Scientists are used to scientific jargon, not administrative and legal jargon. We've provided a brief encyclopedia of terms linked to pages on this website to help our readers understand how federal rulemaking works. If you have any suggestions for additional encyclopedia entries, please send them to us. 

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Administrative Deference: refers to allowing latitude in an agency’s interpretation of a statute compared to the court’s interpretation. Administrative deference began with a landmark case Chevron USA, Inc, v Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc, that produced a legal test for administrative deference. To paraphrase, the interpretation of a statute by Congress has the most power, followed by an agency’s interpretation of the statute, and lastly followed by the court’s interpretation.

Citizen suit provision means that a statute gives the power to any individual citizen to bring a lawsuit to enforce the statute. This can be against an individual, company, or government body engaging in activities prohibited by that law, or against a government body for not appropriately regulating what the law mandated it to regulate. These provisions are particularly common in environmental law that a statute gives the power to any individual citizen to bring a lawsuit to enforce the statute. 

Nation's waters is language used in the Clean Water Act, and refers to both “navigable waters,” and tributaries and wetlands with “a significant nexus to navigable waters.”

Navigable waters is generally interpreted as water bodies used for transportation or commerce. Often, the details of what constitutes “navigable waters” is defined by case law under specific statutes.

Ocean Zones
Internal waters: waters that lie landward of the coast, like bays and rivers. 

Territorial sea: up to 12 nautical miles from the coast. States have jurisdiction in these waters. 

Contiguous zone: 24 nautical miles seaward from the outer boundary of the territorial sea (usually 12 nautical miles from the coast). States have less jurisdiction in these waters. 

Exclusive economic zone (EEZ): from the territorial sea boundary to 200 nautical miles seaward. This includes the contiguous zone. The EEZ is often referred to as "federal waters" because other state and federal entities have more use rights over this zone. 

Continental shelf: sea bed and subsoil in areas beyond territorial sea and within 200 nautical miles of the coast. 

High seas: everything in the ocean not included in the exclusive economic zone, territorial sea, or internal waters of the state; fewer state or federal rules apply. While the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea sets out rules for high seas, they are difficult to enforce. 

Ocean Zones Diagram (NOAA) - click to enlarge

Procedural v. Substantive Law

Procedural law requires that an entity (like an agency) adheres to due process, but does not require a particular action or behavior. 

Substantive law prescribes particular actions or behaviors.