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Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

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Publication Date: January 2008

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL30798

Topic: Law and ethics (Environmental law)

Abstract:

Several major statutes form the legal basis for the programs of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many of these have been amended several times. The current provisions of each are briefly summarized in this report.

The Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) seeks to prevent pollution through reduced generation of pollutants at their point of origin.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires EPA to set mobile source limits, ambient air quality standards, hazardous air pollutant emission standards, standards for new pollution sources, and significant deterioration requirements; and to focus on areas that do not attain standards.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes a sewage treatment construction grants program, and a regulatory and enforcement program for discharges of wastes into U.S. waters. Focusing on the regulation of the intentional disposal of materials into ocean waters and authorizing related research is the Ocean Dumping Act. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) establishes primary drinking water standards, regulates underground injection disposal practices, and establishes a groundwater control program.

The Solid Waste Disposal Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) provide regulation of solid and hazardous waste, while the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), or Superfund, provides authority for the federal government to respond to releases of hazardous substances, and established a fee-maintained fund to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites. The authority to collect fees has expired, and funding is now provided from general revenues.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requires industrial reporting of toxic releases and encourages planning to respond to chemical emergencies.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulates the testing of chemicals and their use, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) governs pesticide products and their use.

Parts of some statutes pre-existed the EPA's formation in 1970, but most of contemporary environmental law was established by Congress during the 1970s, and has been expanded by major amendments; Congress has assigned EPA the administration of a considerable body of law and associated programs. This report is not comprehensive in terms of all laws administered by EPA; it covers the major, basic authorities underlying EPA programs.