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Federal Facilities and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is the primary Federal statute regulating the control of and disposal of solid and hazardous waste. Federal facilities may have many regulatory responsibilities under RCRA, including obtaining permits, identifying and listing hazardous waste, adhering to proper procedures when transporting or disposing of waste, developing risk management plans, and maintaining records. RCRA also contains requirements for underground storage tanks. These standards cover tank design, operation, cleanup, and closure. Part of EPA's mission is to ensure that Federal facilities comply with these requirements.

The Federal Facility Compliance Act of 1992 (FFCA) amended RCRA and waited the sovereign immunity of the United States. Federal facilities are required to comply with all Federal, State, interstate, and local solid and hazardous waste requirements. This includes statutes, regulations, permits, reporting requirements, and administrative and judicial orders and injunctions. Federal facilities are subject to civil penalties for violation and Federal employees are personally liable for RCRA criminal violations. Federal agencies also must reimburse EPA for the costs of TSDF inspections at their facilities, comply with procurement requirements, and cooperate with EPA by making available information on their agency waste management practices and hazardous waste facilities.

TSDF Inspections - EPA is required to conduct annual RCRA inspections of Federal Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs). Federal facilities are required to reimburse the EPA for its costs of the TSDF inspection.

RCRA Corrective Action – EPA may issue an order to federal facilities requiring them to undertake a corrective action or other such response measures to protect human health or the environment.

Inventory of Federal Agency Hazardous Waste Facilities - Federal agencies are required to compile, publish, and submit to EPA and authorized States an inventory of all facilities that they currently own or operate or have previously owned or operated at which hazardous waste is stored, treated, or disposed of, or was disposed of at any time. This inventory, commonly called the RCRA Biennial Inventory, must be submitted every two years.

Recycling and Procurement – Section 6002 requires federal agencies to develop a procurement program to purchase recycled products to the maximum extent practicable and recycle their wastes.

Underground Storage Tanks - Federal facilities are subject to Underground Storage Tank (UST) requirements established by Subtitle I of RCRA to the same extent as private facilities. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 made it clear that federal agencies are subject to the UST requirements in RCRA. EPA’s authority to assess penalties and issues field citations for UST violations by federal agencies was confirmed by the Department of Justice in 1998. EPA can also issue administrative orders to federal agencies to address UST violations, but, as not above, EPA cannot enforce compliance with these orders.

EPA Enforcement

Federal facilities are subject to all administrative orders, penalties and fines, regardless of whether such penalties are punitive or coercive in nature or are imposed for isolated, intermittent, or continuing violations.

Assessment of Civil Penalties – The FFCA clarified that EPA may assess civil penalties against Federal facilities for violations of the solid and hazardous waste and UST requirements.

Violation of Compliance Orders - If a violator fails to take corrective action within the time specified in a compliance order, EPA may assess a civil penalty for each day of continued noncompliance with the order. In addition, EPA may suspend or revoke any permit issued to the violator Administrator or the State. RCRA provides that these penalties are collected, if not paid by the violator, through an action in federal courts. Since EPA cannot sue another federal agency in federal court, EPA cannot enforce any penalties for violations of a RCRA compliance order.

Monitoring, Analysis and Testing – EPA can issue a unilateral administrative order to compel federal agencies to monitor, analyze, and test if EPA finds RCRA wasted at the agency’s facility or has been released for the facility (Section 3013). Before any such order is effective against a federal agency, the agency must be given an opportunity to confer with the EPA Administrator (Section 6001). Penalties for violation of such orders can only be collected in a federal court action. Since EPA cannot sue other federal agencies in federal court, EPA cannot enforce compliance with these orders issued to federal agencies.

 Emergency Authority – EPA can issue unilateral administrative orders to federal agencies under RCRA when EPA finds an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health or the environment (Section 7003). Before any such order is effective against a federal agency, the agency must be given the opportunity to confer with the EPA Administrator (Section 6001). Penalties for violation of such orders can only be collected in a federal court action. Since EPA cannot sue another federal agency in federal courts, EPA cannot enforce compliance with these orders issues to federal agencies.

To learn more, review the EPA's Federal Facilities Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) enforcement and compliance program documents.

 


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