Regulations: Federal, State and Local
Public concern for the environment has been a catalyst for many
changes in environmental law. Since the 1970's environmental law
and regulations have become increasing complex. This section provides
a brief overview of the environmental regulatory history and current
Federal and State laws that regulate environmental cleanup.
Environmental Regulation History
Federal environmental statutes began with the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1970. The statute requires
agencies to incorporate environmental concerns into their decision-making
process. Other significant Federal environmental legislation includes: The
Clean Air Act of 1970; The Federal Water Pollution Control Act
Water Act) of 1972; The
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act of 1972;
Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972; the
Endangered Species Act of 1973; The
Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974; The
Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976; the Resource Conservation
and Recovery (RCRA) of 1976; the Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA); and the Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986.
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
- 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
State Environmental Regulations - Brownfields
It is necessary to also be aware of the state regulations that
may affect any past or present operations at the site being redeveloped.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed partnerships
with states with voluntary cleanup programs through a Memoranda
of Agreement (MOA). The MOA defines the roles and responsibilities
between a state and the EPA with respect to sited being cleaned
up under the state's voluntary cleanup program. Many states have
enacted brownfield legislation that limits liability for those who
did not cause the contamination or would like to purchase and develop
a brownfield site and have incorporated the risk based standards
so that properties can be remediated with a plan for the future
use of that property.
To date, 37 states have enacted brownfield legislation. To those
states who have been involved since the mid 1990's their brownfield
legislation is still evolving.
Individual counties or township sometimes have their own local
regulations. For instance, a county can be responsible for instituting
a State program. In addition, local municipalities have their own
regulations for fires and building codes. It is necessary to make
sure that the influence of any local program is investigated prior
to project initiation