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 and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On July 31, 2019, EPA held a public hearing in Ypsilanti, MI, to obtain stakeholders’ input on its proposed rule to set Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) 2020 renewable volume obligations (RVO) and 2021 biomass-based diesel volume. Among the various stakeholders providing oral statements to EPA were representatives from Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Hero BX, and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). Most of the oral comments provided were in opposition to the proposed rule. Industry representatives highly critized the proposed rule, stating that the RVOs proposed were unreasonable and would negatively impact economic growth through demand destruction and job losses. Many stakeholders also expressed disappointment that, in its proposed rule, EPA failed to account for approved Small Refinery Exemptions (SRE) granted. In agreement with other stakeholders’ comments, Growth Energy’s Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Chris Bliley, stated that progress made thus far under the RFS Program is being threatened by this proposal. Bliley also added that too many exemptions have been granted in secrecy by EPA. Criticism was also made regarding compliance costs and its negative impact on jobs should this rule be approved. Tim Keaveney, Executive Vice President of Business Development at Hero BX, urged EPA to raise the RVOs for biodiesel to enable further industry growth. Overall, there seemed to be a general agreement that the proposed rule betrays President Trump’s commitment to maintaining the RFS Program.

Tags: EPA, RVO, RFS, Biofuel

 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 22, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) highlighted small businesses funding under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Having received $43.6 million in funding from DOE thus far, small businesses continue to grow as DOE announces Phase II awards. Last week, DOE announced Phase II Release grants that demonstrate commercial feasibility for innovations during the second phase of small businesses’ research. Nine EERE technology offices will fund 42 awards ranging from $975,000 to $1,150,000, with a two-year duration.

Tags: DOE, EERE, Research

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 23, 2019, DOE announced its recognition of Gundersen Health System (Gundersen), a Better Buildings Alliance (BBA) partner, for its portfolio-wide energy efficiency advances at its Sparta Clinic in Sparta, Wisconsin. Gundersen, as part of its Envision Sustainability Program, continues to pursue energy efficiency through low-energy design standards and renewable energy combined. According to DOE, since 2008, Gundersen has saved over $11 million dollars through energy efficiency upgrades. Today, Gundersen’s Sparta Clinic uses less than 50 percent of the energy used by an average clinic. DOE is, as it should be, proud of its BBA program and has now more than 900 organizations as partners. Energy costs have reduced by $8.4 billion to date. BBA provides leaders in the private and public sectors to make commercial buildings, industrial plants, and homes more energy efficient.

Tags: DOE

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 22, 2019, the United Kingdom (U.K.) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced an open consultation for the development of standards for biodegradable, compostable, and biobased plastics. The consultation welcomes views from any interested parties to identify gaps and provide expert advice on:

  • The overall sustainability of biobased and biodegradable plastic products in comparison with other materials;
     
  • Existing relevant plastic degradation standards and how they are promoted without adverse environmental effects; and
     
  • The design and implementation of standards for biodegradable plastics to ensure they are fully biodegradable in a reasonable timeframe.

With a focus on obtaining robust evidence backed by scientific theory, direct practical experience, or analysis, rather than opinion, views from environmental scientists, bioscience or biotechnology practitioners, standards authorities, manufacturers, waste processors, consumers, producers, and certification authority experts are welcome. Consultation responses must be submitted by October 14, 2019. For further details, the call for evidence can be accessed here.


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

On July 23, 2019, the Agencia Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria (ANVISA -- National Sanitation Surveillance Agency) in Brazil approved measures that clarify the toxicological classification of agrochemicals. Under the approved rules, the evaluation criteria of agrochemicals’ toxicity categories are established and label requirements are updated to include clearer warnings and pictograms. The changes established by ANVISA were based on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), aligning Brazil’s regulations with European Union (EU) and Asian countries, among others. With the aim of strengthening the commercialization of national products abroad, the approved rules allow one year for stakeholders to begin implementation. Out of the 2,300 agrochemicals registered in Brazil, ANVISA has already received information for the reclassification of 1,981 products.

Tags: Brazil, GHS

 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 10, 2019, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Representatives Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Bill Foster (D-IL) reintroduced the STRONGER (Support Technology & Research for Our Nation’s Growth and Economic Resilience) Patents Act of 2019. This legislation, an improvement on legislation introduced last year under the same name, would reform the inter partes post-grant review process, ensure all fees paid to the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) are used for their intended purposes, and protect patent holders and small businesses from predatory demand letters. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has come out in favor of this bill, stating, “Without strong patent rights, the financing to take revolutionary biotechnology discoveries from the lab to the patient, farmer, and consumer would be unavailable. Weak or inconsistent patent protections threaten new investment in the innovation sector of our economy and, with it, the jobs and industries of the future.”


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a model that predicts commercial biocrude outcomes from algae hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) significantly more accurately than previous analyses. “Techno-economic uncertainty quantification of algal-derived biocrude via hydrothermal liquefaction,” funded by DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), focused on  quantifying economic uncertainties, including algae composition and capital investment, and determined that higher total lipid content (including membrane lipid) yields more biocrude, which directionally reduces biocrude production cost.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 12, 2019, the House Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucus and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute co-hosted the 22nd Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Policy Forum. The forum brought together government agencies, businesses, and trade associations to showcase renewable energy technologies and discus sustainable public policy options. Ruth McCormick, Director, Federal and State Affairs, Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), focused on the economic benefits of renewable energy saying that shifts to using a diverse set of clean and affordable energy resources, technologies, and services have resulted in substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions while also supporting over three million American jobs. Video recordings from this forum are available now.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 8, 2019, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) announced the winners of the Consider Corn Challenge II, a challenge intended to highlight the range of biobased materials that can be produced with field corn feedstock. The three winners included:

  • ExoPolymer, Inc. for a plan to create a new profile of customizable, polysaccharide-based hydrocolloids that are domestically produced by microbial fermentation using corn sugar as a feedstock. These new hydrocolloids will meet the growing needs and performance gaps in the healthcare, personal care, food, pharmaceutical and energy industries.
  • Sumatra Biorenewables, LLC for the development and production of novel monomers that are incorporated into polyamides and polyesters to provide tensile strength and low water absorption. These superior performance-advantaged materials have wide-ranging applications in the specialty nylon's industry. Opportunities include improved hydrophobicity, anti-static, flame-retardant, or have tuned mechanical strength to meet customer specifications.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service: National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, IL, for a plan to use emulsifiers, polymer films, and coatings made from corn starch and vegetable oil rather than petroleum.

The diversification of biobased uses for field corn is important in an industry that is working to move away from ethanol production as second-generation biofuel technologies become more advanced and prove to be more sustainable than earlier biofuel types. Nebraska farmer and NCGA Feed Food and Industrial Action Team Chair Dan Wesely said of the challenge, “It is encouraging for farmers to know that companies are looking for more environmentally friendly alternatives for biobased products.”


 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice on June 28, 2019, announcing that the EPA Safer Choice Program is accepting submissions for its 2019 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards. The Safer Choice Program partners with businesses and others to help consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients, “without sacrificing quality or performance.” Toward this end, according to EPA, the Safer Choice Program certifies products containing ingredients that have met the Program’s “specific and rigorous human health and environmental toxicological criteria.” The Safer Choice Program allows the use of its label on products that perform and contain safer ingredients, as determined by expert evaluation. According to EPA, recognition by the Safer Choice Program represents a high level of achievement in formulating products that are safer for people and the environment. EPA states that the purpose of the Partner of the Year Awards “is to recognize the leadership contributions of Safer Choice partners and stakeholders who, over the past year, have shown outstanding achievement in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals.” All Safer Choice stakeholders and Program participants in good standing are eligible for recognition. According to the notice, interested parties must inform the Program that they would like to be considered for an award and submit supporting information. Submissions are due July 31, 2019. EPA will recognize award winners at a Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards ceremony in fall 2019.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 5, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Procurement and Property Management published a final rule that will amend the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement (Guidelines) to add 30 sections designating the product categories within which biobased products would be afforded procurement preference by federal agencies and their contractors. These 30 product categories contain finished products that are made, in large part, from intermediate ingredients that have been designated for federal procurement preference. Additionally, USDA is amending the existing designated product categories of general purpose de-icers, firearm lubricants, laundry products, and water clarifying agents. The rule will be effective on August 5, 2019.
 
According to the final rule, when USDA designates by rulemaking a product category for preferred procurement under the BioPreferred Program, manufacturers of all products under the umbrella of that product category that meet the requirements to qualify for preferred procurement can claim that status for their products. To qualify for preferred procurement, a product must be within a designated product category and contain at least the minimum biobased content established for the designated product category. With the designation of these specific product categories, USDA invites manufacturers and vendors of qualifying products to provide information on the product, contacts, and performance testing for posting on its BioPreferred website. USDA states that procuring agencies will be able to use this website “as one tool to determine the availability of qualifying biobased products under a designated product category.”
 
For further information, see Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s memorandum on the final rule. In the memorandum, we link to the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) and its interest in biobased products.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 5, 2019, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a proposed rule to set the minimum amount of renewable fuels that must be supplied to the market in 2020, as well as the biomass-based diesel volume standard for 2021 under the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program. The notice means that EPA is on target to publish the final RFS Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) on time. In Wheeler’s announcement, he highlights that its timeliness contrasts with the Obama Administration’s failure to release RVOs by the date Congress set forth. Despite Wheeler’s timeliness, however, EPA has been highly criticized by the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and politicians who have demonstrated opposition to the set RVOs. Details on the proposed RVOs for 2020 can be found here.

Tags: Biofuel, RFS

 
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