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RCRA Corrective Action Enforcement Authorities

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) provides the EPA with enforcement authorities to prevent releases and ensure cleanup. The EPA may authorize a state or territory to implement RCRA corrective action and to operate in lieu of the EPA's regulatory program. States authorized to implement the RCRA corrective action program often have authorities similar to the federal authorities described below.

Forty-four states and the territory of Guam are authorized to operate their corrective action programs in lieu of the EPA’s program. Owners and operators of corrective action facilities 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.

EPA Enforcement Authorities

The EPA uses the following corrective action enforcement authorities to investigate, collect information, take enforcement actions, and access penalties.

Enforcement Authority Summary RCRA
Information gathering & inspections The 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. The 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, the Agency can seek penalties 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, the 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, the EPA may seek penalties for each day of non-compliance. Under certain circumstances, the Agency 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 an owner/operator is in violation of any RCRA subtitle C requirement the EPA can issue an order assessing a penalty for any past or current violation, requiring compliance immediately or within a specified time period, or both. The Agency 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”, the EPA can issue an order requiring corrective action or other response measures necessary to protect human health or the environment. The EPA can seek penalties for each day of noncompliance with the order. The Agency can issue an order requiring corrective action or another response measure or 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 The 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, the Agency can seek penalties for each day the violation occurs or the failure to comply continues. Section 7003
(42 U.S.C. § 6973)

The following documents address penalties under RCRA:

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

Learn More: Types of and Approaches to RCRA Corrective Action Enforcement.

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