Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C., law firm providing biobased and renewable chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in bringing innovative products to market.
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 15, 2021, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on several U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominees, including Amanda Howe, nominated for Assistant Administrator for Mission Support, and David Uhlmann, nominated for Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Amanda Howe has a long history of public service, including such roles as the Chief Operating Officer for the now-Vice President, Kamala Harris, for the People Presidential Campaign, Acting Chief of Staff for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Trade for Virginia’s then-Governor Mark R. Warner (D), and lead planner of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip’s royal visit to Virginia for then-Governor Tim Kaine (D). Ms. Howe highlighted her extensive career in operations and management during her opening statements to the Committee, noting that if confirmed, she will bring her personal motto of “go for the good” to her position at EPA.

David Uhlmann is the current Director of the Environmental Policy and Law Program at the University of Michigan Law. Prior to academia, Mr. Uhlmann spent 17 years as a federal prosecutor, including seven years with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes section. During his opening statement, Mr. Uhlmann stressed that his time in academia has strengthened his belief in promoting environmental advocacy, noting that he believes that those companies that display ethics, integrity, and environmental stewardship should not be at a competitive disadvantage to those that do not.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ranking Member of the Committee, asked Ms. Howe how she would transition from the political sphere into governmental management, given President Biden’s initiative to bolster EPA staff. Ms. Howe reiterated her operations management background, noting that throughout her career in public service, she has managed large and complex operations and can think of no better way to serve the public than through the EPA. Senator Capito then asked Mr. Uhlmann about a paper he had written for the Obama Administration. The paper addressed the Clean Energy Standard and carbon taxing, but excluded carbon capture and nuclear energy. Senator Capito questioned how Mr. Uhlmann’s stance on the Clean Energy Standard would align with his EPA nominated role. Mr. Uhlmann responded that while he felt that we need to be seriously addressing climate change, it is the role of Congress to decide how. He stated that his role within EPA would be to help companies comply with any laws that Congress passes and any regulations promulgated by EPA, as well as to bring enforcement actions against companies that violate those laws.

Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) questioned Mr. Uhlmann about his stance on a recent series of White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council recommendations that stated that federal support for technologies such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage were not suitable for Environmental Justice (EJ) communities. Mr. Uhlmann responded that both EJ communities and rural communities have been left behind, and that if confirmed, he would work with states to ensure both communities had access to clean air and water. Senator Lummis and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) each probed Mr. Uhlmann about respective projects that their states were working on with EPA, and asked for a commitment from Mr. Uhlmann that those projects would not go to the wayside. Mr. Uhlmann responded that he believed strongly in a state and federal partnership and that he would work to strengthen that relationship.

Closing the nominations hearing, Committee Chair Thomas Carper (D-DE) asked each nominee a series of questions, including his standard “what question were you not asked that you wish you had been?” Senator Carper posed three questions to Ms. Howe: what attributes of Governor Mark Warner and Governor Tim Kaine did you witness and learn during your time as a public servant; how would you plan on safely bringing the EPA workforce back into the office; and given EPA’s prior cybersecurity breaches, how would you lead EPA’s cybersecurity efforts? Ms. Howe reflected on her time serving each Governor and noted that Mark Warner had the ability to pay attention to detail while still maintaining an eye on the big picture. In her role as EPA Assistant Administrator for Mission Support, she would work to incorporate these lessons by building strong relationships regardless of political party, so that common ground can be found for the common good. From Tim Kaine, Ms. Howe observed that kindness is a strength, and that challenges should be approached with openness, kindness, and integrity.

Ms. Howe expressed concern for the EPA workforce and the challenges they face in keeping themselves and their families safe during Covid. When considering bringing EPA staff back to the office, Ms. Howe stressed the importance of following the science and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. In considering how to move forward, Ms. Howe stated she would use EPA as the resource that it is and consult with staff to understand what aspects of teleworking have been successful. She noted that people’s lives have changed, and reintegrating back to the office will take empathy, openness, and a willingness to listen to concerns. In her response to cybersecurity concerns, Ms. Howe stated that this is an issue that has been and will continue to be a top priority for Mission Support. If confirmed, she plans to work directly with the EPA’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) to identify and sharpen cybersecurity. She also noted that she has no reservations in speaking openly with Congress and to ask for the resources and tools that she needs to tighten EPA cybersecurity measures. The question Ms. Howe would have liked to be asked was “how do you feel about your nomination to the role of Assistant Administrator for Mission Support?” She feels excited. She is looking forward to recruiting new staff to EPA and feels that it is a vibrant and exciting place to work.

Senator Carper’s closing questions to Mr. Uhlmann included: what in your extensive experience prosecuting environmental crimes and enforcement actions can you bring to this position in helping EPA identify and prevent violations before they occur; and what question were you not asked that you wish you had been? Mr. Uhlmann discussed his long history as a prosecutor working with the career staff of EPA in trials, as well as his collaborative work alongside EPA civil attorneys. Mr. Uhlmann emphasized his deep appreciation for the career staff at EPA, highlighting that unlike his predecessors, he is not new to this area and can “hit the ground running.” Overall, Mr. Uhlmann focused on the need for response. The most salient lesson he observed from his time as a prosecutor is that pollution has real consequences on the lives of Americans and their communities.

Mr. Uhlmann would have liked to have been asked what his top priorities would be as Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. He focused on the threat of climate change and the effects that environmental harms have on communities, stating that these concerns should be at the root of enforcement and compliance actions. He went on to address staffing issues within EPA enforcement and compliance regional offices, and the advocacy he would engage in to procure the necessary resources to strengthen those offices. Maintaining that we cannot regulate our way out of every environmental problem, Mr. Uhlmann focused on the importance of promoting ethics, integrity, and environmental stewardship within the business community to help solve these problems. Rounding out his list of priorities, Mr. Uhlmann stated that there is no room for politics in enforcement, rather it is about the law and the facts.

Commentary

The hearing proceeded with a jovial atmosphere and at times felt almost routine in nature. There were no real surprises or hard hitting questions posed to either nominee. Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) posed only one question to Mr. Uhlmann, centered on the niche issue of Clean Air Act (CAA) violations for modifying street vehicle emissions systems to convert them to racing vehicles. Senator Kelly expressed concern over how this statutory prohibition hampered the sport of street racing in Arizona. Mr. Uhlmann pivoted to his work on the VW emissions case and the environmental consequences of that scandal, but did not commit to a stance on Senator Kelly’s proposed amendments to the CAA. The line of questioning then diverted towards Senator Kelly’s wife, Gabby Gifford, and her love of street motorcycle racing. The hearing itself incorporated a decent amount of story-telling on behalf of the Committee members, adding to a sense of collegiality. Throughout the hearing, both nominees emanated passion for their possible future roles within EPA and focused on collaboration as a necessary element moving forward.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

As part of a White House roundtable to launch the Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) Grand Challenge to decarbonize the aviation sector by 2050, on September 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of $64.7 million in funding for projects focused on the production of cost-effective and low-carbon biofuels. DOE aims to advance technologies to replace petroleum fuels used in heavy-duty forms of transportation, such as airplanes and ships.
 
DOE Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm stated that, although heavy-duty vehicles in the transportation sector such as planes and ships are difficult to electrify, decarbonizing transportation is a critical part of the path to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Also as part of the SAF Grand Challenge, DOE signed on September 8, 2021, a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The memorandum formalizes the DOE, DOT, and USDA’s collaborative efforts on the required research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) to reach the goals of supplying at least three billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and sufficient SAF to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050.
 
DOE selected 22 projects to receive the available funds administered by its Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). The projects target high-impact bioenergy technology RD&D to increase foundational knowledge and scale up systems to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower costs, covering five topic areas:

  • Scale-Up of Biotechnologies;
  • Affordable, Clean Cellulosic Sugars for High Yield Conversion;
  • Separations to Enable Biomass Conversion;
  • Residential Wood Heaters; and
  • Renewable Natural Gas.

Additional information about the selected projects is available here.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson 
 
On August 27, 2021, DOE’s EERE, in partnership with the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Institute (CESMII), announced the selections of four new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Centers (SMICs). SMICs offer specialized training and direct industry engagement to help U.S. manufacturers implement smart manufacturing technologies to optimize their use of materials and energy. CESMII, an institute funded by DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, focuses on accelerating the adoption of smart manufacturing through integration of advanced sensors, data analytics, platforms, and controls. SMICs allow manufacturers to tap into CESMII’s manufacturing resources, helping CESMII expand institute-developed technologies, training, and hands-on demonstrations.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On August 26, 2021, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED) announced the launch of the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize. The new prize will provide cash prizes of up to $250,000 each -- totaling $2.5 million -- to groups and organizations in support of entrepreneurship and innovation in communities historically underrepresented and underserved in the energy sector. Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman said that this new prize is part of EERE’s effort to address the urgent need for diversity in the funding applications EERE receives. Ms. Speakes-Backman added, “We know climate change disproportionally affects underserved communities, so it is also critical that we change that -- by partnering with these communities when developing climate solutions together.” This new prize aligns with President Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative that aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments in climate and clean energy to underserved communities.
 
In hopes of attracting and supporting innovators and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize aims to:

  • “Support organizations to create or identify activities that provide incubation, acceleration, and community-based entrepreneurship and innovation services in climate and clean energy technologies.
  • Identify and fund activities that will help traditionally underrepresented groups apply for and receive DOE funding in support of DOE’s Justice40 goals.
  • Build trust and strengthen relationships and partnerships with underrepresented, underserved, and frontline communities or community-serving organizations to understand and lower barriers to entry to DOE funding opportunities.
  • Foster grassroots innovation in policy and process related to just and equitable clean energy deployment.
  • Support colleges, universities, and other educational institutions that serve large populations of students traditionally underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), including Minority Serving Institutions, tribal colleges, community colleges, and predominantly undergraduate institutions.”

The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize will open to submissions later in September 2021, welcoming applications from community-centric organizations and educational institutions with experience engaging with and promoting underrepresented communities. These organizations will support environmental, climate, and energy justice by using their experience and institutional knowledge to serve as a bridge between DOE and innovators.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On August 18, 2021, DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Program issued a request for information (RFI) seeking input on technical and logistical pathways that would enhance BER’s research portfolio in comparison to similar international research efforts. The BER Program is DOE’s coordinating office for research on biological systems, bioenergy, environmental science, and Earth system science. Written comments and information must be submitted by October 31, 2021, by e-mail only to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The e-mail subject line should read “BER research benchmarking.”

Tags: DOE, RFI

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now accepting nominations for the 2022 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards from companies or institutions that have developed a new green chemistry process or product that helps protect human health and the environment. EPA states that in support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to tackle the climate crisis, it is adding a new award category to recognize technology that reduces or eliminates greenhouse gas emissions. EPA will hold a webinar during Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, on Wednesday, September 22, 2021, from 2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. (EDT), to educate stakeholders on the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards and the nomination process. Nominations are due to EPA by December 10, 2021. According to EPA, an independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute will formally judge the 2022 nominations and make recommendations to EPA for the 2022 winners. EPA anticipates giving awards to outstanding green chemistry technologies in six categories in June 2022.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On August 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued its Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Phase I Release 1 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. DOE encourages applications from qualified small businesses with strong research capabilities in science, engineering, or any research area sought in the announcement.
 
To become eligible to submit a Phase I application, interested parties must submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) to the DOE Portfolio Analysis and Management System (PAMS) by 5:00 p.m. (EDT) August 30, 2021. Instructions for submitting the LOI are available here.
 
Grant applications for Phase I must be submitted through this portal by 11:59 p.m. (EDT) October 12, 2021. Information on applying is available here.

Tags: DOE, SBIR, STTR

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 10, 2021, that it added 36 chemicals to the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL). EPA states that the SCIL “is a living list of chemicals, by functional-use class, that EPA’s Safer Choice program has evaluated and determined meet Safer Choice criteria.” Listed chemicals “are among the safest for their functional use.” According to EPA, the SCIL is a “critical resource” that can be used by many different stakeholders, including:

  • Product manufacturers that use the SCIL to help them make high-functioning products that contain safer ingredients;
  • Chemical manufacturers that use the SCIL to promote the safer chemicals they manufacture;
  • Retailers that use the SCIL to help shape their sustainability programs; and
  • Environmental and health advocates that use the SCIL to support their work with industry to encourage the use of the safest possible chemistry.

EPA’s Safer Choice program certifies products containing ingredients that have met the program’s human health and environmental safety criteria. Companies can use the Safer Choice label on products that meet the Safer Choice Standard. EPA’s website contains a complete list of Safer Choice-certified products. EPA states that in the coming year, it hopes to expand the Safer Choice program “to make products containing safer chemicals increasingly available to underserved communities, including communities of color and low-income communities.”


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

Join the Product Stewardship Society (PSS) and a panel of experts for a unique webinar on how your role as a product steward can make an impact. You will learn strategies you can use to support your organization during business disruptions. “The Critical Role of Product Stewardship in Business Continuity” includes a facilitated panel discussion with real-world examples provided of product stewardship management in the aftermath of disruptive events like the pandemic. Specific examples will be shared to illustrate how product stewards can help organizations successfully transition from incident management to recovery and resume operations in a “new normal.” Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is pleased to sponsor this complimentary webinar. 


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On July 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of $60 million in funding for its cohort of university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs). The IACs assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers in reducing their carbon footprint and lowering energy costs. IACs, with particular attention to disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, also train the next generation of energy-efficiency workers, as highlighted by Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm: “America’s best and brightest university students are successfully helping local manufacturers reduce pollution, save energy, and cut their electricity bills.” Composed of 32 universities, the new cohort of IACs will focus on improving productivity, enhancing cybersecurity, promoting resiliency planning, and providing training to entities in disadvantaged communities. IACs will also partner with community colleges and technical programs to participate in a new pilot project focused on the commercial building market, that will train diverse students and professions to conduct energy-efficiency assessments of small to medium-sized buildings.
 
Managed by DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), the IAC’s program was founded in 1976, and it is one of DOE’s longest running programs. IACs have provided approximately 20,000 no-cost assessments for small- and medium-sized manufacturers and more than 147,000 recommendations for improvement measures. Such assessments usually identify more than $130,000 in potential annual savings opportunities for the manufacturers that are assessed. More than 19,500 IAC assessments have been conducted to date.
 
Manufacturers must meet the following criteria for eligibility to receive an IAC assessment:

  • Fall within Standard Industry Codes (SIC) 20-39;
  • Be located less than 150 miles from a participating university;
  • Have gross annual sales below $100 million;
  • Have fewer than 500 employees at the plant site;
  • Have annual energy bills that are more than $100,000 but less than $3.5 million; and
  • Lack professional in-house staff to perform the assessment.

After a remote survey of the plant, the IAC team conducts a one- to two-day site visit to take engineering measurements. The team then performs a detailed process analysis to generate specific recommendations for the manufacturer, followed by a call to the plant manager after six to nine months to verify what recommendations were implemented. Detailed information regarding how to apply is available here.

Tags: DOE, IACs

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On July 14, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new goal under the Energy Earthshot Initiative’s (Energy Earthshots): “Long Duration Storage Shot.” The Energy Earthshots program focuses on scientific breakthroughs that can lead to more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within this decade as the United States aims to achieve net-zero carbon goals by 2050. The second target within Energy Earthshots aims to accelerate innovation in long-term storage of clean electricity. Long duration energy storage, defined by DOE as systems that can store more than ten hours of energy at once, would facilitate the capture and storage of energy for later use when energy generation is unavailable or lower than demand. Scenarios provided by DOE include solar-generated power that could be used at night or nuclear energy generated during times of low demand to be used when demand increases. The Long Duration Storage Shot will consider all types of technology, including electrochemical, mechanical, thermal, chemical carriers, or combinations of these technologies.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 29, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. (EDT), Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm will host a virtual roundtable on the future of manufacturing. Roundtable discussions will focus on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) efforts to:

  • Decarbonize the manufacturing sector in the United States;
  • Manufacture clean-energy technologies; and
  • Pave the way to a resilient, carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

During the roundtable’s panel discussion, Secretary Granholm will announce several new DOE initiatives pertaining to manufacturing. The panel discussion will feature a diverse range of stakeholders, including government and academia representatives, and DOE private-sector partners.
 
Registration is required.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 13, 2021, that Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative now includes cleaning and other products certified by EPA’s Safer Choice program. According to EPA, Safer Choice is now one of 30 sustainability certifications highlighted under Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative that helps customers shop for more than 75,000 products through the company’s online store. EPA notes that highlighting Safer Choice-certified products makes it easier for consumers to locate products that contain safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance. Products identified as Climate Pledge Friendly are distinguished on Amazon’s website by an hourglass-with-wings symbol. The company also provides its customers with detailed web pages that include information on how and why products are certified as sustainable.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 24, 2021, a “unique and broad group” of chemical manufacturers, brand owners, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO), states, and municipalities sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to express their “strong support” for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice Program and to encourage that the program be funded fully. The letter asks that the following language be included in the report:

The Committee supports the Safer Choice program and directs that the program be funded and operated at least at levels consistent with Fiscal Year 2014, adjusted for inflation.

According to the letter, in the last quarter of 2020, EPA reorganized the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), dissolving the Safer Choice branch and reassigning most staff to the areas of OCSPP. The letter states that “[a]s a result, the program is now severely under-resourced with approximately four full-time staff.” The Biden-Harris EPA has taken steps to restore the program, but EPA still faces resource constraints.

The letter describes how companies across the value chain use the Safer Choice brand to advance their individual safer chemical initiatives. Chemical manufacturers invested in developing safer chemicals now listed on the Safer Choice’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL). Brand owners and product manufacturers have reformulated products using the SCIL to obtain Safer Choice certification. Major retailers specify the Safer Choice label as a verifiable way to meet corporate goals laid out in public-facing chemicals policies.

According to the letter, the Safer Choice Program also provides value to entities outside of the supply chain. States and municipalities rely on the Safer Choice Program “because it is the only third-party program that requires all ingredients to be screened for hazards instead of simply using a restricted substances list.” NGOs and consumers “find significant value in an authoritative government program that can be trusted to vet safer chemicals and products.”


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 2, 2021, U.S. Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN) and Randy Feenstra (R-IA) introduced a bill called the Small Refinery Exemption Clarification Act of 2021. The bill clarifies that only oil refineries that have been continuously receiving small refinery exemptions (SRE) since 2011 should be eligible to petition for extensions of renewable fuel blending requirement exemptions. The SRE Clarification Act follows the Supreme Court’s decision in late June 2021 that, according to Representatives Craig and Feenstra, could negatively influence the biofuels industry by making it easier for oil refineries to avoid Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements. Representative Craig stated that “[‌i]t is vital that we continue to support the clean biofuels industry as we reduce the carbon intensity of our transportation sector and make important investments across rural America.” Representative Feenstra emphasized that “we must erase ambiguities and ensure oil refineries are not able to take shortcuts when it comes to blending biofuels.”


 
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