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EPA contract review expected to end Friday

The Trump administration is in the midst of an intense review of contracts and grants at the Environmental Protection Agency but is hoping to complete the reviews by Friday.

That’s the word in an EPA statement Washington Technology obtained. But it is a very short message:

“EPA staff have been reviewing grants and contracts information with the incoming transition team. Pursuant to that review, the Agency is continuing to award the environmental program grants and state revolving loan fund grants to the states and tribes; and we are working to quickly address issues related to other categories of grants. The goal is to complete the grants and contracts review by the close of business on Friday, January 27.”

The statement went to various EPA offices include congressional relations, regional public affairs offices and several associate commissioners and deputy commissioners.

While public affairs offices were on the list of those receiving the statement, they have ignored repeated requests for comment. As far as I can tell, no EPA official is talking publicly about the contract freeze to any news organization, so I'm not taking this personally.

What I’m really curious about is what happens next? What contracts, if any, will be cancelled? How will that be disclosed?

EPA has several contracts that are in the source selection phase of the procurement, so companies have already submitted bids and spent a lot of money and resources chasing the work.

So I’ve been asking what happens when the government cancels a contract that you’ve already bid on?

According to federal law, companies can go to the Government Accountability Office and make the case that they should be reimbursed. These kinds of protests are allowed under U.S. Code 31 3551.

Federal Acquisition Regulations also describe when a contract can be cancelled before an award in FAR Part 15. The regulations state that a contract can be cancelled “if there were a significant change to the Government’s requirements or if the requirement itself were no longer needed.”

I’m not a lawyer, but that seems pretty broad, and as a contracts and procurement lawyer told me, a successful protest to recoup your costs is a pretty tough row to hoe.

It is probably even tougher when it is the President directing that a contract be cancelled.

To make it even tougher, different types of contracts have different standards of review by GAO. For example, a contract let through an invitation for bid can only be cancelled for a “cogent and compelling” reason. But an RFP cancellation requires a lower standard of just “reasonable basis,” my attorney friend told me.

One executive I spoke with said that protesting a cancellation just doesn’t happen.

So, it looks like if EPA begins cancelling contracts, companies will have little recourse but to absorb the lost bid and proposal dollars and move on.

My other major question is how soon after the review is completed will we know which contracts are safe and which will be cancelled? We’ll have to watch and wait for the answer to that.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 25, 2017 at 1:28 PM


Reader Comments

Thu, Jan 26, 2017 Puregoldj Washington, DC

Call me cynical but... The nominee for EPA Administrator is part of the oil industry dream team -- a guy who spent his time as Oklahoma AG suing the EPA so there would be no environmental regulations governing the oil industry or other industries. The transition team at EPA is primarily from the oil and coal industries. I am guessing that anything having to do with any sort of regulations on fossil fuels (and that includes anything having to do with climate change) is gone. This is one area in which we are going to need to have people protesting and calling their Congressmen and Senators!

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