Publication Title

Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review


environmental protection laws

Document Type



Students from around the world often ask my opinion on the most influential or effective of the United States environmental laws. I offer an opinion based on two criteria: What laws have contributed most to protection of the natural world and what laws have been most emulated? The second criterion is obviously an indicator of output, not of direct consequence. However, a linkage between the spread of strong laws and degree of environmental protection is assumed.

In theory, of course, the questions of "how much protection" and "how many laws" can be answered empirically. But this story is available only in the sketchiest of terms, so opinions will have to suffice. Nominees include the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (the Clean Water Act), the Endangered Species Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. Common features of these laws show strong leadership, an inspirational and radical message, growth and "sleeper" potential, research implantation, and attentive monitoring.

The secrets of the seven great environmental laws are simple enough: All that is needed is a messianic leader with a stirring message containing seeds of growth in a sustainable environment. In practice, legal oases of this sort are few and far between.

[Part of the Symposium: Twenty-Five Years of Environmental Regulation. Article reprinted in An Environmental Law Anthology 82-90 (Robert L. Fischman et al. eds., Anderson, 1996.]



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