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Who Is Responsible for The Enforcement of Environmental Law?

The Law Office of C. William Smalling, P.C. July 14, 2019

Environmental law is a broad term that encompasses federal, state, and local statutes, rules, and regulations. Federal, state, and local agencies have broad discretion in determining whether to take enforcement action against violators of these laws. When passing environmental laws, states and local governments are generally permitted to adopt stricter requirements than those contained in federal statutes and regulations. However, state and local laws may not conflict with federal laws. 

The responsibility of enforcement is a complex mixture of federal, state and local agencies. In Texas, the TCEQ enforces the majority of state environmental laws, and they are delegated many federal laws to enforce as well. However, note that in Texas, the Railroad Commission (“RRC”) enforces most environmental laws applicable to oil and gas facilities in the state. Below is an overview of the federal agencies and their responsibilities; an overview of Texas agencies will be discussed in a later issue, as well as an explanation of the name “Railroad Commission.”, which we are sure has the readers intrigued. 

Federal Enforcers of Environmental Law 

  • Environmental Protection Agency – The Environmental Protection Agency implements and enforces most federal environmental laws. However, it shares this responsibility with states and other federal agencies in some situations.

  • Department of the Interior – The Department of the Interior enforces federal laws that govern the management of public lands, minerals, and natural resources.

  • Army Corps of Engineers – The Army Corps of Engineers regulates the disposal of certain materials in waters regulated by the Clean Water Act. In addition, this agency regulates activities and structures that are subject to the Rivers and Harbors Act.

  • National Marine Fisheries Service – The National Marine Fisheries Service is a sub-agency of the Department of Commerce, and it administers programs that relate to the management and conservation of marine resources.

  • Department of Justice ⁠– The Department of Justice has a Natural Resources Division that represents federal agencies in litigation regarding federal environmental laws.

About Environmental NGOs

In addition to federal agencies, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense Fund are extremely active in influencing the development of legislation, environmental policy, and enforcement priorities. Common activities of NGOs include:

  • Legislative and political efforts.

  • Submitting comments on proposed federal regulations and actions.

  • Challenging agency actions.

  • Intervening on behalf of federal agencies to defend their actions against challenges from the industry.

  • Filing lawsuits to implement or enforce environmental laws.

Texas Environmental Law Attorneys 

If you are facing legal action for non-compliance with federal, state, or local environmental laws, then you need an experienced Texas environmental law attorney on your side. At the law office of C. William Smalling, we understand both the technical and legal aspects of situations affecting corporations in the environmental arena. Regardless of your organization’s legal needs, the experience of C. William Smalling will provide you with a significant edge in all oil, gas, and energy matters. C. William Smalling takes pride in providing his business clients with the legal tools to remain confident while navigating the complicated world of environmental regulations. If your company is facing legal action or simply needs guidance regarding environmental law, please contact the Law Office of C. William Smalling today for a consultation.