On June 27, 2014, Valent BioSciences (Valent) Corporation announced that it held a ceremony to mark the opening of its new $146 million biobased manufacturing facility in Osage, Iowa. A copy of Valent's press release is available online.
Learn How to Pre-Screen New Chemicals Using EPA's Models and Methods at Sustainable Futures Training Workshop
Co-hosted by the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and George Washington University (GWU)
August 5-7, 2014, at the GWU Campus in Washington, D.C.
During this hands-on three-day workshop, you will learn about a variety of tools, methods, and models that can be used to assess the hazard and potential exposure of chemicals. Methods addressed will include hazard and risk screening for human health, ecotoxicity, and environmental fate.
The workshop includes in-depth presentations and hands-on sessions with EPA's computer-based models. Using these models, companies can identify potentially risky chemicals early in the development process and reduce risk by finding safer substitutes and/or processes before submitting them to EPA. They can also be used to help stakeholders identify potential chemicals of concern from existing chemical inventories or supply chains.
Invited presenters include EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) staff with experience in the EPA New Chemicals Program and Premanufacture Notification (PMN) review process.
Companies that complete the training can be eligible to receive reduced regulatory review time for dual PMN/Test Market Exemption Application (TMEA) submissions.
More information is available online.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on Monday, June 23, 2014, which upheld the authority of EPA to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act (CAA), but with limitations. The Court held that EPA may require permits and carbon control efforts for large stationary sources that emit large quantities of carbon dioxide. The emission of certain quantities of other regulated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions -- not carbon dioxide alone -- must trigger the requirements, however. The Court held that EPA went impermissibly beyond its authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the CAA when, under its "Tailoring Rule," the Agency raised the triggering thresholds for carbon dioxide regulation.
The biomass community has been weighing in on EPA efforts to determine how to account for bioenergy emissions under its Tailoring Rule. Despite this week's Supreme Court ruling, there are ongoing efforts to urge EPA to issue in final its biogenic carbon accounting framework for those bioenergy facilities that would trigger permitting and other carbon control requirements based on the levels of emission of regulated GHG emissions other than carbon dioxide. See related item below.
On June 19, 2014, over 90 scientists sent a letter to EPA urging the Agency to move forward under its Tailoring Rule by "1) moving beyond the flawed assumption that bioenergy is inherently carbon neutral; 2) rejecting the regional accounting method originally proposed in the draft Accounting Framework; and 3) ensuring a scientifically sound methodology for determining the carbon emissions impact to the atmosphere from burning long-recovery woody biomass feedstocks -- most notably, whole trees." A copy of the letter is available online. There were significant actions on this issue last year, with several groups urging EPA to find that bioenergy and other biogenic sources of GHG emissions are carbon neutral for purposes of new GHG permitting requirements under EPA's Tailoring Rule.
On July 12, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA. The court vacated EPA's rule (the Deferral Rule) exempting bioenergy and other biogenic sources of GHG emissions from new GHG permitting requirements under EPA's Tailoring Rule for a period of three years. This deferral was intended to allow EPA time to study and develop a proper method of accounting for GHG emissions from these sources. The court held that EPA did not meet the standards to justify its Deferral Rule under any of the four doctrines it had invoked.
In August 2013, several biomass groups sent a letter to then-newly sworn-in EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging EPA to find that bioenergy and other biogenic sources of GHG emissions are carbon neutral for purposes of new GHG permitting requirements under EPA's Tailoring Rule.
On August 28, 2013, the Solid Waste Association of North America and the National Solid Wastes Management Association sent a letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy urging EPA to issue quickly a final rule clarifying how biogenic carbon emissions will be treated under Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V permitting requirements, and to determine that biogenic carbon emissions from municipal solid waste should be categorically excluded from the new PSD and Title V GHG reporting requirements.
On June 20, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bill to fund the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), H.R. 4870, including language repealing Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Section 526). Section 526 prohibits federal agencies from procuring synfuel unless its lifecycle GHG emissions are less than those for conventional petroleum sources.
BRAG reported that last month the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 4435, including language exempting DOD from complying with Section 526. A copy of that BRAG report is available online.
Since Section 526 was passed in 2007, there has been an annual attempt to repeal or modify the language to reduce DOD's obligations pursuant to it. The biofuels industry generally has advocated against repealing this Section of the law.
On June 23, 2014, U.S. algae developer Cellana, Inc. announced that it has entered into a letter of intent with Galil Algae Cooperative Agriculture Society Limited of Israel for the production of high-value algae products for aquaculture applications. The primary objective of this effort is to identify, cultivate, develop, and scale-up algae strains with immediate commercial value, emphasizing the high-value components for existing aquaculture, mariculture, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and/or cosmetic applications. A copy of Cellana's press release is available online.
On June 18, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced its second round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) designed to promote scientific breakthroughs in energy. Under this round of funding, DOE is providing $100 million to support 32 EFRC projects throughout the country. According to DOE's press release on the announcement, the selected EFRCs "will help lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, electrical energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, materials and chemistry by design, biosciences, and extreme environments." A copy of the press release is available online. A full list of EFRC awardees, including brief project descriptions, is available online.
On June 20, 2014, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting that the court rehear whether Monroe Energy (Monroe), a refining subsidiary of Delta Airlines, had standing to challenge EPA's final rule setting the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). BRAG reported on the court's recent denial of Monroe's challenge to that final rule. A copy of that report is available online.
As BRAG reported, the court held that EPA properly utilized its authority under the federal RFS to set the 2013 RFS volume requirements. The court disagreed with Monroe that EPA did not sufficiently consider factors in setting the final 2013 RFS rule, including the means of compliance for obligated parties. NBB wants the court to find that Monroe did not have standing to bring the challenge to the 2013 final RFS rule because the Company failed to show that a change to the rule would have changed the way that third parties acted with respect to their Renewable Identification Numbers. Reportedly, NBB would like the court to narrow the scope of groups that may bring challenges to the annual RFS rules set by EPA as part of the trade association's efforts to protect the RFS law.
On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a pre-publication version of its proposed rule on "Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units." This precedent-setting proposal seeks to reduce carbon dioxide from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030.
According to the pre-publication version of the proposed rule, four public hearings will be convened in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Denver, and Washington, D.C. Comments will be due 120 days following the date the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. A copy of the pre-publication version of the 645-page proposed rule is available online. Fact sheets on the proposal are available online.
Lobbying efforts on the proposal have already begun in earnest. The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), for instance, issued a press release on June 2 calling on EPA to include Carbon Capture and Utilization strategies in its final rule to reduce carbon emissions. A copy of ABO's press release is available online.
On May 29, 2014, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report entitled "Ethanol's Broken Promise: Using Less Corn Ethanol Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions." A copy of the report is available online.
The report concludes that "[t]he Environmental Protection Agency's pending proposal to cut the amount of corn ethanol that must be blended into gasoline in 2014 by 1.39 billion gallons would lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 3 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2e) – as much as taking 580,000 cars off the road for a year." The report finds that the corn ethanol volume requirements in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) have led to increased greenhouse gas emissions as more uncultivated land is cleared to grow biofuels feedstocks.
Key biofuels trade groups have made public statements challenging the report's findings. For instance, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) issued a press release disputing the flawed EWG report. In the release, RFA President Bob Dinneen states that "[t]he Department of Energy's GREET model clearly shows that corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline, including hypothetical land use change emissions. Additionally, a Life Cycle Associates study found that corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 37-40 percent when compared to tight oil from fracking and tar sands." RFA's press release is available online.
The report comes at a time when EPA is expected to release its final 2014 RFS rule soon, perhaps in June. The biofuels industry generally has urged EPA to revisit the proposed reductions to the advanced and corn ethanol 2014 RFS volumes, while RFS opponents, including generally the oil and gas and livestock industries, have been supportive of EPA's proposed 2014 RFS reductions.
On May 28, 2014, policy researchers from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), the University of Virginia, and EMBO released a report on challenges faced by regulators with the increased use of more sophisticated synthetic biology technologies to engineer plants and microbes. According to the press release on the report, "[t]he authors conclude that while the United States governmental agencies tasked with oversight of products derived through synthetic biology have adequate legal jurisdiction to address most, but not all, environmental, health and safety concerns, several key issues could challenge these agencies including: the advent of newer plant engineering technologies that are outside the authority of some agencies, and increased use of more complex engineered microbes that could overwhelm regulators both from a science and safety review and increasing cost perspective." A copy of the press release on the report issued by JCVI is available online. A copy of the full report is available at online.
On May 29, 2014, the Woodrow Wilson Center's Synthetic Biology Project and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a report entitled "Creating a Research Agenda for the Ecological Implications of Synthetic Biology." The report suggests key research areas for government agencies, including species for comparative research; phenotypic characterization; fitness, genome stability and lateral gene transfer; control of organismal traits; monitoring and surveillance; modeling; and standardization of methods and data. A copy of the press release on the report is available online. A copy of the full report is available online.
Barnhardt Manufacturing Company has earned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Biobased Product Label for its High Q® Cotton. The USDA Certified Biobased Product Label verifies that the product's amount of renewable biobased ingredients meets or exceeds levels set by USDA.
Georgia Tech has announced that it is renaming its Institute of Paper Science and Technology the Renewable Bioproducts Institute (RBI). According to the announcement, the school has committed to doing the following to further the Institute:
* Recruit at least one new tenure track professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry with relevant bioproducts experience to join more than 40 Georgia Tech faculty now working with RBI.
* Recruit a new tenure track professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering to contribute to the educational and research mission of the RBI.
* Recruit a professor of the practice with relevant industrial experience to work at the academic and research interface between industry and the RBI.
* Invest significant capital funds to expand and repurpose core lab facilities in the existing IPST building to better align with the expanded research focus areas of biorefining, biopolymers, and new materials.
* Draw on the full range of Georgia Tech's many industrial and political relationships to help promote and capture the opportunities in the bioproducts area.
A copy of Georgia Tech's press release on the announcement is available online.
On June 3, 2014, Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG) announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, REG Synthetic Fuels, LLC, has closed its acquisition of substantially all of the assets of Syntroleum Corporation. The assets acquired from Syntroleum include a 50 percent ownership interest in Dynamic Fuels, LLC, which owns a 75 million gallon per year nameplate capacity renewable diesel biorefinery located in Geismar, Louisiana. REG has a separate pending agreement with Tyson Foods, Inc. to acquire the remaining interests in Dynamic Fuels. A copy of REG's announcement is available online.
On Friday, May 23, 2014, EPA published its semi-annul regulatory agenda (Agenda) indicating the Agency's upcoming priorities and timelines. A copy of the Agenda is available online. According to the Agenda, EPA plans to issue several actions that will impact the biofuels industry, including the following:
* 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): EPA anticipates issuing the final rule in June 2014. BRAG has issued a report on the 2014 RFS. A copy of that report is available online.
* 2015 RFS: EPA anticipates issuing the proposed rule in September 2014 and the final rule in March 2015. This timeline is ambitious since EPA has not yet released its final rule setting the 2014 RFS. While EPA has stated that it intends to issue the 2014 RFS final rule in June 2014, it has not yet submitted it to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for its required review. By law, EPA is required to issue the following year's RFS final rule by November 30 of the previous year, but the Agency has consistently missed that deadline.
* RFS Pathways II and Amendments to RFS2: EPA expects to issue this final rule in June 2014. The Agency has already submitted it to OMB for its review. As explained in the Agenda, in June 2013, EPA issued a proposal to amend the RFS2 regulations to facilitate the introduction of new renewable fuels and improve implementation of the program. The proposal included new renewable fuel pathways designed to facilitate the ability of the biofuels industry to supply RFS qualified advanced biofuels, including cellulosic biofuels, to the market. The proposed amendments would allow renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable electricity (used in electric vehicles) produced from landfill biogas to generate cellulosic or advanced biofuel renewable identification numbers (RIN). Renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced from landfill biogas are also proposed to generate cellulosic RINs, and EPA proposed to allow butanol to qualify as an advanced biofuel. The rulemaking also proposed a clarification regarding the definition of crop residue to include corn kernel fiber and proposed an approach for determining the volume of cellulosic RINs from various cellulosic feedstocks. The proposed rule includes minor amendments to the regulations for E15 misfueling mitigation regulations to improve implementation. Finally, EPA proposed to reduce the survey requirements associated with the ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) program in view of the high compliance rate that has been achieved.
* RFS RIN Quality Assurance Program: A final rule is expected to be issued in June 2014. As explained in the Agenda, since the final RFS2 regulations were issued in March 2010, in several recent instances, the production, transfer, and use of invalid RINs has resulted in violations for obligated parties that were not aware that the RINs were invalid. The rule will propose a voluntary mechanism for ensuring that RINs have been appropriately generated.
* Identification of Additional Qualifying Renewable Fuel Pathways III and Modification to the Renewable Fuels Program: A final rule is expected to be issued in December 2014. As explained in the Agenda, this rule would identify and propose amendments to Table 1 in Section 80.1426 of the RFS2 regulations to include additional fuel pathways and assign each pathway a D-Code. It would allow producers or importers of fuel produced under these pathways to generate RINs under the program, providing that the fuel meets the other requirements for renewable fuel. This proposed action would outline EPA's lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) evaluation, specified in Clean Air Act Section 211(o), as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act, for several new pathways.