Press Releases

Carper Questions EPA on Analysis Showing Dramatic Declines in Reported Grant Funding in New, Politicized Process

Staff review of public grant data shows 49 of 50 states saw major declines in grant funding reported by EPA in 2017 compared to 2016

Feb 06 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting information on EPA’s grant approval process and grant awards for 2017. A staff review of publicly available information indicates that EPA reported awarding only $1.1 billion in the first three quarters of 2017 –  just one third of the $3.5 billion awarded over the same period in 2016.

EPA grant money accounts for about half of the agency’s roughly $8 billion budget, and Congress appropriates that money to EPA for the specific purpose of awarding it to non-profit organizations and state and local governments to help these entities achieve their goals for protecting human health and the environment. Under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, EPA is also required to disclose all award data to a publicly searchable database within 30 days of making an award.     

In his letter to EPA, Senator Carper wrote, “A recent analysis of EPA’s publicly available grants data undertaken by my staff (attached) demonstrates that at least 49 out of 50 states saw declines in reported EPA funding in 2017 as compared to a similar period in 2016. The State of Delaware, for example, saw a 71 percent reduction in grant funding last year compared to the year before, dropping from roughly 56 grants worth $26.2 million dollars in 2016 to 39 grants worth $7.5 million dollars in 2017. Nine states (RI, NY, WY, NJ, AL, IA, AZ, HI, and ME) saw more than a 90 percent decline in reported funding, and 38 states saw their reported funding slashed by more than half. Every state analyzed saw double-digit percent declines.”

Senator Carper continued, “It appears from the analysis conducted by my staff that EPA is either not awarding the money Congress appropriated, or it is not reporting this data to the publicly searchable database as required by law, or both.”

Today’s letter follows a letter Senator Carper sent to EPA in August questioning a change within the agency to subject hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of competitive grant solicitations to review by political appointees, as reported by E&E News and The Washington Post. EPA has yet to respond to Senator Carper’s August inquiry.

The text of the letter to Administrator Pruitt can be found below and in pdf form here.

February 6, 2018

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

I write today to follow up on my August 24, 2017 letter[1] (which has yet to be responded to) regarding your decision to assign a political appointee in EPA’s Office of Public Affairs to sign off on the agency’s issuance of grant solicitation decisions. That decision became even more troubling in light of reports that EPA cut or delayed several grants – many of which were related to climate change,[2] and that the political appointee removed all references to climate change in some of EPA’s grant announcements.[3]

A recent analysis of EPA’s publicly available grants data undertaken by my staff (attached) demonstrates that at least 49 out of 50 states saw declines in reported EPA funding in 2017 as compared to a similar period in 2016.[4] The State of Delaware, for example, saw a 71 percent reduction in grant funding last year compared to the year before, dropping from roughly 56 grants worth $26.2 million dollars in 2016 to 39 grants worth $7.5 million dollars in 2017. Nine states (RI, NY, WY, NJ, AL, IA, AZ, HI, and ME) saw more than a 90 percent decline in reported funding, and 38 states saw their reported funding slashed by more than half. Every state analyzed saw double-digit percent declines. This analysis makes your earlier determination to insert a political appointee into the process even more concerning, and additionally raises questions about agency reporting and adherence to the law.

Each year, EPA awards more than $4 billion in funding to non-profit organizations and state and local governments to help these entities achieve their goals for protecting human health and the environment. Grant money accounts for about half of the agency’s roughly $8 billion budget, and Congress appropriates that money to EPA for the specific purpose of awarding it. Under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, EPA is also required to disclose all award data to a publicly searchable database[5] within 30 days of making an award.     

It appears from the analysis conducted by my staff that EPA is either not awarding the money Congress appropriated, or it is not reporting this data to the publicly searchable database as required by law, or both. So that I may better understand the reason for why there is an apparent decline in EPA grant awards, and in addition to the responses to my questions and requests for information in my August 24, 2017 letter, please provide responses to the following:

  1. For the period January 20, 2017 thru September 30, 2017, please explain whether EPA chose not to spend the grant money allotted to it by Congress, or not to report that data completely as mandated by Congress, or some combination of both?
  1. For each grant that was awarded in 2016, but applied for and not awarded in 2017, please indicate the subject matter and applicant for the grant, the reason why the grant was denied in 2017, and whether that decision was made by EPA’s career staff or by an EPA political appointee.
  1. To date, EPA has not publicly posted grant awards information past September 30, 2017. As mentioned above, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act requires EPA to report awards data within 30 days of making an award. Accordingly, please post data covering the period October 2017 thru December 2017 by February 21, 2018.
Please provide responses to these questions by February 21, 2018.