Federal Business Development

Federal business development support for environmental, engineering, water and energy firms.

USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program

July 8th is the deadline for submitting pre-proposals for $235M in grant funds for innovative conservation partnerships.  A wide variety of government and nonprofit entities are eligible.  For information on the program see their program page. For the solicitation go to For the solicitation announcement go to Grants.gov  For more information on their program check out their fact sheet below:

Feds Gear Up To Use GSA OASIS Contracts

Do you have an active Air Force environmental practice?  Does your firm have existing backlog with DARPA, Public Buildings Service Region 1, Veterans Affairs, or Department of Interior?  If yes, then you are playing defense if you don’t also have a GSA OASIS contract.

GSA requires all Ordering Contract Officers to complete mandatory Delegation of Procurement Authority (DPA) training before they are allowed to issue task orders under OASIS contracts. By looking at what agencies have pursued this training for their warranted contracting officers, it is possible to get a sense for which agencies are most interested in the OASIS vehicle.

If you have an OASIS contract, these DPA’s can suggest some agencies, offices and commands amenable to using your new vehicle near term.  If you don’t have an OASIS prime contract, but you have existing work for these agencies through other contracting mechanisms (including GSA’s Schedule 899), then this information pinpoints where you need to scramble to keep as much of the work in-house as possible.

According to the information provided to CFE by GSA on October 11th,  as of November 7, 2014, GSA had issued 161 DPA’s to OCO’s in civilian agencies and 199 DPA’s to OCO’s in the Department of Defense.  The attached spreadsheet breaks down DPA’s to the level of Command/Office/Region. GSA explained the disparity between # trained and # DPA’s issued as 1) only warranted contracting officers receive DPA and other people take the training as well and 2) GSA is a little behind in getting the DPA’s processed.

Happy Hunting!

EPA RAF Re-do Creates Unprecedented Small Business Opportunities

Source: EPA Remedial Action Framework (RAF): Overview of Remedial Action Framework (RAF)

EPA’s revamp of its Superfund program contracting strategy will create unprecedented opportunities for small businesses.

There will now be three catagories of contracts:

Design and Engineering Services (DES)

Remediation Environmental Services (RES)

Environmental Services and Operations (ESO)

There will be ten geographic categories called Contract Line Item Number’s (CLIN’s ) in each contract category, with two to six awards per CLIN; two of which are anticipated to be SBSA.  More significantly, EPA has indicated it is considering setting aside the entirety of RES and ESO contracts for small business depending on responses (due November 7th) from the open sources sought/request for information (SS/RFI):

 

 

Proposals will be submitted using the new SF-330. A revised version of the SF-330 form and instructions will be posted for a second round of industry comments before the end of the year.

EPA spends about $500 million every year on Superfund contracts.  For more information on RAF, click the image.If you are a small business with hazardous waste capabilities, it is worth your while to respond to the SS/RFI’s and comment on the SF-330. This is your chance.

CCRs, Fraking Create Engineering Market Sweet Spots

Surface impoundment retrofitting/closure and landfill design will be sweet spots for environmental engineering firms and waste haulers in the next few years for two reasons: coal ash and fraking.

A market resulting from implementation of new coal ash regs is imminent (the consent decree requires EPA to take final action on these regulations before the end of 2014).  Regardless of whether the much-anticipated EPA final action on coal combustion residuals (CCR’s) goes with a Subtitle C or a Subtitle D approach, the regs will create new opportunities for environmental engineering firms and waste haulers in the next few years as utility companies comply with fairly massive new requirements.

Coal ash is the second largest industrial waste stream in the country; around 140 million tons of coal waste is produced by electric utility companies annually according to EPA. CCRs are currently disposed of in 45 states, though the preponderance of sites are located in the eastern US with Kentucky, Texas and Indiana having the dubious distinctions of generating the most CCRs.  EPA estimates there are approximately 300 CCR landfills and 584 CCR surface impoundments at 495 coal-fired power plants.  Many units have exceeded their designed life spans. The majority of these sites are owned by private utilities.

If EPA chooses to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste under Subpart C, the market is expected to be $1,474 million a year including industry compliance and regulatory oversight and enforcement.  Because EPA would have enforcement authority, hypothetically 100% of regulated sites would comply. The timing of the market will vary from state to state as authorized states adopt the rule.  The retrofit requirements and compliance rate makes the market under Subtitle C three times larger than under Subtitle D.

If EPA chooses to regulate these materials as solid waste under Subpart D, the market is expected to be $587 million per year and the regulations would go into effect six months after promulgation.  Compliance responsibility would rest with individual states.

The economic regulatory impact (aka market size) sounds like a lot until you consider that the Kingston, TN coal ash spill has cost TVA more than $1 billion to remediate and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spent $200 million for oversight according to the Tennessean newspaper in December 2013.

From the perspective of  engineers and haulers, what kind of work will be involved under each option?  A quick comparison of the provisions in the two options tells the tale:

http://www.epa.gov/wastes/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/ccr-rule/ccr-table.htm

Key Differences Between Subtitle C and Subtitle D Options
  SUBTITLE C SUBTITLE D
Effective Date Timing will vary from state to state, as each state must adopt the rule individually, can take 1–2 years or more Six months after final rule is promulgated for most provisions: certain provisions have a longer effective date
Enforcement State and Federal enforcement Enforcement through citizen suits; states can act as citizens
Corrective Action Monitored by authorized states and EPA Self-implementing
Financial Assurance Yes Considering subsequent rule using CERCLA 108 (b) Authority
Permit Issuance Federal requirement for permit issuance by states No
Requirements for Storage, Including Containers, Tanks, and Containment Buildings Yes No
Surface Impoundments Built Before Rule is Finalized Remove solids and meet land disposal restrictions; retrofit with a liner within 5 years of effective date. Would effectively phase out use of existing surface impoundments Must remove solids and retrofit with a composite liner or cease receiving CCRs within 5 years of effective date and close the unit
Surface Impoundments Built After Rule is Finalized Must meet Land Disposal Restrictions and liner requirements. Would effectively phase out use of new surface impoundments Must install composite liners. No Land Disposal Restrictions
Landfills Built Before Rule is Finalized No liner requirements, but require groundwater monitoring No liner requirements, but require groundwater monitoring
Landfills Built After Rule is Finalized Liner requirements and groundwater monitoring Liner requirements and groundwater monitoring
Requirements for Closure and Post-Closure Care Yes; monitored by states and EPA Yes; self-implementing

 

Some utilities will choose an off-site disposal.  Waste Management Inc. currently handles 100 million tons of trash every year according to an August WasteDive.com interview.  With an additional 140 million tons of regulated waste as a result of these new regulations, Waste Management and other haulers could see a significant increase in sales.

If you’d like to do some homework before visiting a potential utility client, check out two public databases maintained by EPA.  The first contains utility responses to Information Requests that went out in March, April and December 2009 and covered 240 facilities and 676 surface impoundments and similar management units,http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/surveys/index.htm

The second database, of Coal Combustion Residuals Impoundment Assessment Reports, contains hazard rankings of the structural integrity of surface impoundments, and action plans by company.  http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/surveys2/index.htm

EarthJustice also publishes two datasets that are helpful:  http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/Coal-Plant-CCW-Disposal-Units-from-ICR.pdf lists plant, city, state, pond id, lined/unlined, leachate collected, and status.  In September 2014,  Earthjustice also published a spreadsheet provided by EPA in response to a FOIA request listing by site, and by units within sites, such details as monitoring status and contaminants exceeding mcl’s at each location which can be downloaded at http://earthjustice.org/library/coal%20ash.  Great background information if you are going to talk with your utility clients about their CCR programs.

The regulatory process behind these CCR regulations has been long and laborious.  The news coverage of surface impoundment failures at fraking facilities is escalating.  I cannot believe it will be long before surface impoundments at fraking stations come under state enforcement attention.  A wise fraking operator would build new surface impoundments that limit liability not only from leakage and failure, but also are ahead of the future regulatory action curve as well.

If you are pursuing the market from the enforcement angle, it will be work for state DEQ contract holders if a Subtitle D approach is chosen.  If Subtitle C is chosen, Nelly bar the door.  Obviously they don’t have a procurement strategy at this point.  The difference in site density between regions argues for a regional procurement strategy OR possibly OASIS. I do know that if I held an OASIS contract I’d already be meeting with RCRA folks and talking about how quickly my firm could provide support under this new, flexible mechanism.

Happy Hunting

A Team By Any Other Name Is A …Subcontract?

On September 9, 2014, the GSA IG released its final report (A130009): Audit of Contractor Team Arrangement Use. Based on the review of multiple MACs and BPAs awarded between 2011-2013, the IG found “teaming arrangement data provided was incomplete, inaccurate and unverifiable.” Imagine that.  GSA is pursuing formal rulemaking with new regs expected by April 2016.  Interim guidance already posted clarifies the distinction between a team and a subcontract and provides direction to contracting officers utilizing an FPDS not yet able to handle multiple vendors per order.  Before getting into what it all means for contractors, let’s clarify when a team is not a team – it’s a subcontract.  GSA lays it all out at: www.gsa.gov/contractorteamarrangements

Contractor Team Arrangement (CTA) Prime Contractor / Subcontractor Arrangement
Each team member must have a GSA Schedule contract. Only the prime contractor must have a GSA Schedule contract.
Each team member is responsible for duties addressed in the CTA document. The prime contractor cannot delegate responsibility for performance to subcontractors.
Each team member has privity of contract with the government and can interact directly with the government. Only the prime contractor has privity of contract with the government and can interact with the government.  The prime contractor is responsible for its subcontracting activities. (Ordering activities are encouraged to specify in the Request for Quotation (RFQ) that the use of subcontractors requires prior approval by the ordering activities.)
The ordering activity is invoiced at each team member’s unit prices or hourly rates as agreed in the task or delivery order or GSA Schedule BPA. The ordering activity is invoiced in accordance with the prime contractor’s GSA Schedule contract, including any applicable price reductions.
Total solutions, otherwise impossible under individual GSA Schedule contracts, can be put together quickly and easily. The prime contractor is limited to the supplies and/or services awarded on its GSA Schedule contract.

I’ve been involved in forming hundreds of teams – we called them teams – and 99% of them didn’t strictly meet GSA’s “team” definition. I suspect there are very few true teams out there in the environmental services market outside of formal joint ventures. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll use the term CTA to mean a true team and subcontract to mean a prime/subcontract arrangement. Back to the real question: What does all this mean for environmental and engineering firms? In the case of a CTA, in the fullness of time I expect:

  • these rules will apply to ID/IQs as well as GSA contracts
  • a copy of the CTA will become a required submittal at the RFQ stage
  • teams will be asked to submit copies of CTA’s for existing contracts and task orders
  • all team members will undergo excluded parties checks
  • each teammate will be assigned a data identifier within AABS and will be treated as a prime contractor
  • performance ratings will accrue only to the firm doing the work
  • billing and payment will increasingly be made directly between the ordering agency and each team member
  • there will be more procurements like OASIS that exclude CTAs at the schedule level
  • resistance to markups on teammates and subcontractors is going to increase.  Count on it.
  • FPDS will be modified to allow tracking multiple contractors per order

What I wish small businesses all knew: When someone says you must have a GSA schedule contract to “team” with a GSA prime contractor…that’s true, BUT you can still subcontract to a GSA schedule holder without a schedule contract of your own and the hurdles are much lower. It’s true for prime contracts outside the GSA system as well.  Philosophically, a prime can subcontract to whomever it wants (in compliance with the terms of its subcontracting plan, the OK of the CO and excluding some set-aside scenarios); it’s the prime who is on the hook. Of course there are downsides to being a subcontractor.  It is good to know there are existing regulations that provide subcontractors with some recourse in two circumstances:  1) if they don’t get paid, and 2) if their qualifications were considered during the source selection process but they never received work under the contract.  If you find yourself in either circumstance and you are hitting a brick wall with your prime, you can and should contact the OCO or CO directly. What’s the procedure for a prime to start utilizing a subcontractor? If the prime is trying to meet subcontracting plan goals or to fill a technical gap, the CO/OCO will usually approve the request, even if the subcontractor in question wasn’t named in the proposal.

  • The SBA has a Subcontracting Assistance Program manual online if you want to dig into the details (or glean a few insights into developing the kind of subcontracting plan that will make source selection committees, and eventually auditors, really happy).
  • To talk all this through with someone, call your SBA Commercial Market Representative (CMR).  CMRs specifically counsel small businesses on how to obtain subcontracts, conduct matchmaking activities to facilitate subcontracting to small business, and provide orientation and training on the Subcontracting Assistance Program for both large and small businesses.  Most importantly, you can reach them by phone.  My CMR for Virginia, Anita Perkins, returns phone messages and has the patience of a saint. The Government Contracting Field Staff Directory lists names and numbers for CMRs nationwide.
  • You can also take advantage of online training.  On October 27, 2014, GSA is hosting a free webinar: GSA Contracting for Vendors Without a GSA Schedule.  This webinar gets repeated every few months.  To sign up, click the webinar link.  (Note: The date on the website still says October 20th, but the webinar has been rescheduled for the 27th).

Bottom Line – What does this mean for small businesses trying to get federal contract work?  It means subcontracting is the fastest and least costly way to break into or increase your base of federal work.  Find a prime contractor that either needs your technical skills or needs to meet its goaling obligations (or both) and show them how you can help.  If they agree, the paperwork is doable and it is certainly easier than the whole proposal process.  How do you find that prime that needs you?  Stay tuned.  Follow this blog and I’ll be covering some tools to identify a likely prime and some strategies for what to do then. If you wish, follow me on Twitter at @FedEnvBD  Thank you!

CFE is a small, woman-owned business providing federal business development support to companies in the environmental, engineering, energy and water industries.