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Environmental Ethics

Environmental Ethics And The Law

In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established to oversee the various federal environmental laws that had been enacted. One of its major functions is to review the environmental impacts of highway projects, large-scale commercial and residential construction, power plants, and other large undertakings involving the federal government. A major tool of the EPA is its power to issue an "environmental impact statement" that evaluates a proposed project before it is undertaken. The advocates of this planning tool believe that is of great value in protecting the environment, particularly when a project is a potential threat to human health or the natural environment. However, others maintain that the agency and its work frustrate worthwhile projects and economic growth.

Lawyers who deal with environmental issues are key players in the issues raised by environmental ethics. They may bring court action against companies that, for example, leak toxic substances into the groundwater or emit harmful smoke from factories. Disasters like the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska help fuel demands for better environmental controls, since cases like this clearly show the damage that can be caused to fish, birds, and the natural environment. The Exxon Valdez oil spill was also an economic loss to Alaskan fishermen, who blame the disaster for degrading their ability to fish and make a living. What is always being weighed legally and ethically is how much environmental damage to the environment and its inhabitants can be judged as reasonable, and how much is not.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Electrophoresis (cataphoresis) to EphemeralEnvironmental Ethics - Key Issues, Environmental Attitudes, Environmental Ethics And The Law, Major Contributors