Posted by Anne Decker
Environmental laws have done an effective job of cleaning up our environment.
The United States' environmental laws began with two events: the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969 and an oil cargo ship losing its load off the coast of California, according to Russ Decker, who gave an interesting overview of environmental law, which he teaches at Ohio Northern University. As a result, Congress established the Clean Water Act in 1972 which began routine analysis of waterways and watershed systems, established “point” and “non-point” sources of discharges and created a system for issuing permits. In 1973, the Clean Air Act was passed in response to thick smog in major cities. "Those are really the two biggest pieces of environmental legislation we have." Russ says they have been successful. "Since we passed the Clean Water Act in 1970, we have seen a 50% decrease in criteria pollutants, air toxics from industry have been reduced by 70%, and new cars are more than 90% cleaner burning." 
Other environmental laws Russ says have been successful are the Endangered Species Act and the Community Right to Know Act which requires companies with large quantities of chemicals to report what they have at their facilities. What can we do as individuals to help the environment? Reduce your own waste and runoff by washing your car in the grass, applying fertilizer according to directions, recycle, and reduce your water and energy consumption. Russ says further environmental improvements are up to the next generation. "If they can do the same thing we did for the next forty years, imagine how clean the air and the water are going to be."