In an announcement that stunned scientists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cancelled grant applications for what was supposed to be a $20-million, four-year green chemistry program.
The mysterious cancellation, announced on Friday, came less than three weeks before the April 25 deadline for the grant proposals.
The federal grants, which were supposed to fund four new academic centers, would have been a major new source of funding for green chemistry, a field that seeks to design environmentally friendly chemicals and processes that can replace toxic substances.
The requests for proposals may be reissued, the EPA said Monday. But the program’s sudden halt and uncertain future – and lack of explanation – have left scientists disheartened. Lab researchers had worked for months on their proposals and scientists now fear their hard work will be wasted.
“My reaction is shock that it happened and total dismay that what appeared to be a novel program was cancelled without warning or explanation,” said Eric Beckman, a chemical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh who was working on a proposal.
Terry Collins, a green chemist at Carnegie Mellon University and a pioneer in the field, said the announcement “stunned me.” Collins was on a team of green chemists and other environmental scientists that had been working for months to put together a funding proposal. West Coast institutions, including University of California, Berkeley, also were developing a proposal.
Beckman said he’d never seen such a thing happen before – a government agency pulling the plug on a request for proposals so close to its deadline – in his more than 20 years in academia.