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RCRA Corrective Action Enforcement Authorities

There are several authorities in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that EPA may use to prevent releases and ensure cleanup.

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Enforcement Authorities

The table below highlights the statutory provisions most commonly used by EPA to investigate and cleanup contamination.

Enforcement Authority Summary RCRA
Information gathering & inspections EPA can request information from anyone who generates, stores, treats, transports, disposes of, or otherwise handles or has handled hazardous waste, relating to such waste. EPA can inspect, sample, and have access to and copy all records relating to such waste. If someone doesn’t comply with such a request, EPA can seek penalties of up to $37,500* for each day of noncompliance. Section 3007
(42 U.S.C. § 6927)
Monitoring, testing, and analysis At facilities where hazardous waste is, or has been, stored, treated, or disposed, or where the release of hazardous waste from a facility or site may present a substantial hazard to human health or the environment, EPA can issue an order to require the facility’s owner or operator to monitor, test, and analyze. If an owner or operator fails to comply with an order, EPA may seek penalties up to $7500* for each day of non-compliance. EPA may also do the monitoring, testing, and analysis on its own and then seek reimbursement of the costs from the owner or operator. Section 3013
(42 U.S.C. § 6934)
Compliance orders When someone is in violation of any requirement of RCRA subtitle C, EPA can issue an order assessing a penalty of up to $37,500* per day per violation, for any past or current violation, requiring compliance immediately or within a specified time period, or both. EPA can also use this authority to initiate a civil action. Section 3008(a)
(42 U.S.C. § 6928(a))
Releases at interim status facilities When there is a release or threat of a release of a hazardous waste into the environment from a facility with RCRA “interim status”, EPA can issue an order requiring corrective action or other response measures necessary to protect human health or the environment. EPA can seek penalties of up to $37,500* for each day of noncompliance with the order. EPA can issue an order requiring corrective action or another response measure or EPA may bring a lawsuit for “relief”, including a temporary or permanent order to stop the activity. Section 3008(h)
(42 U.S.C. § 6928(h))
Imminent & substantial endangerment EPA can take enforcement action against the owner/operator when there is evidence that past or present handling, storage, treatment, and/or transportation of any solid waste or hazardous waste may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment. If a person willfully violates, or fails or refuses to comply with an order, EPA can seek penalties of up to $7500* for each day the violation occurs or the failure to comply continues. Section 7003
(42 U.S.C. § 6973)

*Penalties are current for violations after January 12, 2009, the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 requires EPA to review the civil monetary penalties under the statutes it administers at least once every four years and to adjust such penalties as necessary for inflation.

EPA’s RCRA Corrective Action Cleanup Enforcement Policies and Guidance database contains policy and guidance documents related to the enforcement authorities listed above.

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Enforcement in Authorized States and Territories

EPA may approve a state's or territory's RCRA corrective action program to operate in lieu of EPA's program. EPA generally approves a state-administered RCRA corrective action program if:

  • the state requirements are no less stringent than the federal requirements; and
  • the state has the ability to take adequate enforcement actions.

Currently, 42 states and the territory of Guam are authorized to operate their program in lieu of EPA's program. Owners and operators of corrective action sites in authorized states should also contact their state regulatory agency because the state program may have different or more stringent requirements than the federal RCRA corrective action program.

States authorized to implement the RCRA corrective action program often have authorities similar to the federal authorities described in the table above. EPA can use its enforcement authorities to enforce a states’ authorized corrective action program. The Corrective Action Where You Live web page contains information on regional activities and state authorized programs.

Learn More: Approaches to RCRA Corrective Action enforcement.

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