In fact, elements of environmental legislation can be traced back to the late 19th – the early 20th century. The US President Theodore Roosevelt, was renowned for his protection of forests. In this respect, it should be said that Theodore Roosevelt worked successfully on the implementation of the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, according to which American Presidents had been given the power to designate public domain for forest reserves (Holmes, 2006). In such a way, the act allowed the US Presidents to preserve forests and, therefore, this act could be used to prevent deforestation of the USA. In fact, Theodore Roosevelt himself used this law to set aside 150 million acres and created 50 wildlife refuges. At the same time, Roosevelt worked on the transformation of arid lands of southwestern USA into farmlands.
To meet this goal he worked for Congress to pass the Reclamation Act of 1902. Under this act, Roosevelt initiated sixteen major reclamation projects in the southwest (Holmes, 2006).
The President Nixon was particularly prolific in his environmental legislation initiatives. During his presidency, Nixon contributed to the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which was one of the first national legal acts written to establish a broad national framework for protecting the environment. The Act defines the major state policies in relation to environment. The basic policy assures that all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment, including the construction of highways, military complexes, airports, etc. (Cassell, 1972). In 1970, the Clean Air Act was implemented. This Act regulates air emissions from areas, stationary and mobile (vehicles) sources. The law authorized the US EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (Cassell, 1972).
Under the Presidency of Carter, the work on the environmental legislation carried on. In fact, it is during his Presidency, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 was implemented. This Act gives the US EPA authority to control hazardous waste (Stark, 1994).
The control includes the generation, transportation, treatment storage and disposal of hazardous waste. This act was very important since it had enhanced consistently the state control over hazardous materials and waste which exposed Americans as well as environment to serious risks. Obviously, this Act prevented the uncontrollable generation, transportation and treatment of hazardous wastes that was extremely important for the prevention of the negative impact of humans on their environment. At the same time, the strengthening of control from the part of the state clearly indicated to the increased role and concerns of the state in regard to the environmental protection.
In addition, Carter signed the Clean Air Act amendments in 1977 to strengthen air quality standards and protect human health. In this respect, it should be said that amendments were essential to adapt the current legislative norms and standards to the changed technologies, which became more sophisticated and more dangerous to human health and environment.
His work was continued by Reagan whose election in 1980 was marked by the implementation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) commonly known as Superfund. This Act created taxes on chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. Over the five years after the implementation of the Act, $1,6 billion was collected and the tax went to a trust fund for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Moreover, in 1986 Reagan amended CERCLA by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, which stressed the importance of permanent remedies and innovative treatment technologies in cleaning up hazardous waste sites.
Under the Presidency of G. Bush Senior, the Congress passed the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, which required states to demonstrate improvements in air quality that was important since the amendments not only protected the pollution but stimulated the work on the improvement of the environmental situation. The same year, the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 was implemented, which focuses industries, government and public on reducing pollution through cost-effective changes in production, operation and raw material use (Stark, 1994).
The next President, Clinton implemented the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1996, which ensured safe drinking water for the public, while the EPA was required to set standards for drinking water quality. In 1996 the Safe Food Protection Act was implemented which authorizes the EPA to set maximum residue levels, or tolerances, for pesticides use in or on foods or animal feeds (Trisoglio, 2004).
Finally, G. Bush Junior implemented the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfield Revitalization Act of 2002 which amended CERCLA by providing funds to assess and clean up brownfields. In addition, he introduced the Clear Skies Act of 2003, which amended the Clean Air Act and aimed at the reduction of the pollution through expansion of cap-and-trade programs (Trisoglio, 2004).