriculture.

Federal regulations have recently changed. The new EPA regulations 2020 has recently announced seven areas of priority for the time span from 2020-2023. Six of these measures are National Compliance Initiatives or NCIs. They include initiatives to improve air quality, ensure clean water, and a regulation to prevent and monitor the release of hazardous chemicals.

The last regulatory change initiated for these current years is the Lead Action Plan which was created to map and decrease lead exposure in the community.

Environmental Regulations by State

Each state has its own list of environmental regulations. As pointed to above with the case of California, businesses that also manufacture products or do business on a national scale may need to pay special attention to the regulations that impact their own industry. The types of environmental policies may be varied and they often have a direct impact on citizens, as well as companies.

For example, in the state of Illinois, the Consumer Electronic Recycling Act governs the recycling or re-use of all electronics. This act was put into place for the convenience of the citizens, making it easier to find a responsible way to dispose of old cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices that should not be thrown into the household garbage. This measure also seeks to make it far less likely that the population will throw away electronics in a manner that’s bad for the environment.

Another example of environmental laws that impact citizens is in the blue bag or recycling programs across the country. In many cases, recycling may be done on a small community level at the town or city’s discretion. For many citizens, this means separate receptacles for food garbage, paper garbage, and plastic refuse. These requirements extend to businesses, as well as private homes.

Regulations about the environment and human health can be fairly extensive. There are considerations, such as the disposal of bio-medical waste and other environmental issues. EPA regulations for healthcare are exceptionally strict, as are the regulations that govern communication, patient records, and patient privacy. Some industries are less regulated. For medicine, however, the very nature of the industry means that there needs to be strict oversight.

For healthcare specifically, the types of environmental regulations include emissions and air pollutants that can be a hazard with some of the current medical tools and equipment, such as sterilizing equipment. This industry also has to pay especially close attention to waste disposal and the destruction of medical waste. There are specific requirements that need to be adhered to based on the healthcare organization, as well. Dental practices, hospitals, physicians’ practices, and veterinary clinics all use set tools that must meet EPA standards.

This environmental regulations pdf provides summaries of all of the major acts and statutes that are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.




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