What Is The Clean Water Act And How Did It Come To Be?

This post is coming our good friend Ben Bronston, an environmentalist and lawyer in Corpus Christi, Texas. Since his town is on the water, he’s been advocate of keeping the water clean in his city. Check out his website: https://361lawyers.com/

The Clean Water Act (or CWA) is something of an amalgamation of multiple pieces of legislation involving the research and control of water pollution.The first CWA, called the Federal Water Pollution Act, was passed in 1948. In 1972 it was completely rewritten via legislation entitled Federal Water Pollution Act Amendment of 1972.

The major amendments to the Act are the Clean Water Act of 1977, and the Water Quality Act of 1987. It has not been directly amended since then, though there has been other legislation pertaining to water quality signed into law. Some notable ones are the Great Lakes Critical Programs Act of 1990 (a joint agreement between the United States and Canada), and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Newer laws that contradict parts of the Clean Water Act are generally judged to supersede the CWA, though not always depending on the situation and the judges involved.

The 1972 CWA was put into place in response to public outcry caused by an event in 1969. The Cuyahoga River, which flows into Lake Erie literally caught fire in that year, due to the level of toxic waste that had been dumped. While this had happened several times since 1868 (13, to be precise), the fire in 1969 was large and destructive enough for the public to demand the U.S. Government did something.

This outcry is why the 1972 CWA specifically makes it illegal to dump waste into lakes and rivers. It also gave the EPA the power to set regulatory standards.

The Clean Water Act has been largely successful in its goals. Lake Erie is no longer so toxic it can catch fire, and that’s just one example. Unfortunately, several laws involving water pollution have been rolled back in recent years, and several others are rarely enforced. These facts make it difficult to gauge how much effect the current CWA actually has.

What Is The History And Purpose Of The Clean Air Act?

Signed into law in 1963 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Clean Air Act is perhaps the most comprehensive air quality laws throughout the world. It was one of the first of such laws passed in the United States and has been the bedrock of many environmental laws since.

It’s not the very first, however. The first law that pertained to air pollution was the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955. Contrary to the name, it wasn’t about controlling air pollution. Instead, it devoted federal funds to the study of air pollution and its effects.

That said, it was the first legislation about actually controlling air pollution. This law remains in effect today, though it’s been amended multiple times to adjust the changing needs of environmental protection. The last time it was modified was in 1990.

The 1990 amendment, formulated in large part by William K. Reilly who was the EPA president at the time, did a number of things. At the time, it was discovered that the ozone layer was beginning to fall apart. Since that layer protects the Earth from UV rays (among other things), it was important to study ways to repair the problem. It also targeted acid rain, vehicle emissions, toxic air pollution, and set several federal standards for other types of gasoline emissions.

It also covered noise pollution, as it had been discovered that the problem could compound other environmental issues negatively. And perhaps most important, it allowed for civil suits. That is, it allowed citizens to sue companies in order to enforce federal statuettes. This gave citizens the opportunity to receive justice should a nearby business dump toxic waste or other harmful chemicals.

The Clean Air Act has not been updated since 1990, and many scientists are showing concern about the state of planet Earth at this point. Climate change is becoming a growing problem, and the act is due for another amendment. However, while there have been multiple amendments introduced, none of them have made it past committee let alone actually been voted on.

The National Environmental Policy Act Was The Start Of Federal Environmental Policy

The National Environmental Policy Act was first enacted in 1970 and was the first federal law designed to help protect the environment. The Act established the President’s Council on Environmental Quality. In the years leading up to the passage of the Act, many Americans were growing concerned about pollution and the impact on the environment, especially to those that live on Long Island. This Act directed all branches of the federal government to consider the impact to the environment before implementing any new legislation or starting any major federal actions.

Requirements under this Act are invoked when buildings, airports, highways, military complexes, parkland purchases or any other type of federal activity is proposed. An Environmental Impact Statement and an Environmental Assessment must be completed analyzing all courses of action for the impact on the environment.

Prior to this legislation, several bills designed to protect the environment had been presented to Congress. None had passed until a major oil spill occurred outside of Santa Barbara, CA. There were more than 3,500 birds killed and the damage to the environment was staggering. Other sea animals such as elephant seals and sea lions were also killed because of the oil spill and the impact on commercial fishing and tourism was devastating.

This oil spill, the 3rd largest in US history, was not the only reason for the National Environmental Policy Act, but is was certainly a considerable influence.

The Act does not specifically mandate environmental protections. Instead, it sets out environmental policy for the federal government and requires that an environmental analysis takes place when proposing any major federal project.

The end result of this Act is that it forces federal government agencies to factor in the impact to the environment when they are considering any major construction projects. The weakness of this Act is that it does not require federal agencies to reject a project, only to note the environmental impacts.

Discover The National Park Service Act

The National Park Service Act is one that a lot of people take advantage of each year. This is an act that was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and this is the same piece of legislation that would start the National Park Service as well as the Department of the Interior. So this is an act that did several things for people and it is the reason why there are national parks in place for everyone in America to enjoy.

The lands the act protects are the land that is inside of the national parks as deemed by the Department of Interior Secretary and approved by the President. These parks include Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, and a host of other parks as well.

The punishments that are brought forth by the act have the same type of penalties that are brought forth under the penal code of the United States of America. So this is going to make it easier for people to know what kind of changes are made to the criminal law. Now something else that is interesting is the act does allow some parks to have their own local area type of laws in place as well to help prevent specific damage. For example, Dune Grass in Michigan is protected, but that would not apply in Yellowstone.

The National Park Service Act is an act that was passed by the United States House of Representatives in 1915, but it is an act that was put in place to protect the beauty that we all have come to love in the National Parks. These parks have become the envy of a lot of countries and it is easy to see why when people see just how beautiful the National Park System in America is.

Learn About The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 is an act of legislation that was passed with the intention of preserving historical as well as archaeological sites throughout the United States of America. The Act helped establish the National Registry of Historic Places, the list of National Historic Landmarks and the State Historic Preservation Office. The legislation was signed into law on October 15, 1966.

The National Registry of Historic Places, which is ran by the National Park Service is the country’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and other areas worthy of being preserved for future generations. Here is where they are given the distinction of being “historic properties.” The official process of being considered an historic property is called the Section 106 review process. The review process is led by the Advisory Council and helps develop policies and guidelines. To be considered they must mean one of our criteria; a historical event, a historical person, historical design/construction or information potential (i.e archaeological dig site).  To achieve this status does not prevent a site from being damaged or deconstructed but does provide the opportunity for grants, loans and tax incentives. The Section 106 review process takes into consideration the benefits of making something an historic place as well as any adverse effects.

The purpose of  the preservation act is to help retain diverse elements of the past, perpetuate the distinctiveness of identities of places, involve amateur in landscape care, and to practice conversation approach to environmental change. The National Historic Preservation Act has had a major benefit to the fields of archaeology, history, and historical architecture. No longer do these fields have to be in the world of academia. They have formed what is known as a culture resource management team and help others classify their findings so they can be submitted into the National Register of Historic Places.

The Antiquities Act Of 1906 Helps Protect Certain National Treasures

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Act provides authority to the President of the United States to designate federal lands as national monuments. This is done by Presidential proclamation and is to be used to protect significant cultural, natural, and scientific features. Since its passage, 16 Presidents have used the Act more than 100 times.

The Act was first passed to help stop people from looting archaeological sites and taking Indian artifacts. Since the passage of the Act, Presidents have used it to protect public land from mineral exploitation or commercial development by turning them into national monuments.

After signing the Act, President Roosevelt created 18 monuments including Olympic National Park and the Grand Canyon. The monuments created by President Roosevelt totaled more than one million acres.

According to the Act, a President can only create a national monument from land that is already owned by the federal government. The Act does not typically change the land use. If the federal land already has leases for ranching, mining or logging or drilling, these can continue, however, new leases are usually denied.

According to legal scholars, the Act does not provide a President the ability to revoke designation, but they may change the boundaries. It is possible for Congress to create a national park from a national monument and this has happened many times.

Protecting national monuments is important to most Americans. According to a Harvard study, 93 percent of those who responded felt that public lands, historical sites, and national parks should be protected.

The Act has been modified a few times, twice reducing Presidential powers. It was also amended in 1950 to require Congress to agree before national monuments could be created or enlarged in Wyoming. This was as a result of the unpopular creation of Jackson Hole National Monument.

A Win For The Environment – The Omnibus Public Land Management Act Of 2009

In 2009, the President of the United States, Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. Considered one of the most significant pieces of conversation legislation in years, this Act was a result of significant bipartisan efforts to address environmental concerns and designate more than two million acres of wilderness. The Act also added 2,800 miles of National Trails, more than 1,000 miles of Scenic and Wild Rivers, and 330,000 acres of National Conservation Areas. It also authorized the Forest Landscape Conservation Service and included measures designed to improve our coasts, oceans, the Great Lakes, and other water resources.

The Act designate more than 1,000 miles of rivers in seven states as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems. This designation helps preserve certain free-flowing rivers which possess outstanding scenic, environmental and recreational features.

The Act designated more than two million acres as wilderness areas. These newly designated wilderness areas cover nine different states. This designation helps protect the Nation’s best wildlife habitats and most pristine lands and island.

The Act also created the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. This designation will help protect and preserve the most significant Early Permian track sites in the world.

More than 2,800 miles of trails were added to the National Trails System under this Act. New national trails were created in the Mid-Atlantic, New England, the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest.

More than 33,000 acres were added as National Conservation Areas. This acreage covers Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado.

One of the major results of the Omnibus Act of 2009 is the protections provided to our oceans and waterways. The Act authorizes certain federal research programs. These programs will study the oceans, the Great Lakes, and other water resources to expand our knowledge of acidification of the oceans and of our ocean and coastal ecosystems. This research will provide critical data to help us understand the impact of climate change on our water resources.

Discover How Mexico, Canada And The U.S.A. Coordinated To Form A Wilderness Conservation Act

The trilateral committee was enacted in 1996 to preserve the best areas of wilderness throughout the North American continent which expands through Canada, the USA, and Mexico. The committee works with organizations throughout all three countries to protect ecosystems, plants, wildlife, and biological diversity. Members of the delegation meet annually to work out strategies that serve their purpose and to enforce the law.

During the committee’s discussions, they try to work together to design strategies and timetables for accomplishing worthwhile goals. Some of the areas of protection they try to provide are the trade of endangered species, Fauna and Flora, migratory birds, law enforcement and other conservation concerns. They also discuss ideas to help manage the issues caused by climate change and other similar issues in an effort to preserve the wildlife in its natural state.

Between the three countries, there are some small variations in the definition of wilderness but essentially they all agree that it is Coastal, Marine, and Land in its most naturally preserved state or areas that could be returned to their natural state. These lands are considered to have value on their own without any imprint by man.

The three countries share a continent that has a huge portion of its land that is interconnected and resources of untouched wilderness. These lands have marine and ocean life, freshwater systems, mountain ranges, a vast array of wildlife species, mountain ranges, and forest. Working together helps to increase the efforts of preserving these natural resources. Many consider that the wilderness areas of these countries are representative of elements that are irreplaceable to the heritage of the continent and the individual countries involved.

The Trilateral Committee is considered a big success and has made great headway toward protecting many areas that were not protected. It is believed they can play a major role in keeping these wilderness areas largely untouched by the imprints of man.

What Is The General Mining Act Of 1872, And Is It Still In Effect?

Introduced by Aaron A. Sargent in January 1872 and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant later that same year, the General Mining Act of 1872 was crafted in large part due to the various Gold Rushes from the 1840s into the late 1860s. In particular, the California Gold Rush put the U.S. Government in a bit of a bind.

While the U.S. Government did have laws governing mining claims and mineral use, there wasn’t much government infrastructure in California at the time. Since it was new territory, prospectors were able to head in and stake claims without any federal agents to stop them.

Even though the practices were illegal, the states and territories in the western part of the country were accepting of them. However, fueled by debt due to the ongoing American Civil War, many Eastern politicians began lobbying to enforce federal law on the prospectors. They claimed the prospectors were “stealing” federal minerals on the horizon, while the Western politicians insisted the prospectors helped stimulate commerce in the area and therefore were a public good.

In 1866, legislation referred to as “Chaffee’s Laws” was voted into place. It instructed local courts to ignore federal law in situations where the land was actively being used for mining. In 1870 the “placer law” extended the same rights to placer mines, and in 1872 these laws were combined to create the General Mining Act of 1872.

This law set into place the still-used price of $2.50 to $5.00 per acre price of mining land. Since its implementation, it’s been amended multiple times. At the moment, Congress is debating whether or not the act needs to be amended yet again. The act has been modified to include new minerals and mineral holding land as new uses for various metals and minerals are found.

As long as the United States has valuable ore and minerals hiding inside of its dirt, the General Mining Act of 1872 will be necessary as management software. However, the more it’s modified, the less it looks like the original law. This makes it hard to say it’s still in effect, but it’s still a technically true fact.

Guidelines for Preserving Nature’s Beauty

America is home to many scenic wonders of nature, but visitors sometimes behave in ways that are harmful to the wilderness. Many people are unaware of how their actions can affect the outdoor areas they enjoy, so the National Park Service has set forth a list of guidelines called the “Leave no Trace” principles to protect the parks. Most of these rules follow common sense, but people do sometimes need to be reminded of them.

The Leave No Trace principles are listed as outlined below:

Plan and Prepare – Use a map and stay on the trail, keep the group small and repackage food items to prevent waste.

Camp and travel on durable surfaces 200 feet or more from lakes and rivers to protect wildlife and plants.

Practice proper waste disposal – carry out any trash left over from meals, any washing with detergents should be done 200 feet from water and dig a “cat hole” before eliminating so human waste is buried.

Leave behind everything you find that could be considered a cool souvenir. There will soon be no pretty rocks or other forest items left if visitors are allowed to take whatever they like.

Keep campfires small and controlled. Cooking food and roasting marshmallows over an open fire can be the best part of camping, but keep it small and make sure it is completely extinguished.

Respect the forest creatures – don’t attempt to approach or feed the wildlife and prevent dogs from chasing wild animals.

Respect other visitors by minimizing noise and allow them privacy while still offering a friendly approach.

The National Park Service has found it necessary to enforce these guidelines in order to protect our greatest national treasure; our parks. It is hoped that everyone enjoying the beauty of nature will comply so America’s beautiful wilderness will be there for future generations.