Solid and Hazardous Waste in Indian Country - Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

Tribal governments may engage in solid waste management within their jurisdiction. Some tribes conduct waste management operations (e.g., waste collection and disposal) directly. Other tribes contract those services to private parties or enter into agreements with neighboring state or local governments. Proper management of solid waste is critical to public health and community resources.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) addresses nonhazardous (Subtitle D) and hazardous (Subtitle C) waste management activities and contains provisions governing underground storage tanks (USTs).

RCRA Implementation in Indian Country

EPA directly implements RCRA in Indian country. Tribes are not eligible to receive delegated programs under RCRA.

Major RCRA provisions of interest to tribes include:

  • Hazardous Waste
    Hazardous waste regulations establish a comprehensive “cradle-to-grave” system governing hazardous waste from the point of generation to disposal. Household hazardous waste is subject to RCRA regulations.
  • Solid Waste and Recycling
    Solid Waste management regulations establish standards and guidelines for solid waste and recycling collection and disposal programs, as well as regulations for design, operation, maintenance and closure for municipal solid waste landfills.
  • Underground Storage Tanks (UST)
    Under RCRA Subtitle I EPA developed a comprehensive regulatory program for USTs storing petroleum or certain hazardous substances to protect the environment and human health from UST releases. EPA’s regulations set minimum standards for new tanks, require owners of substandard tanks to upgrade or close. The regulations address a variety of other requirements, including those related to leak detection and cleanup of releases when they occur. Some USTs, such as many home heating oil tanks, are not federally regulated.
  • Above Ground Storage Tanks
    The Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) program regulates the storage of oil in above ground containers. These regulations requires above ground oil storage facilities to prepare and comply with written, site-specific, spill prevention plans.