Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C., law firm providing biobased and renewable chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in bringing innovative products to market.
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By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On February 16, 2022, EPW held a hearing to examine EPA’s RFS program. U.S. Senator and EPW Chairman, Tom Carper (D-DE), made the opening statement, highlighting that EPW had not held an oversight hearing on the RFS since 2016. While Senator Carper demonstrated continued support for the RFS program, he also noted that “[f]or example, the amount of advanced renewable fuel used today in this country is far less than the 36 billion gallons that Congress mandated in 2007 be used by 2022. That shortfall is partly due to unforeseen market challenges and partly due to EPA’s delay in approving new fuels to enter the marketplace.” Senator Carper criticized the CAA for prohibiting some advanced biofuels that qualify for state programs from qualifying as renewable fuels under the RFS. He highlighted that volatility in compliance costs for refiners also presents challenges to implementing the RFS. The hearing included further discussions on other management and implementation challenges that EPA is facing and addressed opportunities to encourage increased deployment of more sustainable fuels.


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

On February 22, 2022, U.S. Senator and Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and U.S. Senator and Committee member, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, requesting improvements to the United States’ biobased economy. Senators Stabenow and Klobuchar’s request focuses particularly on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred® Program (Program), urging that USDA leverage its long-standing expertise in biobased products to strengthen the Program.

Managed by USDA, the Program aims to increase the purchase and use of biobased products, spur economic development, create new jobs, and provide new markets for farm commodities. The Program has two major parts:

  • Mandatory purchasing requirements for federal agencies and their contractors; and
  • A voluntary labeling initiative for biobased products.

According to Senators Stabenow and Klobuchar, federal procurement for BioPreferred® products has failed to increase, despite significant product innovations in recent years. The two U.S. Senators encourage the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and USDA to educate procurement officers on the benefits of BioPreferred® products and routinely to measure progress of the Program. They also request that Secretary Vilsack and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce complete swiftly creation of North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) codes, correlating them to North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes to capture the multiple industries into which each product is sold.
 


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On January 27, 2022, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and 14 of her colleagues submitted a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Michael Regan, requesting that EPA reconsider its proposed actions under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program through the RFS Annual Rules and the Proposed RFS Small Refinery Exemption Decision. Senator Capito and her colleagues request specifically that EPA reassess its proposed denial of all pending small refinery exemption (SRE) petitions under the RFS program, because EPA’s decision breaches congressional intent under the Clean Air Act (CAA). According to the letter, Congress’ intent in amending the CAA to allow for SREs was to alleviate disproportionate economic hardship associated with RFS compliance for small refiners. Therefore, the denial of all pending SRE petitions contravenes Congress’ intent and, according to Senator Capito and her colleagues, will lead to increased litigation and uncertainty under the RFS program.

The letter also states that EPA’s “proposal for all-time high Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) for 2022 does not reflect market realities and is likely to further raise costs for refiners – especially small and independent refiners – and therefore American consumers and the economy.” Senator Capito and her colleagues urge EPA to reconsider these actions to:

  • Provide relief and certainty for companies, employees, and communities across the United States;
  • Bolster access to affordable and domestically produced fuels for U.S. consumers; and
  • Remove obstacles for an economy that is challenged currently by inflation and supply chain difficulties.

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On February 24, 2022, EPA announced the selection of 11 organizations to receive a total of approximately $2 million in funding to divert food waste from landfills by expanding anaerobic digester capacity nationwide. Anaerobic digestion (AD) produces biogas that can be captured and used for energy production and digestate (a fertilizer product) by using microorganisms to break down organic materials, such as food scraps and manure, in the absence of oxygen. By reducing the amount of wasted food in landfills and consequently methane emissions, AD may reduce significantly the impacts of climate change. EPA’s food recovery hierarchy includes AD as a strategy that is preferable to landfilling and incineration, because it contributes to building a circular economy. Each of the selected organizations will receive between $150,000 and $200,000 over two years. A list of the selected projects is available here.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On February 23, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a webinar on requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the premanufacture notice (PMN) process for biofuels. As reported in our January 24, 2022, blog item, in January 2022, EPA announced an effort to streamline the review of new biobased or waste-derived chemicals that could displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting transportation fuels. According to EPA, it has received more than 30 biofuel PMNs “that collectively describe plans for close to 800 million gallons per year of production of advanced biofuels, that could contribute to annual volume mandates under the [Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)] program and help support the goals of energy security through increasing domestic production” within the United States. Future webinars will cover the TSCA Inventory, nomenclature, and Bona Fide process; new chemicals risk assessments, including applications of the tools, models, and databases; and new chemicals risk management actions, including TSCA Section 5 orders and significant new use rules (SNUR).

More information on webinar is available in our March 1, 2022, memorandum.

Tags: TSCA, EPA, Biofuel, PMN

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a virtual public meeting April 20-21, 2022, to seek individual input on the proposed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program. 87 Fed. Reg. 10784. In addition, EPA announced the availability of and is soliciting public comment on the draft document entitled “Modernizing the Process and Bringing Innovative Science to Evaluate New Chemicals Under TSCA.” EPA states that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) is proposing to develop and implement a multi-year collaborative research program focused on approaches for performing risk assessments on new chemical substances under TSCA. According to EPA, the effort will be performed in partnership with its Office of Research and Development (ORD) and other federal entities to leverage their expertise and resources. Written comments are due April 26, 2022. Registration for the meeting is now open.

According to EPA, the research program will refine existing approaches and develop and implement new approach methodologies (NAM) to ensure the best available science is used in TSCA new chemical evaluations. Key areas proposed in the TSCA New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program include:

  • Updating OCSPP’s approach to using data from structurally similar chemicals to determine potential risks from new chemicals, also known as read-across. According to EPA, this will increase the efficiency of new chemical reviews, promoting the use of the best available data to protect human health and the environment.
  • Digitizing and consolidating information on chemicals to include data and studies that currently exist only in hard copy or in various disparate TSCA databases. EPA will combine the information with publicly available sources to expand the amount of information available, enhancing chemical reviews and enabling efficient sharing of chemical information across EPA. Safeguards for confidential business information (CBI) will be maintained as appropriate in this process.
  • Updating and augmenting the models used for predicting a chemical’s physical-chemical properties and environmental fate/transport, hazard, exposure, and toxicokinetics to provide a suite of models to be used for new chemicals assessments. The goal of this effort is to update the models to reflect the best available science, increase transparency, and establish a process for updating these models as science evolves.
  • Exploring ways to integrate and apply NAMs in new chemicals assessments, reducing the use of animal testing. EPA states that as this effort evolves, the goal is to develop a suite of accepted, fit-for-purpose NAMs that could be used by external stakeholders for data submissions under TSCA, as well as informing and expanding new chemical categories.
  • Developing a decision support tool that integrates the various information streams specifically used for new chemical risk assessments. The decision support tool will integrate more efficiently all the data streams (e.g., chemistry, fate, exposures, hazards) into a final risk assessment and transparently document the decisions and assumptions made. Simply put, this will facilitate the new chemicals program tracking decisions over time and evaluating consistency within and across chemistries.

EPA states that additional information on each of these areas will be provided in the draft collaborative research plan that will be available in the docket by March 14, 2022. Later in 2022, EPA plans to engage its Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), a federal advisory committee, for peer review. EPA also intends to issue a Federal Register notice announcing the BOSC meeting and to open a docket for public comments.

Although the notice states that EPA’s background documents and the related supporting materials to the draft are available in the docket established for this meeting, Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2022-0218, nothing is available at this time. EPA states that it will provide additional background documents as the materials become available. After the virtual public meeting, EPA will prepare meeting minutes summarizing the individual comments received at the meeting. EPA will post the meeting minutes on its website and in the relevant docket.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Chemicals Program will hold a webinar on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (EST) to learn about requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the premanufacture notice (PMN) process for biofuels. As reported in our January 24, 2022, blog item, in January 2022, EPA announced an effort to streamline the review of new biobased or waste-derived chemicals that could displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting transportation fuels. EPA states that to support this effort, it is offering outreach and training to stakeholders interested in biofuels. According to EPA, the bi-weekly webinar series includes reviewing TSCA requirements, outlining the streamlined approaches for risk assessments and risk management actions, and providing information on how to navigate the new chemicals PMN process. Future webinars will include:

Registration is required for the February 23, 2022, webinar.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on February 4, 2022, the release of a “new and improved” Framework for the Assessment of Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasing under its Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) program, as well as a webpage highlighting ecolabel criteria that address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). EPA states that “[t]hese actions are a key step in implementing President Biden’s Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs through Federal Sustainability and the accompanying Federal Sustainability Plan.
 
According to EPA, the EPP program helps federal government purchasers use private sector standards and ecolabels to identify and procure environmentally preferable products and services via the Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels for Federal Purchasing. The updated Framework provides a streamlined, transparent, and consistent approach to assessing marketplace standards and ecolabels for environmental sustainability and for inclusion into the Recommendations.
 
EPA states that the updates to the Framework reflect lessons learned during the last five years of implementation and a desire to address a broader range of purchase categories with a more streamlined set of criteria. In addition, EPA updated the eligibility criteria for standards and ecolabels to support further their implementation across the federal government. EPA will use the Framework to update and expand the Recommendations to support the Biden Administration’s priorities and the Federal Sustainability Plan. The Recommendations currently include more than 40 private sector environmental performance standards and ecolabels in 25 purchase categories.
 
EPA will hold a webinar on March 2, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. (EST) to provide more information on the updated Framework and initial plans to expand the Recommendations. Stakeholders can register for the webinar and provide questions in advance.
 
EPA notes that the webpage highlighting how EPA’s Recommendations of Specifications, Standards, and Ecolabels address PFAS “is an important step toward providing federal purchasers with tools to avoid procurement of products containing PFAS.” The release of the webpage is concurrent with work to identify products and purchase categories that are known to be associated with key PFAS uses, as well as outreach to ecolabel and standard organizations regarding addressing PFAS.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On February 1, 2022, DOE EERE BETO issued two new requests for information (RFI) on biomass conversion R&D and community organic waste programs. The RFI titled “Biomass Conversion Research, Development, and Analysis Programs” focuses on biomass conversion R&D and seeks to address improved robustness of microbial cells, catalytic processes, and state-of-technology analyses in the BETO research portfolio. Through this program, BETO is interested in receiving feedback on barriers, capabilities, tools, and other general information needed to prioritize future R&D programs in the areas of organism and catalyst development. BETO also seeks input on which analyses are most useful to the broader bioenergy research and industrial community. Responses to this RFI must be submitted by March 11, 2022, and are required to be provided as an attachment via e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

DOE EERE BETO’s RFI titled “Community-scale Resource and Energy Recovery from Waste Solutions” requests feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to community programs for organic waste. DOE EERE wishes to understand better which wastes related to economic, environmental, and social impacts are of highest priority to communities and how DOE can make its Conversion R&D program more effective in addressing these types of challenges. BETO is particularly interested in input on five different waste streams: dairy manure, swine manure, food waste, municipal wastewater residuals, and fats/oils/greases. Responses to this RFI must also be submitted by March 11, 2022, and provided as an attachment via e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). In lieu of providing written responses to this RFI, BETO is also accepting requests for a 30-minute individual discussion via e-mail. Additional information on both RFIs is available here.


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

On January 13, 2022, DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), in collaboration with the Algae Foundation and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, opened the AlgaePrize competition for high school through graduate students in the United States. This new prize focuses on the development, design, and invention of algal technologies to help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through algae commercialization. During the competition, teams will participate in an 18-month process of pursuing the technologies for algae production, downstream processing, and/or identification of novel products or tools. The AlgaePrize grand champion winner will receive a total of $20,000 cash prize.

The competition is open to teams of two or more students who are currently enrolled in an education program based in the United States. Students interested in participating in the competition must register by March 2, 2022. Additional information is available here.


 
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On December 9, 2021, the American Chemical Society (ACS) announced the 2022 Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference’s (GC&E) lineup of symposia accepted to the conference. The symposia focus on the 2022 GC&E overarching theme: “Thinking in Systems: Designing for Sustainable Use.” This theme will explore how green and sustainable chemistry and engineering contribute to the development and commercialization of products for sustainable use. Accepted symposia include a session organized by B&C’s Director of Chemistry, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., and Ligia Duarte Botelho, Regulatory Associate. B&C’s symposium will explore the “new chemical bias” and how it continues to pose a barrier to market acceptance of novel chemistry and sustainable thinking.

The GC&E call for abstracts opened on January 3, 2022, and abstracts must be submitted by February 14, 2022. B&C’s symposium is open for abstract submissions.

Early registration for the conference will be open from February 15 through April 30, 2022.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On January 10, 2022, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that a team of its researchers has developed a promising approach to control methane emissions and remove methane from the air using zeolite clay. Zeolite clay is inexpensive and abundant. The MIT team found that, when treated with copper, the material is very effective at absorbing methane from the air even at low concentrations. According to researcher and Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Desiree Plata, Ph.D., this process is advantageous over other approaches to removing methane from the air, as other methods tend to use more expensive catalysts that require high temperatures. The method converts methane into carbon dioxide that, according to Plata, is much less impactful in the atmosphere than methane. Methane is about 80 times stronger as a greenhouse gas (GHG) over the first 20 years, and approximately 25 times stronger for the first century.
 
MIT researchers still have outstanding engineering details to address in this process. To do so, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $2 million grant for MIT to continue to develop specific equipment for methane removal in places with concentrated sources of methane, such as dairy barns and coal mines. Plata reported that the next phase of the project will focus largely on ways to structure the clay material in a multiscale, hierarchical configuration to demonstrate a proof of concept that this method can work in the field.
 


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On January 11, 2022, Michigan State Senator Kevin Daley (R, 31st Senate District) introduced a bill focused on growing alternative fuel production in Michigan and providing cleaner and cheaper options for Michigan drivers using biofuels produced with renewable energy from Michigan farms. Senator Daley highlighted that “Biofuels are a major economic engine for rural communities across Michigan, and they help position our state to rely less on foreign oil.” Creating a five-cents-per-gallon tax credit for the sale of ethanol 15 (E-15) fuel and a 0.085-cent-per-gallon for the sale of ethanol 85 (E-85) fuel, this legislation aims to contribute to the reduction of emissions and stabilize markets for Michigan farmers that supply the corn for Michigan’s five ethanol plants. Industry stakeholders such as the Michigan Corn Growers Association demonstrated support for the introduced bill, stating that COVID-19 had a large impact on family farmers and small business owners.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On January 21, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new effort under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to streamline the review of new chemicals that could be used to displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting transportation fuels. The Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention’s (OCSPP) New Chemicals Division (NCD) has implemented a “robust, consistent, and efficient process to assess the risk and apply mitigation measures, as appropriate, for substitutes to petroleum-based fuels and fuel additives that use biobased or waste-derived sources to produce biofuels.” EPA states that this effort supports its goals under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, as well as its 2021 Climate Adaptation Action Plan. According to the announcement, EPA has received over 30 biofuel premanufacture notices (PMN) “that collectively describe plans for close to 800 million gallons per year of production of advanced biofuels, that could contribute to annual volume mandates under the RFS program and help support the goals of energy security through increasing domestic production” within the United States.
 
The announcement includes:
 
New Chemicals Division Integrated Approach to Biofuels
 
Under this effort, NCD formed a dedicated team to collaborate on the review of PMNs for biobased or waste-derived feedstocks used to make transportation fuel substitutes with the goals to use the best available science while creating a consistent and efficient review process. EPA states that NCD developed a standardized process for the way biofuel PMNs are reviewed. For example, the same dedicated team will be conducting reviews for all biofuels PMNs, helping to ensure the assessments and determinations are consistent and aligned with requirements. Further, NCD will generate one report for biofuels PMNs that combines the six different risk assessments typically conducted for PMNs, helping to provide a clearer summary explanation of how EPA conducted its assessment and made its determination.
 
For risk management actions, NCD will apply appropriate mitigation measures to address any potential for unreasonable risk identified in an efficient and consistent manner within TSCA consent orders and significant new use rules (SNUR).
 
Outreach and Training
 
According to the announcement, OCSPP is launching outreach and training for interested stakeholders in the biofuels sector to review TSCA requirements, outline the streamlined approaches for risk assessments and risk management actions, and provide information on how to navigate the new chemicals PMN process.
 
OCSPP will hold a kick-off meeting on February 9, 2022, to provide an overview of this initiative and answer questions from stakeholders. Registration for the meeting is open.
 
Other planned outreach and training related to this biofuels initiative include webinars on:

  • TSCA requirements and the PMN process;
  • The TSCA Inventory, nomenclature, and Bona Fide process;
  • New chemicals risk assessments, including applications of the tools, models, and databases; and
  • New chemicals risk management actions, including TSCA Section 5 orders and SNURs.

EPA states that it may add additional outreach and training sessions, including training opportunities applicable to all new chemical submitters, based on stakeholder interest and feedback.

Tags: Biofuels, RFS, GHG, EPA, TSCA

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson 
 
On January 11, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that seven research and development (R&D) projects were selected to receive $13.4 million in funding for R&D projects to advance next generation plastic technologies to reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of single-use plastics. The selected R&D projects, led by industry and universities, will focus on converting plastic films into more valuable materials and designing new plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm stated that “By advancing technologies that repurpose single-use plastics and make the materials biodegradable, we can hit a trifecta of reduced plastic waste, fewer emissions from the plastics industry, and an influx of clean manufacturing jobs for American workers.”
 
According to DOE’s EERE, less than ten percent of plastics are recycled currently. Those plastics that are recycled are typically “downcycled” or repurposed into low-value products. The selected projects will work to develop affordable solutions for “upcycling” plastics into more valuable materials and to design new plastics that are recyclable and biodegradable.


 
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