In 1970, a number of key events and laws pertaining to the environment took place. In April of the same year, Earth Day celebrations occurred for the first time. The U.S. Congress also passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In 1970, the United States created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and also established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). There are environmental laws established by the U.S. that predate 1970. However, these laws have since been updated and expanded, undergoing substantial redevelopment to fit modern businesses and business practices. The ways these laws are enforced has also been ramped up and drastically affected the way businesses operate.

Environmental laws deal with contamination of land, air, surface water, groundwater and drinking water. On a nearly daily basis, every company in America must deal with a string of environmental laws that affect every aspect of how it conducts its business. There are more specific laws tailored to different industries and certain businesses. Some companies face more stringent restrictions or must endure more inspections. There are also restrictions that vary from one state to another. In many cases, new companies are often required to release an environmental impact statement outlining how their businesses will affect the environment. Companies that deal with the production or transportation of chemicals undergo some of the heaviest restrictions and supervision.

There is an extensive number of environmental laws and executive orders (EOs) that have been passed by Congress and by the president of the U.S. The following information details some of the most important laws and explains how businesses can comply.

The Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act (CAA) was passed in 1970. It is a comprehensive federal law responsible for regulating all air emissions from mobile and stationary sources. This law authorized the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). These standards are used to regulate the emission of hazardous pollutants that businesses release into the air. They are essential to protecting public health and the quality of air. CAA has been amended twice, in 1977 and 1990, to establish new dates for compliance to ensure better air quality control and further implement and monitor NAAQS with greater relevance to current years.

The EPA regularly conducts inspections of businesses of all sizes that utilize hazardous pollutants that could contaminate the air. Companies with stacks that release pollutants as a form of ventilation must adhere to emissions tests. Many companies are required to install new filters to meet the requirement for maximum percentage of pollution emitted. Companies that regularly use vehicles as part of their operations may be best served by purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles or electric vehicles. This reduces the total emissions the company is responsible for and allows it to comply with CAA guidelines. It is best to review compliance guidelines for this law to follow guidelines efficiently.

The Clean Water Act

The basic structure of the Clean Water Act (CWA) used the base structure of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and developed it into the CWA, which was put into effect in 1972. This Act is responsible for regulating the discharge of pollutants into the U.S. water supply and for regulating the quality standards for pollution of surface waters. Through this law, the EPA has been able to construct and implement quality standards for the levels and types of pollutants released into navigable waters and for the contamination of surface water. Company point sources are audited regularly. Point sources include pipes or ditches used by companies to release pollutants that may contaminate water sources. Businesses that discharge pollutants must use the EPA’s permit program and obtain permits to release pollutants directly into navigable or surface water sources.

The best way for businesses to comply with this law is to reduce the number of chemicals and other pollutants utilized in daily or regular operations. If such compliances are not made, there is water pollution liability for the businesses that fail to meet EPA and other regulatory standards.

The Safe Drinking Water Act

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was established and passed in 1974 to uphold the quality of U.S. drinking water. The law primarily focuses on water designated for consumption or potential consumption. This includes above- and below-ground sources. Amendments to the law in 1996 implemented more stringent guidelines on minimum standards previously developed by the EPA.

For businesses to comply with this law, the law often requires new filters on sources where pollutants may potentially affect drinking water sources. Water treatment companies must often reduce the number of chemicals used in the treatment process or completely change the chemicals being utilized.

The Bottom Line

This is a list of only three of the many laws and regulations businesses face. And the standards and restrictions each business must adhere to vary based on company type, industry and state. It is advisable for the responsible parties from each business to check with local EPA authorities to obtain the specific standards and expectations with which their businesses must comply.