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Linking Assistance Agreements to Environmental Results

What is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Policy on Environmental Results Under EPA Assistance Agreements?

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment. It is EPA policy that work funded through assistance agreements further that mission by achieving environmental benefits for the taxpayer.

Under the Environmental Results Policy:

EPA project officers must,

  • Link proposed results in assistance agreements to the Agency's Strategic Plan,
  • Ensure that expected outputs and outcomes are appropriately addressed in assistance agreement competitive funding announcements, work plans, and performance reports, and
  • Consider how the results from completed assistance agreement projects contribute to the Agency's programmatic goals and objectives.

Applicants for and recipients of EPA grants or cooperative agreements will be expected to address environmental results throughout the grants process.

EPA's Policy for Environmental Results Under EPA Assistance Agreements (EPA Order 5700.7) is available at the following Web address: http://www.epa.gov/ogd/grants/award/5700_7_a_1.pdf (36 pp, 126 K, About PDF)

What Types of Assistance Agreements are Subject to the Environmental Results Policy?

The Environmental Results Policy applies to both competitive and non-competitive funding opportunities.

For State and Tribal assistance agreements under 40 CFR Part 35, Subparts A and B, EPA will implement the Policy through existing regulatory requirements for work plan development and performance evaluation. (See 40 CFR §§ 35.107, 35.115, 35.507, and 35.515.)

How Does EPA's Environmental Results Policy Affect the Grants Process?

Environmental results will be addressed in three stages of the assistance process:

1. Funding Application Process
2. Work Plan Development
3. Performance Reporting

1. GUIDANCE FOR COMPETITIVE FUNDING APPLICATION PROCESS

What Sections of EPA Announcements Address Environmental Results?

As of January 2005, all EPA announcements contain:

Section I - A discussion of environmental outputs and outcomes that EPA expects the successful applicant to achieve,
Section IV - A request that applicants provide a plan for tracking and measuring their progress toward achieving the expected outputs and outcomes, and
Section V - Ranking criteria for evaluating applicants' plans for tracking and measuring their progress toward achieving the expected outputs and outcomes.

Beginning January 2006, EPA's evaluation of funding applications will also include an assessment of applicants' past performance in reporting on outputs and outcomes. All announcements issued on or after January 1, 2006 will contain the following additional provisions:

Section IV - Applicants will be requested to provide information relating to their past performance in reporting on outputs and outcomes under past or current federal assistance agreements. However, if applicants have no experience with this type of reporting under federal assistance agreements, they may be evaluated under non-federal assistance agreements.

Section V - Provides ranking criteria for evaluating applicants' past performance in reporting on outputs and outcomes.

  • Applicants will be evaluated based on their past performance in reporting on outputs and outcomes under previous or current Federal (and/or non-federal as appropriate) assistance agreements. This evaluation will focus on an applicant's past performance in filing timely progress and final technical reports that adequately document the achievement of expected outputs and outcomes or satisfactorily explain why expected outputs/outcomes were not achieved.
  • Applicants without relevant past performance information will receive a neutral score for this evaluation factor.

More information on competitive funding announcements is available below:

2. GUIDANCE FOR DEVELOPING WORK PLANS

What will EPA Look for When Evaluating Environmental Results in Work Plans?

For competitive assistance agreements, EPA will evaluate proposals against the environmental results and other ranking criteria stated in the announcement. If you are selected for a competitive grant, an EPA Project Officer may, as appropriate, work with you to clarify or further refine the discussion of environmental results in your work plan.

For non-competitive assistance agreements, if you are selected or being considered for funding, an EPA Project Officer will contact you to discuss your work plan to ensure that it contains well-defined outputs, and to the maximum extent practicable, well-defined outcomes.

Where Can You Find Information About Environmental Results in EPA's Strategic Plan?

The Environmental Results Policy clarifies EPA's responsibility for ensuring that all assistance agreements are aligned with the Agency's mission of protecting human health and the environment. As a result, an EPA Project Officer will be responsible for ensuring that the work plan you have developed to further the environmental mission of your organization can also be linked to the five goals of The EPA Strategic Plan for 2003 - 2008:

Goal 1: Clean Air and Global Climate Change
Goal 2: Clean and Safe Water
Goal 3: Land Preservation and Restoration
Goal 4: Healthy Communities and Ecosystems
Goal 5: Compliance and Environmental Stewardship

More information about EPA's environmental priorities is available below in the following EPA planning and guidance documents:

Where Can You Find Information About Developing Outputs and Outcomes?

Including well-defined outputs and outcomes in the work plan for your assistance agreement will help define, explain, and communicate the purpose of your project. Tracking attainment of outputs and outcomes through performance measures will help you manage your project and assure both you and your EPA Project Officer that you have accomplished the purpose of your project.

Definitions, for purposes of EPA's Environmental Results Policy:

Output: An environmental activity or effort, and/or associated work products that are produced or provided over a specific period of time. Outputs may be quantitative or qualitative but must be measurable during an assistance agreement funding period.

Outcome: The result, effect, or consequence that will occur from carrying out an environmental program or activity that is related to an environmental or programmatic goal or objective. Outcomes may be environmental, behavioral, health-related, or programmatic in nature, must be quantitative, and may not necessarily be achievable within an assistance agreement funding period. EPA encourages recipients to identify outcomes wherever possible because they lead to environmental and/or public health improvement more clearly than outputs.

Intermediate v End Outcomes: Intermediate Outcomes can reasonably be expected to lead to the desired result or ultimate End Outcome of a project or program. For example, for an air pollution program assistance agreement, reductions in pollution emissions may be viewed as an intermediate outcome to measure progress toward meeting or contributing to end outcomes of improved ambient air quality and reduced mortality from air pollution. Given that the end outcomes of an assistance agreement may not occur until after the assistance agreement funding period, intermediate outcomes realized during the funding period are an important way to measure progress in achieving end outcomes.

The Relationship Between Outputs and Outcomes is illustrated by the following example: Assistance agreement for an outreach program to building code officials on radon-resistant building techniques: Outputs would include development of a model building code manual and training sessions on the benefits of radon-resistant construction. Intermediate outcomes would be the enactment of local building codes and the actual construction of radon-resistant houses. This would contribute to an end outcome of improved indoor air quality.

Performance Measure: A metric used to gauge program or project performance. When grant recipients and EPA project officers negotiate target values for outputs and outcomes, they become performance measures.

Examples of outputs and outcomes for particular types of assistance agreements may include:

  • Research and Development, Studies, Surveys, Investigations and Experiments:
    Outputs: Number of experiments or samples, number of reports or publications.
    Outcomes: Advancement in knowledge on the effects of pollution as reflected in a peer reviewed scientific journal article.
  • Training and Outreach:
    Outputs: Number of training sessions, number of persons trained.
    Outcomes: Increase in knowledge as demonstrated by pre- and post-training surveys.
  • Special Projects and Demonstrations:
    Outputs: Number of diesel school buses under demonstration project replaced or retrofitted with new emission control technology.
    Outcomes: Reduction in tons of emissions from demonstration project.

The Performance Logic Model can help grant recipients develop the logical progression from activities to outputs to outcomes.

A logic model is a tool grant recipients may use to identify outputs and outcomes. A logic model is a diagram, with text, that illustrates the logical (causal) relationship among project goals, activities, and expected results of those activities. A well-defined logic model will allow you to take an observed output (such as number of participants who take a training class) and determine the desired change in conditions or behavior that should logically result.

A logic model provides a sound basis for performance evaluation and reporting by explicitly connecting resources and activities with desired, measurable results. If you say an outcome or an output supports a goal or objective, a logic model can help explain how.

More Information on Logic Models is available below:

3. GUIDANCE FOR PERFORMANCE REPORTING

What Special Terms or Conditions for Performance Reporting Will Apply to Your Assistance Agreement?

Your assistance agreement will contain a term and condition on performance reporting.

Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-profit Organizations (40 CFR Part 30): Grants under Part 30 will include a term and condition (or an equivalent condition approved by EPA's Office of Grants and Debarment) requiring performance reports to address the following:

  • Comparison of actual versus anticipated outputs and outcomes specified in your assistance agreement work plan.
  • Where anticipated outputs and outcomes were not met, a satisfactory explanation for why not.
  • Notification of problems, delays, or adverse conditions which may materially impair your ability to meet the outputs or outcomes specified in the assistance agreement work plan.
  • Other pertinent information, such as cost overruns.
  • Performance reports are required at least annually, but no more frequently than quarterly.

Grants to Governmental Entities (40 CFR Part 31): Grants to governmental entities under Part 31 will include a term and condition (or a program-specific term and condition approved by EPA's Office of Grants and Debarment) requiring performance reports to address the following:

  • Comparison of actual accomplishments to outputs and outcomes established in your assistance agreement work plan for the performance period.
  • Reason for slippage if established outputs/outcomes were not met.
  • Notification of problems, delays, or adverse conditions which may materially impair your ability to meet the outputs or outcomes specified in the assistance agreement work plan.
  • Other pertinent information, such as cost overruns.
  • Performance reports are required at least annually, but no more frequently than quarterly.

This term and condition does not apply to continuing environmental program grants to States and Indian Tribes under 40 CFR Part 35 Subparts A and B. Those grants have their own regulatory process for performance evaluation.

Who Should You Contact for Help or Further Information on EPA's Environmental Results Policy?

EPA Project Officer: If you experience problems in achieving the outputs and outcomes in your assistance agreement work plan, your EPA Project Officer will work with you to develop an appropriate corrective actions plan.

EPA Grants Policy Specialist: For further information on EPA's Environmental Results Policy, please contact Peggy Anthony at (202)564-5364 or Beth Means at (202)564-1863.

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