RCRA Corrective Action Enforcement Actions

There are several types of actions that can be taken to address violations of corrective action requirements at a facility. The type of action depends on the nature of the violation.

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Administrative Actions

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) gives EPA the authority to issue an administrative order to a facility.

  • Administrative orders can be issued unilaterally or on consent.
  • Unilateral administrative orders demand compliance with permit requirements and RCRA regulations.
  • Administrative orders on consent is an agreement between EPA and the facility for achieving compliance.

EPA has authority to issue administrative orders under RCRA sections 3008(a) and (h), 3013, and 7003. If appropriate, EPA may issue an order under enforcement authorities found in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly known as "Superfund").

If a facility fails to comply with an administrative order, EPA may seek to enforce the order in federal district court. EPA may also seek a penalty for non-compliance with the administrative order. Under RCRA section 3013, EPA has authority to perform the work required by the order and then seek reimbursement from the facility for the money spent to perform the work.

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Regulations Governing Administrative Actions

EPA has promulgated regulations outlining the procedures that govern administrative actions.

40 C.F.R. Part 22, the Consolidated Rules of Practice Governing the Administrative Assessment of Civil Penalties and the Revocation/Termination or Suspension of Permits (PDF) (26 pp, 275 K, About PDF) governs the issuance of a compliance order, a corrective action order, the termination of a permit pursuant to section 3008(a)(3), the suspension or revocation of authority to operate pursuant to section 3005(e) or any penalty order under RCRA section 3008.

40 C.F.R. Part 24, Rules Governing Issuance of and Administrative Hearings on Interim Status Corrective Action Orders (PDF) (9 pp, 223 K, About PDF), governs issuance of and administrative hearings on interim status corrective action orders, i.e., orders issued under Section 3008(h). However, the hearing procedures appearing at 40 C.F.R. Part 22 govern administrative hearings on any order issued pursuant to RCRA section 3008(h) which: is contained within an administrative order that includes claims under RCRA section 3008(a); includes a suspension or revocation of authorization to operate under RCRA section 3005(e); or seeks penalties under RCRA section 3008(h)(2) for non-compliance with a RCRA section 3008(h) order.

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Civil Judicial Actions

Civil judicial actions are formal law suits filed in federal district court. EPA or a state agency may also take a civil judicial action against a person or company that:

  • has not complied with the statutory or regulatory requirements of RCRA (this includes failing to comply with a RCRA permit);
  • has caused a release or threat of release of hazardous wastes or hazardous constituents;
  • has not complied with an administrative order; or
  • has caused an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment.

Civil judicial actions are often used in cases of repeated violations, those of significant nature, or when serious environmental damage is involved. In these actions, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutes the cases for EPA. For state cases, the state attorney generals, are usually the prosecutors.

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Criminal Actions

RCRA section 3008(d) authorizes EPA or state agencies to use criminal judicial actions to enforce against people who knowingly violate RCRA, including RCRA’s corrective action requirements. Information on criminal enforcement is available on EPA's Criminal enforcement program website.

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Citizen Suits

RCRA section 7002 authorizes citizens to bring enforcement actions against potential or actual violators of RCRA, including those who violate RCRA’s corrective action requirements, and against EPA in federal district court. Citizens are generally required to provide notice to EPA, to the state in which the violation occurred, and to the alleged violator.

Regulations on filing of citizen suits are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations at 40 C.F.R. Part 254(3 pp, 186 K, About PDF).

Learn More: Enforcing RCRA corrective action permit violations

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