Understanding Laws, Regulations, and Executive Orders in the US Government

Laws are made by who? Laws are MADE by the Legislative Process (congress: government officials who are elected.) and what do they do? Laws set out standards, procedures and principles to govern behavior. Regulations are made to monitor and Enforce legislations (laws) Regulations are developed by a different portion of government known as the Executive Branch

Laws are developed in the Legislative Branch of Government 

Laws may be modified by the Judicial Branch of Government as well. What is an E.O.? (executive order)Executive orders are directives/guides that manage the operations of the government issued by the President’s interpretation on how a Law should be interpreted and implemented Can congress and the federal courts (judicial branch) strike down Executive Orders? If so Why? 

Yes, they can strike down an Executive Order typically if it is considered to be unconstitutional What is the difference between E.O’s and Laws? The difference is in How They Are Made 

Laws must go through entire legislative processes, by being approved by both houses of Congress and then signed by the President (or vetoed) E.O.’s do not have to go through the legislative process, but instead are directives on how to interpret laws. Laws are passed by congress and signed by the president, then turned into regulations by agencies. These are the ties of where the President can affect those regulations through the Executive OrderWhat does rescinded mean?

To Cancel or Contract: putting the parties back to the position as if the contact had not existed. Do executive order have the same power as legislation approved by congress and signed by the president? Yes, as long as the EO is not Rescinded. Congress can Overturn an EO by passing legislation that invalidates the EO. The President can then veto the legislation, but congress can also overturn the veto with a 2/3rds majority to end an EO. Name 5 Examples of the EO in 2022..

  • Lowering Prescription costs for Americans
  • Protecting Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services
  • Adjustments of Certain Rates of Pay
  • Strengthening Efforts to bring hostages of war home (P.O.W.s)
  • Strengthening Americans access to affordable and quality health care

What is the Federal Register?A: Official Record of Actions by the US GovWhat are the differences between Executive Orders and Executive Memoranda?

A: EM/Presidental Memoranda are also directives to the government with the force of the law. Difference being EOs Must be published + sequentially numbered in the federal register (official record of actions by the U.S Govt) EM’s do not need to be published! Memoranda’s are typically done in secrecy, only having to tell congress, and do not have to be based on/ connected to the constitution unlike EO’s which must. What are some the most well known EOs? Name 3

  • Emancipation Proclamation (1863)
  • Manhattan Project (1941)
  • Desegregation of the Military (1948)

What are the 6 sources of the law?

  1. Constitution
  2. Federal Statutes (aka laws) must be consistent with the constitution
  3. Treaties between US and other countries
  4. Federal Regulations (developed + adopted by Federal Departments and Agencies)
  5. State Constitutions
  6. Local Ordinances

What source of the Law has the authority for all other federal laws? A: The Constitution Are State Laws Superior to Federal Laws?A: FalseDo State Constitutions have to abide by the Federal Constitution and contravene it? A: No, they must abide by the Federal Constitution. What is a State Constituion?

A: Each state has its own Constituion that provides the basis for that State’s Laws + legal procedures. What are the two times in which the Federal Constitution may be subject to give over pre-eminence to the State? 1.Some Environmental Regulations, Congress has authorized states to regulate federal Agencies

2. When a State Court finds a Federal Regulatory Activity to be unconstitutional (to their states constitution, but only within the jurisdiction for that states court) Are Court Decisions a source of the law? If so, how? Yes, by changing the interpretation of that law or modifying how that law might be implemented What is the Court Hierarchy?Supreme AppealsDistrictClaims

Can State Courts negate Federal Statutes? Yes.

Supreme Court is the highest court for interpreting Federal Law, the State Supreme Courts are the highest court for interpreting the State’s Laws. What is the ONLY entity that Enacts Laws?

A:Congress Who writes regulations to implement the authority of laws? A: Federal Departments and Agencies

Are Laws superior to Regulations, EOs, Memoranda, and Proclamations? A:Yes What is the difference between EO’s and EP’s? (Executive Proclamations)A: Proclamations are directed oward towards those outside of government while EOs are aimed at those Inside the govt. 

U.S. Code – Categorizes laws based on category/subject.  Only laws in effect on the day of publication are included.

U.S. Statutes-at-Large – Contains all laws and resolutions enacted during a session of Congress. Code of Federal Regulations – Contains the rules of the Departments and Agencies.

Does congress often grant agencies broad authority to interpret statutes?

True, Agencies are permitted to develop detailed rules and regulations through public “rule making” process

Do Agencies have to follow the public’s comments/ sentiments while developing regulations? 

No What branch of the Federal Government is this describing?

U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Library of Congress, Congressional Budget Office.

Legislative BranchWhat branch of the Federal Government is this describing?- Office of the President, nearly all Federal Agencies.

Executive BranchWhat branch of the Federal Government is this describing? Supreme Court, Circuit Court of Appeal, Federal District Court. Judicial Branch What federal court system is this describing? Nine Justices that hear appeals of lower Federal Court and State Court decisions (if it has a federal nexus in particular).  Highest court in the land. Supreme Court What federal court system is this describing? Second most powerful court. 179 Judges. Thirteen Districts (including the DC Circuit & Federal Circuit).  Three judge panels. Hears tens of thousands cases each year. Often the final arbiter on most federal cases.

Circuit Court of Appeal What federal court system is this describing? The basic jurisdictional trial court.

Federal District Court Who is the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court? John Roberts What Federal Agency is this referring to?? In the Executive Branch and provides guidance and coordination to the President’s office. Council on Environmental Quality What Federal Agency is this referring to??

Administrator of the _._._. is normally given Cabinet rank…but the Agency is not a Cabinet Department. Implements most environmental laws. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

What Federal Agency is this referring to?? Cabinet-level Agency with jurisdiction over several environmentally-related agencies. (Bureau of Land Management, Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service) Department of Interior

What Federal Agency is this referring to??

Cabinet-level Agency.  Responsibilities include several environmentally related agencies.(US FOREST SERVICE, Soil Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture

What Federal Agency is this referring to??

Cabinet-level Agency.  Several sub-agencies with environmental responsibilities. (NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NOAA Fisheries.)

Department of Commerce

What Federal Agency is this referring to??

 Cabinet-level Agency. Incorporates the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Has a lot of responsibilities with renewable energy resources.

Department of Energy 

What Federal Agency is this referring to??

 – An independent regulatory commission. Not a part of any other branch of govt,

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

What Federal Agency is this referring to??

 Cabinet-level Agency. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has regulatory responsibilities under the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act.

Department of Defense

What kind of law is this describing?

The rules that determine the rights and obligations of individuals and collective entities. The set of laws that governs how members of a society are to behave.

Substansive Law What kind of law is this describing?

The procedures for producing, administering, and enforcing substantive law. Establishes the procedures for implementing a law.

Procedural Law What kind of law is this describing?

Incorporates both Substantive and Procedural Law. Most regulations have both of these components.

Regulations  What kind of law is this describing?

These require government to plan or consider the effect of its actions in light of environmental concerns (foremost example is the National Environmental Policy Act – NEPA)

Planning Laws What kind of law is this describing?

To tell people what they can do and what they cannot do (e.g. Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act)

Regulatory Laws What kind of law is this describing?

A Combination of Planning + Regulatory Laws

Planning and Regulatory Laws True or False

Most Regulations have both components of Substantive and Procedural Laws?

TRUE What does NEPA stand for?

National Environmental Policy Act

What Act is this describing?

the nation’s most extensive environmental law in regards to agencies and coverage. Regulates the action of all federal agencies

Governs all federal agencies except, congress, federal judiciary, and the office of the president. Takes account of all of the factors regarding “the natural and physical environment, and the relationship of people within that environment”

Brief Statute, only 6 pages in length. 

NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act)

True or False Under NEPA, Federal Agencies are required to come to decisions directed by the act False True or False

NEPA is a procedural statute rather than a substantive statute

True What Act is one of the most frequently copied U.S. Statute, with nearly 100 countries adopting the environmental assessment provisions of this act? NEPAWhat is this describing?

 uses a “systematic, interdisciplinary approach” to ensure the “integrated use of the natural and social sciences” in planning and decision making.

The EIS Process

Is the intent of the NEPA to block development projects?


Does the NEPA try and open and broaden decision making process?


Instead of halting projects, what does NEPA usually cause a project proponent to do (two thingshere)?

1. They no longer propose projects that have unacceptable impacts on the environment2.  When projects are moved ahead with by Agencies, the Agencies will employ mitigation measures to eliminate or greatly reduce the environmental impacts

What era did federal agencies become accustomed to NEPA requirements and to public involvement in their decision making?

A:70s 80s and 90s

Has the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made tremendous strides in compliance and adherence to environmental Standards?


Has the U.S. Department of Energy made much progress in adapting to environmentally sensitive decision making?


Does the CEQ (Council on Environmental Quality, supervise the EIS process and coordinate all of the federal agencies in NEPA compliance?


What was the reported average testimony length of the final EIs documents in to Congress that 2006? How about compared to 2019?

2006: 740

2019: 400

What are the six objectives of NEPA ?

1. Adding to the authority of all agencies to integrate environmental, social and economic objectives while carrying out functions

2.Procedural Reform

3.Disclosure of Environmental Information

4.Resolution of Environmental Problems: makes agencies look for solutions for environmental problems through mitigation measures

5. Integrating Integovernmental coordination – Requires agencies to deal with other agencies, state, local governments, and tribes. 

5. Increasing Public Participation in Govt Planning and Decision Making. Regarding Environmental Issues

Which Section of NEPA is this referring to?

Preserve important historical/cultural/natural aspects of our national heritage, Increase the quality of renewable resources + maximize attainable recycling 

Attain the widest range of benefits of an environment, without degradation, or undesirable and unintended consquuences


Which Section of NEPA is this referring to?

Requires that every fed agency prepares an EIs (Environmental Impact Statement) for proposed laws/actions. Anything that “significantly affects the quality of the human environment”

Four basic..Steps in NEPA process

1.Determine whether NEPA applies

2. Determine whether to apply a EA or EIS (Environmental Assessment & Environmental Impact Statement)

3. Prepare the appropriate Document

4.Make a decision on proposed action based on what considerations are found in the EA or EIS

Are EIs regarded as procedural requirement or substantive duty?

A: Procedural Requirement- Does not require agencies to take the environmentally proper action: it only requires them to consider the effects of their actions on the environment