Federal Environmental Laws

Clean Water Act (CWA)
33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq. (1972)
The Clean Water Act regulates standards for the quality of surface water and the discharge of pollutants into those waters. A permit must be obtained in order for an industrial, municipal, or other facility to discharge pollutants into navigable waters of the United States under the CWA. The statue sets a “zero-discharge” goal for pollutants.

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
42 U.S.C. §300f et seq. (1974)
The SDWA seeks to protect all drinkable water, whether from sources below or above the ground. Under the SDWA, EPA also sets standards to protect underground drinking water from contamination from underground injection of fluids. The Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water (OGWDW) oversees the SDWA.

Clean Air Act (CAA)
42 U.S.C. §7401 et seq. (1970)
The CAA sets regulations on how much pollutants can be in the air at any one time. EPA sets limits on how much pollution can be released into the air from industrial plants, utilities, and manufacturers and requires these stationary sources to obtain permits to do so. The act also directs EPA to study the impacts of air pollution on human health and the environment.

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq. (1976)
The purpose of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is to regulate the use, storage, and disposal of toxic chemicals. Under TSCA, EPA maintains records of all chemicals in its inventory of over 83,000 chemicals. TSCA does not control food, drugs, cosmetics, or pesticides.

Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)
42 U.S.C. §§ 11011-11050 (1986)
EPCRA, also known as SARA Title III, was established to help communities plan for emergencies that involve hazardous substances. It requires government entities and industry to have hazardous chemical emergency planning in place, and it requires industry to report on the use and release of hazardous chemicals to those government entities. These reports are made available to the public to help increase their knowledge of and access to information about chemicals around them.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
42 U.S.C. §6901 et seq. (1976)
RCRA, also known as the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) protects our land by regulating the disposal of hazardous wastes. RCRA authorizes EPA to track waste from “cradle to grave” (from creation to disposal). The Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) manages RCRA through regulations and permits on facilities that deal with hazardous waste.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
42 U.S.C. §§ 9601 – 9675 (1980)
As stated prior, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund, addresses concerns about hazardous waste sites. The Superfund program allows EPA to clean up hazardous waste sites when the responsible party is unknown, unable, or unwilling to do so. It also authorizes EPA to order responsible parties to clean up sites and/or pay for the cleanup.

Pollution Prevention Act (PPA)
42 U.S.C. §13101 et seq. (1990)
The PPA focuses on reduction of pollution at the source of release. This is done through technology modifications, more efficient uses of raw materials, or product changes, among others. Pollution prevention also includes conservation of natural resources.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 – 4347 (1969)
NEPA is an act which requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impact of a project prior to decision-making. NEPA is most noted for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is a report that outlines in detail all the possible positive and negative impacts of a proposed project to health and the environment, and lists possible alternatives. NEPA is overseen by the Council on Environmental Quality.

Other Federal Environmental Laws include:

  • Coastal Zone Management Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Federal Land Policy and Management Act
  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  • National Forest Management Act

Back to
1.1 Federal Environmental Regulation

The Louisiana Citizens’ Guide To Environmental Engagement


Forward to
1.2 State Environmental Regulation