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. §§ 9601–9628; 9631-9641; 9651-9662; 9671-9675

Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. §§ 121:135-136y

Federal Water Pollution and Control Act (Clean Water Act (CWA)), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1275; 1281-1301; 1311; 1341-1346; 1361-1377; 1381-1388.-1387

Federal Air Pollution and Control Act (Clean Air Act (CAA)),

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 Civil Cases and Settlements by Statute

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

Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017

Subjects- published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:

Climate Change

Environmental Issues

Water Resources

CRS Reports By Topic:

Agricultural Policy

Environmental Policy


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
Civil Works: Regulatory Program and Permits
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)
Air Monitoring at Agricultural Operations
Agriculture and Air Quality
Agriculture: Animal Production
Agriculture: Crops
Agriculture: Pasture, Rangeland, and Grazing
Agriculture: Upcoming and Recent Compliance Dates
Agriculture: Laws and Regulations by Farm Activity
Agriculture: Information from Federal, State, and Local Resources
Agriculture: Programs, Best Management Practices, and Topics of Interest
Agriculture Newsroom
Agriculture Publications
National Agricultural Center
Agriculture Sources of Nutrient Pollution
Agriculture Regulatory Matrix
National Service Center for Environmental Publications
The Sources and Solutions: Agriculture
Environmental Laws & Regulations
Regulatory Information: Agriculture Sector
Proposed Rules, Policies, and Guidance – Open for Comment
EPA’s Planning, Budget & Results
Environmental Management Systems (EMS)
Toxics Release Inventory Program 

Index of Agriculture Topics

Animals/Waste Topics:

Clean Air Act and Animal Feeding Operations
CERCLA and EPCRA  Reporting Requirements
Biosolids Recycling: Beneficial Technology for a Better Environment
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Basics
Animal Feeding Operations-Permitting Program
NPDES AFO’s Policy Documents
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 of Emerging Concern including Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (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):Laws and Regulations
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 (1994-2018)

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
Nutrient Management and Fertilizer
Strategy for Water Quality Standards and Criteria: Setting Priorities to Strengthen the
Foundation for Protecting and Restoring the Nation’s Waters
Wetland Factsheets

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Key Topics: Natural Resources & Environment
Climate Change
Conservation Programs
Environmental Quality
Organic Agriculture
Key Topics: Farm Practices and ManagementFarm Practices and Management
Chemical Inputs
Crop & Livestock Practices
Irrigation & Water Use
Risk Management
Farm Economy
Agricultural Research and Productivity
Farm & Commodity Policy
Land Use, Land Value, & Tenure
Rural Economy & Population
Natural Amenities
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
Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS)
ERS Newsroom

Selected ERS Recommended Readings:

Conservation Compliance: How Farmer Incentives Are Changing in the Crop Insurance Era (Claassen et. al., 2017)
Farmers Employ Strategies To Reduce Risk of Drought Damages Wallander, Marshall, & Aillery, 2017)
Understanding Irrigated Agriculture (Shaible, 2017)
Energy Consumption and Production in Agriculture (Hitaj, 2017)
Study Finds Crop Insurance Has Small Effect on Environmental Quality (Claassen, 2017)
Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2012 (Bigelow & Borchers, 2017)
Conservation Compliance in the Crop Insurance Era (Claassen & Bowman, 2017)
Declines in Pollinator Forage Suitability Were Concentrated in the Midwest, the Over-Summering Grounds for Many Honeybees (Hitaj, Smith, & Hellerstein, 2017)
Global Ethanol Mandates: Opportunities for U.S. Exports of Ethanol and DDGS (Beckman & Nigatu, 2017)
Dedicating Agricultural Land to Energy Crops Would Shift Land Use (Sands & Malcolm, 2017)
Land Use, Land Cover, and Pollinator Health: A Review and Trend Analysis (Hellerstein et. at., 2017)
The Evolving Distribution of Payments From Commodity, Conservation, and Federal Crop Insurance Programs (McFadden & Hoppe, 2017)
Mergers and Competition in Seed and Agricultural Chemical Markets (MacDonald, 2017)
Genetically Modified Alfalfa Production in the United States (Wechsler & Milkove, 2017)
Dedicated Energy Crops and Competition for Agricultural Land ( Sands et. al., 2017)
The Role of Fossil Fuels in the U.S. Food System and the American Diet (Canning et. al., 2017)
Farm Profits and Adoption of Precision Agriculture (Schimmelpfennig, 2016)
Precision Agriculture Technologies and Factors Affecting Their Adoption (Schimmelpfennig, 2016)
An Economic Perspectice on Soil Health (Bowman, Wallander, & Lynch, 2016)
No-Till or Strip-Till Use Varies by Region (Wade & Claassen, 2016)
Conservation-Practice Adoption Rates Vary Widely by Crop and Region (Wade, Claassen, & Wallander, 2015)
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
Programs and Services
All Programs
Biomass Crop Assistance Program
Select Programs

Energy Programs
CCC Conservation Automation System Operations
Conservation Reserve Program(CRP)
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
CRP Grasslands
Emergency Conservation Program
Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP)
Farmable Wetlands Program
Grasslands Reserve Program
“Grassroots” Source Water Protection Program
Transition and Incentives Program
Agricultural Resource Conservation Program
CRP Offer and Contract Processing
Environmental Quality Programs
Environmental Risk Management
Stewardship Incentive Program
Conservation Cost-Share Automation System Operations

Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

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

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Water Quality Information Center (WQIC)
Agricultural Law Information Partnership (USDA)
Agricultural Environmental Management
Manure Management
Pest Management
Precision Agriculture
Climate Change
Regional Information
Social and Legal Issues
Tools and Guides
Water Availability
Water Quality
Natural Resources and Environment
National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC)
Soil Resource 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-eXtension
National Emphasis Area: Natural Resources & Environment-eXtension
Pesticide Environmental Stewardship-eXtension
Small Farm Environmental Stewardship-eXtension
Water and Agriculture Information Center (WQIC)
Natural Resources 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 eXtension

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Agricultural Air Quality Task Force
NRCS Conservation Programs
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
Conservation Planning
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Natural Resources Assessment
Conservation Compliance
Alphabetical Listing & Archive
Technical Assistance
Financial Assistance

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
Controlling Invasive Species
Climate Change and Water (2008)
Water and the Forest Service (2000)
Water Quality Management

Congressional Resources

Reports on Agriculture and Food (Government Accountability Office)
Reports on Natural Resources and Environment (Government Accountability Office)
Environmental Law (Government Accountability Office)
Land Management (Government Accountability Office)
Natural Resources (Government Accountability Office)
Pollution Control (Government Accountability Office)
Environmental Protection (Government Accountability Office)
Environmental Policies (Government Accountability Office)
Environmental Monitoring (Government Accountability Office)
Reports on Energy (Government Accountability Office)
U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
U.S. House Committee on Agriculture
U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources
U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce
Reports on Energy (Government Accountability Office)

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)


Surface and Groundwater Regulation (Hill & Aldredge, 2016)

One if by Land, Two if by Sea, Three if by Air: The Changing Face of Environmental Regulation of Production Agriculture (Ferrell & Lashmet, 2016)

Waters of the United States and the Clean Water Act: Implications for Agriculture (Bradbury & Smith, 2016)

The Creature from the Potomac Basin: Environmental Law Under the Trump Administration (Ferrell, Goeringer & Lashmet, 2017)

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

Environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996-2015: Impacts on pesticide use and carbon emissions (Brookes & Barfoot, 2017)

Trade in the US and Mexico helps reduce environmental costs of agriculture (Martinez-Melendez & Bennett, 2016)

Regional effects of agricultural conservation practices on nutrient transport (U.S. Forest Service, 2016)

Comparative analysis of environmental impacts of agricultural production systems, agricultural input efficiency, and food choice (Clark & Tillman, 2017)

The Nature and Properties of Soils (Weil & Brady, 2016)

Large Scale GIS Geodatabase of Soil Parameters Supporting the Modeling of Conservation Practice Alternatives in the United States (Arnold et. al., 2017)

Pesticide Drift Liability (Part 1): Potential Legal Theories (Tex. Agric. L. Blog, 2016)

Today’s Farms Need Specialized Environmental Coverage (Insurance Journal, Scheider, 2016)

Cautionary tale of manure, insurance, and the neighbor’s well (Boley-Hellwarth, 2015)

National Indicators Report (Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 2016))

Energy Use
Land Use
Soil Carbon
Water Quality
Soil Conservation
Irrigation Water Use
Socioeconomic Indicators

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 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)