In the past few decades there has been a growing concern regarding environmental protection both in the United States and throughout the world. As such, companies everywhere are now facing environmental challenges arising from issues that affect their business practices as they relate to their environmental impact. Businesses now need to consider how their company may be in compliance with hundreds of environmental laws and whether they are acting responsibly in their day-to-day activities. This is a difficult task for most companies as environmental law changes continually.
At one time this field of law was primarily focused on large manufacturing and automobile pollution. Now, however, environmental law can affect even the small family business that illegally disposes their grease from the back kitchen or releases cleaning chemicals into the municipal sewage system. Environmental law is a widespread field covering issues from air and water pollution to climate change and city planning. There are no exemptions of size, location, or industry. We are all responsible for protecting the environment. As such, many businesses at one time or another will have to consult an environmental legal specialist.
Matters concerning environmental law are broad; therefore lawyers will encounter a variety of needs. For instance, manufacturing plants are in constant need of updates and advice on their manufacturing practices. Commercial real estate clients need assistance with advice on things such as legally documenting the environmental impact on a new a housing development. Insurance companies may hire an attorney to give testimony in a trial affecting one of their insured clients accused of an environmental infraction. Clients' cases hail from all corners of the private sector, but government and nonprofit organizations need environmental attorneys as well.
Governments need to have attorneys help create policies for example. They may be involved in issues that impact foreign policy. Attorneys may be called upon to interpret current laws and how they impact international business trade. They also help with risk assessment during hazardous waste cleanup from an accident, act of terror, or natural disaster. There are many government agencies now involved in areas of environmental protection that also serve in an advisory and watchdog capacity.
Nonprofit organizations need legal assistance as well. There are many nonprofit organizations that conduct emergency relief fieldwork for instance. These organizations will need to know the best practices for handling disaster relief. When a natural disaster strikes, in order to restore property and provide help, an organization must know how to contend with hazardous situations in a way that doesn't cause further damage. When a fire takes place, cleanup and disposal must be handled according to the law. A flood can disperse waste into the floodwaters. An earthquake can cause chemicals to spill out of containers. Even something as common as disposing of copier toner in the office can create an environmental problem. An environmental attorney would be able to advise on these issues. As time goes on this branch of law is likely to grow as more concerns arise and new laws are in place to protect our fragile environment.
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