Frequent Questions for Tribes
On this page:
Exchange Network Grants
- What is the Exchange Network (EN)?
- How does the EN support tribal environmental management?
- How can a tribe get involved in the EN?
- How have tribes used EN Grants in the past?
- How do I apply for an EN grant?
- What projects are eligible for an EN grant?
- What are the characteristics of a grantee?
- Can tribes request basic grants training from EPA? If so, what is the process for requesting training?
- If I have questions while completing my EN grant application, who can I contact?
- Are tribes limited to a percentage of EN grants funding annually?
- How many EN grants have tribes received?
- What are the EN grant program funding priorities?
- What are EN Phase 1 projects and does the EN Grant Program still fund them?
- Does the EN grants program fund Operations & Maintenance costs?
- What has EPA done to address Operations & Maintenance concerns regarding EN grants (e.g., virtual exchange services, allowance of expenditures under media categorical grants, etc)? Where can I find additional information on this topic?
- What is RCS and how does it help me?
- What is available in RCS?
- What are the EN Grant requirements for using RCS?
Exchange Network Technical Topics
- What is a node?
- What is a node client?
- What is the Exchange Network Services Center?
- What are Virtual Exchange Services or VES?
- How does VES help EN grantees?
- Are there limitations on who can implement VES?
- What is the difference between ENSC and VES? Which should I use?
- Can I choose to build my own node and not use VES or ENSC?
- If I have a traditional node, can I continue to use it and receive grant funding under the EN Grant Program? If not, how do I transition to a virtual node and virtual services?
- Would an expense such as node maintenance or server upgrades (operations & maintenance) be considered allowable costs under another funding program (e.g., for an air monitoring project under Clean Air Act 103 grant funding)?
- What is the Cybersecurity term and condition for EPA assistance agreements?
- How does this term and condition affect tribal EN grant recipients?
- What is E-Enterprise for the Environment?
- What is meant by the term 'co-regulators'?
- How are tribes involved in E-Enterprise?
- How is E-Enterprise for the Environment related to the Exchange Network?
Exchange Network Grants
The EN is an internet-based approach for securely exchanging environmental data among partners (e.g., EPA, states, tribes and territories) and with the public (e.g., community members, emergency managers, etc.). Built on the principles of data standards, the EN enables participants to control and manage their own data while making data available to partners via requests over a secure internet connection. By facilitating the efficient exchange of accurate environmental information, the Exchange Network has transformed the way in which EPA and its partners share information.
The EN can help tribal partners to:
- Increase capacity to collect, analyze, and share data
- Increase access to environmental and health related information
- Improve characterization of environmental conditions on tribal land and identify resources needed to address issues
- Facilitate information sharing within a tribe’s agencies, with other tribes, states and the federal government
- Enable and expedite sharing environmental data with emergency managers and community members
- Identify and take advantage of tools and resources already created by other EN partners to meet their IT/IM needs
- Eliminate dual entry of data which contributes to effective data management
- Support building the case to Congress that they are positioned to address environmental issues
- Support compliance with federal regulations
There are many ways for tribes to get involved in the Exchange Network. Tribes in any stage of information management program maturity may apply for Exchange Network grants to build the tribe’s capacity to share environmental information with EPA, other EN partners, and the public. Tribes can apply for individual projects, or can partner with a more experienced tribe. Tribes can also visit http://www.tribalexchangenetwork.org/ Exitfor more information, subscribe to the tribal listservExit, or subscribe to EN alerts.Exit Tribal representatives can volunteer to join an EN governance group including the Tribal Governance Group. Tribes may also contact Lydia Scheer(firstname.lastname@example.org), Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP), with EN questions. Interested tribes can also participate in open calls or EN-related meetings and conferences on topics of interest hosted by the governance groups and announced via network alerts.
Tribes use EN grants to meet the information management and sharing needs of their tribe to support and improve environmental management. A few examples of how tribes have used EN grants to support this work:
- Develop the technological foundation of a continuous water quality monitoring system in areas of past water quality problems, that now serves as an early detection system for impending water quality issues.
- Provide understandable summaries of water quality data to citizens and partner with local school to empower and create future environmental leaders.
- Provide the foundation to collaborate with other tribal nations to help build tools that allow for better environmental management within each tribe’s jurisdiction. As a result, tribes are working together to be more proactive in managing and solving their environmental issues.
- Develop tools to manage and monitor quality of water in which wild rice grows as well as facilitate data exchange and analysis to examine how environmental stressors are affecting wild rice resources across the region.
- Address issues with everyday exchange and sharing of data with other departments within the tribe that would want to see what data was being collected, and for how long to determine how to best use it for making program decisions.
- Develop geospatial data layers and an application to allow for faster and more effective data sharing for quicker emergency response and recovery.
Tribes interested in applying for an EN grant should download the Solicitation Notice. The notice identifies EPA’s grant program priorities and the types of assistance agreements that are available, provides application instructions and includes evaluation criteria used to score the applications. In addition to the Notice, EPA has posted other documents to assist applicants in preparing successful applications. These documents provide an overview of the notice as well as tips and tricks for preparing high scoring applications. Each year, EPA aims to post the Notice in the fall with applications due in the winter. EPA notifies applicants of selections in the spring and makes awards in the summer.
Section I-E of the Solicitation Notice presents EPA’s annual grant program priorities. These priorities describe general categories of projects that are eligible for funding as well as specific opportunities. Other project ideas are also featured during EN related webinars, open calls, meetings, and conferences. Appendix A includes additional program-specific activities for which applicants can seek funding. In FY 2018 EPA included two new appendices to provide more information on eligible projects in the areas of incorporating EN Shared Services (Appendix B) and capacity building (Appendix D) which could include activities such as developing a back-end database or implementing an intra-tribal data exchange.
Tribes can apply for resources as an individual applicant or as a partnership. The funding limit on individual grants for FY 2018 cycle was $200,000. Tribes can also apply for EN grants as a partnership. The funding limit for partnership grants for the FY 2018 cycle was $400,000. Inter-tribal Consortia are eligible to apply for individual opportunities. However, if Inter-tribal Consortia are applying as a partnership, they must partner with at least one partner that is not a member of the consortia.
Can tribes request basic grants training from EPA? If so, what is the process for requesting training?
YES. There are training opportunities for tribal grantees and potential applicants during the year. The Office of Grants and Debarment at EPA holds sessions for applicants throughout the year on various topics related to grant management, new regulations, EPA policies etc.
EN Grant Specific training:
After posting of the Exchange Network Grant Program Solicitation Notice, EPA holds webinars on writing an Exchange Network (EN) grant application. EPA’s Regional Exchange Network Coordinators hold conference calls and meetings with grantees throughout the year. EPA also has a cooperative agreement with the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) to support tribal participation in the EN. Tribes may also contact Lydia Scheer(email@example.com), ITEP, with EN questions.
Applicants with questions about eligibility can contact Edward Mixon(firstname.lastname@example.org), Exchange Network Tribal Program Manager, (202) 566-0466.
NO. EPA has established that tribes will receive at least 10 percent of all awards. Beyond this, the exact amount of grant funding awarded to the tribes depends on the final appropriated amount for grant programs, number of applicants, proposed budgets and application reviews.
Since 2002 EPA has awarded 177 Exchange Network grants for $35.5 million to tribes.
The EN grant program announces the funding priorities each year in Section I-E of the Solicitation Notice. EPA develops EN grant program priorities in consultation with EN/EE governance bodies, including the Tribal Governance Group (TGG).
Phase 1 refers to projects focused on implementing programmatic data exchanges for ten national system data exchanges. At this point, EPA still funds these projects and expects that Phase 1 projects will continue to be a priority. EPA, however, updates grant priorities each year. Consequently, the Agency strongly recommends that, each year, prospective applicants review the stakeholder draft, which EPA normally makes available at the beginning of July, and the final Notice, which EPA posts in early September.
NO. EN grants do not fund operations and maintenance costs because these costs would overwhelm the program’s grant resources. Instead, EPA encourages EN partners to use media program grant funds to support Operations and Maintenance. EPA understands that operations and maintenance expenditures are of concern to tribes and EPA has tried to address those concerns by establishing Virtual Exchange Services (i.e., virtual node) to minimize the need. The following costs are also not allowable: construction costs, workshops and conferences, pre-award costs, and management fees. EPA includes definitions of Operations and Maintenance in the solicitation notice.
What has EPA done to address Operations & Maintenance concerns regarding EN grants (e.g., virtual exchange services, allowance of expenditures under media categorical grants, etc)? Where can I find additional information on this topic?
EPA realizes that Operations and Maintenance are a main concern of our tribal stakeholders. While we cannot fund activities that are considered operations and maintenance, we have tried to alleviate these concerns by implementing Virtual Exchange Services or VES (i.e., virtual node)Exit. VES are free to use and grantees would not have to develop their own node to exchange data.
Reusable Component Services (RCS) is EPA’s central online catalog of reusable IT resources, components, and services used in various EPA and partner systems. RCS enables the reuse of resources, which helps reduce cost, speed-up development, and produce higher quality systems and applications.
RCS stores metadata about resources to allow for their discovery. RCS metadata contains contacts for and information about components such as Application Programming Interface (APIs), software tools, dataflows, programming code, web services, widgets, XML schema, etc.
- While preparing their applications, EN grant applicants are required to search RCS for project-appropriate resources that could be reused in the development of their project. In their project narrative, applicants are required to identify which existing EN resources they propose to reuse for their project, and if none can be identified, the applicant must justify why none can be used. The applicant is also required to commit to registering any new tool or resource they develop in RCS.
- After being awarded a grant, EN grantees are required as a term and condition of the grant to register in RCS any new IT resources that have been created as a result of their Exchange Network grant.
- See: RCS Help for EN Grant Applicants.
Exchange Network Technical Topics
A Node or Network Node is a computer running specialized software that initiates and responds to requests for environmental information from Exchange Network partners. The requests and responses use common formats expressed in eXtensible Markup Language (XML) and conform to the Exchange Network protocol and specifications. A Node can initiate the submission of data, request data from another node, and respond to a request for data from another node or an application making a data query over the network. Sending data in response to a query is known as publishing. Nodes allow for machine-to-machine communications, which means that data exchanges can be automated. A node has an administrative interface that lets its owner configure and operate it.
A node client is a software application that allows a user to send data to Exchange Network nodes using Exchange Network services but cannot listen to requests or other messages coming from nodes. It allows for human-to-machine communication as opposed to machine-to machine communication. Node clients are easy to install and use and are available in .NET and JAVA versions. A Node Client Developer Kit (SDK Software) simplifies integrating Node client functions (web service calls) into any software application with just a few lines of script. Examples of clients include:
- Exchange Network Service Center
- Windsor Client
- CDX JAVA Client
- Homeland Emergency Response Exchange (HERE)
The Exchange Network Services Center (ENSC) is a web-based tool designed to allow Exchange Network users to easily send, get, and download information from other partners on the Exchange Network. This website is a:
- “No Frills” web access to Exchange Network services
- Simple, easier-to-use and more intuitive site designed for the less technical program user and more advanced technical users
- More personalized experience that allows you to quickly access the services and data that you use most often
Virtual Exchange Services are EPA cloud-based services that support all the functions of a Network Node. VES can host any number of state, tribal, and territory partner data exchange activities and provide all the same services as a traditional Exchange Network node. The VES environment is maintained by EPA while each partner can be provided a secure tenant to configure and implement fully functional data flows with no coding required. Currently, there are no costs to Exchange Network partners for the use of VES other than the charges incurred for partners to implement data flows in their environment (e.g. mapping data, database enhancements, local security requirements). EPA maintains the dataflow templates that allow users to import each dataflow and avoid coding, installation and hardware and software costs for the data exchange process. Partners will have to complete the following tasks:
- Create a staging database (format and install code provided on the site)
- Push data into the staging database that is to be exchanged
- Set-up the VPN or the Internet service bus connection (documented on the site)
- Provides simple, low cost access to Exchange Network services needed to share environmental data with EN partners. Virtual nodes are free to use, eliminating the need for partners to spend limited resources on deploying, operating and maintaining their own node hardware and software
- Provides the same services (e.g., automated machine-to-machine) communication as a locally deployed node
- Enables partners to setup a new node with a simple web configuration form
- Eliminates node management; EPA centrally manages, secures and services VES
- Simplifies establishment of new data flows using templates
- Allows partners with existing nodes to operate existing data flows on their nodes and simultaneously establish new flows using VES, migrating existing flows to VES as needed
- Automates registration of new services and data flows with Exchange Network Discovery Services
Certain technical requirements are necessary for successful implementation of VES:
|Machine||Windows 64-bit Internet connected computer with modern web browser.|
|Database||SQL Server Express Edition, SQL Server, Oracle|
|Connectivity||Virtual Private Network * or Internet Service Bus (ISB)|
|Technical Skill||Database processing to move data from source(s) into staging database.|
|Additional||Tool or process to map data into staging table|
*VPN will require firewall rule changes. ISB does not.
To help determine which is the right option for your organization, the VES/ENSC Decision TreeExit was created to guide partners to the best solution. More information and resources to help your organization decide are available at Virtual Exchange Services.Exit
YES. EPA, however, no longer provides grant funding to build and deploy nodes. Furthermore, the Agency does not provide funding for node operation and maintenance.
If I have a traditional node, can I continue to use it and receive grant funding under the EN Grant Program? If not, how do I transition to a virtual node and virtual services?
YES. EN Partners that have their own nodes can apply for grant funding to deploy new data exchanges or for data publishing projects that use their own node. EPA, however, provides funding for partners that wish to transition from their own nodes to VES and encourages partners to do so because VES is significantly less costly.
Would an expense such as node maintenance or server upgrades (operations & maintenance) be considered allowable costs under another funding program (e.g., for an air monitoring project under Clean Air Act 103 grant funding)?
YES. Typically, program grants can be used to defray program implementation expenses including data reporting to EPA. Operations and maintenance expenses associated with reporting data to EPA are considered to be program implementation costs.
Cybersecurity includes policies, procedures and technologies that ensure data confidentiality, integrity and availability. As part of EPA’s cybersecurity efforts, the Agency wants to ensure that its partners are protecting their data and ensuring that network connections between partners and EPA are also secure. Consequently, EPA has added a new Cybersecurity Term and Condition to all assistance agreements, including agreements with tribes. The tribal term and condition requires that the recipient follow all applicable tribal law and policy cybersecurity requirements to protect environmental data it collects and/or manages. (It does not, however, require tribes to establish cybersecurity requirements, only to adhere to requirements that already exist.) Second, it requires recipients that connect with EPA information systems ensure that machine to machine connections meet EPA security requirements, and enter into Interconnection Service Agreements as appropriate. The second requirement does not apply if the tribe is connecting to EPA through the EN or through EPA’s Central Data Exchange, as they already have their own security in place.
This Term and Condition requires tribes to follow applicable cybersecurity requirements. It does not, however, require tribes to establish cybersecurity requirements, only to adhere to requirements that already exist. EPA, however, encourages tribes that do not currently have such requirements to develop them. The second requirement, which concerns connections with EPA, does not apply to EN grants because tribes will be connecting to EPA through the Exchange Network. The Exchange Network already has its own security in place.
E-Enterprise for the Environment (E-Enterprise) is a working model for collaborative leadership among environmental co-regulators (states, tribes and EPA) aimed at streamlining and modernizing the implementation of environmental programs.
In the context of E-Enterprise, the term “co-regulators” is intended to apply to all states and tribes, based on the principle that, under certain environmental and public health statutes, all states and tribes have a status under which they can exercise co-regulatory authority if they desire to and meet the statutory conditions for program authorization.
E-Enterprise joint governance is led by the E-Enterprise Leadership Council (EELC). The EELC is composed of ten EPA Senior Executives (i.e., Deputy Administrator, Assistant and Regional Administrators or their Deputies) and ten State Commissioners (or other high-level state officials) and ten tribal representatives. The E-Enterprise charter sets forth a process for full and equal participation of tribes in the governance of E-Enterprise activities.
Tribes may benefit from participating in E-Enterprise projects.
- A tribal/EPA workgroup developed the Tribal Water Quality Data Roadmap, aimed at helping tribes submit their water quality data to the Water Quality eXchange (WQX).
- Tribes participate on the integrated project team for the E-Enterprise Portal, a web platform that will modernize the way the public, regulated community, and environmental co-regulators conduct environmental transactions and access web resources.
Tribes interested in joining E-Enterprise Project Teams or learning about the E-Enterprise Governance structure should contact Jessica Snyder at email@example.com.
E-Enterprise is built upon the foundation of the Exchange Network, and Tribes have been a big part of that success. The Exchange Network is a data exchange platform to package and share environmental information among co-regulators and others. E-Enterprise is related to this effort because it is intended first to streamline environmental business processes, and then incorporate information technology, such as the Exchange Network develops, for maximum benefit. The intent to streamline processes before we automate is necessary for all of us to use our shrinking resources efficiently.