Indian Environmental General Assistance Program
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (GAP), providing non-competitive GAP grant funds to tribal governments and intertribal consortia to develop environmental protection programs. While acknowledging tribal sovereignty of their lands and resources, the grants support federally authorized EPA regulatory programs as established through joint EPA-Tribal Environmental Plans (ETEPs). Since 1992, GAP programs have primarily focused on remediation of air, water, and hazardous waste pollutants. In more recent years, climate change impact assessments and adaptation plans have qualified for GAP funding, as activities related to establishing environmental programs not administered by EPA, but that are “consistent with those provisions of law for which Congress has given EPA authority,” are allowable. Through the GAP, the EPA also provides technical assistance to build environmental protection program capacity for tribes, with the intent of helping tribes in policymaking, setting standards, and directing project implementation.
The following information on eligibility and requirements for application are relayed here as stated by the EPA in the 2013 Guidance on the Award and Management of General Assistance Agreements for Tribes and Intertribal Consortia, or paraphrased. Updated GAP Guidance and a revised national GAP allocation plan is to be effective October 1, 2022.
Purpose, Eligible Uses
GAP resources should support:
- Developing and maintaining core environmental program capacities (administrative, financial management, information management, environmental baseline needs assessment, public education/communication, legal, and technical/analytical);
- Engaging with the EPA to negotiate joint EPA-Tribal Environmental Plans (ETEPs), that reflect intermediate and long-term goals for developing, establishing, and implementing environmental protection programs;
- Linking GAP-funded assistance agreement work plans to the ETEPs;
- Developing baseline capacities for media-specific environmental protection programs that are related to the needs of the recipient and to EPA statutory programs (e.g., ambient and indoor air quality; water quality; managing wastes; managing asbestos, lead-based paint, pesticides, toxics, and pollution prevention programs); and
- Implementing waste management programs.
Potential Adaptation Uses
Some examples of allowable activities can directly support climate adaptation planning and programming include:
- Activities to establish baseline environmental conditions are considered essential to developing a tribal environmental protection program and are allowable under GAP. This may include assessing environmental impacts of climate change, or greenhouse gas emissions inventories.
- Activities related to establishing environmental protection programs that are consistent with those provisions of law for which Congress has given EPA authority, are allowable - including using GAP funds to develop a climate change adaptation plan.
- Initial purchases of equipment necessary to administer tribal environmental protection programs are also allowable as direct costs - such as: GIS survey instruments and related equipment; vehicles for environmental program operations; and sampling, measurement, analysis, and other related equipment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides non-competitive GAP grant funds to tribal governments and intertribal consortia to assist tribes in planning, developing, and establishing tribal environmental protection programs consistent with programs and authorities administered by the EPA.
The term Indian tribal government (tribe) means any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village, which is recognized as eligible by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for the special services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians. The term intertribal consortium or consortia means a partnership between two or more tribes that is authorized by the governing bodies of those tribes to apply for and receive assistance under this program. Tribes that form consortia may be able to use their resources more efficiently and address environmental issues more effectively than they could if each tribe individually developed and maintained separate environmental protection programs.
Process and Requirements
Submission Schedule and Requirements
GAP applications accepted on a rolling basis or deadlines are determined by EPA region. EPA Regional Offices are responsible for establishing the time frame for application submission, reviewing application materials, negotiation of work plans and budgets, and award decisions.
EPA Regional offices discuss and develop EPA-Tribal Environmental Plans (ETEPs), or strategic planning documents, with tribes that seek GAP funding, to reflect the intermediate and long-term goals of the tribe for building environmental program capacities. “The ETEPs are intended to be living, usable documents for both tribes and EPA as environmental partners to use in planning and guiding our work.”
GAP Proposals should include:
- the applicant’s portion of an ETEP, or plans to develop ETEPs
- adequate description of proposed eligible GAP activities
- description of how proposed activities support the GAP priority areas
- description of how the proposed activities support achieving the applicant’s intermediate or long-term program development goals.
GAP assistance may be tailored to the needs of each tribe, and EPA regional representatives work directly with tribes to establish grant agreement work plans that are “a proper fit.”
The term of a GAP award may exceed one year, but may not exceed four years. GAP will fund activities as long as it reasonably takes to achieve completion on a capacity indicator. For example, some indicators could be accomplished in a single year (e.g., emissions inventory) and for others it may take several years (e.g., promulgation of regulations). The GAP Guidance states: "Developing, establishing, and maintaining environmental program capacities is an on-going effort requiring capacities to evolve as the tribal environmental program itself expands and undertakes additional challenges. Tribes that have successfully developed capacity in a given area can continue to receive GAP funding to expand, enhance or evolve their capacity)”.
Performance Reporting: Indicators of Tribal Environmental Program Capacity
Tribal governments have tribe-specific priorities, and tribes will identify program areas to focus on with respect to building environmental protection program capacity. In addition, each tribal government determines how far down the path of program development it wants to proceed (e.g., all the way to program implementation or in between core program capacity and development of some of the media-specific program capacities). There is not just one pathway to follow for building environmental program capacity, and as such there are many indicators that can be used to assess and measure progress in the capacity building process.
There are often many activities that must occur to establish a single indicator and EPA can provide specific program guidance and technical assistance tools and resources to help identify and plan for those specific activities.
- Biodiversity and ecosystems
- Land management and conservation
- Water resources
- Funding program