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 Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 8, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that $12 million will be available in funds for new projects to support research and development (R&D) and education and workforce development to increase plastics recovery, recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing. Designed for U.S. manufacturers, 12 to 18 exploratory and full R&D projects and four to eight education and workforce development projects will be funded by DOE’s Reducing Embodied Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Manufacturing Institute. REMADE was founded in 2017 in partnership with DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Advanced Manufacturing Office. The REMADE Manufacturing Institute aims to enable early-stage applied R&D of technologies that could dramatically reduce embodied energy and carbon dioxide emissions resulting from industrial-scale materials production and processing. This particular opportunity will focus on projects that align with REMADE’s research focus areas:

  • Development of novel manufacturing and recycling technologies to increase secondary feedstock use by 20 percent without loss of properties or performance;
     
  • Design of alternatives to increase recovery, recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing of products at the end of their life cycles;
     
  • Development of technologies to separate and recover specific polymers and metal in e-waste materials;
     
  • Technological advancements to remove pigments from polymers; and
     
  • Provision of cutting-edge training in recycling for the American workforce and in support of the development of a new REMADE professional certificate program.
     

REMADE is currently accepting letters of intent, which are due today. Full proposals are due on December 18, 2019. Further submission information is available on REMADE’s website.

Tags: DOE, Plastics

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 12, 2019, DOE published a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for topics for its Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I Release 2 funding. Participating in this FOA are the following DOE program offices:

  • Office of Cyber Security, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER);
     
  • Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (NNSA);
     
  • Office of Electricity (OE);
     
  • EERE;
     
  • Office of Environmental Management (EM);
     
  • Office of Fossil Energy (FE);
     
  • Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES);
     
  • Office of High Energy Physics (HEP); and
     
  • Office of Nuclear Energy (NE).
     

Interested applicants may register for one or more of DOE’s FY 2020 Phase I Release 2 SBIR/STTR Topics webinars. Presented by DOE Topic Managers, a series of three 90-minute webinars will be available:

For those unable to participate in the live webinars, they will be recorded and made available online.

In addition to the aforementioned webinars, a fourth one will be held to discuss the FOA and application process. This webinar will be held on December 19, 2019.

Tags: DOE, Funding, SBIR

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, at 3:00 p.m. (EST), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a webinar on the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program.  Participants learned about applying for the 2020 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards.  The webinar presentation covered award eligibility, the application process, and evaluation criteria.  There were also questions from the webinar participants.

As reported in Bergeson & Campbell’s (B&C®) September 20, 2019, blog item, EPA is now accepting nominations for the 2020 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards for companies or institutions that have developed a new process or product that helps protect public health and the environment. EPA defines green chemistry as the design of chemical products and processes that reduce both the generation and use of chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and people’s health. Nominations for innovative technologies featuring the design of greener chemicals and products, greener chemical syntheses and reactions, or greener chemical processes are due to EPA by December 31, 2019. EPA anticipates giving awards to outstanding green chemistry technologies in five categories in June 2020.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

EPA announced on November 13, 2019, that it published “new, easily-searchable” web pages displaying information on:

EPA notes that it is required to publish information pertaining to new chemical submissions under TSCA Section 5. EPA states that historically, these data have been, and will continue to be, made available monthly in the Federal Register via www.regulations.gov. According to EPA, the new web pages “are a much easier way for the public to access information about new chemical submissions.” The web pages provide information, such as the date the notice was received by EPA, the case number, and the chemical substance identity (to the extent that such information is not subject to a confidential business information (CBI) claim. EPA states that it will update the web pages monthly.

Tags: PMN, SNUN, MCAN, NOC

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 13, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. (EST), the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing on “Strengthening Transparency or Silencing Science? The Future of Science in EPA Rulemaking.” The Committee will hear from the following witnesses:

Panel 1

  • Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD); EPA Science Advisor.
     

Panel 2

  • Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); Director of NIEHS, 2009-2019;
     
  • Dr. Mary B. Rice, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center;
     
  • Dr. David Allison, Dean, School of Public Health, Indiana University-Bloomington; Member, “Reproducibility and Replicability in Science” Committee, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; and
     
  • Dr. Todd Sherer, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
     

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 30, 2019, EPA announced that in response to an April 2019 court decision on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Requirements Final Rule, EPA will publish a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking that includes two additional questions about “reverse engineering” that manufacturers and processors would be required to answer when making confidential business information (CBI) claims. According to EPA, these questions would help provide additional information on CBI claims for specific chemical identities and would ensure that chemical companies are fully supporting their CBI claims. EPA is also proposing a process for manufacturers and processors to use to amend and update certain previously submitted claims to include responses to these additional questions, as required to be addressed by federal circuit court decision. EPA notes that the supplemental notice is limited in scope and that “it impacts only the universe of CBI claims made for specific chemical identities for chemicals reported as ‘active’ in response to the Active-Inactive Rule.” Publication of the supplemental notice in the Federal Register will begin a 30-day comment period.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 4, 2019, 60 organizations unified in an effort to urge U.S. President Donald Trump to reconsider EPA’s proposed amendments to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. Signed by organizations such as the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, the letter to the President indicates flaws within the aforementioned proposal released on October 15, 2019. Arguing that the proposed amendments would not accurately account for small refiner exemptions (SRE), the letter authors state that “[t]he flawed proposal swaps out a critical component of the SRE remedy sought by farmers and the biofuels industry,” failing to achieve its mission to incentivize farm economies. Given the proposal to recover gallons of biofuel exemptions based on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) recommendations, the proposed amendment would lead to a “bureaucratically uncertain path that recovers only one fraction of those gallons lost to SREs and could result in RFS backsliding in 2020.” Therefore, the letter concludes by urging President Trump to consider SRE accountability based on a rolling average of the actual volumes exempted by EPA during the three compliance years. Similar concerns and requests have been expressed by many industry stakeholders via docket comments as well as during last week’s public hearing held by EPA. The comment period ends on November 29, 2019, and doubts continue as industry expects EPA’s final rulemaking.

Tags: RFS, BIO, BRAG

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced open meetings of the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Technical Advisory Committee. The first meeting is scheduled for November 19, 2019, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST), and the second meeting will take place on November 20, 2019, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (EST) in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the committee is to advise the Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture with respect to the Biomass Initiative. The committee also evaluates and makes recommendations in writing to the Biomass R&D Board. The meetings will address the advice and guidance the committee will promote for R&D leading to the production of biobased fuels and biobased products. The meetings’ tentative agenda includes updates on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biomass R&D activities, presentations from government and industry that provide insights on the intersection of forest health and bioenergy growth, and updates on DOE Biomass R&D activities. Written and oral statements will be accepted. The meeting summary will be available for public review here.

Tags: DOE, EERE, Biomass

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

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Donald LaVoy and DOE Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes announced on October 24, 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two departments to promote rural energy and the development of technologies to support and advance rural and agricultural communities and domestic manufacturing. Required under Section 6501 of the 2018 Farm Bill, the MOU is meant to improve collaboration and coordination between DOE and USDA. A number of areas are covered by the MOU, including:

  • Streamlining, leveraging, and optimizing program resources;
     
  • Strengthening energy-related infrastructure;
     
  • Facilitating energy-related investments in rural communities;
     
  • Ensuring affordable and reliable power;
     
  • Offering technical assistance to rural communities;
     
  • Encouraging innovation; and
     
  • Helping rural businesses export energy products and manufactured goods around the globe.
     
Tags: USDA, DOE

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

On October 28, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register a supplemental proposal on adjustments to the percentage standards for 2020 that result from the amended definitions of two terms used to calculate the percentage standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Signed and pre-published on October 15, 2019, by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the notice of the proposed rule is no surprise. The proposed supplemental proposal, if approved, will establish the cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes for 2020 and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2021. Although the rule does not change the volumes for 2020 and 2021 proposed in July 2019, it proposes and seeks comment on adjustments to the way that annual renewable fuel percentages are calculated. Annual renewable fuel percentage standards are used to calculate the number of gallons each obligated party is required to blend into their fuel or to obtain otherwise renewable identification numbers (RIN) to demonstrate compliance. Specifically, EPA is seeking comment on projecting the volume of gasoline and diesel that will be exempt in 2020 due to small refinery exemptions based on a three-year average of the relief recommended by DOE, including where DOE had recommended partial exemptions. EPA intends to grant partial exemptions in appropriate circumstances when adjudicating 2020 exemption petitions. EPA proposes to use this value to adjust the way it calculates renewable fuel percentages.

Comments must be received on or prior to November 29, 2019.

On October 30, 2019, EPA held a public hearing on the proposed rule in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where affected stakeholders had a chance to provide testimony. One of the testimonies given was from Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Geoff Cooper. Cooper told EPA that “this proposal fails to reflect the letter and spirit of the president’s commitment to restore integrity to the RFS, fails to assure that the statutorily-required 15-billion-gallon level for conventional biofuels will be met, and fails to restore stability in the marketplace by definitively ending the practice of allowing small refinery exemptions from eroding RFS biofuel demand.” Outlining the weaknesses of EPA’s proposal, Cooper highlighted that not only has EPA seldom followed DOE’s recommendations in deciding small refinery exemption (SRE) petitions, but also that it will not succeed. According to Cooper, because EPA bases averages of what DOE recommends and not of the waivers actually granted, and the former is significantly less than the latter, the proposed rule is not promising. Cooper’s full written testimony can be accessed here.

Tags: RFS, Industry

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 25, 2019, Iowa State University’s (ISU) Vice President for Research, Dan Kirkpatrick, announced that Sundeep Vani, Ph.D., has joined the team as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Biobased Products, a newly created role. Announced in an ISU press release, Dr. Vani’s role will be to serve as a conduit between research and industry. Dr. Vani will work closely with the Biobased Product platform leader, Brent Shanks, his team, and the Iowa Innovation Corporation (IIC) CEO. Identifying promising emerging technologies and facilitating their development into market scale will also be at the top of Dr. Vani’s list of priorities. Dr. Vani stated that he is “excited to join Iowa State in this mission to grow Iowa’s economy through the state’s overall Biosciences initiative.” His addition to the team is partially attributed to Iowa’s legislature in July 2019 granting the university $825,000 in fiscal year 2020.


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

On October 23, 2019, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) announced a partnership with innovation platform Plug and Play to develop an accelerator program focused on the plastics value chain to identify start-ups with innovative ideas addressing plastic waste. Named the End Plastic Waste Innovation Platform (EPWIP), this initiative will focus on solutions to lower the impact of plastic waste in the environment. Focus areas include but are not limited to collecting, managing, and sorting plastic waste; recycling and processing technologies; and creating value from post-recycled plastics. Two programs will be run throughout the calendar year in Silicon Valley, Paris, and Singapore. Plug and Play will source specific start-ups working on solutions in selected focus areas. Running for 12 weeks, the programs will accept ten start-ups each, under which Plug and Play will invest in 20 selected start-ups per year. Engaging start-ups to AEPW members throughout the entire plastics value chain on infrastructure, education and engagement, innovation, and cleanup efforts, the programs will serve as a bridge between start-ups and access to new markets through AEPW members. Applications are now open for the first program, which will run from February through May 2020.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 17, 2019, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology unanimously approved the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act (H.R. 2051), a companion bill to legislation introduced in the Senate by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the House bill on April 3, 2019. It is co-sponsored by Representative John Moolenaar (R-MI). The bill is intended to improve coordination of federal activities, including research and development of more sustainable chemicals, processes, and systems, by establishing a coordinating entity under the National Science and Technology Council within the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The legislation would allow the agencies involved in this entity to work, in consultation with qualified stakeholders, to assess the state of sustainable chemistry in the United States and encourage the validation of tools for assessment of sustainable chemistry processes or products. The agencies would include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and other related federal agencies, as appropriate. The bill also supports improved education and training in sustainable chemistry.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 22, 2019, Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Chair, and Paul Tonko (D-NY), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee (ECCS), announced that a legislative hearing will be held on October 29, 2019, at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) on Capitol Hill. Titled “Protecting the RFS: The Trump Administration’s Abuse of Secret Waivers,” the hearing will focus on the EPA’s mismanagement of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program under the Trump Administration. The Subcommittee has not yet released the witness list for the legislative hearing; it has, however, stated that the purpose of the meeting is to examine H.R. 3006, the RFS Integrity Act of 2019, introduced by Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN). Further information for the hearing, including the Committee Memorandum, legislation, witness list, testimony, and a live webcast will be posted online as soon as it becomes available.

Tags: RFS

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

On October 16, 2019, the University of Surrey, United Kingdom, announced that its researchers have partnered with colleagues from France, Germany, and Spain to start working on a new technique to tackle plastic waste. According to the university’s article, this novel technique may revolutionize the recycling industry. The plan is to create engineered microbial communities that will digest two types of plastic polymers -- polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyurethane (PU) -- and transform them into molecules that can be used to develop a more environmentally friendly material called Bio-PU. This more environmentally friendly material is often used as a construction and insulation material.

According to the University of Surrey, current physical or chemical methods to degrade PET and PU are inefficient. Impurities in PET polymers and high energy costs associated with the high temperatures required to break down the material make its degradation very difficult. Similarly, degradation of PU is limited due to the difficulty in breaking down urethane bonds in the material. Given these challenges, University of Surrey Senior Lecturer in synthetic biology Dr. Jose Jimenez highlights that “[m]oving away from the reliance on single use plastics is a positive step; however, the problem of how we deal with current plastic waste still needs to be addressed.” Hence, the project will investigate the ability of microorganisms to digest plastic waste and turn it into a more environmentally friendly material that can be recycled.


 
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