US legal systems are designed to protect citizens in an organized society with respect to a wide number of issues including criminal behavior, domestic and professional relationships, regulations of industry and business, as well as a multitude of other significant issues. One of the most difficult areas to manage and regulate is environmental law. Schroeder (2008) contends environmental laws are difficult to comprehend because of the complexities involved. Environmental laws are meant to constitute the regulations and actions that threaten or physically harm the natural world including the inhabitants of the environment (people, animals, plants, air, water, and so on). Environmental law is considered one of the most complex areas in the legal field because the laws that regulate the environment are derived from a variety of sources, including: (a) federal courts, (b) Congress, (c) various federal administrative agencies, and (d) international treaties. In addition, state legislatures, courts and administrative agencies, local government (cities, towns, and counties) influence these regulations. Because environmental law is a relatively new field, the involvement of these many entities, makes it difficult to analyze the various statutes and regulations that govern them (Schroeder, 2008). Furthermore, different areas of the law require different knowledge like administrative, criminal, and tort laws, as well as understanding the court system, the civil and criminal procedures, and constitutional laws. Plus, the relationships between these areas are not always easy to comprehend or observe. Finally, science also acts as a major contributor to the plethora of environmental issues. For example, an examination of the maximum contaminant levels for drinking water is one factor that can significantly determine the development and enforcement of environmental statutes and regulations.
One environmental law that is relevant to me as a mother and a children’s learning coach, is Executive Order 13045 – The Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks 62 FR 19883; April 23, 1997. This environmental law is designed to protect children from the health and safety risks of products or substances that a child is likely to come in contact with or ingest (such as the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink or use, the soil that surrounds us, and the products we use or are exposed to). The EPA’s responsibility is to evaluate the effects of these issues and introduce regulations that provide an explanation as to why the statutes are implemented as well as include information on potentially effective and reasonably feasible alternatives (Summary of executive order 13045 – protection of children from environmental health risks and safety risks, 1997). For example, children in a learning environment typically use and put crayons in their mouths, and some will even bite into them as an experiment to appease their curiosity about the world that surrounds them by enlisting the use of their taste pallets. If the crayon is produced from chemicals that are toxic, however, this can present a harmful situation to the children that play with them. This law forces manufacturers to incorporate safer methods, label products with warnings about toxic products, identify those that are non toxic, and punish manufacturers that do not comply. Without these regulations to protect children from harm, parents and teachers cannot feel confident or at ease with the products their children are using if they are not deemed safe indicated by a government agency seal of approval.
Business leaders for the most part, find dealing with environmental laws taxing. This is due to the complexities that these mandates have evolved into which includes of a system of statutes, regulations, guidelines, requirements, policies, and case-specific judicial and administrative interpretations that address a wide-ranging set of environmental issues and concerns which are created to deal with how humans interact with the environment and ecological systems. However, most business leaders just want to run their business and not have to worry or think about the many regulations they are required to comply with. Ewing and Steinway (2011) postulate that the key issue for business leaders to identify is what role the federal and state government plays in operating their business. For example, the traditional command and control system involves the establishment of environmental standards and permit enforcement procedures, liability assignment, and penalties (criminal and/or noncriminal) for noncompliance. These regulating authorities are granted the power to issue permits or licenses that authorize or prohibit activities that contaminate, harm, or cause pollution. Business leaders must comply with these mandates to operate their business to avoid penalties and fines (Ewing & Steinway, 2011). State groundwater protection laws, for example, provide detailed information that help business leaders better understand the permit programs they may require for their industry. For the most part, environmental laws serve to protect the environment as well as keep us safe from the products we use, protect the air we breathe and make sure the foods we eat are not contaminated. In conclusion, environmental regulations are meant to prevent industries from poisoning and contaminating the environmental and ecological fabric that we all rely on for our existence.
Next week concludes my research on business law with a three part blog that covers sexual harassment and discrimination laws. Until then have a great weekend everyone!
(1997). Summary of executive order 13045 – protection of children from environmental health risks and safety risks. Washington: EPA. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-executive-order-13045-protection-children-environmental-health-risks-and
Ewing, K., & Steinway, D. (2011). Environmental law. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
Schroeder, K. (2008). Environmental law. New York, NY: Delmar Learning.