Beginning with the Clean Air Act (CAA) 1 in 1963, Congress enacted a series of comprehensive statutes designed to clean up and protect the environment. Environmental statutes administered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) include the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act (CWA), 2 the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), 3 the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 4 the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 5 and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). 6 The Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) 7 is administered by the Department of Transportation, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) 8 is administered through the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement within the Department of the Interior.
As a general matter, the major federal environmental laws are based on a model of “cooperative federalism.” They establish certain federal environmental quality standards as a floor or baseline. A state then may have the option to assume regulation of matters covered under those acts by submitting an implementation plan that includes standards at least as stringent as the federal ones to the involved federal agency for approval. Once the state program is approved, the state assumes primary enforcement authority, or “primacy, ” and implements its own program in lieu of the federal agency implementing the federal program.____________________