Without warning or explanation, the federal government has pulled the plug on a $20 million program to develop replacements for hazardous chemical substances and materials.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has canceled its January solicitation for proposals to develop a Center for Material Life Cycle Safety and a Center for Sustainable Molecular Design.
The deadline for proposals had been April 25, and many scientists were completing plans.
No Reason Given
EPA did not explain why it was canceling the programs, especially at the last minute.
“Given the new and emerging research areas in the [Request for Applications], EPA determined that it was necessary to further explore these research areas,” spokeswoman Kelly Widener wrote in an email this week. “EPA regrets any inconvenience and recognizes the hard work that goes into applying for solicitations.”
EPA may modify the solicitation and reissue it, but no decision has been made, Widener said.
Both centers, outgrowths of EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, would have been a major new source of funding for interdisciplinary scientific research into the booming field of green chemistry.
The goal was to develop “improved methods for the design of next-generation chemicals,” the EPA said in its original request for proposals.
The Center for Sustainable Molecular Design was to develop design and criteria principles for novel chemicals, compounds and nanomaterials that are safer and less environmentally damaging than those of the current generation.
The aim of the Material Life Cycle Safety center was to develop an approach to materials research that would lessen environmental and health impacts over the materials’ life cycle.
The cancellation “stunned” and “disheartened” scientists who were finishing proposals, Environmental Health News reported this week.
“My reaction is shock that it happened and total dismay that what appeared to be a novel program was cancelled without warning or explanation,” Eric Beckman, a chemist at the University of Pittsburgh, told the publication.
Beckman said he had never seen a government proposal killed so close to the deadline.
Evan Beach, a green chemist at Yale University, told EHS that the funding would have been “one of the most significant sources of dedicated support for green chemistry, so it is a blow to the community that the call for applications was cancelled without explanation.”
Beach added, “Everybody was in the home stretch on writing. The preparations took several months.”
Widener said: “On rare occasions, solicitations are cancelled or revised when necessary to ensure the integrity of our grants process and meet the intended purpose of the solicitation’s research topic taking into account new and emerging research areas.
“We do regret any inconvenience to the researchers developing proposals.”