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.

On November 16, 2016, the White House filed the Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change under the Paris climate deal. The strategy highlights the role that U.S. government-funded research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) had on the technological advances of the last century, and the potential to increase the pace and reduce the costs of decarbonization using the full power of U.S. RD&D efforts focused on clean energy technologies.
 
The strategy states that potentially high impact technologies in early stages of development or commercial deployment, such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), advanced nuclear, and second generation biofuels, can benefit from support programs that drive cost reductions through learning and economies-of-scale. The strategy also states that the cost of decarbonization can likely be lowered by public and private RD&D that covers a wide range of technologies as it is unclear how the technologies will progress over time. 

Regarding biofuels, the strategy identified opportunities for RD&D investments to:


 
Reduce biofuel production costs;
 

 
Improve production efficiency;
 

 
Develop “drop-in” fuels that require no changes to existing fuel infrastructure;
 


 
Co-optimize engines with low-carbon fuel to maximize performance and greenhouse gas reductions; and
 
Ensure biomass production and use methods are carbon beneficial.

 

On November 22, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register of an opportunity to comment on petitions requesting EPA initiate a rulemaking process to reconsider its regulations that impose the obligation for compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) annual standards on gasoline and diesel fuel refiners and importers, as well as on EPA’s proposed denial of the petitions. As the notice states, EPA is looking for petitioners to demonstrate the change in the point of obligation would improve the effectiveness of the RFS program, thus warranting the substantial disruption and increased complexity it would bring to the program. According to EPA, the petitioners have not demonstrated that the change would result in increased use of renewable fuels. EPA is seeking comments on the submitted petitions and its proposed denial of the requests to initiate rulemaking. EPA requests that comments address the likelihood of a change in the point of obligation resulting in a significant increase in production, distribution, and use of renewable fuels. Comments are due January 23, 2017.


 

On November 23, 2016, EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, signed the final rule on the RFS volume standards for 2017 and biobased diesel standards for 2018. This final rule will increase the renewable fuel volume requirements as reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) post “EPA Releases Proposed Renewable Fuel Volume Requirements.”  The proposed volume requirements are:  


 
Cellulosic biofuel, from 230 million gallons in 2016 to 311 million gallons in 2017;  
 

 
Advanced biofuel, from 3.61 billion gallons in 2016 to 4.28 billion gallons in 2017;
 

 
Renewable fuel, from 18.11 billion gallons in 2016 to 19.28 billion gallons in 2017; and
 
Biomass-based diesel, from 2 billion gallons in 2017 to 2.1 billion gallons in 2018.
 
These volumes change the percentage standards to 0.173 percent for cellulosic biofuel, 2.38 percent for advanced biofuel, 10.70 percent for renewable fuel, and 1.67 percent for biomass-based diesel.  The final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register during December 2016.

 

During the Safer Choice Partner and Stakeholder Summit on November 15- 16, 2016, EPA announced that new product categories were under consideration for the Safer Choice chemical program, including arts and crafts, home improvements, food grade and marine lubricants, and paints and coatings. EPA invited suggestions from participants regarding additional product categories to consider; Summit participants were supportive of an increase to the number of chemicals, products, and product categories in the program.  A stakeholder noted that many paint manufacturers already sell paints with low volatile organic chemical (VOC) emissions but the Safer Choice label could help retailers recognize the safer chemistries.
 
Other Summit participants urged chemical manufacturers to create new molecules that adhere to the Safer Choice Standard to replace chemicals in their current products, specifically preservatives. More information on the discussion regarding product category additions can be found in the Bloomberg BNA Daily Environmental Report (subscription required).


 

On November 14, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its partners celebrated the successful journey of the first commercial flight powered in part by a new renewable fuel made from wood waste. The demonstration flight, operated by Alaska Airlines, was made possible due to a five-year $39.6 million research project to develop a viable renewable fuel source from cellulose-rich wood harvest leftovers funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and led by Washington State University and the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). The renewable fuel was created using cellulose derived from leftover branches and limbs from wood harvesting from sustainably managed private forests in Washington, Oregon, and Montana. In total, 1,080 gallons of the 20 percent blend of jet fuel was produced. Alaska Airlines estimated that replacing 20 percent of the fuel supply at the Sea-Tac Airport with the renewable fuel would result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 142,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.


 

 

As previously reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) Biobased and Renewable Products Update of November 11, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a notice in the Federal Register of a public hearing for the proposed “Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule.”  The proposed rule updates the regulatory structure to allow biofuel producers to process and convert biomass at different facilities, update fuel regulations to allow for more high-ethanol fuel blends in flex fuel vehicles (FFV), and permit cellulosic biofuels to be produced from new feedstock sources.  EPA is seeking comment on the programs covered in the proposal, as well as renewable identification number (RIN) generation for renewable transport fuels and regulatory requirements for facilities that could use carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the future production of renewable fuels.  More information about the proposed rule is available in the BRAG blog post “ EPA Announces Public Hearing For Proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule. ”   The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on November 16, 2016.  Comments are due by January 17, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. (EST).


 

On October 27, 2016, EPA approved an Efficient Producer petition submitted by Redfield Energy, LLC (Redfield Energy) granting “a pathway for the generation of renewable fuel (D-code 6) Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for the production of non-grandfathered ethanol” produced by dry milling.  The Efficient Producer petition process is designed to accelerate the registration process for starch and grain sorghum ethanol producers that exhibit superior process efficiency.  Redfield Energy claimed the process achieved a 23.9 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, which surpassed the 20 percent reduction threshold.  The South Dakota plant will be the 63rd to gain approval since EPA introduced the Efficient Producer pathway petition process in 2014.


 

On November 3, 2016, the European Commission announced that 144 new green and low-carbon projects from 23 Member States will be funded by a €222.7 million investment from the European Union (EU) budget, which will be combined with €175.9 from additional investments.  The funding comes from the LIFE programme, the EU’s funding body for the environment and climate action, with the goal of progressing Europe towards a more sustainable future.
 
The selected projects align with the EU’s objective to reduce GHG emissions and transition to a more circular economy.  Examples of 2015 projects include:  

 

Implementation of Biodolomer®, a fossil-free biomaterial, in place of plastic packaging for four commercial reference products;

 

Production of biopolymers for the tanning industry using recycled biomass from the tanning process; and

 

Incorporation of cultivated banana organic waste fibers as an additive to create bioplastic covers to protect banana treats from UV radiation.

 

On November 8, 2016, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) announced its members voted unanimously to publish revised Principles & Criteria that streamline the requirements and make them more user-friendly. The decision was announced at the Annual Assembly of Delegates meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam.
 
RSB stated the amendments will offer:
 


 
A new user-friendly format, enabling easy understanding of how to apply the standard; 
 

 
Streamlined and clear impact assessment requirements;
 

 
Integration of the GHG calculation requirement with other available measurement tools;
 

 
A new approach to measure GHG emissions from forestry operations;
 

 
A new requirement that provides a grievance mechanism for workers and local communities; and
 
The addition of an integrated pest management requirement.
 
The RSB Standard is considered a trusted certification by many U.S. and European regulatory agencies, as it verifies that biomaterials are ethical, sustainable, and credibly-sourced.  As a result, the independent multi-stakeholder collective claims, RSC-certified products receive swift product approval and market access.

 

ASTM Committee D20 on Plastics and CEN TC411 issued a call for presentation abstracts for the Workshop on Degradable, Biodegradable, and Biobased Products Standards.  The 2017 workshop is designed to facilitate a discussion on standards development and implementation regarding testing and specification of biobased, degradable, and biodegradable materials.
 
Topics for presentation and panel discussions include:  


 
Biobased/renewable resource content testing, specification, and certification;
 

 
Aerobic degradability/biodegradability testing, specification, and certification; 
 

 
Anaerobic degradability/biodegradability testing, specification, and certification; and
 
Environmental degradability/biodegradability testing, specification, and certification.


The workshop will be held April 5, 2017, in Toronto, Canada.  The date for abstract submittal is December 9, 2016.


 

 
BP, “BP Announces Investment of $30 Million in Biojet Producer, Fulcrum” 
 

 
European Coatings, “Sustainable Coatings from Bio-based Polyesters with Enhanced Functionalities” 
 

 
PR Underground, “Advanced Biofuel Center Reports Moringa Biodiesel Breakthrough"  
 

 
Biofuels International, “Hungarian Company to Build Biogas and Ethanol Plant in Nigeria
 

 
Washington University in St. Louis, “Changing Cell Behavior Could Boost Biofuels, Medicine” 
 

 
Korea Bizwire, Student Succeeds in Bioethanol Production Using Dead Seaweed” 
 
Ethanol Producer Magazine, “2016:  Looking Back on a Busy Year

 

On November 10, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register for a public hearing for the proposed “Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule.”  The proposed rule, available on EPA’s website, was signed by EPA’s Administrator on October 3, 2016, but has not yet been published in the Federal Register.  This proposed rule will enhance the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program as well as other fuel regulations to support the growth of renewable fuels, including ethanol.  The proposed rule would update the regulatory structure to allow biofuel producers to process and convert biomass at different facilities, update fuel regulations to allow for more high-ethanol fuel blends in flex fuel vehicles (FFV), and permit cellulosic biofuels to be produced from new feedstock sources.  EPA is seeking comment on the programs covered in the proposal, as well as renewable identification number (RIN) generation for renewable transport fuels and regulatory requirements for facilities that could use carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the future production of renewable fuels.  To testify at the hearing, the notice states to contact Julia MacAllister at the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, Assessment and Standards Division at (734) 214–4131 or via e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by November 22, 2016.  The hearing will be held in Chicago, Illinois on December 6, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. (CST).

Tags: EPA, RFS, Hearing

 

On November 9, 2016, Inside EPA published “ New TSCA Requirements Raise Challenges To EPA Biotech Review Staff” (subscription required), outlining what EPA has done to adapt to revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requirements for engineered microorganisms.   Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist with Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), was quoted in the article discussing what to expect from approaching biotechnology regulations:  

Richard Engler, a former EPA toxics official now a senior chemist with environmental law firm Bergeson & Campbell, attended the [Second Public Meeting and Opportunity for Public Comment on EPA's Draft Algae Guidance for the Preparation of TSCA Biotech Submissions] and said in a Nov. 3 interview with Risk Policy Report, "I think EPA's still figuring out what 'reasonably foreseeable' means.  It's a challenge for chemicals as well as microorganisms.
 
Noting that the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, which reformed TSCA, "is silent on microorganisms," Engler adds that the "effect of Lautenberg is parallel for chemicals and microorganisms."  A key change in the updated law, Engler says, is the new requirement that EPA make an affirmative decision on whether new chemicals or microorganisms meet TSCA's risk standard of "will not present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment," which is "true for chemicals and microorganisms."
 
One difference that Engler notes is that if a newly submitted chemical "is a new microbe, it increases the data need for EPA to show not likely to present" unreasonable risk.
 
[…]
 
Engler said that what Segal described is "what [significant new use rules (SNURs)] do.  They limit releases of substances or an organism so the commercial activity in the notice is permitted but if another company wanted to use [it] in a different manner a significant new use notice is required."
 
As an example, Engler said that "if a [microbial commercial activity notices (MCAN)] submitter had a contained use [of a microorganism] with complete destruction of the organism but if EPA was unsure . . . they might place a SNUR on the microorganism that the submitter or anyone else would have to abide by."
 
In this example, as in other cases, Engler said, EPA would treat a new organism and the decision on whether to place a SNUR on other uses of that microorganism as it would a new chemical.  "It's the same rules," he said.  "The hazards are different, there are other risks because they're living organisms.  There are concerns about gene transfer between the MCAN organism and whatever's in the wild.  But the criteria is the same and the regulatory tools they use to contain are the same."
 
One change that Engler noticed is that all SNURs will now be accompanied by a consent order.  "EPA said that their interpretation of Lautenberg is that if they make a 'may present' finding, they must also impose a Section 5(e) consent order.  In the past we could do a non 5(e) SNUR."
 
"Their new interpretation is they have to do a consent order" with a SNUR," Engler said.  "The effect depends on what the consent order says.  It may say, 'SNUR is in effect until the SNUR is published'" once the commercial activity commences.  "In the past, [5e orders] were typically used to impose testing" requirements.
 
Like other elements of changes to TSCA, Engler said that the consent order changes will apply equally to chemicals and microorganisms.  "With TSCA reform in place, I'm not sure what consent orders will look like," he said.  "But that will be the same for chemicals and microbes."

 

On November 3, 2016, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released the seventh UNEP Environment Emissions Gap Report, presenting a scientific assessment of global progress towards emissions reductions created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The report found that if all Paris Agreement pledges to reduce emissions global temperature are achieved, global temperatures will still rise to more than 2°C over preindustrial levels.  UNEP chief Erik Solheim stated that we need to move faster to mitigate our impact on climate change, with the report calling for strong clean energy and emissions reducing policies before the 2020 tipping point when the warming trajectory will become more difficult to reverse.  The report identifies carbon capture and storage coupled with the use of bio-energy as a key factor to limit warming, but mentions the need to produce sufficient quantities of biomass without harming biodiversity.


 
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