The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 10, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register its final rule establishing exemptions for a tolerance limit to use tall oil fatty acids (TOFA) as an inert ingredient “[‌i]n pesticide formulations applied to growing crops and raw agricultural commodities after harvest; in pesticides applied in/on animals, and in antimicrobial formulations for food contact surfaces.”  Pursuant to Section 408(c)(2)(A)(i) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), EPA has the authority to establish exemptions from the requirement of a tolerance only when it can be demonstrated clearly that the risks from aggregate exposure to the pesticide residue, including all anticipated dietary exposures and all other exposures, particularly to infants and children, for which there is reliable information, will pose no appreciable risks to human health.  In analyzing the risk, EPA considers both the toxicity of the inert ingredient and the reasonably foreseeable circumstances for exposure to the substance.  Following its evaluation and consideration of the validity, completeness, and reliability of available toxicity data, EPA determined that sufficient data were available to conclude that TOFA do not have a toxic mechanism and will not pose a risk to the U.S. population. 
 
EPA established the final rulemaking following a petition by Spring Trading Company on behalf of Ingevity Corporation requesting that 40 C.F.R. Sections 180.910, 180.930, and 180.940(a) be amended to establish the exemptions.  The regulation is effective immediately and eliminates the need to establish maximum permissible levels for residues of TOFA that are consistent with the conditions of these exemptions.  Objections and requests for hearings regarding the regulation are due by December 11, 2017.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 12, 2017, Edeniq, Inc., a leading cellulosic and biorefining technology company, announced that Flint Hills Resources, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), received approval from EPA for cellulosic ethanol production at its Iowa Falls ethanol plant.  The 100 million gallons per year plant will use Edeniq’s Pathway technology to produce the cellulosic ethanol and will be eligible to qualify its cellulosic gallons for generating D3 Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN).  Iowa Falls is the second Flint Hills Resources plant, and the fifth overall, to receive approval for cellulosic ethanol production using Edeniq’s technology.  Edeniq announced in December 2016 that EPA approved Flint Hills Resources’ registration of its Shell Rock ethanol plant for cellulosic ethanol production.  According to Edeniq, its Pathway technology “remains the lowest-cost solution for producing and measuring cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber utilizing existing fermenters at existing corn ethanol plants, and has already proven cellulosic ethanol yields of up to 2.5% or higher, as a percentage of its customers’ total volume output.”  Additionally, the technology allows for increases in corn oil production and greater overall ethanol yields.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 9, 2017, American Process Inc. and Byogy Renewables, Inc. announced the launch of Phase 1 of its “Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts with AVAP (ABBA)” project following the completion of negotiations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  American Process received $3.7 million in funding for ABBA from DOE under the “Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower” program.  The ABBA project aims to co-produce full replacement renewable jet fuel, gasoline, diesel and Bioplus® nanocellulose from woody biomass to demonstrate that co-production of high volume commodity fuels and low volume, high value co-products enables profitable biorefineries at commercial scale.  Phase 1 of ABBA involves defining engineering, permitting, and financing activities. Following successful completion of Phase 1, ABBA is eligible for a Phase 2 award of up to $45 million from DOE for construction and operation of the project. Production will take place in an integrated biorefineray at AVAPCO, an American Process biomass research, development and demonstration facility.  The patented technologies and intellectual property provided by AVAPCO, Byogy, and Petron will allow for the conversion of wood to cellulose and cellulosic sugars, which are then converted to cellulosic biojet and nanocellulose.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Researchers at DOE’s Ames Laboratory are experimenting with chemical reactions that will provide an economical method of deconstructing lignin into stable, readily useful components.  Lignin is the second largest renewable carbon source on the planet, making it of interest to researchers focused on developing biofuels and bioproducts.  Currently, lignin is processed via pyrolysis or the use of an acid and high heat.  Both processes are inefficient and require high energy consumption.  Igor Slowing, an expert in heterogeneous catalysis, and his team are focused on developing a method of processing lignin at low temperature and pressure.  To achieve this goal, the team combined the decomposition and stabilization process into a single step using mild conditions and a multi-functional catalyst, specifically phosphate-modified ceria.  According to Slowing, the two processes appear to work synergistically at a lower temperature.  Following the promising results, the team aims to achieve lignin deconstruction using hydrogen from a renewable source.


 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On October 15, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill (S.B.) 258, the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017, which would require manufacturers of cleaning products to disclose certain chemical ingredients on the product label and on the manufacturer’s website.  The final version of S.B. 258 was passed by the California Senate on September 13, 2017, by a vote of 27 to 13.  The California Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 55 to 15, with nine votes not recorded, on September 12, 2017.  The online disclosure requirements would apply to a designated product sold in California on or after January 1, 2020, and the product label disclosure requirements would apply to a designated product sold in California on or after January 1, 2021.  The bill was co-sponsored by several non-governmental organizations as well as a few manufacturers of cleaning products including Honest Company, Seventh Generation, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, RB - Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, Eco Lab WD-40, fragrance maker Givaudan, and the Consumer Specialty Products Association.  More information on S.B. 258 is available in our memorandum “California Bill Would Require Disclosure of Cleaning Product Ingredients.” 

The State of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Division of Materials Management will soon release formally a similar initiative, the Household Cleaning Product Information Disclosure Program.  This program will require manufacturers of domestic and commercial cleaning products distributed, sold, or offered for sale in New York State to furnish information regarding such products in a certification form prescribed by the Commissioner, and is expected to require disclosure of many more chemicals than S.B. 258.  The period for comments on the draft certification form and guidance document related to the program ended on July 14, 2017.

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) will soon be releasing a detailed memorandum on both developments to be available on our regulatory developments webpage


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded six grants totaling nearly $21.1 million to support the development of new jet fuel, biobased products, and biomaterials from renewable sources.  The funding is provided through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts (SBEBP) Challenge Area.  Grant recipients include:

  • University of Arizona, which received $7,026,000 for the cultivation of two desert-dwelling feedstocks, specifically guayule and guar, that can provide biomass year round for biofuel production;
  • University of Florida, which received $7,026,000 for the development of a resilient Brassica carinata-based biofuel and bioproduct supply chain in the Southeast;
  • University of Missouri, Rolla, which received $32,000 to help develop a viable market for guayule resin through laboratory and field research, and expand the research and educational capacity of the asphalt laboratory at the Missouri University of Science and Technology;
  • North Carolina State University, which received $2,750,000 to prepare a diverse group of college students and high school teachers with the knowledge and interdisciplinary tools necessary to advance the future of America's bioenergy, bioproducts, and the bioeconomy;
  • The Ohio State University, which received $2,750,000 to create a national network of universities, industry, and government agencies that derive sufficient benefits to be sustainable long-term; and
  • Oklahoma State University, which received $1,500,000 to educate the next generation of engineers and scientists in renewable resource utilization.

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

USDA awarded Spero Energy Inc. a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $100,000 to conduct research and development to increase the availability and competitiveness of biobased products within the agricultural market.  Spero Energy is an Indiana-based company focused on the development of cost competitive processes for the conversion of biomass to renewable chemicals and fuels.  The SBIR grant aims to support the development of a series of patent-pending biobased and biodegradable chelates.  Chelates bind and deliver micronutrients to a variety of crops, which has been shown to increase crop production and yields.  The funding will be used to finalize the chelate formulation, scale up the reactions, and further prepare for commercialization.  Spero Energy, which began as a Purdue University startup, developed its technology in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 12, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced two public meetings regarding its Agricultural Biotechnology Education and Outreach Initiative.  The meetings will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, on November 7, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EST) and in San Francisco, California, on November 14, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (PST).  FDA states the purpose of the public meetings is “to provide the public with an opportunity to share information, experiences, and suggestions to help inform the development of this education and outreach initiative.”  This initiative, which Congress appropriated $3 million to fund, calls upon FDA to work with USDA to provide education and outreach to the public on agricultural biotechnology and food and animal feed ingredients derived from biotechnology.  More information on the initiative and information on how to register for the meetings is available on FDA’s website.  Comments on questions listed in the Federal Register notice, scheduled to be published tomorrow, are also being requested and can be filed in Docket FDA-2017-N-5991 on www.regulations.gov.  Comments are due by November 17, 2017.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

A collaboration between researchers at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Washington State University (WSU) has led to the development of a method for converting hydrothermal liquefaction wastewater into a usable and valuable commodity.  The method utilizes the byproduct wastewater stream from the continuous thermo-chemical process that PNNL researchers developed to produce biocrude from algae.  The wastewater contains a variety of different chemicals in small concentrations, such as carbon and nutrients from the algae, and accounts for approximately 90 percent of the output.  Researchers at WSU Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory have developed a method to process the wastewater using anaerobic microbes.  The microbes break down the components of the wastewater to produce bionatural gas and a solid byproduct that can be recycled back into the hydrothermal liquefaction process or used as a fertilizer.  Following the success of the partnership, PNNL and WSU researchers are collaborating on the conversion of sewage sludge to biofuel, bionatural gas, and nutrients using a similar strategy.


 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) issued a $3,500,000 funding opportunity for projects that use animal waste to generate electricity while reducing the environmental impacts that animal wastes can have on Maryland’s natural resources.  The Animal Waste to Energy Grant Program (AWE Grant Program) will target on-farm or pilot scale projects with capacities of less than 2 MW and community or regional scale projects with capacities of greater than 2 MW.  To be eligible for the grant, projects must use animal waste, through any proven process, to generate electricity, reduce the volume of animal waste, and address the fate of the byproduct.  The AWE Grant Program is open to all businesses, government agencies, and non-profits in Maryland.  Applications are due by February 28, 2018.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 5, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced the publication of its business environment outlook titled “Taking Action on Climate Change.”  The report provides an overview of key changes taking place in the energy, transport, and chemicals markets and of select drivers of such change.  The report highlights the role biofuels can play in reducing emissions from the road, aviation, and marine transport sectors.  Demand for renewable diesel is expected to double in North America, the Nordic countries, and Europe by 2021.  Additionally, renewable aviation fuels provide an important solution for an industry committed to reducing its carbon dioxide emissions despite an increasing demand for aviation fuel.
 
The report also suggests that rapidly increasing resource consumption and waste generation are the driving force behind the move towards a circular economy.  Neste expects the bioplastics market to grow by more than 40 percent by 2021, with 80 percent of the growth coming from durable biobased plastics.  To help decouple plastics from the consumption of fossil-based feedstocks, Neste is developing new business operations from bioplastics using its renewable products as the raw materials. 
 
By 2020, Neste aims to have renewable jet fuel, renewable chemicals, and biobased plastics account for 20 percent of its renewable business sales volume.


 

 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

On September 28, 2017, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing titled “Rural Development and Energy Programs: Perspectives for the 2018 Farm Bill” to gather stakeholder input regarding the programs under the Farm Bill that are working or need improvement.  In his opening statement, Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) stated that it is critical for the next Farm Bill to support renewable energy and biobased product manufacturers, as well as rural businesses, cooperatives, health clinics, schools, and other essential service providers. 
 
During the hearing, two panels presented testimony related to the Farm Bill.  The first panel consisted of the Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development; the Acting Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service; the Acting Administrator for the Rural Housing Service; and the Acting Administrator for the Rural Business Cooperative Service, and discussed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s vision for fostering growth and economic prosperity throughout rural America and provided an update on program functions within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.  The second panel consisted of private sector stakeholders, including Dr. Brent Shanks, the Director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Engineering Research Center of Biorenewable Chemicals.  During his testimony, Shanks suggested improvements to Title IX of the 2018 Farm Bill aimed at decoupling the risks between technology, market, and infrastructure inherent in completely new biorefineries. 
 
More information on the testimony provided during the hearing is available on the Committee’s website.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Last week, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Notice of Data Availability (NODA) regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume requirements (see EPA Issues NODA Regarding RFS Program).  On September 27, 2017, Ernst sent a letter to President Trump expressing concern over the proposed reduction in the volume requirements for 2018 and 2019.  In the letter, Ernst highlights the importance of renewable fuel with regard to jobs in rural America, and energy security for the U.S. Additionally, the letter states that “[w]hile the [NODA] technically ‘provides the public notice and an opportunity to comment,’ in reality it serves to make the case for substantially lowering the volumes for U.S. produced biodiesel, just as domestic producers are making investments to bring unused capacity back online.” 
 
In a September 26, 2017, statement, Grassley described the proposed reduction in renewable fuel volumes as a “bait-and-switch from the EPA’s prior proposal and from assurances from the President himself and Cabinet secretaries in [Grassley’s] office prior to confirmation for their strong support of renewable fuels.”  According to Grassley, reducing the volume requirements would undermine domestic renewable fuel production, which contradicts the goal of America first, employing U.S. workers, and improving the U.S. economy and meeting the country’s fuel needs.
 
Additionally, industry representatives have raised concerns over Trump’s nomination of William Wehrum to be the EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR).  In a statement regarding the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the nomination of Wehrum, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor highlighted the essential role the Assistant Administrator plays in managing EPA’s fuel policies and the need for assurance that EPA remains in sync with Trump and his commitment to renewable fuels.  Skor urged the Senate to ensure that Wehrum would carry out the duties of the position in a manner that expands on the progress made since the RFS was passed. 

Tags: Iowa, RFS, Response

 
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