Federal Environmental Resources
In the United States, most environmental programs take place at the state or local level. Click here for state and local resources for recycling and composting programs. However, broad-ranging environmental laws and regulations do apply nationally.
We list these resources to help stakeholders in any environmental application — municipal governments, business owners, grassroots organizations, students, facility managers, etcetera — access information on environmental law in the United States, as well as resources that can help with compliance. These resources include:
- Overviews and links to major U.S. environmental legislation.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resources for stakeholders.
- Federal grant programs and funding opportunities.
- Links to online tools, calculators, and directories.
Browse the links below for compliance information and assistance with instituting a new environmental program in your field. For more information, contact Solus Group at 314-696-0200.
U.S. Environmental Laws and Compliance Resources
The history of environmental laws in the United States begins during the Nixon Administration, when the President and the Democratic Congress banded together to pass legislation protecting the environment and establishing the EPA. Congress then delegated power to create regulations to the EPA.
These regulations carry the force of law, although Congress can always overturn specific rules. Generally speaking, environmental statutes, or laws passed by Congress, instruct and empower the EPA to create specific standards, regulations, policies, and guides to compliance.
These are the major federal laws governing environmental protections and sustainability in the U.S.:
The Clean Air Act of 1970
The Clean Air Act (CAA) instructed and empowered the EPA to create enforceable standards for air pollutants emitted by industrial facilities and vehicles. The original text of the CAA asked the EPA to establish these National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for every state by 1975 — but many states missed their deadlines. The Act was amended in 1977 and again in 1990 to update deadlines for the creation of air-quality standards, among other additions.
Find information on the EPA's CAA Compliance Monitoring programs here.
Read the full text of the CAA here.
Browse the EPA's Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act here (PDF).
The Clean Water Act of 1972
The Clean Water Act (CWA) takes an earlier law, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, as its basis, expanding and reorganizing the requirements listed there. The CWA established a permit program for the release of pollutants into navigable waters within the U.S. The EPA administers this permit program through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
Learn more about the EPA's CWA Compliance Monitoring programs here.
Find the full text of the CWA here (PDF).
Read the Compliance Inspection Manual for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System here.
The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) empowers the EPA to create and monitor limitations on the handling of potentially hazardous chemicals, such as PCBs, radon, lead paint, and asbestos. Crucially, the TSCA omits toxic materials covered by other federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration. These include food and drugs, as well as pesticides, cosmetics, and others.
Find details on the EPA's TSCA Compliance Monitoring programs here.
Read the full text of the TSCA here.
Access EPA resources on chemical enforcement under the TSCA here.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) gave the EPA power to establish regulations, policy, and guidance on management of solid waste, including hazardous wastes. As such, it is the major legislation governing the disposal of wastewater, including the runoff from washing forklift batteries. The RCRA famously takes a "cradle-to-grave" approach to assigning responsibility for hazardous waste, meaning that generators maintain culpability for a hazardous substance from generation to final disposal.
Learn more about RCRA Compliance Monitoring by the EPA here.
Read the full text of the RCRA here (PDF).
Find information about the EPA's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR), which is tasked with implementation of the RCRA, here.
The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990
The Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) emphasizes the importance of source reduction in broader environmental efforts. The Act states that "the Environmental Protection Agency must establish a source reduction program which collects and disseminates information, provides financial assistance to States, and implements...other activities…" as set forth within the law.
The EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) is in charge of managing programs that implement and enforce the PPA.
Learn more about the OPPT's projects and programs here.
Read the full text of the PPA here.
Find information on other EPA laws and policies covering pollution prevention here.
Other Laws and Executive Orders on Environmental Protections
For links and summaries to a range of other environmental laws and executive orders, see the EPA's expansive list here.