Wisconsin | Minnesota | Illinois | California 414-253-8500

Environmental Law FAQ

Environmental law is an ever-growing and complex legal area in Minnesota. Many individuals and most businesses, large and small, must know about and comply with this area of law. However, because it is a relatively new and developing area of law, it can be confusing. At Heritage Law Office, our environmental lawyer in Minnesota keeps abreast of the law and advises clients accordingly. 

Here, we answer some initial questions our clients often have when seeking legal representation for or on environmental compliance, regulation, and/or litigation. Contact us at 414-253-8500 to schedule a consultation and learn more about our environmental and energy regulatory and compliance legal services in Minnesota.

Do I Need an Environmental Lawyer in Minnesota?

The first question often asked is whether a client really needs an environmental lawyer. The answer depends on the individual or the business and the issues they face. These issues can be related to anything relevant to:

  • Environmental laws, regulations, or rules
  • Violations of or challenges to environmental laws and regulations
  • Contracts related to environmental work
  • Health and safety matters
  • Manufacture of products
  • Construction and permitting
  • And more

If any of the above apply, you may likely need an environmental lawyer to advise you on the issues and provide representation as needed. 

What Are the Most Important Environmental Law Topics for Businesses?

If you are a business, certain areas of environmental law may apply to you in unique ways. The most important environmental law topic is the one related to your business or personal matter. Here are prominent environmental law topics that businesses may be required to address or may encounter. 

  • Clean air
  • Indoor air quality
  • Clean water
  • Toxic substances
  • Greenhouse gas 
  • Climate change 
  • Energy supply
  • Occupational safety and health (OSHA) 
  • Site Remediation
  • Siting, land use, and natural resources
  • Solid and hazardous waste management
  • Superfund and SARA

Not all of the above will apply for each business. Further, not all topics are listed above. If you have questions, you should always consult with an environmental lawyer in Minnesota.

What are Important Environmental Laws?

The laws related to the environment are extensive, and most are regulated and enforced by agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Federal laws include but are not limited to the following key laws:

  • Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C.§7401, et seq. The CAA was designed to "protect and enhance the quality of the Nation's air resources" and to fight air pollution. 
  • Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. §1251, et seq. The CWA's "objective … is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters" and fight water pollution. 
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. §9601, et seq. CERCLA, also known as Superfund, placed a tax on certain businesses involved with hazardous materials – the tax funds clean-up efforts of hazardous disposal sites when those businesses no longer exist. 
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq. The TSCA requires reporting, record-keeping, and testing for toxic substances and restricts certain chemicals or mixtures. 
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. §1531. The ESA governs the conservation of fauna in the United States. 
  • Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), 33 U.S.C. §1401. The MPRSA regulates the “dumping of all types of materials into ocean waters" and provides a framework for the regulation and enforcement.
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. §4321, et seq. NEPA was passed to establish a national policy to protect human welfare and the environment; it resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. §6901, et seq. RCRA regulated solid waste.

Each state may also have specific environmental laws that regulate state-wide and local jurisdictions. Because environmental laws are layered and complex, it is important to seek the advice and guidance of an environmental attorney in Minnesota.

What Happens when a Person or Business Violates an Environmental Law in Minnesota?

Much can happen when a person or business violates environmental law, but it depends on the facts and circumstances. There could be criminal charges, civil liability, steep fines, injunctive relief, and more. 

How Much Does an Environmental Lawyer Cost?

The cost of an environmental lawyer depends on the types and extent of services you require as well as how and what the attorney charges. 

Legal services for environmental litigation will be higher than for services where advice or document review are needed. 

There are also three ways an environmental lawyer may charge their fees: 

  1. Contingency fee, which is often used in cases where a victim of some type of environmental issues (like an oil spill) may sue for damages
  2. Fixed rates, where services may take a relatively known amount of time to perform, like in cases where contract review is needed
  3. Hourly rate, which is often applicable where an attorney may spend an unknown amount of time on one or several legal issues.

The lawyer's qualifications, experience, and skill also matter and are factored into the the overall price. 

What also matters is the stage of the legal issue. If a person or company seeks an environmental lawyer after they have begun operations and have violated the law, the price will be higher than for a person or company who seeks an attorney early in the process and avoids violations while maintaining compliance. 

Contact an Environmental Attorney in Minnesota Today

Contact an Environmental Attorney in Minnesota Today

At Heritage Law Office, our environmental lawyer in Minnesota advises clients in many facets of the law as it relates to the environment. We help you comply with the laws and defend against allegations of violations. Contact us today at 414-253-8500 to schedule a consultation.

More Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in enforcing environmental laws?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays a critical role in enforcing environmental laws in the United States. Established for the protection of human health and the environment, the EPA enforces regulations related to air and water quality, chemical safety, and waste management. It conducts environmental assessments, research, and education; it also sets and enforces standards, and works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.

2. How do environmental laws affect land use and development?

Environmental laws significantly influence land use and development to ensure sustainable growth and environmental protection. They regulate activities such as zoning, land clearance, and waste disposal. Key laws include the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires environmental impact assessments for all significant projects, and various state-level regulations that govern land use to minimize environmental impact, preserve natural habitats, and maintain biodiversity.

3. What are the consequences of not complying with the Clean Water Act (CWA)?

Non-compliance with the Clean Water Act can lead to significant legal and financial consequences for both businesses and individuals. These can include substantial fines, mandatory corrective actions, and possibly criminal charges for severe violations. The CWA aims to maintain and restore the integrity of the nation's waters by preventing pollution discharges into waterways, requiring compliance with standards and permits.

4. What does the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulate?

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) gives the EPA the authority to track the thousands of industrial chemicals currently produced or imported into the United States. TSCA enables the EPA to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures. Certain substances, such as food, drugs, cosmetics, and pesticides are excluded from TSCA coverage.

5. How does environmental law interact with business operations?

Environmental laws intersect with business operations by setting the standards and guidelines that businesses must follow to ensure their activities do not adversely affect the environment. This includes regulations on emissions, waste management, resource usage, and the handling of toxic substances. Compliance is critical to avoid legal penalties and supports businesses in contributing to sustainable development, enhancing their corporate responsibility, and improving their public image.

Contact Us Today

For a comprehensive plan that will meet your needs or the needs of a loved one, contact us today. Located in Downtown Milwaukee, we serve Milwaukee County, surrounding communities, and to clients across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and California.