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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Fall 1997

Book Reviews

Ann Jensen
Engineering Library
University of California at Berkeley


Environmental Law Handbook, 14th edition. Thomas F.P. Sullivan, Editor. Rockville, MD:  Government Institute, Inc.,  1997. 587 p. Hardcover $79.00 (ISBN 086587560X)
This latest edition of a handbook in its 24th year reflects the  evolving nature of environmental law, which has expanded to include the health and safety of both the general public and workers', as well as the protection and  remediation of the natural environment.    Environmental law is a means of organizing existing laws to be used in the protection of  the environment, and includes permits, prohibitions and penalties related to non-compliance.   Laws become "environmental" by the purpose for which they are used, not necessarily by their content or original function.  The volume is aimed at non-lawyers who need to understand and comply with environmental law.  The presentation assumes some technical understanding of environmental issues. 

Two preliminary chapters provide legal background for layreaders:   "Fundamentals of Environmental law', followed by "Enforcement and Liability".  Fourteen chapters follow, each dealing with a particular legislative or administrative environmental statute and written by a legal or administrative expert in that area, including Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund) among others.  Each is a narrative chapter, beginning with an overview of the issues and legislative history , followed by an exposition of the Act which includes definitions of terms, discussion of ambiguities or controversies related to the issues, and analysis of specific sections of the Acts, with legal references to sections of code.  Text of the statutes themselves is not included. 

A strength of the title is its focus on the issues out of which each Act grew, and the balanced presentation of the problems and controversies inherent in these laws, along with the exposition of the major elements of the Acts.    Extensive footnotes include detailed reference to the laws and codes, although a consolidated listing of these as an Appendix would be useful for quicker reference. 

Drawbacks include heavy use of acronyms throughout most chapters, and while each acronym is defined the first time it appears, the absence of a coordinated glossary of acronyms makes reading unnecessarily difficult in some of the sections.  The index is cumbersome, again because of inconsistencies between the use of full phrases and acronyms.  The expanded Table of Contents functions as a highly detailed outline of each environmental act and is more useful than the index.   The chapters are uneven in their clarity and the balance between common language and legal terminology.

This edition is recommended for academic libraries which support engineering, public health and public policy, as well as reference collections in larger public libraries.  It will serve as a beginning entry into the complexities of environmental regulation.

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