While the federal government does aim to protect the environment against harmful activities, the current laws fall short of achieving that. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act (Federal Water Pollution Control act) serve as a basis for states to pass additional legislation. However, because the verbiage states "no more stringent" than federal law provisions states have found themselves extremely limited in their ability to pass legislation against more serious concerns. This has restricted states' abilities to quickly address new environmental risks that concern their state. States have turned to enforced mandates such as requiring the use of organic solvents and "green" chemicals.
Because of legislative restraints, states have been forced to take a stance of "prevention first" when establishing environmental protection policies. In 1990 the Pollution Prevention Act was passed stipulating that prevention must be part of federal, state, and local environmental protection programs. In order to prevent pollution, companies and individuals must not use the chemicals that could potentially get into the ground and water supply.
Wikipedia describes organic solvents as carbon-containing solvents. Furthermore, it states, "Solvents usually have a low boiling point and evaporate easily or can be removed by distillation, leaving the dissolved substance behind." By requiring manufacturers and other high risk groups to use organic solvents, such as organic degreasers, the environmental agencies hope to lower the amount of pollutants in both the soil and the water systems.
Since the states were limited by other means, they have begun to ensure that as few pollutants as possible are used in businesses such as manufacturing. In fact, manufacturers have taken these restrictions and have even begun to capitalize on the organic solvents market by producing products such as organic degreasers.
Many large companies have now begun to make organic cleaners to market to the general consumer. Their concept is that if every household would cut back on their cleaning supplies which contain pollutants, then the environment as a whole would be less pollutant.
Each year more and more companies compete to show that they are environmentally friendly. As the general public becomes more aware of the hazards of pollution and becomes more involved in trying to prevent it, the bigger the "green" business becomes. Some states have already passed legislation to reward companies for being environmentally conscious and responsible. States realize that while they are limited in some areas, it is possible to lower emissions and pollutants within their region.
State Governments have realized that legislation is only one part of environmental protection. Governors from various states have learned that in order to be effective, there must be someone to enforce the rules that require businesses and individuals to be responsible for their choices. Therefore, while the "no more stringent" guideline has seriously hindered states' ability to effectively react to each circumstance, state mandates have become a vital part of sustaining environmental protection plans.
Each year states become more aware of the growing issues that threaten to harm the environment and at the same time public interests have grown. The combination of these things, as well as advances in scientific research has enabled individual states to reclaim some authority by pursuing mandates to protect the environment.