Federal Facilities and Other Environmental Laws and International Environmental Requirements

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Summary of Other Selected Environmental Laws

The list below provides a synopsis of some additional Federal environmental laws with which Federal facilities must comply.

  • Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1946, amended in 1954: AEA provides the framework to regulate all phases of nuclear energy production and the production of radioactive materials. AEA applies to all types of production except for accelerator-produced radiation (e.g., radiation produced by supercolliders).

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and EPA share implementation responsibilities under the AEA. EPA’s role is to issue generally applicable environmental radiation standards which other federal and state organizations must follow when promulgating radiation standards for their jurisdictions. EPA assists these organizations in their development of radiation protection requirements by publishing a Guidance on the topic and by working directly with States to establish and execute radiation programs.
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA) The ESA provides a framework for the protection of federally-listed endangered and threatened species. Federal agencies must ensure actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize listed species or adversely modify the designated critical habitats of such species. Under the ESA, Federal agencies are also directed to utilize their authorities as appropriate, to promote the recovery of listed species.

    In addition, the ESA prohibits all persons, including Federal agencies, from injuring or killing (“taking”) individuals of a listed animal species without authorization. Federal agencies must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service when their actions may affect listed species or critical habitat, and for any anticipated “take” to be authorized, limited measures specified by the relevant Service to minimize the take must be implemented.
  • Energy Policy Act of 1992, amended in 2005 and 2009: The Energy Policy Act includes a wide variety of energy mandates intended to enhance U.S. energy security, reduce energy-related environmental effects, and encourage long-term economic growth. Major provisions establish important new energy efficiency standards, allow greater competition in electricity generation, establish new licensing procedures for nuclear plants and waste repositories, and provide tax incentives for domestic energy production and energy conservation.
  • Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) of 1974, amended in 1994: HMTA regulates the labeling, packaging, emergency response, and spill reporting provisions for hazardous materials in transit and requires shippers to certify that they are in compliance with Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. When EPA-regulated hazardous waste is shipped, it must be accompanied by a manifest. (Also see: DOT: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration)
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972, amended in 1981, 1984, 1988 and 1995: MMPA generally prohibits people and vessels under U.S. jurisdiction from “taking” or importing marine mammals and marine products without a permit from the Federal government. The Federal government will not grant permits for species designated as “depleted” unless the permitted takes are research-related. Coastal indigenous Alaskans are exempt from the requirements of MMPA. The Departments of Commerce and Interior are responsible for administering MMPA.
  • National Historical Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, amended in 1976, 1980, and 1992: NHPA preserves for public use historic and cultural sites of national significance. NHPA establishes the National Register of Historic Places, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and an advisory council to help the government administer NHPA. The National Trust has authority to receive and administer donated funds and historic properties. The Federal government can delegate federal authority to State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs).

    Agencies are required to appoint an agency preservation officer, preserve all historic properties they own or control, notify the Department of the Interior (DOI) of projects that will cause the loss of significant historic materials, and request DOI preservation assistance.
  • Noise Control Act (NCA) of 1972, amended in 1978: NCA requires EPA to establish noise emissions standards for products that are major noise sources (e.g., motors, engines, and electrical equipment). Stationary sources on Federal facilities are subject to Federal, State, and local noise ordinances, unless the President grants an exemption.
  • Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) of 1990: PPA’s goal is to reduce pollution by increasing efficiency and conservation of energy, water, and other natural resources. The President's Council on Environmental Quality has identified pollution prevention as an important principle for federal agencies to integrate into their project, planning and decisionmaking processes through environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. PPA establishes the following to be national policy initiatives for reducing pollution:
    • Prevent or reduce pollution at the source
    • Recycle in an environmentally safe manner
    • Treatment of pollution in an environmentally safe manner
    • Dispose or otherwise release waste into the environment only as a last resort, and do so in an environmentally safe manner when necessary.

International Environmental Requirements

Generally, international environmental requirements come up in relation to Department of Defense (DOD) facilities. A combination of international treaties, DOD policy, agreements between the U.S. and the host nation, and any applicable U.S. laws and Executive Orders (E.O.s) govern environmental compliance overseas.

U.S. environmental laws do not generally apply abroad unless expressly stated in the statute. For example, the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act of 1984 applies to “any school of any agency of the United States,” including DOD Dependent Schools abroad.

Executive Orders (E.O.s)

E.O.s were the first mandates that required federal agencies to practice environmental stewardship at their overseas facilities. EO 11752 - Prevention control and abatement of environmental pollution at federal facilities, signed on December 19, 1973, by President Richard M. Nixon provided for the following: 

  • Sec. 3.(c) - Heads of federal agencies responsible for the construction and operation of federal facilities outside the United States shall ensure that such facilities are operated so as to comply with the environmental pollution standards of general applicability in the host country or jurisdiction concerned.

On October 13, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed EO 12088 – Federal compliance with pollution control standards which revoked EO 11752. EO 12088 increased federal agency environmental requirements in the U.S., but did not essentially change the overseas requirements.

E.O. 12088 remains in effect and provides in Section 1-801 that the head of each Executive agency responsible for the construction or operation of federal facilities outside the United States shall ensure that such construction or operation complies with the environmental pollution control standards of general applicability in the host country or jurisdiction.

E.O. 12114 was signed on January 4, 1979, by President Jimmy Carter. E.O. 12114 sets out environmental impact analysis requirements applicable to specific categories of major federal actions having significant effects on the environment outside the geographical borders of the United States, its territories and possessions which significantly affect natural or ecological resources of global importance. There is no enforcement provision in the E.O., however.

U.S. Environmental Laws

Questions about the potential applicability of NEPA to actions or effects outside the U.S. and E.O. 12114 should be addressed on a case-bycase basis, in consultation with EPA.

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