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National Environmental Policy Act

This act, one of the first laws written to broadly protect the environment, establishes the basic policy for all branches of government concerning construction of new facilities and alteration of the environment. An environmental impact statement is required for all new facilities and alterations of the environment and it makes assessments of the likely impacts on the environment of the program or project being set forth. A determination can then be made as to whether or not the impacts are greater than the good created by the new project.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

(See endnote 132)

Both non-hazardous solid waste and hazardous solid waste is regulated by the US EPA under the RCRA and its amendments. The goals of the act are to: protect human health and the environment; conserve energy and natural resources; reduce the quantity of waste being generated; and ensure that all solid and hazardous wastes are managed appropriately to protect the environment. Hazardous waste is covered from the cradle to the grave and includes generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal. This act also regulates underground storage tanks. Many problems exist at petroleum refineries, chemical plants, gas stations, and agricultural settings. The act establishes general guidelines for waste management programs and gives the EPA the power to develop and enforce criteria for identifying hazardous waste and its disposal. These regulations and rules were mandated by Congress. The EPA also provides guidance documents on how programs should work.

The major laws will be discussed briefly. However, the rules and regulations are so numerous that it would be impossible to list all of them in a work of this nature. Further, they are in a constant state of change because of legal challenges and new technologies.

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