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Round 2-5b: Technical Assistance Grants (TAGs)


Reform Description
Technical Assistance Grants (TAGs) provide resources to eligible communities affected by Superfund sites. These resources allow them to acquire independent technical assistance, helping them to understand and comment on site-related information.

Grants of up to $50,000 are available to community groups for hiring technical advisors to help the community understand site-related technical information. Additional funding may be available for unusually large or complex sites.

The group must contribute 20 percent of the total project costs to be supported by TAG funds. This requirement can be met with cash, donated supplies, and volunteered services. The group must prepare a plan for using the funds.

EPA is encouraging the Regions to consider means to increase citizen involvement, such as advance funding of TAGs, the authorization of training for TAG recipients, and the simplification of the TAG application and administrative processes.

EPA considered a number of ways to streamline the TAG program to make it easier for community groups to apply for and administer TAGs.

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Reform Status
check mark Implementation of this reform is complete.

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Results
EPA continues to promote citizen involvement by improving TAGs and facilitating the TAG process. In 1998, EPA completed a Regional Practices Survey to gain information on Regional TAG administrative differences. The Agency also began developing policies and procedures to minimize differences in Regional TAG implementation. The March 1998 TAG Strategic Plan outlined eight key objectives for the TAG program. Priorities included making the TAG application process easier, administering the program consistently across the Regions, assisting communities in identifying qualified advisors, marketing the program to both EPA and communities, and evaluating the program's benefits.

One of the Strategic Plan's most important action items was to publish a revised TAG regulation. The Agency published the final rule on October 2, 2000.

The new regulations contain several simplifying provisions. For example, elimination of the three-year budget period allows groups to determine their own budget period according to site-specific needs. In addition, the revised rule contains:

  • Provisions for limited cash advances;

  • Limited funds for training community members on site-related issues;

  • Removal of a 20 percent administrative cap, providing EPA flexibility in negotiating grants with recipients without being hindered by arbitrary limitations on administrative expenses; and

  • An interpretation of congressional intent regarding the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act's (SARA) "one TAG per site language" such that the rule allows multiple non-concurrent grant recipients.
EPA has awarded more than 283 TAGs since the program's inception in 1988.

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Success Stories
TAG Workshop: Nashville, TN and Albuquerque, NM

In September 2000, the Superfund Program sponsored a two-day workshop in Nashville, TN, for recipients of TAGs. In February 2003, the Superfund Program sponsored a second two-day workshop for TAG recipients, in Albuquerque, NM. EPA regional and headquarters staff attended both workshops. TAG recipients gave formal presentations on their sites and participated in focus group discussions on ways to improve the TAG program. The workshops provided TAG recipients with the opportunity to better understand the Superfund sites of concern to them through exchanging site-specific experiences and insights with each other. In addition, the workshops provided recipients with an opportunity to network and establish relationships with other workshop participants.

AT&SF Site, NM

At the AT&SF site in New Mexico, the San Jose Community Awareness Council used TAG funds to pay for the TA as well as to help create and fund a community newsletter that provides site activities information to the neighborhood. [FY98 Success]

Vertac Site, AR

The Concerned Citizens Coalition (CCC) of the Vertac site in Arkansas was awarded a TAG in 1996. According to a CCC member, the community was better able to understand EPA's technical decisions and actions with the help of the Technical Advisor provided by TAG funding. [FY98 Success]

Southern Shipbuilding Site, Slidell, LA

At the Southern Shipbuilding site, a group named Slidell Working Against Major Pollution (SWAMP) was awarded a TAG grant on December 15, 1995. SWAMP hired two technical advisors on June 17, 1996, to review site documents prior to release of the final proposed plan of action.

This approach created mutual trust and the concept that EPA was a partner in solving community environmental problems. A striking measure of this community involvement is that an incineration remedy in the middle of the city received majority support from residents (and a unanimous endorsement by the City Council). [FY97 Success]

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Documents

Title: Superfund Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program: Application Forms with Instructions
Date: February 2003
Document #: EPA 540-K-03-001
Synopsis: This publication provides detailed instructions and the blank forms you need to apply for a TAG.

Title: Fact Sheet: Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program
Date: February 2003
Document #: EPA 540-F-03-002
Synopsis: This fact sheet provides a brief summary of Superfund TAGs.

Title: Fact Sheet: Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program (rewritten in Spanish)
Ayudas para el Asesoramiento Técnico (TAG) Programa de Superfondo: Hoja de Datos del Programa
Date: February 2003
Document #: EPA 540-F-003-009
Synopsis: This fact sheet provides a brief summary of Superfund TAGs.

Title: Fact Sheet: Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program: Managing your TAG
Date: November 2003
Document #: 540-R-01-011

Synopsis: This fact sheet provides an overview of the financial, reporting, and recordkeeping responsibilities involved in managing a Technical Assistance Grant..

Title: Fact Sheet: Technical Assistance Grant (TAG): How to Find and Select a Technical Advisor
Date: August 2005
Document #: EPA 540-F-05-010

Synopsis: This fact sheet provides an outline of some of the questions often asked by TAG recipients about finding and choosing a technical advisor.

Title: October 2, 2000, Federal Register Notice: Final Rule on Technical Assistance Grant Program
Date: October 2, 2000
Document #: Federal Register/ Vol. 65, No. 191
Synopsis: The Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) final rule describes the intent to make grants for technical assistance more readily available to local community groups and to promote participation in the Superfund cleanup process by further simplifying the application and management procedures.

Title: Superfund Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Handbook: Managing Your Grant
Date: April 1994
Document #: EPA 540-K-93-006, OSWER 9230.1-09D, NTIS PB 93-963355
Synopsis: This document discusses the basic requirements to manage a TAG: what to do when a TAG is received; how to keep track of administrative costs; how to keep track of TAG funds; how to obtain payment from EPA; how to prepare required reports; and how to change, renew, and end grants. In addition, the document addresses the do's and don'ts in managing a TAG, answers commonly asked questions, and provides a grant management checklist and sample documents.

Title: Superfund Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Handbook: Procurement -- Using TAG Funds
Date: April 1994
Document #: EPA 540-K-93-005, OSWER 9230.1-09C, NTIS PB93-963354
Synopsis: This document discusses the basic requirements for applying for a TAG: identification of potential contractors, procurement procedures, determination of acceptable costs, development of the contract, and record keeping. In addition, the document addresses the do's and don'ts of applying for a TAG, answers commonly asked questions, and provides checklists, step-by-step instructions, and sample forms.

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