On July 15, 2016, Environmental Leader published "What Does the Loss of 'Green Chemistry' Provision from Amended TSCA Mean for Biochemicals?," featuring comments by Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner of Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) affiliate Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®). Ms. Bergeson expanded on a previous blog post titled "Inside EPA Reports On Loss Of Green Chemistry Provision From TSCA Reform," stating:
"While regrettable, the absence of the green chemistry provisions in the amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is a setback, not a deal breaker," Bergeson told Environmental Leader. "The green chemistry provisions in Section 24 of H.R. 2576 were taken from Senator Chris Coons' (D-DE) Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act. Section 24 was eliminated reportedly because its inclusion would have been subject to review by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, a different House Committee from the House Energy and Commerce Committee that had primary jurisdiction over TSCA reform, potentially complicating and delaying an already complicated and time-sensitive Congressional review process. The decision to forego this review and eliminate the green chemistry provisions is disappointing, but a failed TSCA reform effort would have been more so."
Bergeson notes that the provision's absence in the updated chemical safety law eliminates -- for now -- the development of and funding for a green chemistry strategy at the federal level. Senator Coons is expected to introduce a similar bill next year.
Senators Coons, Susan Collins (R-ME), and Ed Markey (D-MA) have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) for a technology review of sustainable chemistry. "The report, expected to be complete in the spring of 2017, can help illuminate the options available to the federal government to promote green chemistry whether by instigating new legislation or by serving as a resource which existing legal authorities can use to support this field that is so vital to economic competitiveness and/or use to diminish the less positive impacts of chemistry throughout our economy," Bergeson stated.
On July 14, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), announced $15 million in funding for three projects that will work to improve algal biomass yields to reduce production costs of algae-based biofuels and bioproducts. The projects include Global Algae Innovations (San Diego, California), Algenol Biotech LLC (Ft. Myers, Florida), and MicroBio Engineering, Inc. (San Luis Obispo, California). These projects will coordinate algae strain improvements through harvesting, dewatering, and downstream processing, resulting in lower cost algae-based biofuels.
Last week, DOE released the 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy, Volume 1: Economic Availability of Feedstocks (BT16). Jonathan Male, Director of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), introduced the report, stating:
While bioenergy currently is the greatest single source of renewable energy in the United States, there are still economic and technological barriers that limit efforts to mobilize biomass resources for more biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts. Energy crops in particular are wholly dependent on future market demand.
BT16 is not a final answer, but rather a step to help the nation develop strategies for realizing a broader bioeconomy potential. At bioenergykdf.net, the reader can find online companion data sets and interactive visualization for all biomass resources in this report. While we are confident in the rigor and depth of our analysis, the potential implications of our results have only begun to be assessed. We invite the user community to take a step forward and use this report and associated data to perform further analyses, ask more questions, and inform strategies to mobilize national biomass resources toward realization of a bioeconomy.
In addition to identifying potential biomass resources, BT16 addresses key aspects of the bioeconomy, including: economic availability of biomass resources; supply impact of algae, waste, and other energy crops; and economic impacts of transportation costs of feedstocks for biorefineries.
The Collegiate Biobased Network (CBN), supported by the United Soybean Board, promotes educational and career connections in the biobased industry for college and university students. There is no cost to join this professional organization, and students will get access to biobased development updates, webinars on current biobased topics, networking and mentoring opportunities, participation in the United Soybean Board Biobased Products Stakeholders' Workshop, and the opportunity to present a biobased research poster at selected events. This program is a great opportunity for college and university students who would like to learn more about the biobased industry and get involved with current industry events.
On July 12, 2016, Neste, a BRAG member, published "4 Reasons Why The World Needs Biofuels," highlighting the positive results of seeking alternative, low-carbon sources of renewable energy. The article mentions that "biofuels offer a solution to reduce carbon emissions of traffic when other solutions, such as switching to electric vehicles, is not an option due to high vehicle costs or lack of vehicle charging network." Biofuels also help to combat climate change, respond to higher energy consumption, safeguard energy security, and best utilize scarce resources.
On July 7, 2016, the Senate passed a bill, An Act to Reauthorize and Amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for Other Purposes (S. 764), through agreement to the House's amendment to S. 764, with further amendment. While the bill is being referred to as a genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling bill, there is no actual requirement to print GMO ingredients on labels. Instead, companies would be required to print information on the packaging (through text, a symbol such as a QR code, or an electronic link) directing consumers to a website or phone line for more information. The national bioengineered food disclosure standard includes a definition for "bioengineering": "a food - (A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant [DNA] techniques; and (B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature," as well as specifics on how the new standard will be established through requirements and procedures. The new requirements and procedures include the following:
- Prohibition of a food derived from an animal to be considered a bioengineered food solely because the animal consumed feed produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered substance;
- Determination of the amounts of a bioengineered substance that may be present in food for the food to be a bioengineered food;
- Establishment of a process for requesting and granting a determination by the Secretary regarding other factors and conditions under which a food is considered a bioengineered food;
- Provision of alternative reasonable disclosure options for food contained in small or very small packages; and
- Requirements and procedures specific to small food manufacturers.
Subtitle F includes a section on federal preemption, which states that any state regulations on "labeling of whether a food (including food served in a restaurant or similar establishment) or seed [in interstate commerce] is genetically engineered ... or was developed or produced using genetic engineering," and also a section on exclusion from federal preemption -- that nothing in the subtitle, or in Subtitle E, "shall be construed to preempt any remedy created by a State or Federal statutory or common law right." The bill will allow producers with a U.S. Department of Agriculture "certified organic" designation to display an additional "non-GMO" label on their products. S. 764 is now back in the House and is expected to be taken up before Congress's seven week recess beginning July 15, 2016.
On July 6, 2016, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed SB 2652 Related to Taxation -- Locally Produced Renewable Energy. This bill establishes a five-year renewable fuels production tax credit. The tax credit will take effect in 2017 and will provide 20 cents per gallon of ethanol (or 76,000 British thermal units (Btu) of renewable fuel) with a cap of $3 million. The tax credit is open to companies producing at least 15 billion Btu of fuel from renewable feedstocks per year. Acceptable fuels include, but are not limited to, ethanol, hydrogen, biodiesel, biogas, renewable jet fuel, and other biofuels.
On June 24, 2016, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 657 modifying provisions related to motor vehicles. Under this new law, liability insurance carried by gas stations will expand coverage to include the release of blended fuels from incompatible storage tanks. The inclusion of blended fuels under the required insurance policy will remove one more barrier towards increasing the number of blender pumps within the state. The bill was originally introduced on January 6, 2016, and will become effective on August 28, 2016.
On June 23, 2016, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced $2.4 million in funding to support the development and construction of a biocrude and biofuel laboratory in Queensland. The $5.3 million project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2019 and will be Australia's first biorefinery producing renewable diesel and jet fuel from plant material. Australian companies have produced biocrude in the past but there is currently no commercial scale process to refine the biocrude into useable biofuels. The project by Southern Oil Refining (SOR) will help the Royal Australian Navy follow through on an agreement to explore utilizing more environmentally friendly fuel. Ivor Frischknect, CEO of ARENA, stated of the project: "SOR will carry out testing and reporting to produce valuable knowledge for Australia's bioenergy industry. New protocols for the conversion of biocrudes to drop-in fuels will also be established." This project will inform the future construction of a commercial scale biorefinery.
On July 1, 2016, Inside EPA published "Committee Jurisdiction Issues Blocked Green Chemistry From TSCA Reform," an article discussing the passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) law and the lack of language from previous versions boosting federal support of green chemistry. The majority of the bill was reviewed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but the green chemistry provision would have needed to be reviewed by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, further complicating the fragile House and Senate negotiations. Inside EPA's source stated: "Nobody wanted to step on anybody's toes. [...] Pretty much everything else [was] in [Energy and Commerce's] jurisdiction or was sufficiently small enough [to not raise concerns.] There were a lot of concessions on all sides." The green chemistry provision was originally added to the Senate version of the TSCA Reform, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697), by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), and was primarily focused on funding the research and development of green chemistry.
The green chemistry provision of S. 697 called for a study of how to best incentivize sustainable chemistry research and development, as well as support "economic, legal and other appropriate social science research to identify barriers to commercialization and methods to advance commercialization of sustainable chemistry." The bill also created a working group to coordinate federal sustainable chemistry activities that would be lead by EPA's research chief and the National Science Foundation (NSF) director, as well as an advisory council to coordinate with the working group. Although green chemistry language in S. 697 did not remain in the final version of the bill, there are still supporters in Congress who are prepared to work to get the programs outlined in S. 697 into law.
On June 15, 2016, H.R. 5489, Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act of 2016, was introduced to the House Ways and Means Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The bill would add additional biogas applications to the list of technologies that qualify for the federal Section 45 energy investment tax credit, increasing acceptable biogas technologies from only biogas-based electricity projects to "qualified biogas property" defined as:
property comprising a system which--
(i) uses anaerobic digesters, or other biological, chemical, thermal, or mechanical processes (alone or in combination), to convert biomass (as defined in section 45K(c)(3)) into a gas which consists of not less than 52 percent methane, and
(ii) captures such gas for use as a fuel.
Qualified biogas properties, as well as qualified manure resource recovery properties, will be eligible for a 30 percent tax credit under this bill. H.R. 5489 was introduced with bipartisan support by Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Ron Kind (D-WI), and signed by 12 other House members. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate,
On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requested proposals for "Reducing EMbodied energy And Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) in Materials Manufacturing." This funding opportunity is for the development of technologies that reduce life-cycle energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with the production and processing of industrial-scale materials. Up to $70 million is available through REMADE through 2020 with key focus areas including, but not limited to:
- Information collection, standardization, and design tools for tracking materials, reducing waste, and predicting how a process will work with secondary feedstocks or reused materials;
- Rapid gathering, identification, and sorting of end-of-life and waste materials;
- Separating mixed materials;
- Removal of trace contaminants; and
- Robust and cost-effective reprocessing and disposal methods.
More information is available through the funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Concept papers are due by July 28, 2016, at 5:00 pm (ET) and full applications are due by September 28, 2016, at 5:00 pm (ET).