[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 82 (Monday, April 29, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 25079-25081]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-10043]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[FRL-9807-1]


Forum on Environmental Measurements Announcement of Competency 
Policy for Assistance Agreements

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Announcement of Competency Policy for Assistance Agreements.

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SUMMARY: The Environmental Protection Agency's Forum on Environmental 
Measurements (FEM) is implementing an Agency-wide policy requiring 
organizations generating or using environmental data under certain 
Agency-funded assistance agreements to submit documentation of their 
competency prior to award of the agreement, or if that is not 
practicable, prior to beginning any work involving the generation or 
use of environmental data under the agreement. The Policy was 
originally approved on December 12, 2012 by the Science Technology 
Policy Council (STPC) and will be effective on May 15, 2013. The Policy 
will apply to all competitive and non-competitive assistance agreements 
expected to exceed a total maximum value of $200,000 (in federal 
funding) and awarded based on solicitations issued after May 14, 2013. 
The Policy will be reviewed against frequently asked questions within 
two years after its effective data and will either be reissued without 
revision, reissued with revisions, or rescinded.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Comments or questions should be sent

[[Page 25080]]

to Ms. Lara P. Phelps, US EPA (E243-05), 109 T. W. Alexander Drive, 
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709; emailed to phelps.lara@epa.gov; or 
call (919) 541-5544.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: For purposes of this Policy, the following 
definitions apply:
    Accreditation--As defined in various International Organization for 
Standardization (ISO) publications and glossaries, accreditation is a 
procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that 
an entity is competent to carry out specific tasks.
    Assistance agreement--As described in the U.S. EPA Grants and 
Debarment Glossary (http://www.epa.gov/ogd/recipient/glossary.htm), an 
assistance agreement is the legal instrument that the U.S. EPA uses to 
transfer money, property, services, or anything of value to a recipient 
to accomplish a public purpose. It is either a grant or a cooperative 
agreement and will specify certain things including: budget and project 
periods; the federal share of eligible project costs; a description of 
the work to be accomplished, and any terms and conditions/special 
conditions.
    Competence--As defined in ISO 9000, competence is the demonstrated 
ability to apply knowledge and skills.
    Certification--As similarly defined in various ISO publications and 
glossaries, certification is the recognition provided by an independent 
body related to products, processes, systems or persons.
    Environmental data--As defined in the U.S. EPA Quality Policy (CIO 
2106.0; 10/20/08), environmental data include any measurements or 
information that describe environmental processes, location or 
conditions; ecological or health effects and consequences; or the 
performance of environmental technology.

Applicability

    This Policy applies to all U.S. EPA programs (e.g., Program 
Offices, Regional Offices, and Laboratories) responsible for 
evaluating, issuing, and/or managing Agency assistance agreements 
involving organizations generating or using environmental data through 
environmental sample collection, field measurements and/or laboratory 
analyses. It applies to new competitive and non-competitive awards that 
at the time of solicitation issuance or award are expected to exceed 
$200,000 (in federal funding) in total maximum value (including any 
amendments).\1\ This is an additional award requirement to be 
implemented by the project officer(s) and overseen by the project 
officer(s) or their technical designee(s). This Policy does not replace 
any existing requirements (e.g., general information, quality system 
requirements documentation) or prohibit an Agency program from placing 
additional requirements or stipulations on an organization receiving an 
award. Project officers are responsible for implementing the 
requirements under this Policy and ensuring that appropriate 
solicitation provisions and programmatic terms and conditions, if 
necessary, are included in solicitations and assistance agreements.
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    \1\ While this Policy does not apply to existing awards, or 
awards under the dollar threshold, offices are encouraged to apply 
this Policy to those awards as deemed appropriate.
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    As mentioned above, this Policy applies to:
     Awards made under competitive solicitations issued after 
May 14, 2013 that are expected to exceed $200,000 (in federal funding) 
in maximum total value and involve the use or generation of 
environmental data; and
     Non-competitive assistance agreements awarded after May 
14, 2013 that are expected to exceed $200,000 (in federal funding) in 
total maximum value and involve the use or generation of environmental 
data.

Background/Authority

    The U.S. EPA Science Policy Council (now U.S. EPA Science and 
Technology Policy Council) established the Forum on Environmental 
Measurements (FEM) as a standing committee of senior U.S. EPA managers 
who provide the Agency and the public with a focal point for addressing 
measurement, monitoring and laboratory issues with multi-program 
impact. Since the inception of the FEM in April 2004, an action item 
has existed for the FEM to assure the competency of organizations 
funded by the Agency under acquisition and/or assistance agreements to 
generate environmental data through measurement activities. The goal is 
to assure that, nationwide, organizations performing environmental data 
operations have effective quality management systems and technical 
competence, and thus have the capability to generate valid 
environmental data.
    In 2004, the Agency issued a policy to assure the competency of 
U.S. EPA laboratories. In 2011, the Agency issued a second policy to 
assure the competency of organizations (e.g., laboratories, field 
sampling and measurement) generating environmental data under Agency-
funded acquisitions (i.e., contracts).
    The Policy announced today was developed to ensure the use of 
competent organizations for performing activities involving the use or 
generation of environmental data under Agency-funded assistance 
agreements. As explained below, these organizations will have to 
demonstrate competency either prior to award or prior to beginning such 
activities. Project officers are responsible for implementing this 
requirement.
    A Frequently Asked Question document is available with further 
details on implementing this Policy.\2\ This will be revised and 
updated as necessary. Questions as to whether activities involve the 
use or generation of environmental data and are covered by this Policy 
should be referred to the FEM (http://www.epa.gov/fem/lab_comp.htm).
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    \2\ See http://www.epa.gov/fem/lab_comp.html.
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Requirements

    Organizations performing activities involving the use or generation 
of environmental data under covered assistance agreements shall provide 
the Agency with:
     Quality documentation such as a quality management plan 
(QMP), and/or other documentation that demonstrates conformance to U.S. 
EPA quality program requirements; \3\ and
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    \3\ See http://www.epa.gov/quality.
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     Demonstration of competency in the field(s) of expertise.
    Demonstration of competency may include (but not be limited to):
     Current participation in accreditation or certification 
programs that are applicable to the environmental data generated under 
the Agency-funded assistance;
     Ongoing participation by the organization in proficiency 
testing (PT) or round robin programs conducted by external 
organizations;
     Ongoing U.S. EPA accepted demonstrations and audits/
assessments of proficiency; and
     Other pertinent documentation that demonstrates competency 
(e.g., past performance to similar statement of work [SOW]).

Assistance agreement solicitations and agreements will include 
applicable provisions and terms and conditions. Examples will be 
contained in the FAQ document.

Implementation

    Competitive awards and solicitations: Program offices that issue 
competitive solicitations expected to result in awards exceeding 
$200,000 (in federal funding) in total maximum value that

[[Page 25081]]

will involve the generation or use of environmental data must include a 
provision in the solicitation indicating that applicants for these 
awards must demonstrate competency (i) prior to award or (ii) if that 
is not practicable or will unduly delay the award prior to beginning 
such activities under the award. For awards covered by (i) above where 
the Project Officer obtains the competency demonstration prior to award 
the Project Officer will include the demonstration in their file. For 
awards covered by (ii) above, where the competency demonstration will 
be made after award, the Project Officer will include a programmatic 
term and condition in the grant requiring the grantee to demonstrate 
competency prior to performing any work involving the use or generation 
of environmental data. This competency demonstration should be 
documented in the project officer's file. Sample clauses will be 
provided in the FAQ document.
    Non-competitive awards: Program offices that make non-competitive 
awards expected to exceed $200,000 (in federal funding) in total 
maximum value that will involve the generation or use of environmental 
data should ensure that the applicant demonstrates their competency to 
perform such activities prior to award. This will be documented by the 
Project Officer in their file. However, if obtaining the competency 
demonstration prior to award is impracticable or will cause a 
significant delay of the award, project officers must include a 
programmatic term and condition in the grant requiring the grantee to 
demonstrate competency prior to performing any such activities. This 
competency demonstration should be documented in the project officer's 
file. Sample clauses will be provided in the FAQ document.
    Awards: If, at time of award, it is uncertain whether the award 
will exceed $200,000 (in federal funding) in total maximum value and 
involve the generation or use of environmental data, the project 
officer will include a term/condition in the award that the recipient 
must demonstrate competency prior to performing any such activities (an 
example will be put in the FAQ document).

References

 U.S. EPA Grants and Debarment, http://www.epa.gov/ogd.
 U.S. EPA CIO 2106.0 U.S. EPA Quality Policy, October 20, 
2008, http://www.epa.gov/irmpoli8/policies/21060.pdf.
 U.S. EPA CIO 2105-P-01-0 EPA Quality Manual for 
Environmental Programs, May 5, 2000, http://www.epa.gov/irmpoli8/policies/2105P010.pdf.
 U.S. EPA Agency Policy Directive Assuring the Competency of 
Environmental Protection Agency Laboratories, February 23, 2004, 
http://www.epa.gov/fem/pdfs/labdirective.pdf.
 U.S. EPA Agency Policy Directive FEM-2011-01 Policy to 
Assure Competency of Organizations Generating Environmental 
Measurement Data under Agency Funded Acquisitions, March 28, 2011, 
http://www.epa.gov/fem/pdfs/fem-lab-competency-policy.pdf.

    Dated: April 19, 2013.
Glenn Paulson,
Science Advisor, Office of the Science Advisor.
[FR Doc. 2013-10043 Filed 4-26-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6560-50-P