Document Type



This article, designed as a resource for environmental law professors both domestically and abroad, addresses how environmental quality standards are created, implemented, and enforced in the United States. The answers to these questions are useful to those teaching U.S. environmental law and international scholars, especially in the European Union, who are faced with the challenge of creating new environmental quality standards under both national and EU directives. It must be noted that this project is complicated by the federal system within the country, and, thus, attention must be devoted to the federal-state relationship. In fact, the major relevant statutes, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, were designed to use the federal system in order to implement their statutory objectives, and this Article is divided into two sections focusing on these two natural resources, air and water.

Part I entitled “Water” considers the components of water quality standards, determination of maximum pollutant load to waterways to maintain water quality standards (known as total maximum daily loads), and the state planning and federal oversight process. It continues to discuss the components of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”)-technology-based and water quality-based effluent limitations, permitting, and the federal/state relationship-and enforcement of the Clean Water Act.

Part II entitled “Air” provides an overview of the Clean Air Act, summarizing legislative and statutory provisions, offering insight into the design and creation of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”), and discussing the federal/state relationship as it relates to implementation. This Article strives to provide a snapshot of environmental quality standards and their legal constructions in the United States in a manner that might be useful in providing insight to policymakers in other systems seeking to make their environmental quality regulatory regimes more effective.