Resource and Recovery Act

In the process of environmental cleanup, RCRA and CERCLA are the most common Federal statutes. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 instituted regulations on the handling of hazardous wastes. It established a regulatory system to track hazardous substances from their generation to their disposal. The law requires the use of safe and secure procedures in treating, transporting, storing, and disposing of hazardous substances. RCRA's goal is to prevent future releases of hazardous substances into the environment.


As a result of several environmental disasters in the 1970's, Congress passes the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly known as Superfund). CERCLA has served as the national framework for addressing hazardous waste problems. The 1980 law created a special tax that funds a trust fund, commonly known as Superfund, to be used to investigate and clean up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. It is designed to ensure that those who caused the pollution, rather than the general public, pay for the cleanup. CERCLA provided for strict, joint, several and retroactive liability arrangement.

  • Strict: Liability may exist without fault.
  • Joint and several: If two or more parties contributed to the release and unless a party can show that the injury or harm at the site is divisible, any one or more of the parties can be held liable for the entire cost of the cleanup.
  • Retroactive: Liability may exist even if the contamination occurred before CERCLA was enacted in 1980.

Individual States manage their federal programs as long as the state must prove that their program is at least as stringent as the federal program in order for them to be permitted to manage a state level program. In many cases, state level programs are more stringent than the federal program.

Consolidated list of chemicals (by CAS number) based on EPCRA, CERCLA, RCRA, EHS.
Consolidated list of chemicals (by name) based on EPCRA, CERCLA, RCRA, EHS.

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