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Environmental Laws and Regulations

Federal Information

Once an act is passed, the text is standardized and published in the United States Code, which is the official record of all federal laws. In order to make the laws work, Congress authorizes certain government agencies, including EPA, to create regulations that specify what is and is not legal.

The authorized agency proposes regulations that are subsequently listed in the Federal Register so that the public can consider them and submit comments to the agency. The agency considers all the comments, revises the regulation accordingly, and issues a final rule. Once a regulation is completed and has been printed in the Federal Register as a final rule, it is "codified" by being published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is the official record of all regulations created by the federal government. The CFR is divided into 50 volumes, called titles, each of which focuses on a particular area. Nearly all environmental regulations appear in Title 40.

State Information

Congress created most environmental laws in the U.S. to be "delegated" to State governments where the laws would be implemented and administered. A State may seek to have EPA delegate all (or part) of an environmental program to it. For example, a State may have the NPDES permit program delegated to it under the Clean Water Act, but not have some other delegable part of the CWA. By 1998, most States had received most parts of most dele- gable programs. When a program is delegated to a State, the State conducts most of the permitting, inspection, and enforcement activities, with EPA maintaining a back-up or oversight role.