The Not so Fine Print of Environmental Law

12 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2006  

John-Mark Stensvaag

University of Iowa - College of Law


The field of environmental law first emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a discipline of broad malleable phrases. These phrases have been supplanted in subsequent years by the increasingly detailed minutiae of environmental statutes and regulations. This Article argues that modern microenvironmental law is dominated by fine print exhibiting three attributes: (1) it is hidden and difficult to detect; (2) it has been crafted by actors who seek to use it to their advantage; and (3) it leads to unexpected outcomes. As a result, modern environmental law is seldom what it appears to be. Using illustrations drawn from the Clean Air Act and from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Article demonstrates that the initial appearances of environmental control schemes can be misleading, because the schemes are vastly different once their fine print has been explored. The Article closes with an urgent call for the scholarly illumination of microenvironmental law, warning that a failure to plumb the fine print will result in a regime in which we deceive ourselves about the real meaning and effects of environmental law.

Keywords: environmental law

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Stensvaag, John-Mark, The Not so Fine Print of Environmental Law. Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Vol. 27, pp. 1093-1103, April 1994; U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-46(5). Available at SSRN:

John-Mark Stensvaag (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

Register to support our free research


Paper statistics

Abstract Views