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Environmental Law Research Guide: Primary Law

Last Updated: Jan 19, 2024 3:10 PM

Note well

Many of your primary federal and state sources will reference each other.  Make note of these references, and always be sure to update any citations to be sure they are good law.

Federal Legislative Branch Materials

Federal Bills, and
Congressional Hearings, Reports, & Documents

Federal Legislative Branch Materials

Public Laws & Codified Laws

Laws Published Chronologically - Public Laws

These laws are generically known as "session laws," or laws arranged by legislative session.

Laws Organized by Subject - U.S. Code

Official, Unannotated United States Code

Unofficial, Annotated United States Code

Executive Branch

Federal Administrative Process

Each agency must publish its rules in the Code of Federal Regulations.  Before that publication, any changes or additions to any rules must be included for a certain time period (usually 90 days) in the Federal Register. 


Federal Register

The Federal Register is a daily publication (not including weekends or holidays) which includes notices of proposed rules or amendments, final rules,  executive orders, and agency notices. 

There are many ways to access the Federal Register:

The Code of Federal Regulations

After a rule is finalized, it is published in the Code of Federal Regulations, which is organized by "title," or subject.  The CFR is the playbook of the administrative agencies, and it outlines procedures and definitions used by the agency.

Administrative Decisions

Federal Administrative Decisions

Federal Administrative Decisions & Guidance (Westlaw Campus Research)UB Only
Includes materials covering various time periods including:
    Administrative Review Board Decisions
    Board of Contract Appeals (BCA) Decisions
    Congressional Accountability Office of Compliance
    Department of the Interior - Solicitor's Opinions
    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    Employees Compensation Appeals Board
    FAA Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition Decisions
    Federal Labor Relations Authority
    Federal Mine Safety & Health Review Commission
    Federal Travel Regulations & Joint Federal Travel Regulations
    Government Accountability Office (GAO)
    Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
    Manual of Patent Examining Procedure
    Merit Systems Protection Board
    National Labor Relations Board & ALJ Decisions
    National Mediation Board
    NLRB General Counsel Memoranda
    Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission
    Office of Personnel Management
    Sarbanes Oxley Administrative Decisions
    Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure
    Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Manual of Procedure
    United States Postal Service
    Wage & Hour Opinion Letters


Federal Administrative Decisions & Guidance (Westlaw Edge)
Coverage varies by agency and document type and includes:

Department of the Interior (DOI) Federal Administrative Decisions & Guidance (Westlaw Edge)
    Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement
    Federal Environmental Law News Releases
    Gower Federal Service
    Guidelines for Implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act
    Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA)
    Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA)
    Royalties Management Service
    Secretary of the Interior
    Solicitor's Opinions

Department of Energy (DOE) (Westlaw Edge)
    Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
    Orders, Notices & Releases

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Westlaw Edge)
    Administrative Law Judge Decisions
    Environmental Appeals Board Decisions
    Federal Environmental Law News Releases
    General Counsel Memoranda
    Office of Grants & Debarment Decisions
    Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response
    Regional Decisions
    Title V Final Orders

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) (Westlaw Edge)
Documents released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission. Coverage begins with 1956. Contents include:
    Atomic Energy Commission Reports: 1956 - 1975
    Nuclear Regulatory Commission Issuances:1975+
    Nuclear Regulatory Commission Enforcement Actions:1979+


Federal Administrative Materials (Lexis+) Lexis
Administrative opinions and other materials from: Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and many other agencies.

EPA Cases and SettlementsPublic

  •     Civil and Cleanup Enforcement Cases and Settlements: 1998+
  •     Summary of Criminal Prosecutions: 1983+
  •     Filings, Procedures, Orders and Decisions from EPA's Administrative Law Judges: 2004+
  •     Environmental Appeals Board - decisions, orders, and more


Judicial Branch & More

Environmental Law Cases and More

Energy & Environment Resources(State and Federal) (Westlaw Edge)
        Trial Court Orders
        Statutes & Court Rules
        Administrative Decisions & Guidance
        Secondary Sources
        Trial Court Documents
        Expert Materials
        Jury Verdicts & Settlements
        Proposed & Enacted Legislation
        Proposed & Adopted Regulations
        Energy & Environment Analysis

Environmental Data Resources (Westlaw Edge)
All EDR materials currently available on Westlaw, including records of decision, consent agreements and the civil enforcement docket. Coverage varies by source. Search or browse the materials (by type, by state...)


Environmental Law Cases  (Westlaw Campus Research)UB Only
Contains reported and unreported case law from the state and federal courts that relate to environmental protection and conservation.
Coverage begins with 1850. Includes state and federal court cases.