Environmental Issues: U.S. Law & Policy

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All Documents in U.S. Law & Policy

Our Forests Aren't Fuel
Overview
Forests are for wild animals, fresh air, clean water, and hiking with our kids. But now industry wants to burn our forests for biomass electricity, polluting the air we breathe and stealing from future generations.
NRDC Policy Basics
An Introduction to Federal Environmental Policy

Analysis
NRDC works with Congress, the White House, courts and federal agencies to defend and expand the framework of U.S. environmental policies to safeguard the health of our communities and environment.
2013 Anti-Environmental Budget Riders
Overview
House Republican leaders spent the summer trying to load up last-minute, must-pass legislation with anti-environmental riders. They are trying to delay or repeal protections for air, water, health, lands and species by adding provisions to unrelated spending and debt legislation. If their efforts succeed, they will have reversed many years of environmental progress.
America’s Underwater Parks
The Marine Life Protection Act Safeguards Our Special Undersea Places

Fact Sheet
More than 130 years ago, the United States began to protect our most treasured areas on land by creating National Parks. Now, California has extended that kind of protection to special marine areas by creating underwater parks. In December 2012, the state completed a network of marine parks along its entire coast to help sustain and revitalize the rich web of ocean life. Get document in pdf.
Never Eliminate Public Advice!
Fact Sheet
With an emphasis on "smart from the start" federal decision making, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) protects our health, our homes, and our environment. Thanks to this law, hundreds of millions of Americans have participated in important federal decisions. We are able to know the risk a government project or practice could pose to our community or health because of NEPA -- and we are guaranteed a voice.
Federal Fiscal Crisis
Analysis
Early in 2013, Congress must make budget decisions about the remainder of this year. Looming cuts threaten essential environmental programs, while tax loopholes continue to subsidize polluters.
2012 Anti-Environmental Riders
Congress is at it again with another significant assault on health and environment protections.

Overview
Lawmakers must pass 12 spending bills for fiscal 2013 to fund the government, and some House Republicans are seizing this opportunity again to jam through unpopular anti-environmental policies that have nothing to do with spending.
Relieving Pain at the Pump
Thanks to Stronger Standards, Consumers Have More Fuel-Efficient Choices

Fact Sheet
As gas prices are once again soaring, the oil industry and its allies are renewing their calls for more drilling, more pipelines, and continued taxpayers subsidies. But the reality is that greatly increased domestic drilling has failed to lower gasoline prices and had no impact on stopping the latest spike in global oil prices. The good news is that with the proposed standards that require the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg), new cars by 2025 will get twice the fuel efficiency and use half of much gas as today’s cars. But the best news is that drivers do not have to wait until 2025 to reap the cost savings benefits of stronger fuel efficiency standards. In fact, thanks to the first phase of these stronger standards that started in model year (MY) 2012, a bumper crop of fuel-efficient cars are in the showrooms today. Drivers can start saving money immediately by trading in their gas guzzlers for today’s gas sippers. Get document in pdf.
Keeping Our Waters Safe:
The 112th Congress Must Not Strip the EPA’s Duty to Protect Our Waters from Pesticides

Legislative Analysis
Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers pesticides that can be sold and used in the United States. When the EPA approves a pesticide under FIFRA, however, it merely concludes that its use “will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” As the growing evidence of pesticide-contaminated waters shows, FIFRA and its labeling requirements are insufficient to protect many waters across the country. Only the Clean Water Act specifically aims to restore the most polluted waters or protect pristine waters from contamination. Despite this, special interest efforts—pushed by the chemical companies—are underway in Congress to undermine the Clean Water Act by exempting pesticide applications from the protections and safeguards of water quality monitoring and permits. Get document in pdf.
Is Driving Driving the Economy?
Research Shows We Can Thrive More With Less Traffic

Fact Sheet
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has examined the connection between traffic and economic development. What is the relationship between America’s gross domestic product (GDP) and the amount Americans drive,or vehicle miles travelled (VMT)? The answer to this question is vital if we want to both revive a flagging economy and keep our air free of pollution. Fortunately, a look at recent trends and the relationships between VMT, GDP, and household income show that the amount we drive, in fact, does not drive economic growth. Get document in pdf.
Reject the American Energy and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 7)
Fact Sheet
Republican leadership is hijacking a must-pass bill in order to advance an extreme agenda. Faced with a $75 billion gap in the transportation reauthorization bill, they are pushing the so-called American Energy and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 7), which vastly expands irresponsible oil drilling, and as a ploy says the revenues will be used to fund transportation. If enacted, H.R. 7 would, at best, produce less than 1 percent of the revenue needed to fund the transportation bill. This proposal would not create jobs. Rather, it would kill a transportation bill--the one true jobs bill Congress could pass this year even though there is a bipartisan approach moving through the Senate. Get document in pdf.
Congress Must Get Transportation Bill Back on Track
Overview
Once again, Republican leadership is hijacking a must-pass bill in order to advance an extreme anti-environmental agenda. The House should be working on a thoughtful transportation policy that could actually become law - not playing games by adding misguided and destructive measures to the already-delayed transportation bill.
Anti-Environmental Budget Riders
A significant assault on health and environmental protection is underway in Congress.

Overview
Lawmakers must pass 12 spending bills for fiscal 2012 to fund the government, and some House Republicans are seizing this opportunity to jam through unpopular anti-environmental policies that have nothing to do with spending.
The Facts about Light Bulbs and Mercury
Fact Sheet
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) use about a quarter of the electricity used by traditional incandescent light bulbs. This reduces energy costs for consumers and eliminates some of the mercury emissions caused by generating electricity. CFLs, however, do contain a small amount of mercury, which has led to questions about their safety. The Natural Defense Resources Council (NRDC) has carefully studied the issue, and has concluded that the use of CFLs actually decreases the amount of mercury released into the environment. As a result, CFLs are the right choice for people concerned about both their health and their energy bills. Get document in pdf.
Science-Based Catch Limits Are Essential To Healthy Fisheries
Fact Sheet
Chronic overfishing has diminished the nation's fisheries for decades, at great economic and ecological costs. In 2006, a bipartisan majority in Congress took action to require fishery managers to set science-based annual catch limits (ACLs) to prevent overfishing, and accountability measures (AMs) to ensure fishermen stay within those limits. After years of efforts, and in time for the 2011 statutory deadline, fishery managers and their scientific advisors are now on the cusp of implementing these measures in every federal fishery in the country. As they approach the finish line, the Fisheries Science Improvement Act (H.R. 2304), has been introduced in Congress to weaken these requirements. Supporters of H.R. 2304 are promoting the legislation with false claims about the inadequacy of fisheries science to implement ACLs. Failure to implement science-based catch limits would derail efforts to stop overfishing and rebuild depleted fish populations to healthy levels. Get document in pdf.
Reject the REINS Act: H.R. 10/S. 299
Legislative Analysis
The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny ("REINS") Act (H.R. 10/S. 299), introduced by Rep. Davis (R-KY) and Sen. Paul (R-KY), would fundamentally change the U.S. process for putting public safeguards into effect, upending a system that has protected the public for more than 100 years. The bill is designed to make it extraordinarily difficult to protect the public and to make the decision-making process far more political. The REINS Act would make the public less safe. Get document in pdf.
Domestic Oil Drilling
Still Not a Solution to Rising Gas Prices

Overview
More domestic oil drilling will have no effect on the current spike in gasoline prices. It’s time to move beyond our dependence on oil and seek alternatives such as clean energy and fuel efficiency.
Reject BP Oil Disaster Amnesia Bills
H.R. 1229, H.R. 1230, and H.R. 1231

Legislative Analysis
One year ago, the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 workers, spilling 170 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and wreaking havoc on the environment. However, rather than seeking to prevent future disasters, H.R. 1229, 1230, and 1231 accelerate the very processes that the President's National Oil Spill Commission found led to the BP disaster. The three drill-at-all-cost bills would weaken the system for overseeing oil drilling that was in effect before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and mandate new drilling in sensitive ocean areas off virtually every coast. Get document in pdf.
Oppose Efforts to Roll Back Light Bulb Efficiency Standards
Standards Do Not Ban Incandescent Bulbs, But Can Deliver American Families Savings of More Than $100 Per Year

Legislative Analysis
Several bills, including the BULB Act (S. 395 & H.R. 91), have been introduced to repeal or undermine energy efficiency standards for new screw-based light bulbs. Doing so would increase household energy bills, stifle innovation that is creating U.S. jobs, and increase air pollution that harms human health and the environment. Get document in pdf.
Clean Air Standards Will Cut Toxic Air Pollution from Industrial Plants and Save More Than 5,000 Lives Each Year
Legislative Analysis
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed emissions standards to control toxic air pollution from industrial plant boilers, which burn various fuels to produce steam used to generate electricity or heat for industrial operations. The EPA's proposed standards will require these boilers to limit toxic air pollutants including mercury, lead, arsenic, formaldehyde, benzene, dioxins, and acid gases. Get document in pdf.
What's at Risk from Industry's Full-Scale Assault on the EPA and the Clean Air Act?
Public Health Protections Under Attack

Overview
It is important to understand that the EPA is one of our major success stories, representing vital problem-solving on a national scale, and that we should support the EPA doing its job.
Legislative Watch
The Bulletin on Environmental Legislation from NRDC

Bulletin
This biweekly bulletin tracks environmental bills moving through Congress.
Comprehensive Clean Energy and Climate Legislation Will Bring More Jobs, a Stronger Economy, and Less Pollution
Fact Sheet
America’s past experience with establishing regulations to curb pollution provides every reason to believe that enacting comprehensive climate and energy legislation will not only bring environmental and health benefits, but will also unlock technological innovation and boost our economy. Since the nation’s first comprehensive environmental laws in the 1970s, hundreds of dangerous pollutants have been regulated, providing valuable health benefits from reduced exposure to certain toxic chemicals. At the same time, tens of thousands of jobs per year were created in the environmental protection industry, GDP more than tripled, and average household income grew by more than 45 percent. This impressive history of prosperity can be repeated with comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. Without it, however, the United States will miss out on new employment opportunities and be left behind in the growing world market that rewards green innovation. Get document in pdf.
Now is the Time to Reform the Toxic Substances Control Act
Legislative Analysis
For decades, Americans have assumed that laws are in place to require testing of chemicals for safety and to keep unsafe chemicals out of the products we use every day. Unfortunately, the failure of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to regulate the chemical industry and protect the public from exposure to unsafe chemicals, proves this assumption wrong. Congress must enact strong legislation to reform TSCA and ensure the safety of chemicals in the home, the workplace, and the marketplace. Get document in pdf.
Clean Energy and Climate Legislation
This Is Our Moment

Overview
A comprehensive climate and energy bill that includes a cap to reduce emissions would provide the incentives that will create a foundation for the development of a clean energy economy in the United States.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES)
Legislation to build the clean energy future

Index of Fact Sheets
The American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, has the major ingredients to generate millions of jobs, break our dependence on oil and reduce the pollution that causes global warming. Comprehensive energy and climate legislation will create the incentives necessary to build the clean energy economy and help make America a leader for the 21st century.
Welcome Change
Assessment of the Obama Administration’s First-Year Environmental Record

Issue Paper
In his first year in office, President Barack Obama and his administration have demonstrated a remarkable commitment to addressing environmental challenges.
Communities Tackle Global Warming
A Guide to California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375)

Issue Paper
California's Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, SB 375, is the nation's first legislation to link transportation and land use planning with global warming. SB 375 is an important step toward a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous California. Locating housing closer to jobs and transit choices and creating walkable communities can reduce commute times, cut millions of tons of global warming pollution, and improve quality of life.
AB 32 and You
How California’s Global Warming Solutions Act Delivers Smart Solutions to Californians

Fact Sheet
California is leading the country in its effort to curb global warming with the implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). In December 2008, the California Air Resources Board unanimously adopted the state's plan outlining steps to a cleaner and more prosperous future. This visionary plan, the most comprehensive of its kind, will recharge California's economy, improve public health and air quality, help Californians use energy more efficiently, and make the state the hub of clean energy technology development -- all while curbing global warming. Get document in pdf.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
An Opportunity to Repower America with a Green Economy

Legislative Analysis
The economic recovery package is a first step toward repowering America with green jobs, refueling our nation with clean energy, and rebuilding the country’s aging transportation and water infrastructure. As the bill moves into its final stages, Congress has a great opportunity to make a serious commitment to energy independence, reducing carbon emissions and protecting our environment while also creating millions of new jobs. In order to assure that these goals are met, NRDC supports the inclusion of these provisions in the final American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Get document in pdf.
Support Renewable Energy Grants Program In House Economic Recovery Bill
Legislative Analysis
For almost two decades, production and investment tax credits have been the primary tool used by the federal government to encourage extensive deployment of clean energy technologies such as wind, solar, and geothermal, and the production of high efficiency appliances. Unfortunately, the current economic climate is drastically reducing profits and thus tax liabilities, which is limiting the effectiveness of these tax credits. Without smart federal action, the construction of new renewable power projects and the manufacture and purchase of new, super-efficient appliances will plummet. Get document in pdf.
Deepest Cuts
Repairing Health Monitoring Programs Slashed Under the Bush Administration

Issue Paper
For decades, federal agencies charged with safeguarding health and the environment have tracked pollution, required industry reporting, and monitored disease rates, providing the foundation for all health and environmental protection. This December 2008 issue paper shows that the Bush Administration dangerously slashed federal environmental and health monitoring programs.
From NRDC's President: Election 2008
Obama wins ... and not a moment too soon for the environment.

Opinion
Obama wins ... and not a moment too soon for the environment.
Tax credits for Energy-efficient Commercial Buildings
Extension of the tax credits for energy-efficient commercial buildings, homes, and appliances will save Americans money and reduce global warming pollution

Legislative Analysis
The cheapest, cleanest and quickest response to global warming and high natural gas prices is to target energy efficiency. Studies have shown that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce global warming pollution.
An Uneven Shield
The Record of Enforcement and Violations Under California's Environmental, Health and Workplace Safety Laws

Issue Paper
California leads the nation in setting standards to protect the health of families, communities and the environment. Yet too little is publicly known about how effectively these standards are enforced. This October 2008 report examines data on known violations and law enforcement responses under six critical pollution, health and safety programs, and finds that enforcement of state environmental and health laws varies widely.
Offshore Drilling Threatens Our Beaches, Oceans, Coastal Communities and Marine Life
Legislative Analysis
President Bush and some members of Congress are pressing to open offshore areas that have been protected from oil drilling for many years, including the east and west coasts and Florida.
Boosting the Benefits
Improving Air Quality and Health by Reducing Global Warming Pollution in California

Issue Paper
California has the opportunity to combat global warming while simultaneously improving air quality and public health throughout the state. Measures being considered under the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) could save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of other negative health impacts each year -- saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs.
Legislative Analysis (Historical): The Climate Security Act, aka the Lieberman-Warner Bill
Overview
In June 2008, the U.S. Senate voted on but did not pass legislation to address the climate crisis. This page compiles NRDC analyses of many aspects of that bill. See also our analyses of the current legislation and the benefits of cap-and-trade policies.
California Clean Car Law Prevails over Big Auto Challenge
Landmark law restricting global warming pollution from cars upheld in court, but EPA quickly denies CA authority to legislate.

Overview
A landmark law restricting global warming pollution from cars is upheld in court.
Back from the Brink
How NRDC Helped Save the Ozone Layer

Issue Paper
September 2007 marks the 20th anniversary of the world’s most effective environmental treaty -- the Montreal Protocol. Back from the Brink: How NRDC Helped Save the Ozone Layer describes how a team of NRDC scientists and lawyers played a crucial role in creating this landmark environmental protection.
California Takes on Power Plant Emissions
SB 1368 Sets Groundbreaking Greenhouse Gas Performance Standard

Fact Sheet
California is ensuring a clean energy future by adopting the world's first greenhouse gas emissions performance standard for power plant investments. Senate Bill SB 368 requires that any new long-term financial investment in "baseload" generation resources -- those workhorse power plants that supply electricity around the clock -- made on behalf of California customers must be in clean energy sources. Get document in pdf.
Support a Ban On U.S. Mercury Exports
Legislative Analysis
The United States should take strong measures against global mercury contamination by adopting a ban on the export of surplus mercury to the world market.
A Golden Opportunity
California's Solutions for Global Warming

Report
California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, AB 32, is the most ambitious global warming solutions law in the nation. The next step: putting in place specific measures to bring emissions levels back to 1990 levels by 2020 to meet AB 32’s limit. This June 2007 report describes how California is protecting the state from global warming pollution while growing its economy and encouraging the innovative clean technology industry.
San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act
Legislative Analysis
Last year, a historic settlement was reached to restore flows and salmon populations to California's second longest river, the San Joaquin, and approved by the federal court.
Treating America's Oil Addiction
A Clean, Renewable Path to Energy Security

Fact Sheet
Our future depends on reducing our oil demand now. Get document in pdf.
California Signs Landmark Global Warming Legislation
A new bill from a trendsetting state will set limits on global warming pollution and promises an economic boost.

News
California makes history by becoming the first state in the nation to set concrete limits on statewide global warming pollution.
After Katrina: New Solutions for Safe Communities and a Secure Energy Future
Report
This September 2005 NRDC report represents the combined efforts of our experts on public health, toxic waste, urban design, coastal protection, energy security and global warming as New Orleans faces the challenge of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. It offers a set of policies and practices to protect the safety and well-being of Gulf Coast residents -- and all Americans -- during the recovery period, and into a healthier, more sustainable future.
Democracy in Action: The Energy Permitting Process Under NEPA
Testimony
Testimony of NRDC senior attorney Sharon Buccino at hearing on permitting of energy projects, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, May 25, 2005.
An Environmental Agenda for the 109th Congress
Issue Paper
This NRDC policy paper, issued in early 2005, summarizes the top environmental priorities NRDC sees ahead for the 109th Congress.
The Budget Process
How Congress makes the federal budget, step by step.

Overview
Ever wonder how Congress appropriates the hundreds of billions of dollars in the federal discretionary budget each year? Find out with our short step-by-step primer on the budget process.
The Environmental Record of the 108th Congress
Issue Paper
The 108th Congress was called to order on January 7, 2003, and adjourned on December 8, 2004 (more than two full months after scheduled adjournment). We recount the major environmental battles and outcomes below.
Rewriting the Rules (2005 Special Edition)
Report
The Bush administration took nearly 150 actions to undermine environmental protections over the past year, consistent with its historic assault on the nation's environmental safeguards. This January 2005 NRDC report assesses the Bush presidency's first-term environmental policies, and previews battles expected during the administration's second term.
Holding the Line
The Environmental Record of the 107th Congress

Report
This December 2002 report tracks the environmental record of the 107th Congress and identifies issues to watch in the 108th.
Clean Water at Risk: An Assessment of Bush Administration Water Protection Rollbacks
Report
An October 2002 NRDC report -- issued on the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act -- that assesses the impact this landmark environmental law has had on the safety and environmental health of the nation’s waterways and documents the Bush administration's sustained attack on clean water protections.
Hostile Environment: How Activist Judges Threaten Our Air, Water, and Land
Report
Several federal judges have placed their own political agenda above the clear mandates of our environmental laws, ignoring congressional statutes and legal precedent, and putting new hurdles in the way of environmental regulators and citizens who would sue polluters. This July 2001 report tracks these developments, and charges that appointing activist judges to the bench could signal a death sentence for many environmental protections.
The Legislative Record
Environment and the 106th Congress

Report
This February 2001 report analyzes major environmental legislative activity in the 106th Congress and evaluates progress by subject area. The report concludes that the environmental legacy of the 106th Congress lies largely in its failure to take any meaningful action to protect public health and the environment.
E-law: What Started It All?
It began with a court battle over a power plant slated for Storm King Mountain and matured with test cases modeled on tactics pioneered by the NAACP.

History
Environmental public interest attorneys use America's environmental statutes and legal precedents to defend and advocate for wildlife and wild places and to protect public health. Environmental law has only been around since about the time of the first Earth Day in 1970. It began with a court battle over a power plant slated for an unspoiled area in the Hudson River valley, and matured with test cases modeled on tactics pioneered by the NAACP.
Comments on CARB's Regulations to Control Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Motor Vehicles
Comments
Official comments from NRDC's global warming and clean-cars experts on the draft regulations for implementation of AB 1493, California's landmark law requiring automakers to reduce heat-trapping exhaust from new vehicles by about 30 percent over the next decade.

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