The Federal Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program

Background

In the aftermath of pipeline tragedies in Bellingham, Washington, in 1999 and Carlsbad, New Mexico, in 2000, Congress began working to strengthen the nation’s pipeline safety laws in 2001. During this process, members of SafeBellingham, the forerunner of The Pipeline Safety Trust, pushed for the creation of a federal program that would provide money to local governments and communities for hiring independent experts. These experts would help them obtain information so they could be informed and active participants in decision-making activities about pipelines running through—or proposed for siting in—their communities.

In the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, Congress authorized the Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) program, which was based on a successful Superfund grant program that had been operating within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 1988. However, Congress did not appropriate any program funds when it passed this law.

Over the next four years, Congress failed to fund the TAG program and the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), which is within the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), didn’t move ahead to implement it. Consequently, the Pipeline Safety Trust worked with supporters in Congress to break this “logjam” and a provision was inserted in the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety Act of 2006 to withhold funding from other activities until PHMSA established procedures and criteria for initiating the TAG program.

In 2008, Congress—through the efforts of Senator Patty Murray of Washington—provided $1 million in the federal budget for funding this program and in 2009 the Pipeline Safety Trust helped OPS develop criteria for evaluating grant applications.

General Description of the TAG Program

OPS can award grants of up to $100,000 to local governments and not-for-profit community groups for technical assistance relating to the safety of pipeline facilities in local communities.

Grant recipients are required to make the technical findings of their project available to the relevant pipeline operators. In addition, they are encouraged to have open communications with local pipeline operators, local communities, and other interested parties.

Other TAG program requirements include:

  • The grants must be awarded through a competitive process with established criteria.
  • The grants cannot be used for lobbying or in direct support of litigation.

Learning About TAG Program Competitions

To sign up for e-mail alerts or RSS feeds about TAG program competitions, click here (Note: The RSS Feed rarely posts much about the TAG program)

The Grants.Gov web home page (found here) is the portal for information about the federal grant application process and for submitting applications for federal grants.

To view the precise information page about the TAG Grants, click here

Current TAG grant recipients

PHMSA posts summaries of current and past TAG awards on their website.

The Trust has summaries of the earliest 2009 TAG grant recipients and project summaries here.