Environmental Law



Environmental law is a body of law dedicated to the protection of the natural environment from degradation as a result of human influences. The earliest of legal remedies available for environmental problems can be found in the common law under trespass and nuisance. While these two causes of action are still valid, the “right to farm” laws enacted in all fifty states have limited their effect. Specific statutory protection of the environment began in 1899, when the United States passed the first federal environmental law. Entitled the Rivers and Harbors Act, it provided a legal alternative to limiting the amount of water pollution in the nation’s navigable waters. Modern environmental law began developing in the 1950s with the passage of statutes such as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (later referred to as the Clean Water Act) and the Clean Air Act. Read the full overview

Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

State and Federal Climate Change Statutes

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675

Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. §§ 136-136y

Federal Water Pollution and Control Act (a/k/a Clean Water Act), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1387

Federal Air Pollution and Control Act (a/k/a Clean Air Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401-7671q

Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1544

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370f

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 6901-6992k

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2629

Pollution Prevention Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 13101-13109


CAFO Regulations

Air Programs Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 50-99

Water Programs Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 100-149

Pesticide Programs Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 150-180

Radiation Protection Programs Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 190-197

Noise Abatement Programs Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 201-211

Ocean Dumping Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 220-238

Solid Waste Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 239-299

Superfund, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Programs Regulations,
40 C.F.R. pts. 300-399

Effluent Guidelines and Standards Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 400-471

Sewage Sludge Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 501-503

Energy Policy Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 600-699

Toxic Substances Control Act Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 700-799

Air Pollution Controls Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 1027-1074

Search Federal Register Regulations

Case Law

Case Law Index for Environmental Law

Administrative Law Decisions

EPA Office of Administrative Law Judges- Decisions, Orders and Filings

Environmental Appeals Board- Published Decisions by Statute

EPA Animal Feeding Operations Compliance and Enforcement Cases

USDA Office of Administrative Law Judges

USDA National Appeals Division

Center published USDA Judicial Officer’s Decisions

Center Research Publications

Approval of Pesticides (R. Rumley, 2012)

Water Quality Credit Trading: A Primer of Background Material (Jackson, 2010)

The Clean Water Act: Current Status and Potential Changes – PowerPoint Presentation (R. Rumley, 2010)

The Clean Water Authority Restoration Act: A Primer of Background Material (Goeringer & Rumley, 2009)

State and Federal Climate Change Statutes (Goeringer & Boling, 2009)

Environmental Law: Federal Laws That Affect Agriculture – PowerPoint Presentation (Springsteen, 2009)

Clarifying NPDES Requirements for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (Centner, 2007)

2005 Environmental Law Update (Feitshans, 2006)

From the Farm to the Factory: An Overview of the American and European Approaches to Regulation of the Beef Industry (Houston, 2006)

Supreme Court Considers Preemption of State Law Claims Under the FIFRA(Pittman, 2005)

Managing Carbon in a World Economy: The Role of American Agriculture (Garry, 2005)

Biodiversity and Law: Culture of Agriculture and Nature of Nature Conservation (Harbison, 2004)

Biodiversity and the Law of Nature Conservation in Great Britain (Harbison, 2004)

Government Oversight of Animal Feeding Operations (Centner, 2003)

Legal Liability Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology (Kershen, 2002)

Congressional Research Service Reports

CRS Subject(s):

Climate Change

Environmental Issues

Water Resources

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Environmental Law:

Environmental Issues
Land Use Regulation
Pesticides, Herbicides, Insecticides, Fungicides, Fertilizers

Reference Resources

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

ARS Research National Programs
National Programs: Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

Civil Works

Civil Works Environmental Compliance

Environmental Program

National Notices and Program Initiatives

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Environmental Laws Applicable to Construction and Operation of Biodiesel Production Facilities (2008)
Environmental Laws Applicable to Construction and Operation of Ethanol Plants (2007)

Agriculture Newsroom

Agriculture Publications

Agriculture Regulatory Matrix (2007)
Environmental Laws & Regulations

Regulatory Information: Agriculture Sector
Proposed Rules, Policies, and Guidance – Open for Comment

EPA’s Planning, Budget & Results
Agroecosystems Information
Environmental Management Systems (EMS)
Toxics Release Inventory Program 
Index of Agriculture Topics

Animals/Waste Topics:

Animal Feeding Operations Air Monitoring

Animal Feeding Operations – Compliance and Enforcement

Biosolids Recycling: Beneficial Technology for a Better Environment

Animal Feeding Operations: Compliance & Enforcement
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit: Agriculture
NPDES Permit: Animal Feeding Operations
Regulations Relating to Animal Feeding Operations

Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations (EPA/USDA)

Water Topics:

EPA Topic: Water
Clean Water Act (National Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center)
Watershed Assessment, Tracking and Environmental Results System (WATERS)

Nonpoint Source Pollution

EPA: Contaminants in Livestock and Poultry Manure and Implications for Water Quality (2013)
Water Quality Standards for Wetlands: National Guidance

Air Topics:

Clean Air Act Information

Hazardous Materials Topics:

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Information
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Information
Brownfields and Land Revitalization Cleanup Enforcement
Policy Toward Owners of Property Containing Contaminated Aquifers – Memorandum

Pesticides Topics:

Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides
Federal Register Pesticide Documents (1994-2009)

Fact Sheets

Nonpoint Source Pollution
Ag 101
Pesticides and NPDES Permits
Survey of the Nation’s Lakes
Animal Agriculture: Ten Tips to Prepare for EPA CAFO Inspections
Regulatory Definitions of Large, Medium, and Small CAFOs

Pesticide Factsheets

Waste-Derived Fertilizers

The Ecosystem Approach: Healthy Ecosystems and Sustainable Economies

Strategy for Water Quality Standards and Criteria: Setting Priorities to Strengthen the

Foundation for Protecting and Restoring the Nation’s Waters

NPDES: Animal Feeding Operations Publications

Wetland Factsheets

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Key Topics: Natural Resources & Environment
Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS)
Briefing Room: Crop & Livestock Practices
Briefing Room: Conservation Programs
Briefing Room: Environmental Quality
Briefing Room: Climate Change
Briefing Room: Irrigation and Water Use

Briefing Room: Land Use, Value, and Tenure

Briefing Room: Organic Agriculture

Briefing Room: Invasive Species

Key Topics: International Markets & Trade
Data Sets: Major Land Uses
ERS Publications

Selected ERS Recommended Readings:

Water Conservation in Irrigated Agriculture: Trends and Challenges in the Face of Emerging Demands (Schaible & Aillery, 2012)

Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators (Osteen et. al., 2012)

Nitrogen in Agricultural Systems: Implications for Conservation Policy (Ribaudo et. al., 2011)

Trends and Developments in Hog Manure Management: 1998-2009 (Key et. al., 2011)

Grassland to Cropland Conversion in the Northern Plains: The Role of Crop Insurance, Commodity, and Disaster Programs (Claassen et. al., 2011)

Report to Congress: Measuring the Indirect Land-Use Change Associated with Increased Biofuel Feedstock Production (Marshall et. al., 2011)

Integrating Invasive Species Prevention and Control Policies (Livingston & Osteen, 2008)

Economic Measures of Soil Conservation Benefits: Regional Values for Policy Assessment (Hansen & Ribaudo, 2008)

The Use of Markets to Increase Private Investment in Environmental Stewardship (Ribaudo et. al., 2008)

Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Conservation Programs
Environmental and Cultural Compliance
Fact Sheets
FSA Handbooks

Biomass Crop Assistance Program

Conservation Cost-Share Automation System Operations
CCC Conservation Automation System Operations
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
Agricultural Resource Conservation Program
CRP Offer and Contract Processing 
Emergency Conservation Program
Emergency Forest Restoration Program

Environmental Quality Programs
Environmental Risk Management

Stewardship Incentive Program

Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

Pesticides and Wildlife
Endangered Species
Digest of Federal Resource Laws
Endangered Species Act: Information for Landowners

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Water Quality Information Center (WQIC)
Agricultural Environmental Management
Natural Resources and Environment
National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC)
Soil and Water Management

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Air Quality in Animal Agriculture– eXtension

Animal Manure Management– eXtension

Environmental Planning on Livestock and Poultry Operations

National Emphasis Area: Natural Resources & Environment

Pesticide Environmental Stewardship

Small Farm Environmental Stewardship


Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Agricultural Air Quality Task Force

NRCS Conservation Programs

NRCS Field Office Directives
Field Office Technical Guides (FOTG)
Regional Boundaries, State Offices, and Service Centers
Agricultural Management Assistance

WQIC Dynamic Bibliographies (organized by topic)
Water Quality Technical Resources
Air Quality and Atmospheric Change
National Conservation Practice Standards
NEPA: Environmental Compliance

United States Geological Survey (USGS)

National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA)
Water Resources
Animal Feeding Operations: Effects on Hydrologic Resources and the Environment
Toxic Substances Hydrology Program: Animal Feeding Operations

United States Forest Service

Pesticide Management and Coordination

Ecosystem Services

Forest Service Publications

Forest Service Directives

Climate Change and Water (2008)

Water and the Forest Service (2000)

Water Quality Protection Measures

Congressional Resources

Reports on Agriculture and Food (Government Accountability Office)

Reports on Natural Resources and Environment (Government Accountability Office)

Reports on Energy (Government Accountability Office)

U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

U.S. House Committee on Agriculture

Other Federal Resources

Environmental Health Services: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Chemical Contaminants, Metals, Natural Toxins, & Pesticides Guidance Documents & Regulations (Food and Drug Administration)

Pesticide Illness and Injury Surveillance (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC)

National Ag Safety Database–Chemicals/Pesticides (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC)

Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences (U.S. Global Change Research Program)


A Landowner’s Guide to Hydraulic Fracturing: Addressing Environmental and Health Issues in Oil & Gas Leases (Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic)

Environmental and Socioeconomic Indicators for Measuring Outcomes of On-Farm Agricultural Production in the United States (Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 2012)

General Practitioner’s Guide to Livestock Production and Manure Management Plans in Iowa (Epley, 2008)

Legal Liability Issues for Handling Manure (Hall, OH St. Ext., 2007)

Is Your Farm “EQIPed” for Conservation? A Farmers’ Guide to Understanding the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (Farmers’ Legal Action Group – FLAG, 2007)

A Farmer’s Guide To Agriculture and Water Quality Issues (N.C. State U, 2005)

U.S. Agri-Environmental Programs and their Potential Implications for Agricultural Trade (Cooper, U. CA-Berkley, 2005)

International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – FAO, 2010)

Air Emissions From Animal Feeding Operations: Current Knowledge, Future Needs (National Academies Press, 2003)

Iowa Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Air Quality Study (U. of IA, 2003)

EPA Addresses Conflict Between FIFRA and CWA (IL Pesticide Review, 2003)

The Future Role of Pesticides in U.S. Agriculture (National Academies Press, 2000)

Small Farms Fact Sheet Series (Livestock and Poultry Environmental Stewardship Commission- eXtension)

Breaking New Ground: Carbon Management at the Farm Scale (Kleinschmit, Center for Rural Affairs)

Additional Resources

Environmental Law Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)
Climate Change and Carbon Management Blog (Alston + Bird LLP)
Environment, Energy, and Resources Section (American Bar Association)
American Farmland Trust
Pesticide Information Profiles (EXTOXNET)
Pesticide Management (FAO)