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Preparing Your Agency to Apply for a Brownfields Assessment Grant

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There have been a few hints of the Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Assessment Grants program being re-funded for the 2016 federal fiscal year. To date, there is no application announcement posted on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website; however, it’s never too early to start preparing your application materials. This blog post will provide an FAQ about applying to the grant program and provide resources to get you going.

What will the grant fund?

Brownfields Assessment Grants can be used to inventory, characterize, assess, and conduct planning and community involvement related to brownfields sites. 

What is a brownfields site?

Industrial land that has been abandoned and that is also contaminated with low levels of hazardous waste and pollutants.

What is the grant award range?

Up to $200,000 to address a site contaminated by petroleum. However, grant applicants may seek a waiver of the $200,000 limit and request up to $350,000 for a site contaminated site for general contamination and also for a site contaminated by petroleum.

How can you get started on understanding what research you’ll need for the 2016 grant application?

By reviewing the previous year's Brownfields Assessment Grants program guidelines. Last year the submission deadline was December 19. The estimated release of a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) is October 2015. Here are some helpful resources to review:

What stands out in the 2015 Brownfields Assessment Grant Guidelines?

  1. The guidelines were released as a Request for Proposals (RFP), not a NOFA.
  2. The instructions were 59 pages long.
  3. Proposals could be submitted via Grants.gov or the U.S. Postal Service.
  4. Eligible grant applicants were states, communities, tribes, and nonprofit organizations.
  5. The performance period (grant award length) was three years.
  6. There were three assessment grant options: Community-Wide, Site-Specific, and Coalition. Definitions can be found on Pages 4-6 of the 2014 RFP.
  7. The use of grant funds was limited to: inventory, assessment, cleanup planning, direct costs associated with programmatic management of the grant, such as required performance reporting and environmental oversight.
  8. Grant funds could not be used for administrative costs, such as indirect costs, of grant administration—with the exception of financial and performance reporting costs. These funds could also not be used for proposal preparation costs (the expense related to contracting with a grant writer or grant writing services company).
  9. Any proposed brownfields assessment projects had to be in alignment with the ECP Strategic Plan.

(View EPA’s Strategic Plan on the Internet at http://www2.epa.gov/planandbudget/strategicplan, and view EPA’s Order 5700.7A1 at http://www.epa.gov/ogd/epa_order_5700_7a1.pdf)

  1. Applicants were evaluated on how their proposed Brownfields Assessment project would advance the livability principles published in the RFP.
  2. Applicants also had to address how their Brownfields Assessment project linked to approaches to sustainable and equitable reuse approaches. Definitions are on page 9 of the 2014 RFP.
  3. Applicants were required to address how they would measure the environmental results in terms of anticipated outputs/outcomes. Definitions on page 10 of the 2014 RFP.
  4. Grantee funding was approved via cooperative agreements with the EPA. There were a total of 255 agreements that encompassed petroleum and non-petroleum contaminated sites.
  5. The RFP response narrative was limited to 15 single-spaced pages. In addition, there were nine mandatory attachments required.
  6. The ranking criteria for the 2014 Brownfields Assessment Grant Application Narrative was:

Community Need (50 points total)

  1. Targeted Community and Brownfields (25 points)
  2. Impact on Targeted Community (10 points)
  3. Financial Need (15 points)
Project Description and Feasibility of Success (50 points total)
  1. Project Description (25 points)
  2. Task Description and Budget Table (20 points)
  3. Ability to Leverage (5 points)
Community Engagement and Partnerships (35 points total)
  1. Plan for Involving Targeted Community & Other Stakeholders and Communicating Project Progress (15 points)
  2. Partnerships with Government Agencies (10 points)
  3. Partnerships with Community Organizations (10 points)
Project Benefits (25 points total)
  1. Health and/or Welfare and Environment (10 points)
  2. Environmental Benefits from Infrastructure Reuse/Sustainable Reuse (8 points)
  3. Economic and Community Benefits (long-term benefits) (7 points)

Programmatic Capability and Past Performance (40 points total)

  1. Programmatic Capability (28 points)
  2. Audit Findings (2 points)
  3. Past Performance and Accomplishments (10 points) – read this section multiple times; there is some critical neutral score language here!

Note: This RFP total scoring points exceeds the traditional 100 total points on most federal grant applications. Finally, there is a 2014 grant application checklist on page 40 of the RFP.

How can you start planning now?

Contact EPA (check their website for relevant contact information) to inquire about the funding status of this grant program. Also, contact your congressional representatives to let them know that you’re tracking this money for its 2016 funding allocation and that your community plans to apply. Start collecting the same documentation was required for the 2014 RFP; it’s better to have more research that you need than to have nothing ready with 45 days or less to research and write this RFP response (grant application or cooperative agreement application). Also, consider getting a third-party vendor on board to assist in multiple pre-planning, research, and writing tasks!

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