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Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Guidance Handbook (DER-14)

Issuing Authority: Carl Johnson
Title: Deputy Commissioner, Office of Air and Waste Management

Date Issued: March 27, 2006
Latest Date Revised: Not Applicable

I. Summary:

This program policy provides guidance on how to apply for and manage Technical Assistance Grants (TAGs).

II. Policy:

This program policy provides guidance on the application process and how to manage TAGs. Applicant, site and activity eligibility criteria are outlined, as well as guidance about contract procurement, funding and the TAG payment process.

III. Purpose and Background:

TAGs are authorized pursuant to Environmental Conservation Law, Article 27, Title 13 (State Superfund Program) and Title 14 (Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP)). TAGs are citizen participation tools that are available to eligible community groups to increase public awareness and understanding of remedial activities taking place in their communities.

The purpose of a TAG is to obtain independent technical assistance in interpreting environmental and health information generated and/or evaluated under the State Superfund Program or BCP about an eligible site. An eligible site is one that the State has determined poses a significant threat to public health and the environment. Specifically, technical assistance is provided to help the TAG recipient and the community at large understand the nature and extent of contamination at the eligible site, and the development and implementation of a remedy for the remediation of the eligible site. TAG funding is limited to $50,000 per eligible site. TAG funding is provided in the form of a State Assistance Contract (SAC).

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (Department) encourages community groups which are interested in becoming more involved in the decision-making process and that need assistance in understanding the technical aspects associated with the remediation of an eligible site to submit an application for a TAG.

IV. Responsibility:

The Division of Environmental Remediation (DER) is responsible for administering TAGs. The TAG coordinator, in the Bureau of Program Management, developed this policy document and is responsible for revising it as appropriate.

The DER project manager is responsible for assuring that the procedures described in this document are followed for their assigned projects. The project manager will also monitor the progress of a TAG project by working with the TAG recipient.

The DER Division Director has been delegated the authority to approve or deny TAG applications.

V. Procedure:

1.0 Application Process

1.1 The Department highly recommends that the potential applicant contact the Department TAG coordinator before completing and submitting an application. The Department TAG coordinator can answer questions such as:

a. Is the site of interest eligible for a TAG?

b. Is the community group eligible to receive a TAG?

c. Is funding available for the eligible site?

The potential applicant should discuss the eligible site with the DER project manager. The discussion will help the potential applicant to confirm the nature of the hazard of contaminants at the site and remedial activities associated with the site that have been or will be performed under the State Superfund Program or Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP), including their estimated time frames. A pre-application discussion with the DER project manager will ensure the scope of work in the TAG application is appropriate and will expedite the application process. The Department TAG coordinator can provide the potential applicant with the name of the site's DER project manager.

1.2 Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis by the Department. A TAG application can be submitted any time during the remedial process for a site that the State has determined is a significant threat site in the State Superfund Program or BCP. The application is available on the DER's TAG Guidance web page or can be obtained from the Department TAG coordinator.

1.3 If more than one TAG request is pending for the same site, the Department will encourage the applicants to partner. If partnering is not possible, the Department will award grants in the order they are received, up to the $50,000 site limitation.

1.4 Once the application eligibility review process is complete, the applicant will be notified of the decision in writing. If approved for funding, the applicant will be sent a boilerplate SAC to be signed by the applicant's authorized representative and returned within 15 business days. A time extension may be requested and granted if appropriately justified. Upon its return, the SAC will be executed by the State.

2.0 Applicant Eligibility Criteria

2.1 Eligible Parties - A community group must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible:

a. Be a non-responsible-party community group or non-responsible-party community group in partnership with another non-responsible-party community group;

b. Be a not-for-profit corporation having 501(c)(3) status under the Internal Revenue Code;

c. Be a group whose members' health, economic well-being or enjoyment of the environment may be affected by a release or threatened release of contamination at the eligible site; and

d. Be a group whose membership represents the interests of the community affected by the eligible site.

2.2 Ineligible Parties - The following are examples of parties that are ineligible:

a. A municipality;

b. A responsible party;

c. A community group that receives services and/or financial assistance from a responsible party or represents a responsible party;

d. A community group that is sustained, controlled by or affiliated with any person or company responsible for the contamination of the eligible site; or

e. A national or statewide group, including local chapters, unless such group can demonstrate that it meets the eligibility criteria under Section 2.1.

3.0 Site Eligibility Criteria

3.1 Sites that are eligible for a TAG include:

a. Class 2 sites on the New York State Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites (State Superfund Program significant threat sites), or

b. Sites being remediated under the State's BCP that the State has determined pose a significant threat to public health and the environment.

3.2 Sites that are ineligible for a TAG include:

a. Sites eligible for TAGs under the federal Superfund Program (e.g. National Priorities List sites); or

b. Sites that do not meet the site eligibility criteria listed under Section 3.1.

4.0 Activity Eligibility Criteria

4.1 Activities eligible for TAG funding are those that will result in the TAG recipient obtaining independent technical assistance in interpreting and understanding environmental and health information generated and/or evaluated under the State Superfund Program or BCP about the nature and extent of contamination at the eligible site, the proposed and selected remedy and its implementation. A portion of TAG funds also may be used to disseminate information to the community about the environmental and health information and remedial activities. The scope of work and the related budget should reflect an appropriate balance of technical assistance and outreach. Only costs incurred after the date of the TAG application approval letter are eligible.

4.2 Activities that are eligible for funding under a TAG include:

  1. Technical assistance provided by qualified environmental professionals (see description of qualified environmental professionals in Section 4.3 below). Examples of activities would include, but are not limited to, the following:

    1. Review of all site-related technical documents and information available to the public under the State Superfund Program or BCP (e.g., work plans, remedy selection documents, design documents, health assessments);
    2. The preparation of public comments on behalf of the TAG recipient about site-related technical documents, including proposed site remedies;
    3. The interpretation and presentation of site-related environmental information to the TAG recipient and the community at large.
  2. The dissemination to the community of environmental information about the nature of the hazard of contaminants at the site and remedial activities associated with the site that have been and/or will be performed under the State Superfund Program or BCP. Information may be disseminated through newsletters, meetings, workshops and other forms of outreach. These activities should not duplicate activities conducted by the State, the participant/volunteer in the BCP or the responsible party under the State Superfund Program. Copies of final documents/work products prepared for public consumption by the TAG recipient must be provided to the DER project manager for the eligible site and Department TAG coordinator when they become available. The Department will maintain the right to reproduce, translate, and use all such material for its own purposes.

    1. Please note that the TAG recipient must provide prompt and timely notice at least one week in advance of all public proceedings to:

      (1) the Department's TAG coordinator;
      (2) DER's project manager for the site;
      (3) the New York State Legislative Leadership; and
      (4) the Governor's Office.

      If a public proceeding is scheduled less than one week in advance, the notice must be provided as soon as possible. Such notice shall include an invitation to attend and participate in the proceedings, if the individuals so choose.

4.3 Qualified environmental professional means a person, including a firm headed by such a person, who possesses sufficient specific education, training, and experience necessary to exercise professional judgment to develop opinions and conclusions regarding the presence of releases or threatened releases to the surface or subsurface of a property or off-site areas.

a. Such a person must:

i. Hold a current Professional Engineer's or a Professional Geologist's license or registration and have the equivalent of three (3) years of full-time relevant experience; or

ii. Be a site remediation professional licensed or certified by the federal government, a state or a recognized accrediting agency, to perform investigation or remediation tasks, and have the equivalent of three (3) years of full-time relevant experience. Examples of such license or certification include, but are not limited to, the following titles:

(1) Licensed Site Professional, by the State of Massachusetts;

(2) Licensed Environmental Professional, by the State of Connecticut;

(3) Certified Hazardous Materials Manager, by the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management;

(4) Qualified Environmental Professional by the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice.

b. The definition of qualified environmental professional provided above does not preempt state professional licensing or registration requirements, such as those for a professional geologist, engineer, or site remediation professional. Before commencing work, a person should determine the applicability of state professional licensing or registration laws to the activities to be undertaken.

c. A person who does not meet the above definition of a qualified environmental professional under the foregoing definition may assist in the conduct of all appropriate activities if such person is under the supervision or responsible charge of a person meeting the definition provided above.

4.4 Activities that are ineligible for funding under a TAG include:

a. The collection of new environmental data such as field samples, split samples and lab analysis;

b. The collection and/or development of any new medical and health data through epidemiological or health studies;

c. Activities associated with determining the re-use of the site following remediation, unless these issues affect the selection and implementation of the remedy;

d. Activities associated with litigation;

e. Activities associated with political activity or lobbying;

f. Non site-related activities; and

g. Routine administrative activities of the community group, and activities associated with administering the TAG.

4.5 Costs ineligible for TAG funding are:

a. Personal services for the applicant's payroll employees and members, including salaries, wages and fringe benefits;

b. Purchase or rental of equipment.

5.0 Contract Procurement Guidelines

5.1 The TAG recipient's authorized representative must certify that the recipient has complied with New York State's procurement requirements and the guidelines outlined below. TAG recipients may solicit professional services (requests for proposals) from consultants on DER's Qualified Remedial Consultants (QRC) List in order to expedite the procurement of a technical advisor. The consultants on the QRC List have submitted their qualifications to DER, and have demonstrated their knowledge and ability to understand and provide remedial engineering services at contaminated sites. However, the Department is not advocating the use of the QRC list in general or, specifically, the use of a particular firm on the QRC. A TAG recipient is free to solicit any individual or firm meeting the qualifications outlined in Section 4.3.

If public outreach is a component of the TAG recipient's scope of work, it may expedite the procurement process and reduce administrative costs and effort to solicit potential technical advisors with appropriate skills and expertise to perform public outreach/education activities. If technical advisors do not have the expertise or do not want to perform the outreach, then they can subcontract these outreach activities.

5.2 The TAG recipient cannot use TAG funds to hire anyone who is an employee or member of the community group or who is performing work at the eligible site for the Federal or State government, the responsible party, the participant/volunteer, or who otherwise has a conflict of interest in relation to the site as defined in Appendix B of the SAC.

5.3 Professional Services (Requests for Proposals): When procuring professional services for a qualified environmental professional, the TAG recipient must comply with the General Guidance under Sections 4.3 and 5.1, as well as the procurement process outlined below.

a. Define the scope of work and develop a schedule for its completion;

b. Identify mandatory qualifications and requirements and establish evaluation criteria for ranking proposals and selection;

c. Solicit sealed written proposals from three or more qualified sources;

d. Evaluate proposals for acceptability in meeting mandatory qualifications and requirements and addressing the scope of work using established evaluation criteria. Technical expertise is evaluated independent of costs and ranked. After the technical proposals are ranked, costs are negotiated. Negotiate costs with the contractors in the order they are ranked until a contractor is selected;

e. Select the most technically competent contractor with reasonable costs;

f. Prepare a draft contract which is acceptable to both the community group and the contractor. The contract must contain the mandatory clauses referenced in the community group's SAC;

g. Provide the Department an opportunity to review the procurement process and draft contract, prior to the TAG recipient executing the contract; and

h. Execute the contract.

5.4 Service Contracts (Low Bid): When procuring non-professional services, the TAG recipient must comply with the General Guidance under Section 5.1 and the procurement process outlined below:

a. Define scope of work and develop a schedule for its completion;

b. Identify mandatory qualifications and requirements;

c. Solicit sealed written bids from three or more qualified contractors;

d. Evaluate bids for acceptability in meeting mandatory qualifications and requirements and addressing the scope of work;

e. Rank qualified bidders by price and select the low bidder;

f. Prepare a draft contract that is acceptable to both the community group and the contractor. The contract must contain the mandatory clauses referenced in the community group's SAC;

g. Provide the Department an opportunity to review the procurement process and draft contract prior to the TAG recipient executing the contract; and

h. Execute the contract.

5.5 Purchases or Services Greater than $1,000 (printing, copying, etc.):

a. Solicit and obtain three comparable quotes;

b. Select the lowest quote.

5.6 Purchases or Services Less than $1,000 (stamps, meeting room rentals, etc.):

a. Obtain receipts;

b. Patronize local, publicly utilized stores with reasonable prices.

5.7 Minority owned and Women owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) Requirements for all Contracts and Purchases:

a. Include (M/WBE firms) in solicitations;

b. Make reasonable efforts to comply with the goals of the M/WBE Opportunity Program Work plan for the TAG. A directory of certified minority owned and women owned business enterprises is available from:

NYS Empire State Development
Office of Minority and Women's Business Development
30 South Pearl Street
Albany, NY 12245
Office: (518) 292-5250
Fax: (518) 292-5803
http://www.empire.state.ny.us

For additional M/WBE Program information, contact an M/WBE Specialist:

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Management & Budget Services
M/WBE-EEO Programs
625 Broadway, 10th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-5027
Phone: (518) 402-9311
Fax: (518) 402-9023

6.0 Grant Funding for TAGs

6.1 The Department has the option of funding the TAG in the first instance and seeking reimbursement at a later date from the responsible party (as defined in the State Superfund Program) or the participant (as defined in the BCP), or requesting the funds from these parties in advance. In the BCP, the applicant is designated a participant or volunteer during the application approval process. The volunteer in the BCP is not responsible for funding TAGs. The Department will notify the responsible party, participant, or volunteer under an order or agreement with the Department of the receipt of an application and whether it was approved.

6.2 The total amount of all TAGs awarded for a particular eligible site is limited to $50,000. The Department reserves the right to limit the amount of each TAG based on the scope of work in the application. The TAG recipient may request increases to its TAG. The increase request should be in writing and include appropriate justification and a budget request. The total amount of the TAG, however, would be limited to the $50,000 maximum amount per site.

6.3 No matching contribution from the grant recipient is required for a TAG.

7.0 Duration

7.1 The duration of the TAG SAC will be determined by the Department and will take into consideration the site's remedial project schedule and the schedule of the scope of work included in the TAG application. No-cost time extensions can be requested and must include appropriate justification.

7.2 The Department may terminate a TAG if a recipient fails to comply with the terms and conditions of the TAG SAC. The Department also may terminate a TAG with the consent of the recipient, in which case the two parties will agree on the termination conditions, including the effective date and costs to be reimbursed. The TAG recipient may terminate its TAG by sending written notification to the Department setting forth the effective date and proposed final costs.

8.0 Grant Payment Process

8.1 The Department has developed a TAG Record Keeping and Payment Guide that describes the reporting, accounting, reimbursement and documentation requirements for the TAG. The TAG recipient is required to submit payment requests in accordance with the TAG Record Keeping and Payment Guide.

8.2 The TAG recipient has two payment options: advances and reimbursement requests. An initial advance payment, up to $5,000, may be requested by the recipient upon receipt of an executed SAC. Additional advance payment requests will be accepted; however, the TAG recipient must document how the proposed advance will be used, as well as document how the previous advance was spent. If advances are not requested, the Department will reimburse all eligible costs incurred and requested for reimbursement via a payment request. Total payments are limited to the SAC amount or eligible costs incurred and appropriately documented, whichever is less.

9.0 Contact Information

9.1 Any questions regarding TAGs should be directed to the Department TAG coordinator at the address or phone number provided below:

TAG Coordinator
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Environmental Remediation
Bureau of Program Management
625 Broadway, 12th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-7012
(518) 402-9711

9.2 Information about TAGs, including the TAG application and TAG Record Keeping and Payment Guide, is available on DER's TAG Guidance web page.

VI. Related References:

  • 6 NYCRR Subpart 375-2 - Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Remedial Program Regulation, Draft November 2005
  • 6 NYCRR Subpart 375-3 - Brownfield Cleanup Program Regulation, Draft November 2005
  • Technical Assistance Grants Fact Sheet, NYSDEC, DER, March 30, 2005
  • Technical Assistance Grant Application, NYSDEC, DER, June 2005
  • Technical Assistance Grants State Assistance Contract Record Keeping and Payment Guide, NYSDEC, DER, March 2005
  • Superfund/Brownfield Law Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Between the Governor of New York State and Legislative Leadership for SFY 2003/04 and SFY 2004/05, March 23, 2005
  • Technical Assistance Grants Applicant Resolution, NYSDEC, DER, January 2005