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Environmental Law: A Beginner's Guide

This guide, from the Law Library of Congress, provides resources on environmental law, including general resources, federal legislative and regulatory information, and information about state environmental legal research.


Detroit Photographic Co., contributor. Colorado. Aspen silver mines. [Between 1898 and 1905]. Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.

Environmental law, in the United States, is the area of law focusing on environmental protections. Generally, environmental law focuses on preserving the air, water, and natural resources around us. Legislation and regulations have been put in place at the federal and state level to ensure that we have things like clean drinking water, unpolluted air to breathe, and solutions to clean up hazardous and toxic wastes. While environmental law can seem complex, the many different statutes governing its practice do provide a straightforward framework for regulations and enforcement.

The federal government has one agency specifically devoted to environmental protection, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many other U.S. agencies, however, have offices that engage in similar regulatory administration and enforcement. For example, the Department of the Interior (DOI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Commerce (DOC), and the Department of Energy (DOE) all have offices involved in environmental policy. The Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division prosecutes violations of U.S. environmental laws.

This research guide is designed to provide resources covering all aspects of environmental law, including recommendations on treatises, handbooks and other practical materials, an overview of the more prominent federal statutes and regulations related to environmental law, and information on how to research environmental law at the state level. We also provide information about current news sources, online resources, and leading academic publications related to environmental law.

Introductory Resources

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional digital content are provided when available.