Who is Involved in RCRA?
The RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) program involves a myriad of people and organizations with varying roles. Congress and the President set overall national direction for the RCRA program through amendments to the Act. EPA, through its Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), translates this direction into operating programs by developing regulation, guidance and policy .
Site-specific implementation of the RCRA program is the responsibility of the EPA Regions and states. All three RCRA programs - hazardous waste, solid waste and underground storage tanks (USTs) - have mechanisms through which states can exercise key program responsibilities. Initial federal responsibilities vary among the different programs.
Under Subtitle D, EPA established minimum criteria for Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (MSWLF) and required each state to gain approval for their MSWLF permitting program through an approval process which ensures that the state's program meets minimum federal criteria. Most of the Subtitle D solid waste program is overseen by the states and compliance is assured through state-issued permits.
State involvement in the Subtitle C program is similar to involvement in the Subtitle D program. Under Subtitle C, in the authorization process, EPA reviews a state's hazardous waste program and, if it is acceptable, grants the state authority to run its program instead of running the federal program. States that have been authorized by EPA to run their hazardous waste programs in lieu of the federal program are known as authorized states.
Under Subtitle I, EPA also allows state underground storage tanks (USTs) programs to operate in lieu of the federal program provided that a state's regulatory provisions are at least as stringent as the federal provisions.
Federally recognized tribes are sovereign, but subject to federal laws. As with other EPA programs, the RCRA program works with federally recognized Indian Tribal governments on a government-to-government basis. EPA has a trust responsibility, which derives from the historical relationship between the Federal Government and Indian Tribes as expressed in certain treaties and Federal Indian Law, to protect tribal health and environment.
An important goal for the RCRA solid waste program, is to encourage Indian Nations to develop and use integrated solid waste management practices. Training and grant awards are used to assist the Nations in developing programs and building partnerships among federal agencies, other Indian Nations, states, and local governments.Information about EPA's municipal solid waste Indian program is available online.
EPA and tribes are responsible for implementing the Underground Storage Tank (UST) program on tribal lands. An essential goal for UST program is to bring all tanks on tribal lands into compliance so as to prevent future leaks, and to cleanup existing leaks. Although under current law tribes cannot be authorized to conduct the RCRA Subtitle C (hazardous waste program), they can participate in the environmental decision-making process.
In carrying out EPA's responsibilities on Indian reservations, EPA policy gives special consideration to tribal interests in making Agency policy, and to insure the close involvement of tribal governments in making decisions and managing environmental programs affecting reservation lands.
The regulated community that must understand and comply with RCRA and its regulations is a large, diverse group. It includes not only facilities typically thought of as hazardous waste generators, such as industrial manufacturers, but also government agencies and small businesses, such as a local dry cleaner generating small amounts of hazardous solvents, or a gas station with underground petroleum tanks.
Lastly, the general public plays a key role in RCRA by providing input and comments during almost every stage of the program's development and implementation, through rulemaking participation and comments on treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) permits.