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Environmental law

Environmental Law

As recently as the early 1960s, the phrase “environmental law”would probably have produced little more than a puzzled look, even from many lawyers. Such issues as clean air, pure water and freedom from noise pollution were not important public concerns.

There were, of course, numerous state and some federal laws intended to protect America’s rivers and streams from excessive industrial pollution and to guard wildlife from the depredations of man. But these regulations were generally ignored.

With enforcement power dispersed among many federal, state and local agencies, most of which were seriously undermanned, and with noncompliance penalties so slight as to have little more than harassment value, there were few incentives to obey the laws.

Indeed, many environmental statutes were so little publicized and so vaguely worded that their existence was hardly known and their meaning was scarcely understood.

Then, in 1962, came a book called Silent Spring by Rachel Carson(雷切尔·卡尔森). A powerful indictment of America’s disregard of ecology, Silent Spring was aimed chiefly at the wholesale use of chemical pesticides, especially DDT.

In 1965 a court action took place that ranks in environment importance with the publication of Silent Spring.

That was the reversal by a court of appeals of a Federal Power Commission decision to grant a license for a Consolidated Edison power plant(爱迪生联合发电厂) at Storm King Mountain(斯托姆金山) on the Hudson River in New Y ork.

The court ordered new proceedings that were to “include as a basic concern the preservation of natural beauty and of national historic shrines.”

Today concern for the environment extends into such areas as chemical pollution of the air we breathe and the water we drink, strip mining, dam and road building, noise pollution, offshore oil drilling, nuclear energy, waste disposal, the use of aerosol cans and nonreturnable beverage containers and a host of other issues.

In fact, there is hardly a realm of national life that is not touched by the controversy that often pits those who style themselves environmentalists against proponents of economic growth in our energy-consuming society, the problem is to balance the needs of the environment against those of the economy or consumers trying to cope with the high cost of living without destroying the earth on which we all depend.

In the late 1960s both state and federal governments began enacting legislation and establishing new agencies to set and enforce standards of clean air and water and to protect America’s remaining open land from abuse by overzealous developers.

The federal Clean Air Act of 1967, the Clean Air Act Amendment of 1970 and the 1972 amendments to the federal Water Pollution Control Act set new high standards for environmental quality, in many cases states have followed suit by setting their own tough standards of air, water and land use.

At every session of congress and at most sessions of state legislatures new bills are bought forth, either to strengthen or weaken environmental standards, and hearings are held in which groups with different interests battle through private lobbies, industrial associations, labor unions and citizens’ organizations to effect the legislation to their liking.

Inevitably, trade-offs are made—such as a lowering of mandated auto pollution standards for the

Environmental law

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