The Toxics Cleanup Program (TCP) operates under two major sets of laws that govern:
- Contaminated site cleanups, and
- Underground storage tanks and their operation, for tanks containing petroleum or other hazardous substances.
Our authority begins when the Legislature passes a bill or Washington voters pass an initiative. Rules fill in the details and help make statutes work for the majority of people. This page connects you to the specific laws that direct TCP's work, and all the laws that direct our work. For help interpreting TCP’s laws, visit policies and guidance for site cleanups.
Statutes, regulations, and rules... what’s the difference?
Statutes are passed by the Legislature in bills or by voters in initiatives. Statutes can get long and often don't fill in all the details, and rulewriters can't always anticipate how statutes will work. Agencies like ours are responsible not only for carrying out statutes, but filling in those gaps and dealing with the unexpected by promulgating rules.
Regulations are also called rules. Rules can't change statutes, but they can clarify things found in statutes that are unclear or confusing. Washington's Legislature and voters can always change rules they don’t like by passing new bills or initiatives.
Our policies and guidance interpret these statutes and regulations and help you clean up sites.
Which one is “the law?”
All of them! Statutes, rules, and the court decisions that interpret them are all parts of “the law.” Since rules are usually more specific than statutes, they're a good place to start when you're figuring out what the law says you can or must do. For specific laws that direct the Toxics Cleanup Program's work, see the table below. For a list of all laws that direct Ecology's work, visit laws, rules, & rulemaking.
What are RCWs and WACs?
People often refer to RCWs (for statutes) and WACs (for rules) when discussing Washington's laws. These are bound and coded into two separate publications:
Contaminated site cleanups: statutes and rules that describe how and when cleanups must be done
Underground Storage Tanks: statutes and rules that explain requirements for operating an underground storage tank (UST) and cleaning up releases from USTs