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ENVS 120 - Introduction to Environmental Law and Regulation in the US

This course guide was created for the upper division course, ENVS 120 - Introduction to Environmental Law and Regulation in the US. If you any questions, please contact Anna Yang at


Image on the left was taken by Jeffrey Kennan of Yosemite National Park. Image on the right depicts a gavel, courtesy of Tingey Injury Law Firm in Las Vegas, NV.

Course Description

This course uses a conceptual approach to introduce you to U.S. environmental law and regulation. It presents a structured treatment of federal environmental law that focuses on core concepts, so that by the end of the course you will understand how major environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, work together as part of an overarching system to manage human relationships with the environment. As we study specific laws, we will explore a variety of environmental challenges addressed by environmental laws and regulations, the difficult policy issues surrounding environmental problems, and the legal complexities of environmental regulatory and administrative schemes.

Environmental laws can be extremely complex. No one person can master them all, nor can a single quarter course provide you detailed review of all (or even very many) of the federal environmental statutes. This course, however, will give you the foundation by covering the fundamentals of environmental law. Some of these include issues of federalism, uses of economic incentives, and relationships between environmental justice and economic growth. By the end, you will have a working understanding of how federal, state, and even some international environmental laws and policies fit together through the use of case studies to help illustrate key points.