Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Enforcement
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (P.L. 94-580) was enacted in 1976 and consists collectively of the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965 (SWDA) and the subsequent amendments to it. It was passed to address the mounting problem of accumulating waste and the potential risks to human health. It placed controls on the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste, as well as established a framework for the management of non-hazardous waste. Additionally, it set forth statutory authorities and the liability for owners and operators of facilities that failed to comply with the statutory and regulatory requirements.
RCRA has provisions relating to the regulation and enforcement of regulations for Hazardous Waste (Subtitle C), Solid Waste (Subtitle D) and Underground Storage Tanks (Subtitle I) and the associated facilities and handlers. The remediation or cleanup of hazardous wastes that have come from active RCRA facilities, underground storage tanks, and oil spills is addressed in the appropriate topic under Cleanup Enforcement. -Cleanup Enforcement.
RCRA has continued to evolve as it has been further amended to reflect the nation's changing needs. One of the more important amendments was the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984 (HSWA), which expanded the scope and requirements of RCRA. HSWA was enacted largely in response to citizen concerns that existing methods of hazardous waste disposal, particularly land disposal of wastes, were not safe. HSWA also required EPA to develop a comprehensive program for regulation of underground storage tanks and underground tank systems (USTs) as necessary to protect human health and the environment. It addressed the problem of leaking underground storage tanks (LUSTs) by requiring tank notification, tank standards, reporting and record keeping requirements for existing tanks, corrective action when necessary, as well as the development of a compliance and enforcement program.
RCRA does not address the problems of hazardous waste found at inactive or abandoned sites or those resulting from spills that require emergency response. These problems are addressed by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly called Superfund, which was enacted in 1980-(See Superfund under Cleanup Enforcement) to address these problems. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) has provisions for cleaning up oil spills and RCRA includes authorities for cleaning up RCRA waste or waste from active facilities. Information on other federal hazardous waste laws and regulations can be found in the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste Laws and Regulations section which lists documents and other information organized by subject.
RCRA provides the federal government with the authority to authorize states to implement and enforcement hazardous waste regulations and requirements as long as the state programs are as stringent or broader in scope than the federal regulations. The EPA’s Office of Solid Waste (OSW) maintains infomration on the current status of authorized state programs on its web site. Most states have their hazardous waste laws and regulations available on their own web sites.