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Extramural Research

Funding Opportunities

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Centers for Water Research on National Priorities Related to a Systems View of Nutrient Management

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Funding Opportunity Number: EPA-G2012-STAR-H1

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.509

Solicitation Opening Date: October 3, 2012
Solicitation Closing Date: January 15, 2013, 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time

Eligibility Contact: Bronda Harrison (harrison.bronda@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8080
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224
Technical Contact: Dale Manty (manty.dale@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8047

Table of Contents:
SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
Synopsis of Program
Award Information
Eligibility Information
Application Materials
Agency Contacts
I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION
A. Introduction
B. Background
C. Authority and Regulations
D. Specific Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes
E. References
F. Special Requirements
II. AWARD INFORMATION
III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION
A. Eligible Applicants
B. Cost Sharing
C. Other
IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION
A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
B. Content and Form of Application Submission
C. Submission Dates and Times
D. Funding Restrictions
E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION
A. Peer Review
B. Programmatic Review
C. Funding Decisions
VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION
A. Award Notices
B. Disputes
C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Access Standard STAR Forms (Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page)
View research awarded under previous solicitations (Funding Opportunities: Archive Page)

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

Synopsis of Program:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program is seeking applications to establish Centers to conduct water research and demonstration projects that are innovative and sustainable using a systems approach for nutrient management in the Nation’s waters.

This Request for Applications (RFA) is soliciting proposals that take a systems view of nutrient management.  A systems view of nutrient management considers every potential link in the breadth of possibilities that may influence water quality.  These involve societal and technological considerations and may include, but are not limited to:  local resources, prevailing land uses, watershed health, manure management, energy costs, municipal wastewater treatment, in-building water reuse, or nutrient resource recovery.  A systems view would also consider valuation of monetized and non-monitized possible co-benefits and consequences (e.g., decreased sediment runoff, improved recreational value) which may be part of a nutrient management program. 

Proposed research areas should include: 

  • Science to achieve sustainable and cost effective health and environmental outcomes as part of water management.
  • Demonstration projects to support efficacy of water management systems with and beyond current technology and information at appropriate scales.
  • Community involvement in the design, acceptance and implementation of nutrient management systems.

Successful applicants will develop a multi component framework for research and development activities with a systems view of nutrient management. This framework will support restoration of watersheds; promote attainment of designated uses; encourage water reuse and recovery; provide environmental, economic and social benefits; and identify associated costs across community cohorts including those of limited means. Eligible applicants include public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and nonprofit hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and nonprofit hospitals) located in the U.S.  State, local, and tribal governments are not eligible to apply under this solicitation. However, cooperative partnerships among the eligible lead grant recipient with academic, state, local, tribal and non-profit organizations to conduct research, development and field application of innovative water management are strongly recommended as they are important for successful applications. All applications should demonstrate community engagement as part of their project design.

Collaboration amongst institutions/organizations is key to carrying out the water management research and demonstration envisioned in this RFA.  Organizations with complementary capacities can provide the integrated and multi-disciplinary research, development and demonstration of innovative and sustainabile research and development necessary for this RFA. Groups of two or more eligible applicants may choose to form a consortium and submit a single application for this assistance agreement.  The application must identify which organization will be the recipient of the assistance agreement and which organizations(s) will be subawardees of the recipient.

This solicitation does not provide the opportunity for the submission of applications for projects that involve human subjects research. Human subjects research supported by the EPA is governed by EPA Regulation 40 CFR Part 26 (Protection of Human Subjects). Applications proposing human subjects research will not be considered for funding and will be deemed ineligible.

Human subjects research precluded from this RFA includes:

Projects that collect data from or about humans which meet the regulatory definition of research with human subjects and are thereby subject to the requirements of EPA Regulation 40 CFR Part 26 and EPA Order 1000.17 Change A1.  This includes projects conducted under programs that are not considered research for other purposes. For example, some demonstration programs and some public health practice programs may include research activities.  Projects that utilize surveys about people or contain identifiable private information also constitutes human subjects research and are not allowable under this solicitation.  All applications must include a Non-Human Subjects Research Determination (as described in Section IV.B.6.c) verifying that the proposed research will not involve human subjects.

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Grant or Cooperative Agreement
Estimated Number of Awards: 2
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $5,000,000 in federal funds total for all awards.  Minimum 10% non-federal cost share is also required for each award.
Potential Funding per Award: Up to a total of $2,500,000 in federal funds, including direct and indirect costs, with a maximum duration of 4 years.  Each applicant must contribute a minimum 10% match which may include in-kind contributions. Thus, the maximum award is $2,500,000 EPA funds + a minimum of $250,000 non-federal matching from the applicant. Proposals with budgets exceeding the total EPA (federal) funding limit of $2,500,000 will not be considered.

Eligibility Information:
Public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and nonprofit hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and nonprofit hospitals) located in the U.S. are eligible. State and local governments, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments, and U.S. territories or possessions are not eligible to apply under this RFA. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive assistance agreements from the EPA under this program.

Application Materials:
To apply under this solicitation, use the application package available at Grants.gov (for further submission information see Section IV.E. “Submission Instructions and other Submission Requirements”). The necessary forms for submitting a STAR application will be found on the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) web site, Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page. If your organization is not currently registered with Grants.gov, you need to allow approximately one week to complete the registration process. This registration, and electronic submission of your application, must be performed by an authorized representative of your organization.

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the Grants.gov application submission process for this solicitation, send a webmail message at least 15 calendar days before the submission deadline to assure timely receipt of alternate submission instructions. In your message provide the funding opportunity number and title of the program, specify that you are requesting alternate submission instructions, and provide a telephone number, fax number, and an email address, if available. Alternate instructions will be emailed whenever possible. Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this Request for Applications (RFA), including Section IV, and be received by the solicitation closing date identified above.

Agency Contacts:
Eligibility Contact: Bronda Harrison (harrison.bronda@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8080
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224
Technical Contact: Dale Manty (manty.dale@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8047

I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION

A. Introduction
One of the high-priority research areas identified by the EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) is the consequence of water use and pollution on human health, ecosystems, and social well being in the United States (US).  Through its Safe and Sustainable Water Resources (SSWR) Strategic Research program (PDF) (153 pp, 10 MB), the Agency is conducting complementary research on sustainable nutrient management solutions and strategies. EPA recognizes the need for sustainable nutrient management programs across the Nation. Such programs will guide the development and implementation of protection and restoration approaches by States, Tribes and other entities (e.g., local governments) to ensure long-term attainment of designated uses and reuses while optimizing environmental, economic and social benefits.

Increasing demands are being placed on finite water resources to supply drinking water; treat, transport and manage waste; provide water for other societal needs (including energy, agriculture, and industry); and sustain the water necessary to support healthy aquatic ecosystems1.  Adequate water of sufficient quality underpins the Nation’s health, economy, security, and ecology.  Our ability to adequately manage water quality necessary for human and ecosystem health is being challenged by limitations of conventional or dated practices, technologies 2, assumptions3, point and non-point sources of nutrients, and the lack of a comprehensive and systematic nutrient management approach.  EPA estimates the cost of replacing the physical water infrastructure will require $700 billion to $1 trillion dollars and create massive disruption in every major city for a decade or more. Data supports that this investment would not ensure safe and sustainable water or adequate nutrient management4. It also does not take into account the financial, political and comprehensive environmental limits to these actions5.

As a result, research to provide sustainable approaches to the Nation’s nutrient management is needed.  Understanding watershed and community-level components of nutrient management are important to improving our ability to understand, predict, and guide watershed and urban management. Development, land use, and climate change will impact loading and the fate and transport of nutrients within watersheds, in drinking water, and in downstream receiving waters.  Further, the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of aquatic ecosystems must be managed by identifying background conditions, establishing specific nutrient thresholds for the various water resources within watersheds across the different regions of the Nation, and monitoring them as part of a sustainable management program. The development of this work into practical decision-support tools, modeled and supported with demonstrations, with a focus on resource recovery and reuse, and a reduction in per capita water supply, collection and treatment, will help achieve societal, economic, and ecological benefits of the Nation’s water resources, now and for future generations.

B. Background
This RFA complements safe and sustainable water research programs (SSWR) in EPA laboratories and centers as well as the objectives of the EPA's Office of Water relating to nutrient pollution in the Nation’s water systems. EPA's SSWR Research Program (PDF) (153 pp, 10 MB) supports research to assess potential consequences of water pollution for human health, ecosystems, and social well being in the United States.

Nutrients are widespread and impair water quality across the country. States have identified more than 15,000 waters nationwide that have been degraded by nutrients and do not meet state water quality standards. EPA’s recent National Aquatic Resource Survey of aquatic health found that nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are the most pervasive stressors in the Nation’s small streams and lakes6.  Approximately 50 percent of streams and 40 percent of lake acres have high or medium levels of nutrients. Contamination of coastal waters by nutrient pollution is also a widespread problem. A recent analysis of 647 U.S. coastal and estuarine ecosystems indicates that the percentage of systems with low oxygen levels or hypoxia has increased dramatically since the 1960’s7. Nutrient pollution also affects the water we drink. Levels of nitrate in drinking water above the federal drinking water standard of 10 milligrams per liter have been linked to serious illness in infants, as well as other potential adverse human health effects. Reported violations for nitrate standards at public water systems have doubled in the last eight years, with more than 1,000 violations in 20108.

Excess nutrients (such as N and P) come from many point and nonpoint sources including urban, and suburban runoff, municipal and industrial discharges, fertilizer use, livestock production, atmospheric deposition from fossil fuel combustion and ammonia emissions from industrial scale agriculture, and legacy nutrient pollution. Land use alteration in watersheds across the Nation increases the fraction of the N and P applied to the landscape that impacts surface and groundwater resources, affecting aquatic life, human health and economic prosperity9.  At the same time, P is a finite and declining natural resource. P is now mined at a rate of about 17.5 metric tons per year with about 80% being applied to crops. The supply of minable P ore is estimated by NAS to last for only a few more decades. Management techniques and technologies will need to be developed to recover the P being lost to runoff, animal waste and human waste10.  Reactive forms of N are building up in the environment and innovative sustainable technologies and management practices are needed to limit its harmful effects.

Existing regulatory and non-regulatory efforts and technologies to control nutrients have not, in most cases, kept pace with the growth of nutrient inputs. A sustainable nutrient management strategy must be based on an understanding of multiple interacting inputs to water resources as well as impacts on human health, the economy, and aquatic ecosystems.

A project which has focused on this topic is the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), created to combat the environmental impacts of the degraded Everglades hydrologic system by restoring the natural water flow while balancing the economic and social needs of the South Florida region10. The water quality projects created by the CERP were also chosen to complement State efforts to maintain their water quality standards, primarily though creation of  stormwater treatment areas (STA’s) around locations where the water will later be reintroduced into natural areas. The creation of secondary canals for drainage introduced large amounts of nutrients from fertilizers, pesticides, urban runoff, and animal wastes- the primary sources of pollution threatening water quality. The two main criteria of the CERP are to (1) treat water being “reclaimed by projects” currently being discharged into the ocean, and (2) treat water “reused” for environmental purposes only. Out of 66 projects, 24 are intended to restore water quality in natural areas of the ecosystem, and were created to supplement State efforts to achieve water quality standards. The nutrient removal abilities of the STA’s are enhanced by urban and agricultural best management practices. CERP forms local partnerships to institute Best Management Practices and smaller regional water or land use management plans. CERP also contains a strong educational outreach and public engagement component, which considers the input of residents during monthly public meetings, workshops on CERP status and planning, and public comment-response periods. Furthermore, the Environment and Economic Equity Management Plan strategy focuses on evaluating individual and cumulative system-wide changes in socio-economic, socio-ecological, and human health effects. Included are impacts to minority or low-income populations. This is similar to the large scale water management program outlined for the Great Lakes12.

Innovative wastewater treatment technologies with lower energy consumption and carbon footprint are essential to meet environmental objectives and reduce nutrients11. New approaches to nutrient management, such as small and decentralized treatment systems are important, as are technologies to minimize or eliminate the energy-intensive aeration associated with secondary wastewater treatment12. These need to be refined for application in various climates and process configurations and full scale application. Innovative nutrient recovery options, particularly those resulting in reducing nutrient sources and associated wastewater conveyance and treatment infrastructure are required. For example, urine separation, diversion, and water reuse is promising as it can reduce loads and provide commercial reuse opportunities. Urine contains 70% of the nitrogen load and 50% of the phosphorus and potassium load in domestic wastewater. It is generally pathogen free and can self-disinfect. Source separated urine can provide commercial fertilizer and other products including diesel air pollution filtration. International research has examined urine separating toilets and application in urban and rural settings but additional research is needed on design and implementation, costs, benefits, and impacts on existing wastewater infrastructure costs and processes. Of special interest are pilot demonstrations to provide data on the value, feasibility and implementability of these practices in the US.

One such demonstration project is Beaty Creek, Oklahoma, a successful paired watershed nutrient reduction project which involved an initial investment of $1.6M and continues with post-implementation monitoring16. Using an EPA endorsed protocol, Control and Treatment for Paired Watersheds, they adopted a project with variables that were similar in size, slope, location, soils, and land cover/use17.  Beaty Creek is a tributary to Spavinaw Creek, the major source of water to Lake Eucha, the primary water supply for the City of Tulsa.  Previous studies identified poultry and cattle wastes as the major contributors of nutrient loading to Lake Eucha, which has documented eutrophication problems and listed impairments.  The Oklahoma Conservation Commission conducted a paired watershed study (1999 - 2008), using Beaty Creek and Little Saline Creek.  Little Saline was chosen as the "control", and over $1.5M were spent on non point source (NPS) implementation in Beaty Creek.  Treatment practices were located based on "hot spot" areas determined with SWAT modeling, and included riparian and streambed management, composters and animal waste storage facilities, pasture management, and septic tank improvements.  Study results demonstrated significant reductions in Beaty Creek TP loading one year (14%), two years (31%), and four years (66%) post-implementation, as well as reduction in other pollutants such as TKN (80%), Orhto-P (53%), E. coli (57%), and Enterococcus (36%).

Innovative and integrated wastewater management systems for small and low income communities are needed. Innovative technologies and approaches that meet regulatory requirements and combine pollution prevention, reuse, recovery and potential savings with low capital and operation and maintenance costs need to be developed and demonstrated. Exemplary economic benefits include nutrient recovery to support aquaculture or agriculture. Technologies and management systems that reconsider limited resource communities are critically important in the reformulation of effective programs that are likely to gain wide community support and buy-in to sustainable long-term restoration efforts. Research is needed on the feasibility of small and decentralized satellite wastewater systems. For many centralized wastewater systems, the collection system can account for 60% of infrastructure costs. Such practical research can guide long-term community planning9. The advent of hand-held monitoring and reporting including smartphone apps offer promise for heretofore impossible technological and financial hurdles.

Nutrient pollution associated with animal feeding operations or agricultural application of manure is a significant issue.  Co-digestion of manure with sludge at waste treatment centers could be beneficial and is rarely practiced. There is a need for research on technologies and approaches to improve the digestibility of manure and wastewater sludge and options to recover nutrients and potential energy. Demonstration of co-digestion of manure and sludge could focus on performance, feasibility, and sustainability.

An example of a cutting edge advance in water management is the process of deammonification. This process was discovered approximately five years ago as a major breakthrough for treatment of nitrogen in wastewater streams. Currently a handful of plants are in operation in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany providing data on cost performance. Deammonification is a two step biological process that can remove a high percentage of the nitrogen load to a wastewater treatment plant without external carbon source addition and with significantly less energy demand. In the first step, aerobic ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) partially nitrify ammonia to nitrite. In the second step, anaerobic ammonia oxidizing microorganisms (anammox) autotrophically denitrify these products to nitrogen gas. The process was pilot tested at two locations in the US on high strength ammonia side streams and is now being considered for full scale full flow operation at two plants in Washington, DC and Virginia.

Under this solicitation, the EPA seeks proposals for research that are innovative and advance the principles of sustainability.  Innovation is the process of making changes; a new method, custom or device.  Innovative research can take the form of wholly new applications or applications that build on existing knowledge and approaches for new uses.  Research project descriptions must include a discussion on how the proposed research is innovative (see Section IV.B.6.a).

The concept of sustainability is based on language in the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).  The National Research Council, in its “Sustainability and the U.S. EPA” report, cited NEPA, which states: "to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations" (NEPA, 1969) and noted that this was reaffirmed in a presidential Executive Order (EO 13514, 2009) and is now described as sustainability.  For this research opportunity proposed projects should be placed in the context of continued long-term environmental, social, and economic success. The U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development (also known as the Brundtland Commission) said “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.  It further reports that 'needs' particularly the essential needs of the poor should be given overriding priority; and limitations of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs must be considered13.  Research project descriptions must include a discussion on how the proposed research will seek sustainable solutions that protect the environment and strengthen our communities (see Section IV.B.6.a).  ORD will draw from all of the above-mentioned innovation and sustainability definitions in the review/evaluation process of recommending research proposals (see Section V.A).

The proposal should also explain how transdisciplinary approaches which involve multiple disciplines with the possibility of new perspectives beyond those disciplines will be used. whole greater than the sum of its parts.

The specific Strategic Goal and Objective from the EPA’s Strategic Plan that relate to this solicitation are:

Goal 2: Protecting America’s Waters; Objective 2.2: Protect and Restore Watersheds and Aquatic Ecosystems.

More information can be found in EPA’s FY 2011-2015 Strategic Plan

C. Authority and Regulations
The authority for this RFA and resulting awards is contained in the: Safe Drinking Water Act, Section 1442, 42 U.S.C. 300j-1 and Clean Water Act, Section 104, 33 U.S.C. 1254.

For research with an international aspect, the above statutes are supplemented, as appropriate, by the National Environmental Policy Act, Section 102(2)(F).

Note that a project’s focus is to consist of activities within the statutory terms of EPA’s financial assistance authorities; specifically, the statute(s) listed above.  Generally, a project must address the causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction, and elimination of air pollution, water pollution, solid/hazardous waste pollution, toxic substances control, or pesticide control depending on which statute(s) is listed above.  These activities should relate to the gathering or transferring of information or advancing the state of knowledge.  Proposals should emphasize this “learning” concept, as opposed to “fixing” an environmental problem via a well-established method.  Proposals relating to other topics which are sometimes included within the term “environment” such as recreation, conservation, restoration, protection of wildlife habitats, etc., must describe the relationship of these topics to the statutorily required purpose of pollution prevention and/or control.

Applicable regulations include: 40 CFR Part 30 (Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-Profit Organizations), and 40 CFR Part 40 (Research and Demonstration Grants).  Applicable OMB Circulars include: OMB Circular A-21 (Cost Principles for Educational Institutions) relocated to 2 CFR Part 220, and OMB Circular A-122 (Cost Principles for Non-Profit Organizations) relocated to 2 CFR Part 230.

D. Specific Research Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes
Note to applicant:  The term “output” means an environmental activity or effort, and associated work products, related to a specific environmental goal(s), (e.g., testing a new methodology), that will be produced or developed over a period of time under the agreement. The term “outcome” means the result, effect, or consequence that will occur from the above activit(ies) that is related to an environmental, behavioral, or health-related objective.

Research to provide a more sustainable, transdisciplinary, and systems-based approach to the Nation’s nutrient management is needed. This RFA is soliciting research that examines the relationship between watershed management and community level activities involving water which contribute to the nutrient problem. The development of this work into practical decision-support tools, modeled and supported with demonstrations, and a focus on resource recovery and reuse will help achieve societal, economic, and ecological benefits of the Nation’s water resources, now and for future generations.

This solicitation is designed to support Centers, which support multidisciplinary interactions under a wide range of scientific areas, informing research and demonstration programs for a specific purpose. Centers involve collaboration amongst research teams from several institutions who cooperate to develop research projects to support a coordinated program of research around an overarching theme. This structure is highly preferred in that applicants can more easily develop a multi component framework for research and demonstration activities with a systems view of nutrient management to support restoration of watersheds, promote attainment of designated uses, encourage water reuse and recovery, provide environmental, economic and social benefits and identify associated costs across community cohorts including those of limited means. Although EPA is not requiring a minimum number of individual research projects, applicants are expected to propose a sufficient number of projects within the Center to adequately address the research needs described in this RFA.

Eligible applicants include public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and nonprofit hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and nonprofit hospitals) located in the U.S.  While state, local and tribal governments are not eligible to apply directly under this solicitation, in proposing and developing Centers to perform the research projects under this RFA, EPA strongly encourages collaboration and cooperative partnerships among the lead grant recipient with academic, state, local, tribal, and non-profit organizations to conduct research, development and field application of innovative water management to reduce nutrients. Further, each applicant should address how they will integrate local communities into their research.

Note that demonstrations must involve new or experimental technologies, methods or approaches where the results of the project will be disseminated. A project that is accomplished through the performance of routine, traditional or established practices, or a project that is simply intended to carry out a task rather than transfer information or advance the state of knowledge,  however worthwhile, is not a demonstration.

Applications submitted in response to this solicitation should address all three components of the following research question.

Research Question: What innovative and sustainable nutrient management practices and technologies can be developed, demonstrated, and evaluated for novel water management?

Component 1: Develop science to support beneficial health and environmental outcomes. Describe the technical approach that you propose to develop and water managers can use to achieve nutrient reduction in their water systems. What systematic and sustainable water management approaches will you use to achieve nutrient reduction?

Component 2: Demonstrate performance results and data to support the implementation of new systems. Describe how the demonstration component of your project to be developed in the lab or field will evaluate the sustainability, replicability, scalability, costs, and performance of nutrient management systems.

Component 3: Evaluate social, economic and environmental costs, benefits, acceptance and implementation. Describe how the social, economic, and environmental costs and benefits associated with your proposed solution(s) to nutrient management will be assessed and develop supporting information. Describe how this knowledge will be included in the design of a dissemination and adoption program for nutrient management.

The following paragraphs provide some definitions, examples and clarification that may be relevant to the three components. Applications are not expected to address or include every example listed below.

Component 1: Develop science to support beneficial health and environmental outcomes.

A systems view of nutrient management considers every potential link in the breadth of possibilities that may influence water quality.  These may involve societal and technological considerations and may include, but are not limited to: local resources, prevailing land uses, watershed health, manure management, energy costs, municipal wastewater treatment, in-building water reuse, nutrient resource recovery, etc.  A systems view would also consider valuation of monetized and non-monitized possible co-benefits and consequences (e.g., decreased sediment runoff, improved recreational value) which may be part of a nutrient management program. Systems thinking is an approach to problem solving which views problems as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to a specific part, outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further development of unintended consequences. Systems thinking focuses on cyclical rather than linear cause and effect.

Key to innovative nutrient reduction are practices that include human and environmental health costs and benefits. Nutrient management that addresses tradeoffs among the environment, economy and society and how these change over time can yield profound changes in how we address nutrient pollution. It will be important to determine both monetized and non-monetized costs and benefit of those choices. Incorporating these trade-offs into decision support systems and tools such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Lifecycle Cost (LCC) and Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) supports integrated and adaptive watershed and urban management at a scale responsive to communities, states, regions, and the Nation. 

Some of the outstanding questions related to this research area include but are not limited to:

Transferability: What cutting edge technologies or programs have successfully reduced nutrients and their impacts? Is it possible to identify scientific, policy, and socioeconomic structural characteristics that have contributed to their success? Are there sustainable watershed management approaches and decision support systems that would be transferable? What are the opportunities for participation by local community water management organizations in cooperative projects, and how can they leverage acceptance and assure nutrient reduction goals? How will your Center support this participation?

Equitability and Sustainability: What Best Management Practice (BMP) systems including international practices have been established in watersheds where results have been documented regarding nutrient removal and efficacy?   What is the cost/benefit of these BMPs? How are they likely to be adopted and continue into the future? Are there co-benefits to nutrient removal including resource recovery and reuse? What are opportunities to increase the stakeholder base to include low income and resource limited cohorts within communities?

Technologies and Tools: What high performance, cost effective, and environmentally-friendly technological improvements (e.g., BMPs, full flow deammoniafication, membrane processes, in-building and other small systems water use and reuse, in-system biogas recovery, advanced sensors and meters, smartphone networks, on-building UV sewage treatment, small remote-sensor driven systems) and practices (e.g., vegetative pollution prevention, riparian and conservation easements, constructed wetlands) are available or needed for nutrient management for human and aquatic ecosystem health?

Component 2: Demonstrate performance results and data to support the implementation of new systems.

Essential to the long term sustainability of new approaches to water and associated nutrient management are performance results and data to support the implementation of new systems. Data must include cost and performance results that include ecosystem, human health, and overall concerns necessary to gain acceptance.

Questions related to the demonstration component of the project include:

Replicability of Successful Programs: What existing new or experimental technologies have successfully reduced nutrients and their impacts? Is it possible to identify scientific, policy, and socioeconomic structural characteristics that have contributed to their success? What are the significant emerging or pilot scale technologies that need to be demonstrated at a full scale?

Models: What are the available watershed fate and transport models for N, P, etc. that use aquatic biological endpoints at the population and community levels?  Have the model predictions been tested against thresholds for aquatic biological impairment? At what spatial, temporal, and institutional scales do these models work?  Do they need to be refined or updated for applicability to specific waterbody conditions?

Scale: What scale issues must be considered in moving performance information to appropriate management tools? How can they be addressed so they can be used within the cost and technology constraints of current water management?

Costs and Performance:  How will cost, uncertainty, and outputs play in decisions to adopt successful demonstrations? What can be done to enhance the large scale deployment of demonstrated successes?

Component 3: Evaluate social, economic and environmental costs, benefits, acceptance and implementation.

The desired impact of research in this area is acceptance of nutrient management strategies to benefit all sectors of the sustainability triad of environment, economy and society.  A sustainable framework for nutrient management may incorporate a range of management tools including nutrient criteria, and may also include restoration, reuse and recycling, innovative technologies and best management practices (BMPs), nutrient trading, or other components demonstrating the efficacy of tools that consider environmental, economic and community trade-offs in water and land management in making decisions which incorporate trade-offs among them (e.g.  Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Lifecycle Cost (LCC) and Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA)).  Proof of utility is key to integrated and adaptive watershed and urban management at a scale responsive to communities, states, regions, and the Nation.

Sustainability also requires coordinated action and consensus among a diverse set of stakeholders. Partnerships between government, non-profit organizations, businesses, and the public are necessary to make the connection between measured results and community change14.  Coordination can be seen in many popular strategies, such as ‘adaptive management,’ that requires the consideration of a diverse set of factors and programmatic flexibility to be successful. Note that human subjects, including the utilization of surveys, cannot be part of this research.  For sustainability to take hold, coordination is not only essential across institutions at a single level, but also vertically among all levels of government. Both program implementation and the ability to work across jurisdictions to pursue sustainable goals demonstrate that success at one level depends on actions or policies at another. Due to the trans-boundary nature of current environmental issues, institutions must work across legal boundaries to effectively define problems and agree on solutions. For example, the authorities of state and local governments are expanding with increasing joint implementation strategies for environmental programs, such as developing and implementing water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. This devolution of environmental regulatory authority highlights the interdependencies of federal and state influence in a larger political system.

Additional questions arising from these considerations include, but are not limited to:

Socioeconomics: What are the social and economic costs and benefits for successful nutrient management? How do these vary across economic cohorts within communities and watersheds? What can be done to broaden the public engagement in the water management process and how can this enhance likelihood of success?

Usability:  Can decision support tools for nutrient management be devised that allow decision makers to examine trade-offs among the elements of sustainability? How can decision support tools results be effectively communicated to impacted communities by watershed managers and others?  How can they function in resource and data limited communities? How can social media and smart technologies support application?

Implementability: What are the effective watershed-based nutrient management strategies needed to sustainably and effectively manage loading from various sectors and address jurisdictional challenges and downstream uses and water quality concerns? How do spatial, temporal, and institutional scales including interstate watersheds affect management? Can their widespread application be adopted? What is the role for technology transfer and training?

The research, development and demonstration efforts for any of the three broad question areas discussed above should support sustainable nutrient management across the Nation. This will guide development and implementation of protection and restoration approaches by states, tribes and other entities (i.e., local governments) to ensure long-term attainment of designated uses and reuses while optimizing environmental, economic and social benefits.

Further, an important component for any proposal is a comprehensive environmental assessment that provides multivariate baseline data, a systems view, and innovative technologies with demonstrated and documented gains for nutrient reduction as part of a sustained management strategy. This management strategy should be reinforced with a decision support system that can operate at multiple scales over time by resource and data limited communities and support comparison of costs and benefits of alternative choices against environmental consequences. Conversion of this approach into adopted practice is desired beyond the project period of a successful award.

Applications should also discuss plans to distribute research results throughout the project, such as sharing results at workshops, meetings and conferences, including a plenary research conference in cooperation with EPA, and social media.  Applicants should ensure that the findings of the research and demonstration efforts are provided to key stakeholders including local stakeholders, especially underserved communities, watershed organizations, municipalities, regional and state agencies, universities and other potentially interested parties.  Examples of past novel outreach efforts included the Technical Outreach Services for Communities (TOSC), Technical Outreach for Brownfields Communities (TAB), and Technical Outreach for Native Communities (TOSNAC) of the STAR Hazardous Substance Research Centers Program19. Diffusion and adoption research associated with innovative systems also provides valuable insight into environmental management systems20, 21.

The outputs of the proposed projects include reports, presentations, models, guidance documents, demonstration and case study reports, and peer-reviewed journal publications describing the results of innovative and sustainable nutrient management in the Nation’s waters. Outputs from this research may also include:

  • Environmental management methodologies that will provide data and support for sustainable nutrient management.
  • Models which would enable assessments of novel methods, including socio-political, environmental and economic effects leading to implementation.
  • Cooperative management and demonstration projects at watershed, community and small system and building scales.
  • Novel and sustainable nutrient management technologies and/or approaches which can have national application. 
  • Demonstrated effectiveness and replicability of nutrient management options at watershed, community, small system, decentralized system, and/or building scales. 
  • Assessments of the social, economic, and environmental costs and benefits associated with novel nutrient management approaches. 
  • Appropriate decision support systems and incorporation of assessment data into sustainable decision systems.
  • Development and implementation of sustainable nutrient management frameworks.
  • Innovative approaches to nutrient reduction in watersheds to reduce loading to water treatment plants.
  • Demonstrated agricultural and urban best management practices for nutrient management including water demand reduction.

The expected outcome of the research is improved information, understanding, and implementation of innovative nutrient management leading to better analysis and decisions resulting in improvements to the environment and public health.

Outcomes from this research may also include:

  • Resilient urban stormwater nutrient management options that integrate both natural and built water infrastructure and reduce municipalities’ future non-compliance.
  • Improved health and environmental conditions.
  • Widespread acceptance of holistic approaches to nutrient management strategies by decision-makers including municipalities and communities. 
  • Consideration of benefits and trade-offs at scales responsive to the needs of communities, states, regions and the Nation resulting in improved human and ecosystem health and resources.

E. References

Journals /Books/Reports
1 Testimony of Nancy K. Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for Water before the Sub Committee on Water and Wildlife, Committee on Environment and Public Works, US Senate, Oct. 4, 2011

2 G. Cadogan, Water management in Minoan Crete, Greece: the two cisterns of one Middle Bronze Age settlement, Water Science Technology Water Supply 7, 103 (2007).,

3 The Greenest Building; Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, National Trust for Historic Preservation.

4 Clean Water Needs Survey Report to Congress

5 EPA Compliance and Enforcement Settlement and Cases Report

7 Nutrients in Estuaries, Report of the National Estuarine Experts Workgroup, 2007

8 EPA Executive Summary Report to Congress on the Impacts and Control of CSOs and SSOs, available at Report to Congress: Impacts and Control of CSOs and SSOs

9 An Urgent Call to Action: Report of the State-EPA Nutrient Innovations Task Group, August 2009.

10 National Academy of Sciences, Keck Futures Initiative, Ecosystem Services: Charting a Path to Sustainability, Summary 6: Develop appropriate methods to accurately value natural capital and ecosystem services, Nov. 2011

11 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), 2009-10

12 Great Lakes Council Water Quality Improvement Plan, 2009.

13 Water Reuse: Potential for Expanding the Nation’s Water Supply Through Reuse of Municipal Wastewater, National Academies’ Press.

14 United States National Science and Technology Council, Federal R&D Agenda for NetZero Energy High Performance Green Buildings Research and Development , December, 2009.

15 Beaty Creek Paired Watershed Study

16 Paired Watershed Study Design

17 WECD (World Commission on Environment and Development).  Our Common Future.  Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-282080-X.  (1987)(18) Mazmanian, Daniel A., Kraft, Michael E., MIT Press, 1999, Toward Sustainable Communities

19 EPA Hazardous Substance Research Centers Outreach Programs including TOSC, TAB and TOSNAC may be found at Final Report: Hazardous Substance Research Center/South and Southwest

20 Rogers, Everett M. Diffusion of Innovations. 1983, New York: Free Press

21 Wondolleck, J.M., & Yaffee, S.L.(2000). Making collaboration work: Lessons from innovation in natural resource management. Washington DC: Island Press

EPA Sustainability Primer

Reible, Danny D., Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering, 1999, CRC Press, Lewis Publishers

S. Lundie, G Peters, N. Ashbolt, E Lai, D. Livingston, A Sustainability Framework for the Australian Water Industry, Journal of the Australian Water Association, NOVEMBER 2006,

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, PL 91-190

Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, October 5, 2009

Safe and Sustainable Water Research Program

The Nutrient Tracking Tool (NTT)  developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is available at

Web Sites
6 EPA National Aquatic Resource Surveys

EPA green infrastructure website

EPA Sustainability website

EPA Watershed Central

EPA Nutrient Pollution Policy and Data

Measuring Performance of Net-Zero Energy Homes Project

F. Special Requirements
Agency policy and ethical considerations prevent EPA technical staff and managers from providing applicants with information that may create an unfair competitive advantage.  Consequently, EPA employees will not review, comment, advise, and/or provide technical assistance to applicants preparing applications in response to EPA RFAs.  EPA employees cannot endorse any particular application.

Multiple Investigator applications may be submitted as: (1) a single Lead Principal Investigator (PI) application with Co-PI(s) or (2) a Multiple PI application (with a single Contact PI).  If you choose to submit a Multiple PI application, you must follow the specific instructions provided in Sections IV. and V. of this RFA.  For further information, please see the EPA Implementation Plan for Policy on Multiple Principal Investigators.

This solicitation does not provide the opportunity for the submission of applications for projects that involve human subjects research.  Human subjects research supported by the EPA is governed by EPA Regulation 40 CFR Part 26 (Protection of Human Subjects).   Applications proposing human subjects research will not be considered for funding and will be deemed ineligible.  Human subjects research precluded from this RFA includes projects that collect data from or about humans which meet the regulatory definition of research with human subjects and are thereby subject to the requirements of EPA Regulation 40 CFR Part 26 and EPA Order 1000.17 Change A1.  This includes projects conducted under programs that are not considered research for other purposes. For example, some demonstration programs and some public health practice programs may include research activities. Projects that utilize surveys about people or contain identifiable private information also constitutes human subjects research and are not allowable under this solicitation.  All applications must include a Non-Human Subjects Research Determination (as described in Section IV.B.6.c), verifying that the proposed research will not involve human subjects.

Groups of two or more eligible applicants may choose to form a consortium and submit a single application for this assistance agreement.  The application must identify which organization will be the recipient of the assistance agreement and which organizations(s) will be subawardees of the recipient.

The application shall include a plan (see “Data Plan” in section IV.B.6.d) to make available to the NCER project officer all data generated (first produced under the award) from observations, analyses, or model development used under an agreement awarded from this RFA.  The data must be available in a format and with documentation such that they may be used by others in the scientific community.

These awards may involve the collection of “Geospatial Information,” which includes information that identifies the geographic location and characteristics of natural or constructed features or boundaries on the Earth or applications, tools, and hardware associated with the generation, maintenance, or distribution of such information.  This information may be derived from, among other things, a Geographic Positioning System (GPS), remote sensing, mapping, charting, and surveying technologies, or statistical data. 

As described more fully in Section IV, each application should address the following items (for content and form of application submission and page limitations, see Section IV.B):

  1. Center Description (5-page limit): Applications should describe the applicant’s plan for establishing a Center to perform the proposed research and highlight the Center’s overall goals, objectives, and approach.  The description should also explain how the Center will conduct its research to accomplish the purposes of this RFA.  This includes how the Center will pursue a multidisciplinary and thematic approach to the problems to be investigated. The Center description should explain how the Center’s research is innovative and will seek sustainable solutions that protect the environment and strengthen our communities. The application should also describe the Center’s commitment to educating the next generation of scientists and engineers on the development of holistic approaches and predictive tools for advancing the principles of sustainability. The applicant should explain how they will engage local communities in their projects.
  2. Research Project Descriptions (15-page limit for each project description):  Applications should contain one or more projects that address the research question described above in Section I.D.  Each of the specific individual research projects should be completely described according to the instructions in Section IV below.  Individual project descriptions should explain how the project fits into the overall Center’s program and relates to other projects in the application.
  3. Administrative Unit Description (15-page limit):  Each Center should have an Administrative Unit which provides overall oversight, coordination and integration of the Center’s activities.  As part of the Administrative Unit description, applications should include a Center Integration Plan.  The Center’s Integration Plan, at minimum, should indicate how programmatic and funding decisions will be made; how project objectives will be successfully achieved in a timely manner; how investigators from different disciplines within the Center will communicate on a regular basis about the development and progress of Center projects; how progress toward achieving the expected results (outputs and outcomes) will be monitored and measured; who will set priorities; and who will be responsible for implementing the integration plan, assuring compliance with the plan, and evaluating its effectiveness in achieving integration within the Center.  Center proposals should take a multidisciplinary approach.  In conducting its research, the Center should apply measures of success or progress, including developing and promoting the use of statistically valid protocols to evaluate program effectiveness and applying metrics to evaluate the project’s success, progress, or effectiveness.

II. AWARD INFORMATION

It is anticipated that a total of approximately $5 million will be awarded under this announcement, depending on the availability of funds, quality of applications received, and other applicable considerations. The EPA anticipates funding approximately 2 awards under this RFA.  Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $2,500,000 in federal funds, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered.  In addition, a minimum 10% non-federal match (which may include in-kind contributions) equal to a minimum of $250,000 (assuming the applicant requests $2,500,000 in EPA funds) must be included.  Applications which do not include a minumum 10% non-federal match will not be considered. The total project period requested in an application submitted for this RFA may not exceed four years.

The EPA reserves the right to reject all applications and make no awards, or make fewer awards than anticipated, under this RFA.  The EPA reserves the right to make additional awards under this announcement, consistent with Agency policy, if additional funding becomes available after the original selections are made.  Any additional selections for awards will be made no later than six months after the original selection decisions.

EPA intends to award grants or cooperative agreements under this announcement.

Under a grant, EPA scientists and engineers are not permitted to be substantially involved in the execution of the research.  However, EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant Principal Investigators after the award of an EPA grant for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities.  This interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant.  Interaction that is “incidental” does not involve resource commitments.

Where appropriate, based on consideration of the nature of the proposed project relative to the EPA’s intramural research program and available resources, the EPA may award cooperative agreementsunder this announcement.  When addressing a research question/problem of common interest, collaborations between EPA scientists and the institution’s principal investigators are permitted under a cooperative agreement.  These collaborations may include data and information exchange, providing technical input to experimental design and theoretical development, coordinating extramural research with in-house activities, the refinement of valuation endpoints, and joint authorship of journal articles on these activities.  Proposals may not identify EPA cooperators or interactions; specific interactions between EPA’s investigators and those of the prospective recipient for cooperative agreements will be negotiated at the time of award.

III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

A. Eligible Applicants
Public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and nonprofit hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and nonprofit hospitals) located in the U.S. are eligible. State and local governments, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments, and U.S. territories or possessions are not eligible to apply under this RFA.  Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive assistance agreements from the EPA under this program.

Eligible nonprofit organizations include any organizations that meet the definition of nonprofit in OMB Circular A-122, located at 2 CFR Part 230.  However, nonprofit organizations described in Section 501(c) (4) of the Internal Revenue Code that lobby are not eligible to apply.

Foreign governments, international organizations, and non-governmental international organizations/institutions are not eligible to apply.

National laboratories funded by Federal Agencies (Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers, “FFRDCs”) may not apply.  FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations.  They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the applicant, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization.  The institution, organization, or governance receiving the award may provide funds through its assistance agreement from the EPA to an FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research.  However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal Agencies may not apply.  Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on an assistance agreement, and may not receive salaries or augment their Agency’s appropriations in other ways through awards made under this program.

The applicant institution may enter into an agreement with a Federal Agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector to the extent authorized by law.  Examples are purchase of satellite data, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere.  A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application.  In addition, an appropriate form of assurance that documents the commitment, such as a letter of intent from the Federal Agency involved, should be included.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Bronda Harrison (harrison.bronda@epa.gov) in NCER, phone: 703-347-8080.

B. Cost-Sharing
Each applicant must contribute a minimum 10% match which may include in-kind contributions.  In order to be eligible for funding consideration, applicants must demonstrate in their application how they will meet the required minimum 10% match in accordance with 40 CFR Part 30.23.

The cost share/match may be provided in cash or can come from in-kind contributions, such as the use of volunteers and/or donated time, equipment, etc., subject to the regulations governing matching fund requirements at 40 CFR Part 30.23. Cost share/matching funds are considered grant funds and are included in the total award amount.

All contributions, including cash and third party in-kind, shall be accepted as cost sharing or matching when such contributions meet all of the following criteria: (1) Are verifiable from the recipient’s records; (2) Are not included as contributions for any other federally-assisted project or program; (3) Are necessary and reasonable for proper and efficient accomplishment of project or program objectives; (4) Are allowable under the applicable cost principles; (5) Are not paid by the Federal Government under another award, except where authorized by Federal statute to be used for cost sharing or matching; (6) Are identified in the approved budget; and (7) Conform to other provisions of Circular A–110 (Relocated to 2 CFR, Part 215), as applicable.

Any restrictions on the use of grant funds (examples of funding restrictions are described in Section IV.D of this announcement) also apply to the use of cost share/matching funds. 

C. Other
Applications must substantially comply with the application submission instructions and requirements set forth in Section IV of this announcement or they will be rejected.  In addition, where a page limitation is expressed in Section IV with respect to parts of the application, pages in excess of the page limit will not be reviewed.  Applications must be submitted through grants.gov or by other authorized alternate means (see Section IV.E. “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements” for further information) on or before the solicitation closing date and time in Section IV of this announcement or they will be returned to the sender without further consideration.  Also, applications exceeding the funding limits or project period term described herein will be returned without review.  In addition, applications proposing human subjects research will not be considered for funding and will be deemed ineligible.  Further, applications that fail to demonstrate a public purpose of support or stimulation (e.g., by proposing research which primarily benefits a Federal program or provides a service for a Federal agency) will not be funded.

Applications deemed ineligible for funding consideration will be notified within fifteen calendar days of the ineligibility determination.

IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION

Formal instructions for submission through Grants.gov follow in Section E.

A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
Use the application package available at Grants.gov (see Section E. “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”).  Note: With the exception of the current and pending support form (available at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page), all necessary forms are included in the electronic application package.

An email will be sent by NCER to the Lead/Contact PI and the Administrative Contact (see below) to acknowledge receipt of the application and transmit other important information.  The email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; emails to this address will not be accepted.  If you do not receive an email acknowledgment within 30 days of the submission closing date, immediately inform the Eligibility Contact shown in this solicitation.  Failure to do so may result in your application not being reviewed.  See Section E. “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements” for additional information regarding the application receipt acknowledgment.

B. Content and Form of Application Submission
The application is made by submitting the materials described below.  Applications must contain all information requested and be submitted in the formats described.  

Summary of Page Limitations for Application Content:

Descriptions must be single-spaced on 8.5x11-inch pages, with standard 12-point type and 1-inch margins.  While these guidelines establish the minimum type size requirements, applicants are advised that readability is of paramount importance and should take precedence in selection of an appropriate font for use in the proposal.

The following page limitations may not be exceeded (excess pages will not be reviewed):

  • Abstracts: 1-page abstract for the Center as a whole; 1-page abstracts for each proposed research project
  • Center Description: 5 pages
  • Research Plan(s): 15 pages for each research project description
  • Quality Management Plan: 5 pages
  • Data Plan: 2 pages
  • Administrative Unit:  15 pages
  • Budget Justification:  2 pages per research project; 2 pages for the Administrative Unit
  1. Standard Form 424

    The applicant must complete Standard Form 424.  Instructions for completion of the SF424 are included with the form.  (However, note that EPA requires that the entire requested dollar amount appear on the 424, not simply the proposed first year expenses.)  Note that a minimum 10% non-federal cost share/match must be included. The form must contain the signature of an authorized representative of the applying organization. 

    Applicants are required to provide a “Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System” (DUNS) number when applying for federal grants or cooperative agreements.  Organizations may receive a DUNS number by calling 1-866-705-5711 or by visiting the web site at the D&B website Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer.

    Executive Order 12372, “Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs,” does not apply to the Office of Research and Development's research and training programs unless EPA has determined that the activities that will be carried out under the applicants' proposal (a) require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), or (b) do not require an EIS but will be newly initiated at a particular site and require unusual measures to limit the possibility of adverse exposure or hazard to the general public, or (c) have a unique geographic focus and are directly relevant to the governmental responsibilities of a State or local government within that geographic area.

    If EPA determines that Executive Order 12372 applies to an applicant's proposal, the applicant must follow the procedures in 40 CFR Part 29.  The applicant must notify their state's single point of contact (SPOC). To determine whether their state participates in this process, and how to comply, applicants should consult Intergovernmental Review (SPOC List).  If an applicant is in a State that does not have a SPOC, or the State has not selected research and development grants for intergovernmental review, the applicant must notify directly affected State, area wide, regional and local entities of its proposal.

    EPA will notify the successful applicant(s) if Executive Order 12372 applies to its proposal prior to award.  

  2. Key Contacts

    The applicant must complete the “Key Contacts” form found in the Grants.gov application package.  An “Additional Key Contacts” form is also available at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page.  The Key Contacts form should also be completed for major sub-agreements (i.e., primary investigators).  Do not include information for consultants or other contractors.  Please make certain that all contact information is accurate.

    For Multiple PI applications:  The Additional Key Contacts form must be completed (see Section I.F. for further information).  Note: The Contact PI must be affiliated with the institution submitting the application.  EPA will direct all communications related to scientific, technical, and budgetary aspects of the project to the Contact PI; however, any information regarding an application will be shared with any PI upon request.  The Contact PI is to be listed on the Key Contact Form as the Project Manager/Principal Investigator (the term Project Manager is used on the Grants.gov form, the term Principal Investigator is used on the form located on NCER’s web site).  For additional PIs, complete the Major Co-Investigator fields and identify PI status next to the name (e.g., “Name: John Smith, Principal Investigator”). 

  3. Table of Contents

    Provide a list of the major subdivisions of the application indicating the page number on which each section begins. 

  4. Abstract (1 page abstract for the Center as a whole; 1 page abstracts for each proposed research project)

    The abstract is a very important document in the review process.  Therefore, it is critical that the abstract accurately describes the research being proposed and conveys all the essential elements of the research.  Also, the abstracts of applications that receive funding will be posted on the NCER web site.

    The abstract should include the information described below (a-h).  Examples of abstracts for current grants may be found on the NCER web site.

    1. Funding Opportunity Title and Number for this proposal.
    2. Project Title: Use the exact title of your project as it appears in the application.  The title must be brief yet represent the major thrust of the project.  Because the title will be used by those not familiar with the project, use more commonly understood terminology.  Do not use general phrases such as “research on.”
    3. Investigators: For applications with multiple investigators, state whether this is a single Lead PI (with co-PIs) or Multiple PI application (see Section I.F.).  For Lead PI applications, list the Lead PI, then the name(s) of each co-PI who will significantly contribute to the project.  For Multiple PI applications, list the Contact PI, then the name(s) of each additional PI.  Provide a web site URL or an email contact address for additional information.
    4. Institution(s): In the same order as the list of investigators, list the name, city and state of each participating university or other applicant institution.  The institution applying for assistance must be clearly identified.
    5. Project Period and Location: Show the proposed project beginning and ending dates and the performance site(s)/geographical location(s) where the work will be conducted.
    6. Project Cost: Show the total funding requested from the EPA (include direct and indirect costs for all years) as well as the non-federal cost share.
    7. Project Summary: Provide three subsections addressing: (1) the objectives of the study (including any hypotheses that will be tested), (2) the experimental approach to be used (a description of the proposed project), and (3) the expected results (outputs/outcomes) of the project and how it addresses the research needs identified in the solicitation, including the estimated improvement in risk assessment or risk management that will result from successful completion of the proposed work.
    8. Supplemental Keywords: Without duplicating terms already used in the text of the abstract, list keywords to assist database searchers in finding your research.  A list of suggested keywords may be found at: Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page.
  5. Center Description (5 pages)

    Applications should describe the applicant’s plan for establishing a Center to perform the proposed research and highlight the Center’s overall goals, objectives, and approach.  The description should also explain how the Center will conduct its research to accomplish the purposes of this RFA.  This includes how the Center will pursue a multidisciplinary and thematic approach to the development of a systems view of nutrient management which enables the application of sustainability principles across all stages of the life cycle of nutrient and water management including in-building and other small system scales. The Center description should describe how the Center's research, demonstration, and community engagement efforts are innovative and will seek sustainable solutions that protect the environment and strengthen our communities.

    The Center description should also demonstrate how the various projects contained within the Center are integrated; describe participation of investigators with the needed expertise and qualifications; and discuss the use of cutting-edge approaches. The applicant should explain how they will engage local communities throughout their projects, including outreach. The application should also describe the Center's commitment to educating the next generation of scientists, engineers, architects, and planners on the development of holistic approaches and predictive tools for advancing the principles of sustainability. The Center must also clearly describe the complementary support provided by each member and partner.

  6. Research Plan, Quality Management Plan, Non-Human Subjects Research Determination, Data Plan and References

    1. Research Plan (15 pages per research project description)

      Projects should focus on a limited number of research objectives that adequately and clearly demonstrate that they meet the RFA requirements.  Explicitly state the main hypotheses that you will investigate, the data you will create or use, the analytical tools you will use to investigate these hypotheses and/or analyze these data, and the results you expect to achieve based on the current state of the science.  Clearly define the systems view, demonstration elements, and community engagement practices associated with your proposed research. Research methods must be clearly stated in sufficient detail so that reviewers can evaluate the appropriateness of your approach and the tools you intend to use.  A statement such as: “we will evaluate the data using the usual statistical methods” is not specific enough for peer reviewers.

      The description must provide the following information:

      1. Objectives: List the objectives of the proposed research and the hypotheses being tested during the project, and state why the intended research is important and how it fulfills the requirements of the solicitation.  This section should also include any background or introductory information that would help explain the objectives of the study.  If the project expands upon research supported by an existing or former assistance agreement awarded under the STAR program, indicate the number of the agreement and provide a brief report of progress and results achieved under it.
      2. Approach/Activities: Outline the research design, methods, and techniques (including quality assurance/quality control protocols) that you intend to use in meeting the objectives stated above.
      3. Innovation: Describe how your project shifts current research or engineering paradigms by using innovative theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or interventions applicable to one or more fields of research.
      4. Sustainability: Describe how your project embodies the principles of sustainability and seeks sustainable solutions that protect the environment and strengthen our communities. The Sustainability Primer (PDF) (2 pp, 195 K) provides examples of research activities that promote and incorporate sustainability principles.
      5. Systems approach: Describe how your project is based on an understanding of how elements influence one another within a whole, viewing problems as parts of an overall system, not reacting to specific part, outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further development of unintended consequences.
      6. Transdisciplinarity: Describe how your project will combine and make use of various approaches that transcend boundaries of conventional disciplines. The proposal should explain how transdisciplinary approaches which involve multiple disciplines will be used. whole greater than the sum of its parts.
      7. Expected Results, Benefits, Outputs, and Outcomes: Describe the results you expect to achieve during the project (outputs) and the potential benefits of the results (outcomes).  This section should also discuss how the research results will lead to solutions to environmental problems and improve the public’s ability to protect the environment and human health.  A clear, concise description will help NCER and peer reviewers understand the merits of the research.
      8. Community Engagement: Describe how your project will identify, engage, and utilize members of the affected community of stakeholders in water management throughout the research project.
      9. General Project Information: Discuss other information relevant to the potential success of the project.  This should include facilities, personnel expertise/experience (including the unique contributions of each member or partner in the project to achieving the overall purpose and objectives of the research), schedules with associated milestones and target dates, proposed management, interactions with other institutions, etc.  Applications for multi-investigator projects must identify project management and the functions of each investigator in each team and describe plans to communicate and share data.
      10. Appendices may be included but must remain within the 15-page limit.
    2. Quality Management Plan (5 pages)

      For projects involving data collection or processing, environmental measurements, modeling, or the development of environmental technology for pollution control (whether hardware-based or via new techniques), the EPA requires a Quality Management Plan (QMP) describing the Center’s policies and procedures that assure research results satisfy the intended objectives. The Quality Management Plan provided with the application must contain, at a minimum the information below.  EPA will likely require an expanded version of this document following award.

      1. Summary - A discussion of the overall quality assurance and quality control needs of the Center and the objectives of their Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) policy.
      2. Organization and Management - This section should include:
        1. Organization chart that identifies by name:
          1. all of the components (research project or unit activity) of the Center;
          2. the Principal Investigator or overall manager for each component;
          3. the QA Manager who oversees the quality system for the Center, and how the QA manager reports to the Center Director or lead PI;
          4. the person(s) responsible for QA/QC activities for each component and how they report to the QA Manager.
        2. Description of the specific responsibilities of the QA Manager and any other personnel with QA responsibilities;
        3. Description of any delegations of QA responsibility to sub-awardees or contractors (especially QC responsibilities); and
        4. Discussion of how the Center will maintain effective communications throughout the management structure.
      3. Quality System - This section should include brief discussions of:
        1. How the Center’s research activities will be reviewed and evaluated to ensure quality;
        2. How staff will be trained, and who will be responsible for training and oversight of QA practices during conduct of the research;
        3. How data will be stored and made available to Center personnel and to the public; and
        4. How the Center’s QA/QC procedures will be reviewed and evaluated, including how recommended changes will be implemented.
      4. Project or Component Specific - This section should discuss the QA and QC needs for the Center’s components and should describe or reference any standard procedures (such as SOPs) that will be used to address these needs. (Individual project QA plans, expected after award as part of the Center’s QA program, should include detailed descriptions of how the data needs relate to the hypotheses being tested or the objectives.)  This section should also address the following:
        1. How the sample size(s) will be selected and demonstrated to be sufficient to test the hypotheses or meet a specific objective;
        2. How the necessary performance criteria for measured data to test the hypotheses or meet the objective will be identified;
        3. How the quality of previously collected data will be determined appropriate for its stated use;
        4. How data will be managed (collected, backed-up, collated, transferred, and stored) to ensure that the quality is maintained and documented; and
        5. What data analysis methods will be used.
      5. Documentation and Records - Describe or reference the procedures the Center will use for identifying and maintaining QA and QC related documents and records.

      General QMP guidance can be found at NCER’s Guidance for Quality Management Plans (QMPs) General Guidance for Writing and Reviewing QMPs For EPA/NCER and the STAR Grant Program (PDF) (2pp, 25 K)

      For more detailed EPA guidance, see EPA Requirements for Quality Management Plans (EPA QA/R-2) (PDF) (30 pp, 87 K) on EPA website.

    3. Non-Human Subjects Research Determination (1 page)

      This solicitation does not provide the opportunity for the submission of applications for projects that involve human subjects research.  All human research studies conducted or supported by EPA are governed by EPA regulations at 40 CFR Part 26 (Protection of Human Subjects).  This includes the Basic Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Research Subjects, also known as the Common Rule, at subpart A and additional prohibitions and special protections for pregnant women, nursing women, and children in research conducted or supported by EPA at subparts B, C, and D.  Depending upon the type of research being conducted, additional subparts of 40 CFR Part 26 may be relevant.  Procedures for the review and oversight of human research subject to 40 CFR Part 26 are also provided in EPA Order 1000.17 Change A1 (PDF) (41, 334 K).

      All applications submitted under this solicitation must include a Non-Human Subjects Research Determination, verifying that the proposed research will not involve human subjects (see definitions below).

      Definitions (from 40 CFR Part 26 Subparts A, B, and C)

      • Human subject means a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information.
      • Intervention includes both physical procedures by which data are gathered (for example, venipuncture) and manipulations of the subject or the subject's environment that are performed for research purposes.
      • Interaction includes communication or interpersonal contact between investigator and subject.
      • Private information includes information about behavior that occurs in a context in which an individual can reasonably expect that no observation or recording is taking place, and information which has been provided for specific purposes by an individual and which the individual can reasonably expect will not be made public (for example, a medical record).
      • Individually identifiable means the identity of the subject is or may readily be ascertained by the investigator or associated with the information.
      • Research involving the intentional exposure of a human subject means a study of a substance in which the exposure to the substance experienced by a human subject participating in the study would not have occurred but for the human subject’s participation in the study.
      • Observational research means any human research that does not meet the definition of research involving intentional exposure of a human subject.

      Non-Human Subjects Research Determination Requirements

      Provide the following statement in your application package verifying that the proposed research will not involve human subjects:  “The proposed research does not involve human subjects.”  Please use the definitions provided above to ensure consistency in the interpretation of terminology.

    4. Data Plan(2 pages)

      Provide a plan to make all data resulting from an agreement under this RFA available in a format and with documentation/metadata such that they may be used by others in the scientific community.  This includes data first produced under the award, i.e., from observations, analyses, or model development collected or used under the agreement.  Applicants who plan to develop or enhance databases containing proprietary or restricted information must provide, within the two pages, a strategy to make the data widely available, while protecting privacy or property rights.

      The Center should demonstrate a willingness to use, as appropriate, existing or future databases as they become available.  In addition, the Center is encouraged to seek out and participate collaboratively with data sharing or monitoring efforts.   It is strongly desired that information regarding concepts, methods, approaches, techniques, and technological advances developed by the Center be compiled, organized, and maintained in a “Data Warehouse” for eventual distribution to the greater scientific community. This will ensure that advances in critical areas of benign design, material life cycle, sustainability, and holistic environmental design etc., will be communicated and disseminated broadly to scientists in these areas.  Such interaction with the greater scientific community will ensure the translation of progress and advances.

    5. References:  References cited are in addition to other page limits (e.g. research plan, quality management plan, data plan)

  7. Administrative Unit (15 pages)

    The Center should have an Administrative Unit which provides overall oversight, coordination and integration of the Center’s activities.  As part of the Administrative Unit description, applications should include a Center Integration Plan. The Center’s Integration Plan, at minimum, should indicate how programmatic and funding decisions will be made; how project objectives will be successfully achieved in a timely manner; how investigators from different disciplines within the Center will communicate on a regular basis about the development, outcomes and progress of projects; how progress toward achieving the expected results (outputs and outcomes) will be monitored and measured; who will set priorities; and who will be responsible for implementing the integration plan, assuring compliance with the plan, and evaluating its effectiveness in achieving integration within the Center.  Center proposals should take a multidisciplinary approach.  In conducting its research, the Center should apply measures of success or progress, including developing and promoting the use of statistically valid protocols to evaluate program effectiveness and applying metrics to evaluate the project’s success, progress, or effectiveness.

    The administrative unit description should also address how the Center will disseminate research findings and other information.  The description should explain how products, research results, and findings will be internally reviewed and then disseminated to stakeholders, as well as how the flow of information among investigators will be facilitated.  Publishing research results in scientific journals is essential; however, it is not sufficient.  Plans for Center websites, social networks, and other means of communicating results should be described.

    The Center must be led by an overall Director who will provide oversight, coordination, and integration of the Center’s activities. The Director assumes responsibility to maintain contact with and update the EPA Project Officer (PO) regarding progress of research and also provides the PO with timely reporting of operational and or budget issues that may arise.

  8. Budget and Budget Justification

    1. Budget

      Prepare a master budget table using “SF-424A Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs” (aka SF-424A), available in the Grants.gov electronic application package and also at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page. Provide the federal funds being requested and non-federal cost share being contributed in “Section A-Budget Summary” under the “New or Revised Budget” heading.  In “Section B-Budget Categories,” provide the object class budget category (a.- k.) amounts for each budget year under the “Grant Program, Function or Activity” heading. Each column reflects a separate budget year. For example, Column (1) reflects budget year 1. The total budget will be automatically tabulated in column (5).

      Please note that a minimum 10% non-federal cost-share is required.    Cost shared amounts must be listed in the SF-424A and described in the budget justification.

      Also provide separate SF-424As for each individual research project proposed as well as for the administrative unit. Additional SF-424As may be downloaded at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page.   Attach the additional SF-424As to the Project Narrative (see Section IV.E. “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements”). 

      If a subaward is included in the application, provide a separate SF-424A and budget justification for the subaward.  Include the total amount for the subaward under “Other” in the master SF-424A.  Applicants may not use subagreements to transfer or delegate their responsibility for successful completion of their EPA assistance agreement.  Therefore, EPA expects that subawards or subcontracts should not constitute more than 40% of the total direct cost of the total project budget.  If a subaward/subcontract constitutes more than 40% of the total direct cost, additional justification may be required before award, discussing the need for the subaward/subcontract to accomplish the objectives of the research project.  Please see Section IV.D below if your organization intends to identify specific contractors, including consultants, and subawardees in your proposal. 

      Please note that when formulating budgets for proposals/applications, applicants must not include management fees or similar charges in excess of the direct costs and indirect costs at the rate approved by the applicant’s cognizant audit agency, or at the rate provided for by the terms of the agreement negotiated with EPA. The term "management fees or similar charges" refers to expenses added to the direct costs in order to accumulate and reserve funds for ongoing business expenses, unforeseen liabilities, or for other similar costs that are not allowable under EPA assistance agreements. Management fees or similar charges may not be used to improve or expand the project funded under this agreement, except to the extent authorized as a direct cost of carrying out the scope of work.

    2. Budget Justification [2 pages per research project and the administrative unit in addition to the Section IV.B.6 page limitations, not including additions under No. (7) below to support subawards]

      Describe the basis for calculating the personnel, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and other costs identified in the itemized budget.  Each budget justification should not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

      Budget information should be supported at the level of detail described below:

      1. Personnel: List all staff positions by title.  Give annual salary, percentage of time assigned to the project, total cost for the budget period, and project role.  Compensation paid for employees engaged in grant activities must be consistent with payments for similar work within the applicant organization.  Note that for salaries to be allowable as a direct charge to the award, a justification of how that person will be directly involved in the project must be provided. General administrative duties such as answering telephones, filing, typing, or accounting duties are not considered acceptable.

        Below is a sample computation for Personnel:

        Position/Title Annual Salary % of Time Assigned to Project Cost
        Project Manager $70,000 50% $ 35,000
        Env. Specialist $60,000 100% $ 60,000
        Env. Health Tech $45,000 100% $ 45,000
        Total Personnel $140,000

        Note this budget category is limited to persons employed by the applicant organization ONLY.  Those employed elsewhere are classified as subawardees, contractors or consultants. Contractors and consultants should be listed under the “Contractual” budget heading while subawards made to eligible subrecipients are listed under the “Other” budget heading.

      2. Fringe Benefits: Identify the percentage used and the basis for its computation. Fringe benefits are for the personnel listed in budget category (1) above and only for the percentage of time devoted to the project. Fringe benefits include but are not limited to the cost of leave, employee insurance, pensions and unemployment benefit plans.  The applicant should not combine the fringe benefit costs with direct salaries and wages in the personnel category.

      3. Travel: Specify the estimated number of trips, purpose of each trip, number of travelers per trip, destinations, and other costs for each type of travel. Explain the need for any travel, paying particular attention to travel outside the United States.  Include travel funds for annual STAR program progress reviews (estimate for two days in Washington, D.C.) and a final workshop to report on results.

        Below is a sample computation for Travel:

        Purpose of Travel Location Item Computation Cost
        EPA STAR Progress Review DC Lodging 4 people x $100 per night
        x 2 nights
        $800
        Airfare 4 people x $500 round trip $2,000
        Per Diem 4 people x $50 per day
        x 2 days
        $400
        Total Travel $3,200
      4. Equipment: Identify all tangible, non-expendable personal property to be purchased that has an estimated cost of $5,000 or more per unit and a useful life of more than one year. Details such as the type of equipment, cost, and a brief narrative on the intended use of the equipment for project objectives are required. Each item of equipment must be identified with the corresponding cost. General-purpose equipment (office equipment, etc.) must be justified as to how it will be used on the project. (Property items with a unit cost of less than $5,000 are considered supplies.)

      5. Supplies: “Supplies” means tangible property other than “equipment.” Identify supplies to be used under the project.  This may include: software, office supplies, and laboratory supplies such as reagents, chemicals and glassware. Specifically identify computers to be purchased or upgraded.

      6. Contractual: Specify the amount you anticipate expending for services/analyses or consultants and specify the purpose of the contracts and estimated cost.  Any procurement of services from individual consultants or commercial firms (including space for workshops) must comply with the competitive procurement requirements of 40 CFR Part 30.40-30.48. Please see Section IV. D below for more details.

        Examples of Contractual costs include:

        1. Consultants – Consultants are individuals with specialized skills who are paid at a daily or hourly rate.  EPA’s participation in the salary rate (excluding overhead) paid to individual consultants retained by recipients or by a recipient's contractors or subcontractors is limited to the maximum daily rate for a Level IV of the Executive Schedule (formerly GS-18), to be adjusted annually.
        2. Equipment Rental – When there is a need to rent equipment for use on the project, provide information on the type of equipment to be rented, the purpose or use on the project, the length of time needed and the rental rate. Renting or leasing of equipment will require a lease vs. purchase cost analysis prior to approval.
        3. Facility Rental – When it is necessary to rent office or other facilities spaces for project implementation, and the space(s) are located off-site from the organization’s main facility in space not owned by the applicant organization, the cost of the rent may be charged against the award as a contractual expense if the   space is used specifically for the project. The budget justifications should provide details on the monthly rental charge and if the rent is pro-rated to the project.
        4. Service or Maintenance Contracts – Costs should be in direct correlation to the use of the equipment for the project (i.e., if a particular machine is used 50% of the time for the project, the project should only be charged 50% of the service/maintenance costs). Provide details of the type of equipment and the amount of the service contract to be paid from EPA funds.
        5. Speaker/Trainer Fees – Information on speakers should include the fee and a description of the services they are providing.
      7. Other: List each item in sufficient detail for the EPA to determine the reasonableness of its cost relative to the research to be undertaken. “Other” items may include publication costs, long distance telephone charges, and photocopying costs.  Note that subawards, such as those with other universities for members of the research team, are included in this category. Subawards must have a separate itemized budget and budget justification, not to exceed one additional page each. Subawards may not be used to acquire services from consultants or commercial firms.  Please see Section IV.D below for more details.  

      8. Indirect Costs: Indirect costs are those incurred by the applicant for a common or joint purpose that benefit more than one cost objective or project, and are not readily assignable to specific cost objectives or projects as a direct cost. In order for indirect costs to be allowable, the applicant must have a negotiated indirect cost rate (e.g., fixed, predetermined, final or provisional), or must have submitted a proposal to their cognizant agency. If indirect costs are included in the budget, identify the cognizant agency and the approved indirect rate.  If your organization does not have a cognizant agency, please note that in the budget justification and provide a brief explanation for how you calculated your indirect cost rate. 

  9. Resumes

    Provide resumes for each investigator and important co-worker.  You may include resumes from staff of subawardees such as universities.  Do not include resumes of consultants or other contractors. The resume for each individual must not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

  10. Current and Pending Support

    Complete a current and pending support form (provided at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page) for each investigator and important co-worker.  Do not include current and pending support for consultants or other contractors.  Include all current and pending research regardless of source.

    Note to all prospective applicants requiring multiple Current and Pending Support Form pages: Due to a limitation in Adobe Acrobat's forms functionality, additional pages cannot be directly inserted into the original PDF form and preserve the form data on the subsequent pages. Multiple page form submissions can be created in Acrobat 8 and later using the "PDF Package" option in the "Create PDF from Multiple Files" function. If you have an earlier version of Adobe Standard or Professional, applicants will need to convert each PDF page of the form to an EPS (Encapsulated Post Script) file before creating the PDF for submission.   The following steps will allow applicants with earlier versions of Adobe Standard or Professional to create a PDF package:

    1. Populate the first page of the PDF, and save it as a EPS (Encapsulated Post Script) file.
    2. Reopen the form, and populate it with the data for page 2. Save this page as a different EPS file.  Repeat for as many pages as necessary.
    3. Use Acrobat Distiller to convert the EPS files back to PDF.
    4. Open Acrobat Professional, and combine the individual pages into a combined PDF file.
  11. Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements

    1. Letters of Intent/Letters of Support

      Letters of intent to provide resources for the proposed research or to document intended interactions are limited to one brief paragraph committing the availability of a resource (e.g., use of a person's time or equipment) or intended interaction (e.g., sharing of data, as-needed consultation) that is described in the Research Plan.  Letters of intent are to be included as an addition to the budget justification documents.  EPA employees are not permitted to provide letters of intent for any application.

      Letters of support do not commit a resource vital to the success of the proposal. A letter of support is written by businesses, organizations, or community members stating their support of the applicant's proposed project.  EPA employees are not permitted to provide letters of support for any application.

      Note:  Letters of intent or support must be part of the application; letters submitted separately will not be accepted. Any letter of intent or support that exceeds one brief paragraph (excluding letterhead and salutations), is considered part of the individual Research Project Description it is associated with and is included in the 15-page Research Project Description limit.  Any transactions between the successful applicant and parties providing letters of intent or support financed with EPA grant funds are subject to the funding restrictions described in Section IV.D as well. 

    2. Funding Opportunity Number(s) (FON) 

      At various places in the application, applicants are asked to identify the FON. 

      The Funding Opportunity Number for this RFA is:

      Centers for Water Research on National Priorities Related to a Systems View of Nutrient Management, EPA-G2012-STAR-H1

C. Submission Dates and Times
Applications must be transferred to Grants.gov no later than 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date.  Applications transferred after the closing date and time will be returned to the sender without further consideration.  EPA will not accept any changes to applications after the closing date.

It should be noted that this schedule may be changed without prior notification because of factors not anticipated at the time of announcement.  In the case of a change in the solicitation closing date, a new date will be posted on the NCER web site (Funding Opportunities) and a modification posted on Grants.gov.

Solicitation Closing Date: 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time (applications must be submitted to Grants.gov by this time, see Section IV.E “Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements” for further information).

NOTE: Customarily, applicants are notified about evaluation decisions within six months of the solicitation closing date.  Awards are generally made 9-12 months after the solicitation closing date.

D. Funding Restrictions
The funding mechanism for all awards issued under STAR solicitations will consist of assistance agreements from the EPA.  All award decisions are subject to the availability of funds.  In accordance with the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, 31 U.S.C. 6301 et seq., the primary purpose of an assistance agreement is to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by federal statute, rather than acquisition for the direct benefit or use of the Agency.  In issuing a grant, the EPA anticipates that there will be no substantial EPA involvement in the design, implementation, or conduct of the research.  However, the EPA will monitor research progress through annual reports provided by grantees and other contacts, including site visits, with the Principal Investigator(s).
If you wish to submit applications for more than one STAR funding opportunity you must ensure that the research proposed in each application is significantly different from any other that has been submitted to the EPA or from any other financial assistance you are currently receiving from the EPA or other federal government agency.

Collaborative applications involving more than one institution must be submitted as a single administrative package from one of the institutions involved. EPA awards funds to one eligible applicant as the recipient even if other eligible applicants are named as partners or co-applicants or members of a coalition, consortium, or center.  The recipient is accountable to EPA for the proper expenditure of funds.

Funding may be used to provide subgrants or subawards of financial assistance, which includes using subawards or subgrants to fund partnerships,  provided the recipient complies with applicable requirements for subawards or subgrants including those contained in 40 CFR Part 30.   Applicants must compete contracts for services and products, including consultant contracts, and conduct cost and price analyses to the extent required by the procurement provisions of the regulations at 40 CFR Part 30. The regulations also contain limitations on consultant compensation. Applicants are not required to identify subawardees/subgrantees and/or contractors (including consultants) in their proposal/application.  However, if they do, the fact that an applicant selected for award has named a specific subawardee/subgrantee, contractor, or consultant in the proposal/application EPA selects for funding does not relieve the applicant of its obligations to comply with subaward/subgrant and/or competitive procurement requirements as appropriate.   Please note that applicants may not award sole source contracts to consulting, engineering or other firms assisting applicants with the proposal based solely on the firm's role in preparing the proposal/application.

Successful applicants cannot use subgrants or subawards to avoid requirements in EPA grant regulations for competitive procurement by using these instruments to acquire commercial services or products from for-profit organizations to carry out its assistance agreement.  The nature of the transaction between the recipient and the subawardee or subgrantee must be consistent with the standards for distinguishing between vendor transactions and subrecipient assistance under Subpart B Section .210 of OMB Circular A-133, and the definitions of subaward at 40 CFR 30.2(ff). EPA will not be a party to these transactions.  Applicants acquiring commercial goods or services must comply with the competitive procurement standards in 40 CFR Part 30 and cannot use a subaward/subgrant as the funding mechanism.  

Section V of the announcement describes the evaluation criteria and evaluation process that will be used by EPA to make selections under this announcement.  During this evaluation, except for those criteria that relate to the applicant's own qualifications, past performance, and reporting history, the review panel will consider, if appropriate and relevant, the qualifications, expertise, and experience of:

  1. an applicant's named subawardees/subgrantees identified in the proposal/application if the applicant demonstrates in the proposal/application that if it receives an award that the subaward/subgrant will be properly awarded consistent with the applicable regulations in 40 CFR Part 30.  For example, applicants must not use subawards/subgrants to obtain commercial services or products from for profit firms or individual consultants. 
  2. an applicant's named contractor(s), including consultants, identified in the proposal/application if the applicant demonstrates in its proposal/application that the contractor(s) was selected in compliance with the competitive procurement standards in 40 CFR Part 30.  For example, an applicant must demonstrate that it selected the contractor(s) competitively or that a proper non-competitive sole-source award consistent with the regulations will be made to the contractor(s), that efforts were made to provide small and disadvantaged businesses with opportunities to compete, and that some form of cost or price analysis was conducted.   EPA may not accept sole source justifications for contracts for services or products that are otherwise readily available in the commercial marketplace.

EPA will not consider the qualifications, experience, and expertise of named subawardees/subgrantees and/or named contractor(s) during the proposal/application evaluation process unless the applicant complies with these requirements.

Each proposed project must be able to be completed within the project period and with the initial award of funds.  Applicants should request the entire amount of money needed to complete the project.  Recipients should not anticipate additional funding beyond the initial award of funds for a specific project.

E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
Please read this entire section before attempting an electronic submission through Grants.gov. 

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the Grants.gov application submission process for this solicitation, send a webmail message at least 15 calendar days before the submission deadline to assure timely receipt of alternate submission instructions.  In your message  provide the funding opportunity number and title of the program, specify that you are requesting alternate submission instructions, and provide a telephone number, fax number, and an email address, if available.  Alternate instructions will be emailed whenever possible.  Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this RFA, including Section IV, and be received by the solicitation closing date identified above.

Note:  Grants.gov submission instructions are updated on an as-needed basis.  Please provide your Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) with a copy of the following instructions to avoid submission delays that may occur from the use of outdated instructions.

  1. Preparing for Submission.  The appropriate electronic application package available through the Grants.gov site must be used for electronic submissions.  To begin the application process, go to Grants.gov and click on the “Apply for Grants” tab on the left side of the page.  Then click on “Apply Step 1:  Download a Grant Application Package” to download the compatible Adobe viewer and obtain the application package.  For more information on Adobe Reader please go to Grants.gov Help Page

    Note:  Grants.gov is aware of a corruption issue when Adobe Reader application packages are saved in different versions of Adobe Reader.  It is recommended that applicants uninstall earlier versions of Adobe Reader and then install the version available and compatible through Grants.gov.

    The application package may be quickly accessed from Download Application Package using the appropriate FON.  Be sure to download the electronic application package for the appropriate FON.   Please register for announcement change notification emails.  Note: With the exception of the current and pending support form (available at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page), all necessary forms are included in the electronic application package.

    The electronic submission of your application package must be made by an official representative of your institution who is registered with Grants.gov and authorized to sign for Federal assistance.  Most submission problems can be avoided by communicating with the AOR well before the solicitation closing date and allowing sufficient time for following the guidance provided below.  Note for organizations not currently registered: the registration process may take a week or longer to complete.  We recommend you designate an AOR and begin the registration process as soon as possible.

    For more information, go to Grants.gov and click on “Get Registered”.

  2. Acknowledgement of Receipt.  The complete application must be transferred to Grants.gov no later than 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date (see “Submission Dates and Times”).  Grants.gov provides an on-screen notification of successful initial transfer as well as an email notification of successful transfer from Grants.gov to EPA.  While it is advisable to retain copies of these Grants.gov acknowledgements to document submission, the only official documentation that the application has been received by NCER is the email acknowledgement sent by NCER to the Lead/Contact PI and the Administrative Contact.  This email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; emails to this address will not be accepted.  If an email acknowledgment from receipt.application@epa.gov has not been received within 30 days of the solicitation closing date, immediately inform the Eligibility Contact shown in this solicitation.  Failure to do so may result in your application not being reviewed.

  3. Application Package Preparation.  The application package consists of a. through d. below.

    1. Application for Federal Assistance (SF 424):  Complete the form except for the “competition ID” field.
    2. EPA Key Contacts Form 5700-54:  Complete the form.  If additional pages are needed, see (d) below.
    3. SF-424A Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs: Provide the federal funds being requested and non-federal cost share being contributed in “Section A-Budget Summary” under the “New or Revised Budget” heading.  In “Section B-Budget Categories,” provide the object class budget category (a.- k.) amounts for each budget year under the “Grant Program, Function or Activity” heading. Each column reflects a separate budget year. Provide one SF-424A for the total Center budget and separate SF-424As for each research project as well as for the administrative unit.  Additional SF-424As may be downloaded at Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page.  Attach the additional SF-424As to the Project Narrative.
    4. Project Narrative Attachment Form (click on “Add Mandatory Project Narrative”):  Attach a single electronic file labeled “Application” that contains the items described in Section IV.B.3. through IV.B.11.a (Table of Contents, Abstracts, Center Description, Research Plan Description(s), Quality Management Plan, Non-Human Subjects Research Determination, Data Plan, References, Administrative Unit Description, Additional SF-424As for the individual research projects and administrative unit, Budget Justifications for the individual research projects and administrative unit, Resumes, Current and Pending Support, and Letters of Intent/Support) of this solicitation.  In order to maintain format integrity, this file must be submitted in Adobe Acrobat PDF.  Please review the PDF file for conversion errors prior to including it in the electronic application package; requests to rectify conversion errors will not be accepted if made after the solicitation closing date and time. If Key Contacts Continuation pages (see Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page) are needed, place them before the Table of Contents (Section IV.B.3.).

    Please note that applicants are limited to using the following characters in all attachment file names.  Valid file names may only include the following UTF-8 characters:
    A-Z, a-z, 0-9, underscore ( _ ), hyphen (-), space, period. If applicants use any other characters when naming their attachment files their applications will be rejected by grants.gov.

    Once the application package has been completed, the “Submit” button should be enabled.  If the “Submit” button is not active, please call Grants.gov for assistance at 1-800-518-4726.  Applicants who are outside the U.S. at the time of submittal and are not able to access the toll-free number may reach a Grants.gov representative by calling 606-545-5035.  Investigators should save the completed application package with two different file names before providing it to the AOR to avoid having to re-create the package should submission problems be experienced or a revised application needs to be submitted.  Note:  Revised applications must be submitted before the solicitation closing date and time.

  4. Submitting the application.  The application package must be transferred to Grants.gov by an AOR.  The AOR should close all other software before attempting to submit the application package.  Click the “submit” button of the application package. Your Internet browser will launch and a sign-in page will appear.  Note:  Minor problems are not uncommon with transfers to Grants.gov.  It is essential to allow sufficient time to ensure that your application is submitted to Grants.gov BEFORE 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date.  The Grants.gov support desk operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except Federal Holidays.

    A successful transfer will end with an on-screen acknowledgement.  For documentation purposes, print or screen capture this acknowledgement.  If a submission problem occurs, reboot the computer – turning the power off may be necessary – and re-attempt the submission.

    Note:  Grants.gov issues a “case number” upon a request for assistance.

  5. Transmission Difficulties.  If transmission difficulties that result in a late transmission, no transmission, or rejection of the transmitted application are experienced, and following the above instructions do not resolve the problem so that the application is submitted to Grants.Gov by the deadline date and time, follow the guidance below.  The Agency will make a decision concerning each late submission on a case-by-case basis as to whether it should be forwarded for peer review.  All emails, as described below, are to be sent to peterson.todd@epa.gov with the FON in the subject line.

    Please note that if the application you are submitting is greater than 70 MB in size, please call or send an email message to the Electronic Submissions Contact listed for this RFA.  The Agency may experience technical difficulty downloading files of this size from Grants.gov.  Therefore, it is important that the Agency verify that the file can be downloaded.  The Agency will provide alternate submission instructions if the file cannot be downloaded.

    1. If you are experiencing problems resulting in an inability to upload the application to Grants.gov, it is essential to call Grants.gov for assistance at 1-800-518-4726 before the application deadline.  Applicants who are outside the U.S. at the time of submittal and are not able to access the toll-free number may reach a Grants.gov representative by calling 606-545-5035.  Be sure to obtain a case number from Grants.gov.
    2. Unsuccessful transfer of the application package: If a successful transfer of the application cannot be accomplished even with assistance from Grants.gov due to electronic submission issues, send an email message by 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date. The email message must document the problem and include the Grants.gov case number as well as the entire application in PDF format as an attachment.
    3. Grants.gov rejection of the application package:  If a notification is received from Grants.gov stating that the application has been rejected for reasons other than late submittal, promptly send an email to Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov) with the FON in the subject line within one business day of the closing date of this solicitation.  The email should include any materials provided by Grants.gov and attach the entire application in PDF format.

V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION

A. Peer Review
All eligible grant applications are reviewed by appropriate external technical peer reviewers   based on the criteria and process described below.  This review is designed to evaluate each application according to its scientific merit.  The individual external peer reviewers include non-EPA scientists, engineers, social scientists, and/or economists who are accomplished in their respective disciplines and proficient in the technical subjects they are reviewing.

Prior to the external technical peer review panel meeting, all reviewers will receive electronic copies of all applications to be reviewed by the entire panel, as well as a full set of abstracts for the applications. Each application will be assigned to a minimum of three primary peer reviewers, one of whom will be assigned the role of Rapporteur. Each reviewer will be assigned up to approximately 10 applications on which to serve as a primary reviewer. During the review period leading up to the panel meeting, primary reviewers will read the full set of abstracts and entire application package for each application they are assigned. They will also prepare a written individual evaluation for each assigned application that addresses the peer review criteria described below and rate the application with a score of excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor.

At the beginning of the panel meeting, each primary reviewer will report their ratings for the applications they reviewed.  Those applications receiving at least two ratings of Very Good or one rating of Excellent from among the primary reviewers will then be further discussed by the entire panel as described below.  In addition, if there is one Very Good rating among the primary reviewers of an application, the primary reviewer, whose initial rating is the Very Good, may request discussion of the application by the entire peer review panel.  All other applications will be declined for further consideration.

The panelists will document their evaluation for each application based on the peer review criteria stated below and assign a score (excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor) to each application. After the discussion of an application by the entire panel, the three primary reviewers may revise their initial ratings and if they do so this will also be documented.

The final ratings of the primary reviewers and the ratings of the other panelists will then be translated by EPA into the final peer review score (excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor) for the application. This is reflected in a peer review results document developed by the Rapporteur, which combines the individual initial and final evaluations of the three primary reviewers, the non-primary reviewer panelists’ evaluation documentation, and may also capture any substantive comments from the panel discussion. This score will be used to determine which applications undergo the internal programmatic review discussed below.  A peer review results document is also developed for applications that are not discussed. However this document is a consolidation of the three individual primary reviewer initial evaluations, with an average of the three scores assigned by the primary reviewers.  

Criteria 1-6 are listed in descending order of importance:

  1. Research Proposal

    Reviewers will evaluate each proposed research project included in the center based on the criteria below (criteria 1.a – 1.j are of equal importance).  

    1. The originality and creativity of the proposed research, and the appropriateness and adequacy of the proposed research methods including quality assurance/quality control protocols.
    2. Practical and technically defensible approach which embodies a systems view that can be performed within the proposed time period.
    3. Research contributes to scientific knowledge in the topic area and supports transdiciplinarity.
    4. The proposed research challenges and seeks to shift current research, design, or engineering paradigms by using innovative theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or interventions applicable to one or more fields of research.
    5. Projected benefits of the proposed activity to the environment, economy and society including human health.
    6. The proposed research embodies the principles of sustainability and seeks sustainable solutions that protect the environment and strengthen our communities. The Sustainability Primer (PDF) (2 pp, 195 K) provides examples of research activities that promote and incorporate sustainability principles.
    7. Partners in the proposed project(s) contribute significant benefits to achieving the overall purpose and objectives of the research.
    8. The results will be disseminated nationally to enhance scientific and technological understanding.
    9. The proposal includes a creative approach to identify and engage local communities in the design and execution of the research project.
    10. The proposal is well prepared with supportive information that is self-explanatory or understandable.
  2. Overall Center

    Applications will be evaluated based on the quality and extent to which the overall Center addresses the following criteria (criteria 2.a-2.e are equal in importance).

    1. Interdisciplinary nature and relevance of the proposed activities, integration of the projects around an overarching theme, and development of research and demonstration which enables the application of sustainability principles and seeks sustainable solutions.
    2. The degree to which the research, demonstration and community engagement is innovative.
    3. Capacity of the research projects collectively to result in a greater contribution to the overall goals of the Center than if each were pursued independently.
    4. Demonstrated commitment to educating the next generation of transdisciplinary scientists, engineers, architects and planners on the development of holistic approaches and predictive tools for advancing of the principles of sustainability including working with multiple disciplines.
    5. Qualifications of the Principal Investigator(s) and other key personnel, including research training, demonstrated knowledge of pertinent literature, experience, publication records and experience. Complementary experience and capabilities should be clearly identified for each participant or cooperator. All key personnel must make a significant time commitment to the project.
  3. Administrative Unit (criteria 3.a – 3.d are equal in importance)

    1. Scientific and organizational structure of the Center.  Are the lines of authority and administrative structure designed for effective management?  How does the administrative structure maximize the Center's capability to take advantage of research opportunities?
    2. The effectiveness of leaders specifically as managers of the Center.  Has the Center Director demonstrated the capacity to ensure quality control and possesses the experience to effectively administer and integrate all components of the Center?  Is the percent of effort committed to the management of the Center appropriate?
    3. Duties and percent efforts of administrative staff of the Center in terms of their qualifications and contributions to the specialized needs and conduct of the Center’s research activities.
    4. Effectiveness of the consortia's internal planning, technology transfer, and quality management plan.  Plan for tracking and monitoring progress toward achieving expected results (outputs and outcomes) and ensuring project objectives are successfully achieved in a timely manner.  Who is involved and what mechanisms are used?  Are these activities documented?
  4. Responsiveness: The responsiveness of the proposal to the three components of the research question identified in Section I.D. Specific Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes as well as community engagement and whether the proposal adequately addresses the objectives and special considerations identified in the RFA.

  5. Facilities and equipment: The availability and/or adequacy of the facilities and equipment proposed for the project. Note any deficiencies that may interfere with the successful completion of the research.

  6. Budget: Although budget information does not reflect on the application’s scientific merit, the reviewers are asked to provide their view on the appropriateness and/or adequacy of the proposed budget and its implications for the potential success of the proposed research.  Input on requested equipment is of particular interest.

B. Programmatic Review
Applications receiving final peer review scores of excellent or very good will then undergo an internal programmatic review, as described below, conducted by technical experts from the EPA, including individuals from the Office of Research and Development (ORD) and program and regional offices involved with the science or engineering proposed.  All other applications are automatically declined.

Those applicants who received final scores of excellent or very good as a result of the peer review process will be asked to provide additional information for the programmatic review pertaining to the proposed Lead PI’s (in the case of Multiple-PI applications, the Contact PI’s) "Past Performance and Reporting History."  The applicant must provide the EPA Project Officer with information on the proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance and reporting history under prior Federal agency assistance agreements (assistance agreements include grants and cooperative agreements but not contracts) in terms of: (i) the level of success in managing and completing each agreement, and (ii) history of meeting the reporting requirements under each agreement.

This information is required only for the proposed Lead/Contact PI's performance under Federal assistance agreements initiated within the last three years that were similar in size and scope to the proposed project. 

The specific information required for each agreement is shown below, and must be provided within one week of EPA's request.  A maximum of three pages will be permitted for the response; excess pages will not be reviewed.  Note: If no prior past performance information and/or reporting history exists, you will be asked to so state.

  1. Name of Granting Agency.
  2. Grant/Cooperative agreement number.
  3. Grant/Cooperative agreement title.
  4. Brief description of the grant/cooperative agreement.
  5. A description of how the agreement is similar in size and scope to the proposed project and whether or not it was successfully managed and completed; if not successfully managed and completed, provide an explanation.
  6. Information relating to the proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance in reporting on progress towards achieving the expected results (outputs/outcomes) under the agreement.  Include the history of submitting timely progress/final technical reports, describe how progress towards achieving the expected results was reported/documented, and if such progress was not being made, provide an explanation of whether, and how, this was reported.
  7. Total (all years) grant/cooperative agreement dollar value.
  8. Project period.
  9. Technical contact (project officer), telephone number, and Email address (if available).

The purpose of the programmatic review is to ensure an integrated research portfolio for the Agency and help determine which applications to recommend for award.  In conducting the programmatic review, the EPA will consider information provided by the applicant and may consider information from other sources, including prior and current grantors and agency files.

The internal programmatic review panel will assess (relevance is more important than the Lead/Contact PI's past performance):

  1. The relevance of the proposed science to EPA research priorities.
  2. The proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance under Federal agency assistance agreements (assistance agreements include grants and cooperative agreements but not contracts) initiated within the last three years that were similar in size and scope to the proposed project in two areas:  First, in successfully managing and completing these prior Federal assistance projects, including whether there is a satisfactory explanation for any lack of success.  Second, in reporting progress toward achieving results (outputs/outcomes) under these agreements, including the proposed Lead/Contact PI's history of submitting timely progress/final technical reports that adequately describe the progress toward achieving the expected results under the agreements.  Any explanation of why progress toward achieving the results was not made will also be considered.  Applicants whose proposed Lead PI/Contact PI has no relevant past performance and/or reporting history, or for whom this information is not available, will be evaluated neither favorably nor unfavorably on these elements.

C. Funding Decisions
Final funding decisions are made by the NCER Director based on the results of the peer review and internal programmatic review.  In addition, in making the final funding decisions, the NCER Director may also consider program balance and available funds.  Applicants selected for funding will be required to provide the additional information listed below under “Award Notices.” The application will then be forwarded to EPA’s Grants and Interagency Agreement Management Division for award in accordance with the EPA’s procedures.

VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

A. Award Notices
Customarily, applicants are notified about evaluation decisions within six months of the solicitation closing date.  A Peer Review Results document summarizing the scientific review will be provided to each applicant with an award or declination letter.

Applicants to be recommended for funding will be required to submit additional certifications and an electronic version of the revised project abstract.  They may also be asked to provide responses to comments or suggestions offered by the peer reviewers and/or submit a revised budget.  EPA Project Officers will contact the Lead PI/Contact PI to obtain these materials.  Before or after an award, applicants may be required to provide additional quality assurance documentation.

Non-profit applicants that are recommended for funding under this announcement are subject to pre-award administrative capability reviews consistent with Sections 8b., 8c. and 9d. of EPA Order 5700.8 - Policy on Assessing Capabilities of Non-Profit Applicants for Managing Assistance Awards (PDF) (10 pp, 42 K). In addition, non-profit applicants that qualify for funding may, depending on the size of the award, be required to fill out and submit to the Grants Management Office the Administrative Capabilities Form with supporting documents contained in Appendix A of EPA Order 5700.8.

The official notification of an award will be made by the Agency’s Grants and Interagency Agreement Management Division.  Applicants are cautioned that only a grants officer is authorized to bind the Government to the expenditure of funds; preliminary selection by the NCER Director in the Office of Research and Development does not guarantee an award will be made.  For example, statutory authorization, funding, or other issues discovered during the award process may affect the ability of EPA to make an award to an applicant. The award notice, signed by an EPA grants officer, is the authorizing document and will be provided through electronic or postal mail.

B. Disputes
Disputes related to this assistance agreement competition will be resolved in accordance with the dispute resolution procedures set forth in 70 FR 3629, 3630 (January 26, 2005) which can be found at Dispute Resolution Procedures. Questions regarding disputes may be referred to the Eligibility Contact identified below.

C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
Expectations and responsibilities of NCER grantees and cooperative agreement holders are summarized in this section, although the terms grant and grantee are used. See Guidance & Frequent Questions for the full terms and conditions associated with an award, including which activities require prior approval from the EPA.

  1. Meetings: Principal Investigators will be expected to budget for, and participate in, All-Investigators Meetings (also known as progress reviews) approximately once per year. This will also include a plenary research conference planned jointly with the Project Officer and PI(s) at the end of the project with EPA scientists and other grantees to report on research activities and discuss issues of mutual interest.

  2. Approval of Changes after Award: Prior written approval of changes may be required from EPA. Examples of these changes are contained in 40 C.F.R. 30.25.  Note: prior written approval is also required from the EPA Award Official for incurring costs more than 90 calendar days prior to award.

  3. Human Subjects: This solicitation does not provide the opportunity for the submission of applications for projects that involve human subjects research.  Human subjects research supported by the EPA is governed by EPA Regulation 40 CFR Part 26 (Protection of Human Subjects).   Applications proposing human subjects research will not be considered for funding and will be deemed ineligible.  Human subjects research precluded from this RFA includes projects that collect data from or about humans which meet the regulatory definition of research with human subjects and are thereby subject to the requirements of EPA Regulation 40 CFR Part 26 and EPA Order 1000.17 Change A1.  This includes projects conducted under programs that are not considered research for other purposes. For example, some demonstration programs and some public health practice programs may include research activities. Projects that utilize surveys about people or contain identifiable private information also constitutes human subjects research and are not allowable under this solicitation.  The assistance agreement will include a term and condition prohibiting any human subjects research from being performed under the grant award.

  4. Animal Welfare: A grant recipient must agree to comply with the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-544), as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2131-2156.  The recipient must also agree to abide by the "U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals used in Testing, Research, and Training" (50 Federal Register 20864-20865. May 20, 1985).

  5. Data Access and Information Release: After award, all data first produced under the award must be made available to the NCER Project Officer without restriction and be accompanied by comprehensive metadata documentation adequate for specialists and non-specialists alike to be able to understand how and where the data were obtained and to evaluate the quality of the data.  If requested, the data products and their metadata must be provided to the NCER Project Officer in a standard exchange format no later than the due date of the grant's final report or the publication of the data product's associated results, whichever comes first.

    Congress, through OMB, has instructed each federal agency to implement Information Quality Guidelines designed to "provide policy and procedural guidance...for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information, including statistical information, disseminated by Federal agencies." The EPA's implementation may be found at EPA Information Quality Guidelines (EPA IQG).  These procedures may apply to data generated by grant recipients if those data are disseminated as described in the Guidelines.

    EPA has the right to obtain, reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the data first produced under the award; and authorize others to receive, reproduce, publish, or otherwise use such data for Federal purposes, under 40 C.F.R. § 30.36(c). In addition, pursuant to 40 C.F.R. § 30.36(d), if EPA receives a Freedom of Information Act request for research data that (1) relates to published research findings produced under an EPA award and (2) was used by the Federal Government in developing an agency action that has the force and effect of law, then EPA shall request, and the award recipient shall provide, within a reasonable time, the research data so that it may be made available to the public through procedures established under the FOIA.

  6. Reporting:  A grant recipient is expected to manage assistance agreement funds efficiently and effectively and make sufficient progress towards completing the project activities described in the research plan in a timely manner.  The assistance agreement will include terms/conditions implementing this requirement.

    A grant recipient must agree to provide annual progress reports, with associated summaries, and a final report with an executive summary.  The summaries will be posted on NCER’s website.

    A grant recipient must agree to provide copies of any peer reviewed journal article(s) resulting from the research during the project period.  In addition, the recipient should notify NCER’s Project Officer of any papers published after completion of the grant that were based on research supported by the grant.  NCER posts references to all publications resulting from a grant on the NCER web site.

  7. Acknowledgement of EPA Support: EPA’s full or partial support must be acknowledged in journal articles, oral or poster presentations, news releases, interviews with reporters and other communications.  Any documents developed under this agreement that are intended for distribution to the public or inclusion in a scientific, technical, or other journal shall include the following statement or another as specified by NCER’s project officer:

    This publication [article] was made possible by EPA grant number _______.  Its contents are solely the responsibility of the grantee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the EPA.  Further, the EPA does not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services mentioned in the publication.

    A graphic that may be converted to a slide or used in other ways, such as on a poster, is located at Guidance & Frequent Questions.  EPA expects recipients to use this graphic in oral and poster presentations.

  8. Coordination after Grant Award:

    1. Communications – The Center is expected to develop and maintain a web site, social media links, communicate key findings at annual scientific conferences, and participate in annual or other EPA investigators meetings.

    2. Science Advisory Committee (SAC) - After award, the Center must establish a SAC.  The SAC membership will typically consist of five to seven peers selected from the academic, private, non-profit, and public sectors.  The function of the SAC is to assist in evaluating the (1) merit, value and contribution of the Center’s projects, and (2) relevance and importance of the individual research elements to accomplishing the overall goals of the Center.  Within 90 days of the award, the Principal Investigator must submit a list of nominees for the SAC to the Project Officer.  Potential SAC members must NOT be contacted, identified, or queried prior to receipt of the award.

      The Center will hold a meeting with its SAC annually in consultation with the Project Officer and Center Director. Upon receiving the written recommendations from the SAC, the Center Director shall submit a formal letter to EPA and the SAC chair with a response to the SAC comments and, if appropriate, a plan for how the Center will implement the SAC recommendations.

    3. Research Communication and Coordination - The PI and appropriate members of each Center will travel to a minimum of four meetings over the life of the award at EPA or other appropriate facilities, including annual research progress reviews and a plenary research conference planned jointly with the EPA Project Officer, to present on activities of their Center. Travel costs associated with these events should be enumerated in the budget justification.

  9. Subaward and Executive Compensation Reporting: Applicants must ensure that they have the necessary processes and systems in place to comply with the sub-award and executive total compensation reporting requirements established under OMB guidance at 2 CFR Part 170, unless they qualify for an exception from the requirements, should they be selected for funding.

  10. Central Contractor Registration (CCR)/System for Award Management (SAM) and Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Requirements:   Unless exempt from these requirements under OMB guidance at 2 CFR Part 25 (e.g., individuals), applicants must:

    1. Be registered in the CCR prior to submitting an application or proposal under this announcement. CCR/SAM information can be found at the SAM web site
    2. Maintain an active CCR registration with current information at all times during which it has an active Federal award or an application or proposal under consideration by an agency, and
    3. Provide its DUNS number in each application or proposal it submits to the agency. Applicants can receive a DUNS number, at no cost, by calling the dedicated toll-free DUNS Number request line at 1-866-705-5711, or visiting the D&B website at: the D&B website Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer.

    If an applicant fails to comply with these requirements, it will, should it be selected for award, affect their ability to receive the award.

    Please note that the CCR has been replaced by the System for Award Management (SAM). To learn more about SAM, go to SAM Welcome Page or SAM web site.

  11. Exchange Network: EPA, states, territories, and tribes are working together to develop the National Environmental Information Exchange Network, a secure, Internet- and standards-based way to support electronic data reporting, sharing, and integration of both regulatory and non-regulatory environmental data.  States, tribes and territories exchanging data with each other or with EPA, should make the Exchange Network and the Agency's connection to it, the Central Data Exchange (CDX), the standard way they exchange data and should phase out any legacy methods they have been using.  More information on the Exchange Network is available at Exchange Network website. Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer.

  12. Website References in Solicitation: Any non-federal websites or website links included in this solicitation are provided for proposal preparation and/or informational purposes only.  U.S. EPA does not endorse any of these entities or their services.  In addition, EPA does not guarantee that any linked, external websites referenced in this solicitation comply with Section 508 (Accessibility Requirements) of the Rehabilitation Act.

  13. Unpaid Federal Tax Liabilities and Felony Convictions for Non-Profit and For-Profit Organizations: Awards made under this announcement are subject to the provisions contained in the Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012, HR 2055, Division E. Sections 433 and 434 regarding unpaid federal tax liabilities and federal felony convictions. These provisions prohibit EPA from awarding funds made available by the Act to any for-profit or non-profit organization: (1) subject to any unpaid Federal tax liability that has been assessed, for which all judicial and administrative remedies have been exhausted or have lapsed, and that is not being paid in a timely manner pursuant to an agreement with the authority responsible for collecting the tax liability; or (2) that was convicted (or had an officer or agent of such corporation acting on its behalf convicted) of a felony criminal conviction under any Federal law within 24 months preceding the award, unless EPA has considered suspension or debarment of the corporation, or such officer or agent, based on these tax liabilities or convictions, and determined that such action is not necessary to protect the Government’s interests. Non-profit or for-profit organizations that are covered by these prohibitions are ineligible to receive an award under this announcement.

  14. Unfair Competitive Advantage:  EPA personnel will take appropriate actions in situations where it is determined that an applicant may have an unfair competitive advantage, or the appearance of such, in competing for awards under this announcement.  Affected applicants will be provided an opportunity to respond before any final action is taken.

VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA contacts indicated below. Information regarding this RFA obtained from sources other than these Agency Contacts may not be accurate. Email inquiries are preferred.

Eligibility Contact: Bronda Harrison (harrison.bronda@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8080
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224
Technical Contact: Dale Manty (manty.dale@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8047

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