What is Environmental Litigation: A Guide

What is Environmental Litigation?

Environmental litigation deals with legal matters concerning environmental laws.

These laws cover pollution, natural resources, animal rights, and environmental conservation at local, state, national, and international levels.

In the United States, these regulations aim to protect the environment while balancing business interests.

They use inducements, which can be positive or negative incentives, to influence compliance with environmental policies.

What is Environmental Litigation
Environmental Litigation. Source (Indeed)

What Are the Most Significant Environmental Regulations?

Government regulations are rules that guide environmental policy implementation.

Well-known regulations come from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

These laws cover public and business activities, addressing matters like air and water quality, waste management, contaminant cleanup, chemical safety, hunting, and fishing.

While some issues, like fishing and hunting, pertain to consumers, others, such as damages and land use, can impact businesses, especially if they intend to build on conservation or hunting lands or near bodies of water affecting fish migration.

What Are Environmental Violations?

An action or state that breaches environmental laws is an environmental violation. Examples are:

  1. Unauthorized hazardous waste dumping.
  2. Illicit pesticide use.
  3. Garbage burning.
  4. Improper asbestos disposal.
  5. Wetlands destruction.
  6. Unpermitted industrial operations.
  7. Emission of particulates into the air.
  8. Illegal vehicle emissions.

What Is Environmental Contamination?

Environmental contamination is the introduction of harmful substances or waste into the environment, damaging it.

Contamination can include non-toxic elements like salt, rendering land unusable, as in the case of excessive salting on property.

When land is tainted due to environmental violations, it becomes a contaminated site.

Examples include mineral extractions, accidental spills, illegal dumping, waste disposal, pesticide use, and natural disasters like hurricanes.

The EPA oversees and cleans up contaminated sites across the country.

Environmental violations are civil matters, primarily resulting in monetary penalties. In extreme cases, they may lead to criminal charges, enforced by various agencies through administrative hearings.

Individuals may need to provide evidence and environmental reports.

When Can I Sue for Environmental Harm?

Environmental harms can lead to civil law remedies through four common types of lawsuits:

  1. Trespass: Trespass involves a physical intrusion onto someone else’s property, disrupting their exclusive possession. It can include the entry of polluting materials onto another’s land, leading to potential remedies like injunctions and monetary damages.
  2. Nuisance: Nuisance arises from unreasonable property use that affects others’ enjoyment of their property. Examples include noxious odors or loud noises. It requires interference with multiple properties and can lead to remedies like injunctions or damages awards.
  3. Negligence: Negligence addresses failures to exercise reasonable care, resulting in foreseeable harm to others, whether accidental or not. Environmental negligence cases involve unintentional pollution discharge, with remedies typically involving damages for property devaluation, cleanup costs, or personal injury compensation.
  4. Strict Liability: This applies to inherently dangerous activities allowed due to public policy. Those profiting from such activities must bear responsibility for any harm caused. Inherently dangerous activities in environmental law might include handling toxic substances or radioactive emissions.

Do I Need an Attorney for My Environmental Claim?

Environmental law cases can be intricate. To proceed, claims must be specific and non-speculative.

Government lawyers can offer advice on environmental laws, helping you understand their application to your situation.

If you have a claim, a lawyer can assist in crafting strong arguments and improving your chances of recovery.