he Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found. The lead federal agencies for implementing ESA are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service. The FWS maintains a worldwide list of endangered species. Species include birds, insects, fish, reptiles, mammals, crustaceans, flowers, grasses, and trees.
The law requires federal agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the NOAA Fisheries Service, to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species. The law also prohibits any action that causes a "taking" of any listed species of endangered fish or wildlife. Likewise, import, export, interstate, and foreign commerce of listed species are all generally prohibited.
The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 provides EPA with authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures. Certain substances are generally excluded from TSCA, including, among others, food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides.
TSCA addresses the production, importation, use, and disposal of specific chemicals including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, radon and lead-based paint.
The U.S. Congress recognized the importance of meeting the challenge of continued growth in the coastal zone by passing the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) in 1972. The Act, administered by NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), provides for management of the nation's coastal resources, including the Great Lakes, and balances economic development with environmental conservation.
The CZMA outlines two national programs, the National Coastal Zone Management Program and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. The 34 coastal programs aim to balance competing land and water issues in the coastal zone, while estuarine reserves serve as field laboratories to provide a greater understanding of estuaries and how humans impact them. The overall program objectives of CZMA remain balanced to "preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the nation's coastal zone."
Section 408 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) authorizes EPA to set tolerances, or maximum residue limits, for pesticide residues on foods. In the absence of a tolerance for a pesticide residue, a food containing such a residue is subject to seizure by the government. Once a tolerance is established, the residue level in the tolerance is the trigger for enforcement actions. That is, if residues are found above that level, the commodity will be subject to seizure.
In setting tolerances, EPA must make a finding that the tolerance is "safe." Safe is defined as meaning that there is a "reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide residue." To make the safety finding, EPA considers, among other things: the toxicity of the pesticide and its break-down products, aggregate exposure to the pesticide in foods and from other sources of exposure, and any special risks posed to infants and children. Some pesticides are exempted from the requirement to have a tolerance. EPA may grant exemptions in cases where the pesticide residues do not pose a dietary risk under reasonably foreseeable circumstances.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act -- otherwise known as CERCLA or Superfund -- provides a Federal "Superfund" to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous-waste sites as well as accidents, spills, and other emergency releases of pollutants and contaminants into the environment. Through CERCLA, EPA was given power to seek out those parties responsible for any release and assure their cooperation in the cleanup.
EPA cleans up orphan sites when potentially responsible parties cannot be identified or located, or when they fail to act. Through various enforcement tools, EPA obtains private party cleanup through orders, consent decrees, and other small party settlements. EPA also recovers costs from financially viable individuals and companies once a response action has been completed.
EPA is authorized to implement the Act in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Superfund site identification, monitoring, and response activities in states are coordinated through the state environmental protection or waste management agencies.
The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986 reauthorized CERCLA to continue cleanup activities around the country. Several site-specific amendments, definitions clarifications, and technical requirements were added to the legislation, including additional enforcement authorities. Also, Title III of SARA authorized the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
What Is CITES?
CITES is a comprehensive conservation treaty
signed by more than 150 countries, including the
United States. This international agreement regulates the commercial trade of endangered species
and monitors the trade of species that are at risk of
becoming endangered. Since the treaty's ratification
in 1974, CITES representatives have worked tirelessly to protect the world's wildlife.
Many species of both plants and animals have
become threatened or endangered because of unregulated trade. CITES representatives work to preserve thousands of plants, mammals, amphibians,
and fish that have been traded commercially without
oversight in the past. Some of the plants and animals that are endangered or threatened include
mahogany trees, insectivorous plants, Madonna lilies,
and cacti, as well as sea turtles, bald eagles, and
Under the Lacey Act, it is unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold: 1) in violation of U.S. or Indian law, or 2) in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State or foreign law.
The law covers all fish and wildlife and their parts or products, plants protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and those protected by State law. Commercial guiding and outfitting are considered to be a sale under the provisions of the Act.
In 2008, the Lacey Act was amended to include a wider variety of prohibited plants and plant products, including made illegally logged woods, for import.
When the Lacey Act was passed in 1900, it became the first federal law protecting wildlife. It enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants. Today it regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) provides for federal regulation of pesticide distribution, sale, and use. All pesticides distributed or sold in the United States must be registered (licensed) by EPA. Before EPA may register a pesticide under FIFRA, the applicant must show, among other things, that using the pesticide according to specifications "will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.''
FIFRA defines the term ''unreasonable adverse effects on the environment'' to mean: ''(1) any unreasonable risk to man or the environment, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide, or (2) a human dietary risk from residues that result from a use of a pesticide in or on any food inconsistent with the standard under section 408 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.''