Earth Day Series 2022: Environmental, Social & Governance Part 1 – Evolution of Environmental Law & Regulation

On Friday, April 22, the US and the remaining of the world will acknowledge Earth Day 2022.  With “Invest in Our Planet” as its theme, Earth Day 2022 focuses extra consideration on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) as an essential metric for evaluating actions that will influence human well being or the surroundings. On this first article, we’ll look again on the greater than 50-yr historical past of Earth Day and the progress that has been made in addressing environmental points in the US. Within the second article, we’ll talk about the delivery of the ESG metric and the present standing of varied efforts to standardize the way in which ESG points are measured. The ultimate article will present sensible steerage on methods to set up or refine an ESG program.

On the time of the primary Earth Day in 1970, there was no Environmental Safety Company (the EPA was established by government order in December 1970) or Clear Air Act (additionally December 1970). Along with the Clear Air Act, many of the environmental regulatory applications created by Congress and administered by EPA (and different federal businesses) at this time hint their origins again to the preliminary Earth Day and a rising consciousness for environmental points probably impacting human well being or the surroundings. The Clear Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Protected Consuming Water Act, the Poisonous Substances Management Act (TSCA), the Useful resource Conservation and Restoration Act (RCRA), the Complete Environmental Response, Compensation and Legal responsibility Act (CERCLA or Superfund), and the Oil Air pollution Act (OPA) are all “command and control” kind applications that attempted to unravel environmental air pollution points by regulating or limiting actions or mandating particular actions. 

Whereas none of these federal legal guidelines have achieved all of the targets that have been set on the time of passage, every of these federal legal guidelines have labored to various levels to enhance the surroundings, to forestall hurt to human well being or the surroundings, or to carry these chargeable for air pollution accountable for the clear or the prices of clear up. For instance, one of the targets of the Clear Water Act was to make all waters fishable and swimmable. Whereas this aim has but to be achieved, the quantity of waters that don’t help fishing or swimming continues to say no. Even when this aim is rarely met absolutely, the Clear Water Act has had a major influence on the standard of most waterways within the U.S. and within the method during which home and industrial wastewater is managed in the US.

Shortcomings with preliminary environmental applications usually turned obvious, and new applications and refinements of present applications have been developed. One of the more moderen examples of that is discovered within the historical past of TSCA. On the time TSCA was handed in 1976, a call was made to “grandfather” most present chemical substances from TSCA’s regulatory construction. In June 2016, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Security for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Chemical Security Act) considerably amended TSCA and offered a pathway to guage the chemical substances that have been beforehand grandfathered.

After some of the apparent environmental issues with air, water, and land air pollution have been addressed, EPA and different environmental businesses centered on air pollution prevention applications – applications designed to get rid of or scale back air pollution on the supply. Versus allowing or limiting sure actions, EPA enacted varied applications designed to get rid of sure practices (e.g., ocean dumping of wastes) or to get rid of sure sources of air pollution (e.g., lead-primarily based paints and motor fuels). The consideration of environmental justice points in federal applications was one other approach during which environmental (and different) applications tailored to deal with points that continued even after sure practices have been managed or eradicated by different environmental legal guidelines and laws.

As we’ll see subsequent week, the development, evolution and adaptation of environmental legal guidelines and laws has fostered many of the metrics at present used to guage an organization’s ESG efficiency.