An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Emergency Planning and Response Authorities

The federal government's responsibilities for emergency response are established by statute and by executive orders issued by the President.


The Stafford Act (PL-93-288) provides the authority for the federal government to respond to disasters and emergencies. Under the Stafford Act, the President is authorized to:

  • Establish a program of disaster preparedness that uses services of all appropriate agencies;
  • Make grants to states, upon their request, for the development of plans and programs for disaster preparedness and prevention; and
  • Ensure that all appropriate federal agencies are prepared to issue warnings of disasters to state and local officials.

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972/ Oil Pollution Act of 1990 expands the National Contingency Plan (NCP) to include response to releases of hazardous substances, as well as oil, to any navigable waters of the US. The Oil Pollution Act broadens the response and enforcement authorities of the federal government.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) gives EPA the authority to control hazardous waste from "cradle to grave", including its generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal.

The Comprehensive Emergency Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) expands the NCP to apply to releases to any environmental media and to cover releases at hazardous waste sites requiring emergency removal actions.

State and Local organizations and chemical facilities also have statutory requirements and responsibilities to prevent, plan and prepare for, and respond to chemical emergencies.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) establishes a chemical emergency response planning infrastructure at the state and local levels. It requires facilities to provide information about hazardous chemicals at their facility and participate in the local chemical emergency planning effort.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 112(r) amendments require facilities that use extremely hazardous substances to develop a Risk Management Plan which:

  • identifies the potential effects of a chemical accident,
  • identifies steps the facility is taking to prevent an accident, and
  • spells out emergency response procedures should an accident occur.

These plans provide valuable information to local fire, police, and emergency response personnel to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in their community.

Executive Orders (EO)

EO 12088-Federal Compliance with Pollution Control Standards delegates pollution prevention, control, and abatement responsibilities to federal agencies, including EPA.

EO 12580-Superfund Implementation, as amended by EO 12777-Implementation of Section 311 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), delegates to EPA specific authorities under the NCP, as well as the responsibility for its amendment.

Homeland Security Presidential Directives also give EPA the legal authority for its emergency response program.