October 15, 2020

EPA Tracks Authorization Status of RCRA/HSWA Rules

When a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) regulation is promulgated, the rule’s preamble includes a section on state authorization. This section says whether or not the rule is promulgated under RCRA or HSWA authority and whether the rule is more or less stringent than the pre-existing regulations. Both of these factors must be known to determine when, and if, the rule will take effect in a particular state.


The base RCRA law was passed by Congress in 1976. When a rule is promulgated under the base RCRA statutory authority, it takes effect only in non-RCRA-authorized states on the rule’s effective date (the date given in the Federal Register preamble). Currently, Alaska and Iowa are the only non-RCRA-authorized states. A rule promulgated under the base RCRA program takes effect in RCRA-authorized states only after the state has adopted it, which could be several years after it becomes effective at the federal level.

The HSWA amendments to the base RCRA law were passed by Congress in 1984. When a rule is promulgated under HSWA authority, it takes effect in all states at the same time, even if a RCRA-authorized state has not adopted the regulation. EPA regions implement the provisions of a HSWA rule until an authorized state adopts the rule.

More vs. Less Stringent

RCRA-authorized states are only required to adopt the provisions of a RCRA or HSWA rule that are more stringent than pre-existing requirements. Rules, or portions or a rule, that are less stringent, or neither more nor less stringent, are not required to be adopted by authorized states.

EPA’s State Authorization Status Tracker

So how does one know if an authorized state has adopted a rule and, if so, when? EPA’s document entitled Authorization Status of all RCRA/HSWA Rules provides the answers. The document is updated quarterly with each rule’s adoption and authorization status for each state, Guam, and Washington DC. The only practical difference between a rule’s adoption/authorized status is while a state can adopt and implement a rule at any time, the state is only “authorized” for a rule after approval by EPA as published in the Federal Register. The authorization status document was last updated March 31, 2020, and the most recent rule to be included is the addition of aerosol cans to the universal waste program. [84 FR 67202]


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This document addresses issues of a general nature related to the federal RCRA regulations. Persons evaluating specific circumstances dealing with the RCRA regulations should review state and local laws and regulations, which may be more stringent than federal requirements. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any site-specific circumstances.