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Highlights

GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program, which provides communities with grants of up to $50,000 to foster their involvement in decisions about Superfund hazardous waste cleanups. GAO noted that: (1) EPA has awarded 103 grants to communities, but they represent only 9 percent of the approximately 1,150 communities that may be eligible for the program; (2) the $5.1-million total dollar value of the grants EPA has awarded so far represents only 29 percent of the grant funds available; (3) limited EPA emphasis on TAG program outreach may contribute to low program participation; (4) there were significant regional variations in grant awards; (5) grant recipients were generally pleased with the benefits they derived from those grants, and primarily used them to hire technical advisors and to keep residents informed about clean-up status and progress; (6) some recipients expressed concerns about the lengthy and labor-intensive application process, procurement procedures that made it difficult to hire technical advisors, and reimbursement procedures that delay grant payments; (7) the extent to which TAG recipients may use grants to independently verify or clarify existing site clean-up analyses or information is unclear; and (8) the impact of the proposed EPA model for accelerating the Superfund clean-up process on the TAG program and community involvement is also unclear.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency 1. To improve the effectiveness of and ease the administrative burdens associated with the TAG program, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, to strengthen headquarters oversight of regional TAG procedures and performance to ensure that the regions are effectively awarding grants and conducting TAG program public outreach.
Closed - Implemented
Regional guidance has been revised and training for all TAG personnel was provided.
Environmental Protection Agency 2. To improve the effectiveness of and ease the administrative burdens associated with the TAG program, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, to review the current application process and minimize the burden of applying for a TAG grant by simplifying, to the extent possible, such things as the 3-year budget and scope-of-work narratives.
Closed - Implemented
EPA has revised and issued the regional guidance to streamline the process.
Environmental Protection Agency 3. To improve the effectiveness of and ease the administrative burdens associated with the TAG program, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, to notify TAG grant recipients that EPA will provide storage for their grant-related documents.
Closed - Implemented
Information on the storage of TAG guidance is included in the revised guidance.

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