Summary of Environmental Law in the United States

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10 Protection of the Oceans and Coastal Areas

 

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10.1 Coastal Management and Land Use Restrictions

 

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See Section 15: Private Land Use Planning and Management; Section 9: Protection and Management of Water Resources.

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA)

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) of 1972, 16 U.S.C. secs. 1451-1464, is the primary federal statute for protecting the nation's coastal areas from .pollution and development pressures, and was reauthorized by the Coastal Zone Protection Act of 1996, 3 Pub. L. No. 104-150, 110 Stat. 1380. The 1996 legislation authorized $50 million annually, for fiscal years 1997, 1998, and 1999, for the protection of U.S. coastal areas. Other federal statutes specifically designed to protect the coasts include the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, 16 U.S.C. sec. 3501, and the Estuarine Areas Act of 1968, 16 U.S.C. secs. 1221-1226, the latter of which requires federal agencies to consider the value of estuaries in their planning. In addition, the Clean Water Act's permitting and other requirements apply to discharges in coastal waters, (see Section 9: Protection and Management of Water Resources) and the 1990 CAA Amendments require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor and assess the impact of hazardous air pollutants on coastal areas. 42 U.S.C. sec. 7412(m). State statutes, land-use programs, and the state judicial application of the public trust doctrine may also offer particularly important protection for coastal areas.

Coastal Zone Management Programs

The CZMA confirms the primary authority of the states to regulate land use on and near the coasts, including tidelands. The CZMA offers federal funding to the states for developing and implementing coastal zone management programs that meet certain federal requirements. 16 U.S.C. sec. 1455; 15 C.F.R. pt. 923. The CZMA also requires all federal agencies and programs to be consistent with approved state programs. 16 U.S.C. sec. 1456(c). Currently, over half of the states and territories have federally-approved coastal zone management programs.

Coastal Pollution

The 1990 amendments to the CZMA condition future federal funding for federally-approved state coastal zone management programs on the adoption of coastal non-point source pollution control programs. The programs are intended to improve land use practices and the management of critical coastal areas to reverse pollution of coastal waters. In addition,the Shore Protection Act of 1988, 33 U.S.C. secs. 2601-2623, prohibits the transport of any municipal or commercial solid waste without a permit from the Department of Transportation. The Act also requires reasonable precautions in loading, securing, and offloading municipal or commercial waste, and requires the clean up of any waste deposited in the coastal waters. 33 U.S.C. sec. 2603.

State Protection of Coastal Areas

State and territorial statutes as well as local land use ordinances protect coastal areas. See, for example, Cal. Pub. Res. Code secs. 6301, 21000, 30103 (1995); Mich. Stat. Ann. sec. 14-528(372) (Callaghan 1993); Tex. Agric. Code Ann. sec. 201.026 (West 1995), Tex. Nat. Res. Code Ann. sec. 33.053 (West 1995); Wash. Rev. Code secs. 90.58.020 (1994).

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10.2 Ocean Pollution

 

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See Section 22.4: Vessel Source Pollution of Water; Section 25.6: Multilateral Agreements Relating to Marine Pollution and Conservation.

The Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (MPRSA), 33 U.S.C. secs. 1401-1445, prohibits any person from dumping in the territorial sea of the United States or in contiguous waters, and prohibits the transport of any material from the United States or on U.S. vessels for dumping in the ocean. 33 U.S.C. sec. 1411 may issue permits for dumping that "will not unreasonably degrade or endanger human health, welfare, or amenities, or the marine environment, ecological systems, or economic potentialities." Such permits are not allowed for radiological, chemical, or biological warfare agents, medical wastes, or high-level radioactive wastes. 33 U.S.C. sec. 1412. Separate dumping prohibitions apply to sewage sludge and industrial wastes, 33 U.S.C. sec. 1414b, and the Army Corps of Engineers operates a separate, but similar, permitting process for dredged materials. 33 U.S.C. sec. 1413.

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10.3 Liability and Enforcement

 

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Enforcement of Coastal Zone Management Act

The CZMA does not provide for any federal enforcement or liability provisions. 16 U.S.C. secs. 1451-1464. Other federal and state laws may apply to activities in coastal zones.

Enforcement of Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act

The MPRSA's ban on ocean dumping includes its own enforcement and implementation provisions. 33 U.S.C. sec. 1415. The law also allows for citizen enforcement, with 60-day notice, as long as the government is not diligently prosecuting. 33 U.S.C. sec. 1415(g).

Enforcement of Shore Protection Act

Under the Shore Protection Act of 1988, the Secretary of Transportation is authorized to examine vessels transporting municipal or commercial waste and to deny entry to the United States if a vessel does not have the required permit. 33 U.S.C. sec. 2605. 33 U.S.C. sec 2609. The law applies to foreign vessels to the extent allowed by international law. 33 U.S.C. sec. 2622(b).

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10.4 Asserted Jurisdiction Over Territorial Sea

 

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See Section 25.6: Agreements Relating to Marine Pollution and Conservation

The U.S. asserts jurisdiction over a territorial sea of up to twelve nautical miles. This claim is supported by the Law of the Sea (LOS) Convention of 1982, U.N. Doc. A/Conf.62/122, reprinted in 21 I.L.M. 1261 (1982). See also Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, 15 U.S.T. 1606, T.I.A.S. No. 5639, 516 U.N.T.S. 205 (entered into force Sept. 10, 1964).

On March 10, 1983, President Reagan issued a proclamation formally asserting sovereignty over all living and nonliving resources in a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Proc. No. 5030, 19 Weekly Comp. Pres. Doc. 383 (Mar. 10, 1983); 48 Fed. Reg. 10,605 (Mar. 10, 1983); 3 C.F.R. 22 (1984). This proclamation reiterated the central provision of the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, 16 U.S.C. secs. 1801-1882. See also Proclamation No. 2667, 10 Fed. Reg. 12,303 (1945); 3 C.F.R. pt. 67 (1943-48) ("Truman Proclamation" asserting jurisdiction over continental shelf resources). The territorial claim evinced by the Reagan Proclamation and the Magnuson Act is consistent with the modified LOS Convention, which provides for a U.S. EEZ of 200 nautical miles from shore and secures U.S. rights with regard to resources and artificial islands, installations and structures on the continental shelf.

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2003