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Feds Still Improving 25 Years After Passage of the Federal Facility Compliance Act


The Federal Facility Compliance Act (FFCA)

 Levels the Playing Field for Regulated Entities and Significantly Improves Federal Facility Compliance

Revisiting the October 1992 FFCA enhancing local, state and EPA solid and hazardous waste enforcement authority against federal agencies


The FFCA was a game-changer and its impacts on the regulated community were significant; it leveled the playing field for all regulated entities, and resulted in better compliance rates among federal facilities and more protections to human health and the environment. Prior to 1992, when President George H.W. Bush signed the Federal Facility Compliance Act (FFCA) into law, federal facility compliance rates with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C hazardous waste requirements were poor, and regulators could not assess penalties against noncomplying federal government facilities. With the enactment of the FFCA, the federal government waived its sovereign immunity and thus the same penalty and enforcement authority EPA uses at private party sites also applies to the federal government.

Improved Compliance Rates: Since the passage of the FFCA, the federal sector's compliance with hazardous waste requirements has improved.  In 1993, when EPA began measuring RCRA Subtitle C significant non-compliance (SNC), the non-SNC rate for federal facilities was 44 percent.  By 1998, the non-SNC rate improved to 88 percent.  Currently, the non-SNC rate for federal facilities is approximately 90 percent, and EPA hopes SNC rates will continue to improve. The RCRA Subtitle C non-SNC rate is based on the number of inspected federal treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs), federal large quantity generators (LQGs) and federal small quantity generators (SQGs) inspected in any given year that are not in SNC. For RCRA Subtitle C, SNC is the most serious level of violation noted in EPA databases.

Federal Facilities Still Face RCRA Challenges:  Federal facilities are very large and have similar waste management challenges as large industrial sites or municipalities.  While federal facilities face many of the same types of RCRA compliance challenges as privately-owned facilities, some federal facilities have unique challenges associated with waste streams such as mixed radioactive hazardous waste ("mixed waste") or munitions which pose safety risks to workers and the public as well as technological challenges.

Common areas of RCRA Subtitle C non-compliance found during EPA and state inspections of federal facilities include: (1) failure to make a hazardous waste determination; (2) hazardous waste management deficiencies including the failure to follow generator requirements, inadequate contingency plans and incomplete emergency response procedures; (3) universal waste (for example, lamps and batteries) management deficiencies; and (4) failure to comply with used oil requirements such as labeling.

These are the areas EPA would like to see improved compliance in the federal sector.  EPA and states will continue to inspect and engage with federal facilities to identify and address non-compliance.

Working with States to Maintain Compliance: While most states have been delegated authority and have primary responsibility for implementing RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste requirements, EPA works closely with states to ensure federal facilities are inspected and facilities return to compliance when noncompliance is found.  Click here for more information on RCRA state authorization.  In some instances, facilities are willing and able to remedy compliance issues proactively. In other instances, EPA or a state may consider using enforcement authorities to promote compliance.  In addition, in certain circumstances such as when a state lacks authorization or asks for EPA assistance, EPA will inspect and, where appropriate, take RCRA enforcement action to ensure human health and the environment are protected.

Non-hazardous solid waste (such as household waste landfills) is regulated under Subtitle D of RCRA.  States play a leading role in implementing these regulations and may set more stringent requirements. In the absence of an approved state program, the federal requirements must be met by waste facilities.

EPA partners with state regulators and tribes to continually improve and ensure protection of human health and the environment in communities affected by federal facilities.  The Agency uses various tools to do this, including compliance assistance, monitoring and enforcement.  EPA looks forward to working with all stakeholders including federal agencies to achieve better compliance with RCRA in the federal facility sector.

Compliance Assistance:

In order to help federal facilities improve their RCRA compliance rates, EPA, often in collaboration with states and other partners, works to provide compliance information and other resources.  For instance, FedCenter provides many good tools to help federal facilities comply with RCRA.  An example is FedCenter's Facility Regulatory Tour which contains information about various regulated activities under a variety of environmental statutes, and what a facility must do to comply.  RCRA and other regulatory requirements applicable to federal facilities are provided.

The RCRA Federal Agency Network (RFAN) is another federal facility forum which provides federal facility staff information on RCRA hazardous waste management, and also provides a network and platform for dialogue and information-sharing about compliance challenges.  Through this information exchange, RFAN helps federal facilities improve compliance and facilitate improved communications and information transfer between EPA and sister federal agencies.  Calls are held quarterly, but if a "hot topic" arises, a special meeting can be convened or an email can be sent by one of the RFAN facilitators to RFAN members soliciting help/input.  Notice of upcoming meetings is distributed through email.  RFAN is facilitated by Brian Knieser of EPA (knieser.brian@epa.gov) and Donna Schell and Dave Sperry of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (USACE CERL) (donna.j.schell@usace.army.mil and david.m.sperry@usace.army.mil.) To be added to the list for RFAN, please contact Donna Schell or Dave Sperry.


For more information, please contact Melanie Garvey, USEPA/OECA, garvey.melanie@epa.gov.



Last Updated: December 13, 2018