Environmental Regulations: Past and Present

The State of the US Environment

Since 1948, the United States has witnessed significant changes in its state of the environment.  Factors which lead to environmental pollution have significantly increased over this period. The impact of this has been increased global warming hence climatic changes and increased water and air pollution (Melillo, Richmond & Yohe, 2014).   Industrial emissions, solid waste and emissions from cars and other household activities have increased over this period hence contributing to the increased environmental pollution. Water, air, and land have been the most affected areas with rising spills in water masses, harmful gasses into the air and solid waste on land facilities. Concerns over the increased global warming and climatic changes have necessitated the US government to come up with regulations which seek to protect the environment.

Some of the most significant regulations passed in the US since 1948 include the Clean Air Act (CAA) which was passed in 1963, Endangered Species Act (ESA) enacted in 1973 and Clean Water Act (CWA) enacted in 1972 (Lamb, 2014). Additionally, some federal agencies have become necessary over the transition period. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of the most common federal institutions mandated with the task of environmental protection.  These regulations are necessary for protecting the US environment. For instance, the Clean Air Act seeks to reduce air pollutants as well as their sources. Several events which occurred in the 1950s, to 1970s raised the awareness of the harm that humans cause to the environment (Melillo, Richmond & Yohe, 2014). For instance, the catastrophic oil spills in California well which occurred in 1969 and protests against nuclear testing all raised the anxiety of Americans over environmental pollution.



The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is an environmental law in the US which was passed in 1970 (Lamb, 2014). NEPA was a result of the increasing concerns about the need to control environmental pollution. The California Well oil spill was one of the significant events that led to these concerns. Since its enactment, NEPA has gained application in the major projects, whether undertaken at the local or at the federal level. The law has played an essential role in stimulating the involvement of citizens in US environmental matters. NEPA is mostly procedural and imposes some pollution control requirements which are found in earlier Acts such as the CAA and CWA. In this view, therefore, NEPA is just another environmental law.  

In the US, stronger regulations for controlling air pollution have been developed. However, China has not focused much on controlling air pollution. For an extended period, China has given precedence to economic growth over environmental protection. In fact, water and air pollution are now threatening to undermine the Chinese economy (Chameides, 2015). As a result, concerns about increasing environmental pollution have started to bring about social unrests in China. Reports have indicated that China is facing numerous environmental issues, with air pollution among the most significant problems. In the US, however, much progress has been seen as a result of increased regulation.

In conclusion, the US has witnessed significant changes in its state of environment since 1948. Many regulations have been enacted to control environmental pollution. The most critical provisions include the CAA, CWA, and ESA. NEPA, which was adopted in 1971, can be seen as just another environmental law that seeks to control environmental pollution in the country. Compared to China, the US has made significant progress concerning air pollution control, a phenomenon highly attributable to increased regulation in the US.