History of US Environmental Regulation
Current US Environmental Framework
Summary of Main US Environmental Laws
Case Study: Water Resources in the USA
Internet Links
Other Resources
Institutional System PDF
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Current Environmental Framework in the USA

· Congress passes medium specific environmental law or statute that sets overall goals for policy development. Primary goals typically focus on human health with secondary goals related to other environmental objectives such as aesthetics, ecology, recreation, and agriculture. Laws typically address local environmental problems (some regional).
· Federal agency (typically EPA) authorized to implement that law by developing federal regulations and enforcement strategies that meet the overall goals.
· Typical regulatory structure:
- Ambient goals set for medium that typically aim to reduce risk as much as possible in the overall environment (typically for a watershed or an air quality region).
- Technology-based standards established primarily for industries (and some consumer products such as cars) that state the pollution control technology that must be used for wastestreams from each industry.
- Industry-specific permits issued by EPA or state regulator that specify pollutant limits for each industry site.
- Self-reporting of compliance by industry.
- Enforcement by EPA or state regulator with civil and/or criminal penalties for non compliance
- Additional requirements may be imposed by each state.

Several problems with the current framework have been discussed, including:
· controls are primarily on industry and consumers neglected
· standards often outdated
· only as good as enforcement
· no incentive to reduce pollution
· states may have different approaches to regulation
· relationship between goals and standards not clear
· goals often impossible to achieve
· medium specific regulations may encourage transfer of pollutants from one medium to the next

Possible alternatives to the current regulatory system include:
· Emissions trading
· Multimedia regulations
· Regional permit setting
· Risk-based regulations
· Performance-based regulations

  ©Copyright 2003 Carnegie Mellon University
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 9653194. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.