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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Illinois Environmental Law - Pollution and Sustainability : Federal Laws & Regulations

This LibGuide serves as a reference aid for Illinois Statutory Law regarding environmental and pollution regulations, sustainability initiatives, and energy efficiency standards. Commercial groups are encouraged to use guide to meet state requirements.

Federal Laws & Executive Orders

Atomic Energy Act (AEA) 42 U.S.C. §2011 et seq. (1946) amended 1954

The AEA establishes the authority of the EPA to regulate radioactive materials. The EPA's Office of Air and Radiation have the power to develop national regulations and policies concerning radiation exposure and air pollution. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is an independent agency which serves to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials while protecting people and the environment. The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, such as in nuclear medicine, through licensing, inspection and enforcement of requirements but does not develop policy.

Clean Air Act (CAA) 42 U.S.C. §7401 et seq. (1970)

The Clean Air Act is a comprehensive policy that encompasses all regulations regarding air emissions of hazardous air pollutants.

Clean Water Act (CWA) 33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq. (1972)

The CWA provides EPA the authority to protect all bodies of water in the U.S. from pollution including but limited to: rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or Superfund) 42 U.S.C. §9601 et seq. (1980)

Typically referred to as Superfund, this law established a tax on chemical and petroleum industries and allows Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. From these taxes, a trust fund was formed that provides funding for cleanup in abandoned hazardous waste sites. The law allows the government to perform short-term removals of hazardous dangers and to create long-term remedial plans to reduce dangers from sites listed on the National Priorities List (formed by CERCLA).

Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) 42 U.S.C. §11001 et seq. (1986)

The “Right-to-Know” Act provides that states, local communities, and citizens have the right to notification of emergency chemical releases and the presence of toxic and hazardous chemicals in their surrounding areas.

Endangered Species Act (ESA) 16 U.S.C. §1531 et seq. (1973)

The ESA serves to mitigate possible extinction of animal species that may be endangered by economic growth and development without intervention and conservation efforts.

EO 12898: Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations 59 FR 7629; February 16, 1994

EO 13045: Protection of Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks 62 FR 19883; April 23, 1997

EO 13211: Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use 66 FR 28355; May 22, 2001

Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) 21 U.S.C. §301 et seq. (2002)

This Act provides the EPA authority to set tolerances, or maximum residue limits, for pesticide residues on foods.

Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) 7 U.S.C. §136 et seq. (1996)

FIFRA provides federal control of pesticide distribution, sale, and use and requires that all pesticides in the U.S. be registered by the EPA and must be labled properly.

Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act)16 USC § 1431 et seq. and 33 USC §1401 et seq. (1988)

MPRSA encompasses regulations regarding disposal and potential hazardous 'dumping' in U.S. territorial waters.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 42 U.S.C. §4321 et seq. (1969)

This Act formerly ensures that all other Federal Agencies will comply with the regulations and policies of the EPA.

Noise Control Act 42 U.S.C. §4901 et seq. (1972)

This Act allows the Federal government to set some nationally uniform regulations regarding noise control across the country for the purposes of advancing the quality of life; however, most regulations are found at the state and local levels of government.

Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) 42 U.S.C. §10101 et seq. (1982)

The NWPA outlines procedures for proper disposal of used nuclear fuel and high-level waste. The EPA and the Department of Defense post Off-Site Consequence Analysis reports for public access to inform communities of their potential risks and consquences when near chemicl release and industrial sites required by the policies outlined in the Chemical Safety Information, Site Security and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act 42 U.S.C. §7401 et seq. The NWPA designates that the Federal Government will assess the potential of increased risk of terrorist threat from the posting of this information on the internet and it is the EPA and DOJ which have the responsibility of providing the information in such a way that protects these populations as much as possible.

Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) 29 U.S.C. §651 et seq. (1970)

OSHA serves to regulate work environments to provide employees a safe workspace absent of recognized hazards, including exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, and unsanitary conditions.

Oil Pollution Act (OPA) 33 U.S.C. §2701 et seq. (1990)

The OPA establishes an Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund so that the government can effectively respond to oil spills. The Act also increased consequences for failures of compliance.

Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) 42 U.S.C. §13101 et seq. (1990)

The PPA estbalishes the responsbility of the U.S. Federal Government to not merely regulate and mitigate pollution, but to find solutions to prevent source-level pollution from the start.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) 42 U.S.C. §6901 et seq. (1976)

The RCRA allows the EPA to address environmental problems that may arise as consequence from underground tanks storage of petroleum and other hazardous substances. Amendements to the RCRA include the Federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) which require more stringent waste managment policies.

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) 42 U.S.C. §300f et seq. (1974)

The SDWA designates that the EPA will set standards and perform assessments for the quality of drinking water in the U.S.

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) 15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq. (1976)

TSCA provides the EPA authority to collect data on chemicals to evaluate potential unreasonable risk from new innovations and substances. The EPA may use this information to restrict uses of the chemicals or limit their use by volume. Ultimately, the EPA has the power to ban manufacturing or distribution, require labeling, or create guidelines for potentially unsafe chemicals. This includes chemicals such as asbestos, lead-based paints, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).


Understanding the Relationship Between Laws and Regulations

Laws provide the authority for EPA and other executive agencies to write regulations. Regulations explain the technical, operational, and legal details necessary to implement laws.

Before federal agencies can implement a regulation/rule, they must do the following:

  • Determine whether the rule is neccessary.
  • Submit the proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.
  • If the proposal is approved, the agency prepares a draft version of the proposed rule.
  • The proposed rule is published in the Federal Register and made available for public comment.
  • After comments are reviewed and incorporated, the rule is again submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.
  • After the final rule is approved by OMB, the final rule is published in the Federal Register.

All general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the Executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government are codifed and made available through the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Title 40 (Protection of Environment) of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains most regulations pertaining to the Environment.

Some useful resources for navigating the regulatory process are listed below.