Summaries of Environmental Laws
Administered by the EPA
Congressional Research Service Report  RL30022
Redistributed as a service of the National Library for the Environment


Martin R. Lee, Head
Environmental Protection Section
Environment and Natural resources Policy Division

The authorities and responsibilities of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) derive primarily from a dozen major environmental statutes. This report, updated at the beginning of each Congress, provides a concise summary of EPA's present authorities and responsibilities, logically arranged. It abstracts EPA-administered statutes, with each chapter providing a discrete analysis. It also summarizes environmental programs, explains how each Act is structured, defines key terms, and reports the current authorization status of each Act. Efforts have been made to convey the overall strategy of pollution control, and to note the major programs authorized by each Act. At the beginning of each chapter is a list of all major amendments to the parent statute, while the final table in each chapter cites the major U.S. Code sections of the codified statute, offering ready reference to the codified sections. Table 1 shows the current status of statutory authorizations for appropriations, with the expiration date indicating when congressional action may be expected.

While these summaries present the essence of each statute, they are necessarily incomplete. Many details and secondary provisions are omitted, and even some major components are only briefly mentioned. Moreover, this report describes the statutes without discussing their implementation. For example, statutory deadlines to control pollutant discharges and achieve particular mandates have often been missed as a result of delayed standard-setting by EPA. Other CRS products, such as the Issue Briefs, are more current and discuss implementation concerns.

The origin of EPA and the evolution of the major environmental statutes are described in CRS Report 83-34 ENR, Environmental Protection: An Historical Review of the Legislation and Programs of the Environmental Protection Agency. For a more topical update, readers should see CRS issue briefs which describes current issues and legislation associated with implementing these laws and CRS Report 97-80 ENR, Environmental Protection Issues: From the 104th to the 105th Congress. These should provide the reader with a fuller background on EPA's program responsibilities.

Table 1. Schedule of Expiration of Appropriation Authority
for Major Environmental Laws

(as of January 1997)*

Statute Expiration of Authorization
Pollution Prevention Act September 30, 1993
Clean Air Act September 30, 1998
Clean Water Act
(a)Wastewater Treatment Aid
(b) Other Programs
September 30, 1994
September 30, 1990
Ocean Dumping Act September 30, 1997
Safe Drinking Water Act September 30, 2003
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act September 30, 1988
Superfund (collection of taxes) December 30, 1995
Environmental Planning and Community-Right-To~Know Act Permanent
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act September 30, 1991
Toxic Substances Control Act September 30, 1983
Environmental Research, Development,and Demonstration Authorization September 30, 1982
National Environmental Policy Act Permanent

*House rules require enactment of an authorization before an appropriation bill can be considered; but this requirement can be waived and frequently has been. Thus, while appropriate authorizations in environmental statutes have expired from time to time, programs have continued and have been funded. These dates do not indicate termination of program authority.

Summaries & Detailed Table of Contents for EPA Administered Laws Top of Page Summaries of EPA Laws Home Page Pollution Prevention Act of 1990

ReturnCRS Reports Home

National Library for the Environment National Council for Science and the Environment
1725 K Street, Suite 212 - Washington, DC 20006
202-530-5810 -
National Council for Science and the Environment