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 February 21, 2020, U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), announced that it will hold a series of workshops to receive input on the approaches and activities for its new initiative, the Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC). Launched in January 2020 by DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette, ESGC was created to accelerate the development, commercialization, and utilization of next-generation energy storage technologies. With the aim to sustain American global leadership in energy storage, ESGC builds on the $158 million Advanced Energy Storage Initiative. Recognizing the challenges associated with the advancement of energy storage technologies, DOE EERE will host four workshops to receive input on ESGC initiative approaches and activities. The workshops’ dates, locations, and registration deadlines are:

  • March 6, 2020, in Seattle, Washington – registration deadline: February 27, 2020;
  • March 10, 2020, in Austin, Texas – registration deadline was February 24, 2020;
  • March 17, 2020, in Chicago, Ilinois (additional manufacturing session will be held on March 16, 2020) – registration deadline: March 2, 2020; and
  • March 26, 2020, in Washington, D.C. – registration deadline: March 11, 2020.

Parties interested in registering for one of the workshops may do so here. Seating is limited, and registrations will be accepted in the order they are received.

Tags: DOE, EERE, ESGC

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

On February 25, 2020, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced that its scientists have developed a novel technique to closely observe the nanostructure of biomaterials without damaging the sample. Using a nonintrusive soft mechanical nanoablation (sMNA) technique can confirm structural features in starch, which is an important carbohydrate in the production of biofuels. ORNL’s chief scientist for systems biology and biotechnology, Brian Davison, highlighted the importance of plant cell wall structures in the next generation of biofuels, stating that the “study used starch as an example of how this technique can start to access some of these nanomechanical structure materials” that currently cannot be observed. ORNL’s study was published on February 6, 2020. ORNL scientists believe the novel technique can also be applied to nonliving materials and used on synthetic polymers or even three-dimensional-printed materials.


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

The international standards organization, ASTM International, is seeking additional task group members to further develop the current terminology standard in industrial biotechnology (E3072-19). ASTM International develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services. Its sub-committee, E62.91 for Terminology in Industrial Biotechnology, is responsible for suggesting new terms and definitions to be added to the current standard and for revising existing terms and definitions as needed. The meanings and explanations of the technical terms have been written for both non-expert and expert users and is updated annually to include editorially any terms approved in the committees of technical standards. This standard, however, does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with the use of biotechnology products, materials, systems, or services. Interested parties should contact the sub-committee chair, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or the E62 staff manager, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), directly.


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

On February 19, 2020, the University of Oulu, Finland, announced that scientists from its Research Unit of Sustainable Chemistry have developed a new synthetic bioplastic that provides protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In addition to its UV-light blocking capacity, the transparent bioplastic made from a biomass-based copolymer with bisfuran structure, the new bioplastic also has airtightness capabilities three to four times higher than polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic. The raw materials used in the production of this entirely biomass-based plastic are hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and furfural, which are biorefinery products derived from cellulose and hemicellulose. University of Oulu researchers chemically linked the two chemicals to create copolymer parts with bisfuran and furan-like structures. The research results have been published, and a patent application for the bioplastic has been filed for the new method developed.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 19, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its review plan for certain confidential business information (CBI) claims under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Aiming to provide clarity for affected stakeholders and efficiently fulfill CBI requirements under TSCA, EPA will review CBI claims made for chemical substance identity for chemicals on the “active” portion of the TSCA Inventory. The final rule is a follow-on to the 2017 TSCA Inventory Notification (Active-Inactive) Rule, amending certain substantiation provisions in response to a federal court decision. Chemical manufacturers and/or processors who have made CBI claims for specific chemical identities listed as “active” substances must follow the final process released by EPA. The final review plan describes the procedures and deadlines for substantiating CBI claims, including provisions for supplementing certain previously filed substantiations. It is important to note that manufacturers that amend, update, or file new CBI substantiations consistent with the new requirements must do so electronically via EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) system.

Tags: CBI, TSCA

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

The EPA Pollution Prevention (P2) Grant Program has announced the availability of funds to provide technical assistance (e.g., information, training, tools) to businesses to encourage the development and implementation of source reduction practices. EPA states that source reduction practices can help businesses save money by reducing resource use, expenditures, waste, and liability costs, while at the same time reducing their environmental footprint and helping to protect human health and the environment. Applications for fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021 are due March 31, 2020.

EPA states that it anticipates awarding approximately $9.38 million in total federal pollution prevention grant funding over a two-year funding cycle ($4.69 million in FY 2020 funds and approximately $4.69 million in FY 2021 funds). According to EPA, P2 grants are expected to be awarded in each EPA region and will be funded in the form of grants or cooperative agreements. EPA provides the following “quick facts” for P2 grants:

  • Eligibility: State governments, colleges, and universities (recognized as instrumentalities of the state), federally recognized tribes, and intertribal consortia;
  • Match requirement: 50 percent match; for tribal governments that place P2 grant activities into a performance partnership grant (PPG) agreement, the match for the tribe is reduced to five percent;
  • Review of applications: Along with other requirements that are noted in the Request for Applications (RFA), applications must address one of the following statutory/regulatory criteria to merit further review:
     
    • Provide technical assistance and/or training to businesses and/or facilities about source reduction techniques to help them adopt and implement source reduction approaches and to increase the development, adoption, and market penetration of greener products and sustainable manufacturing practices; and
       
    • Identify, develop, document, and share P2 best management practices and innovations so this information may inform future technical assistance and these P2 approaches and outcomes may be replicated by others;
       
  • Range of awards: Individual grant awards may potentially be in the range of $40,000 - $500,000 for the two-year funding period (between $20,000 and $250,000 incrementally funded per year). Some EPA regions may have lower award caps, however; and
  • Average number of grants issued: 40.
Tags: EPA, P2, Grant

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 17, 2020, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) announced that one of its laboratories has developed a device using a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air. Electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley have created what they call “Air-Gen,” which consists of an air-powered generator with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter. The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere. According to Yao, the device generates clean energy 24/7. What Yao and Lovley describe as a low cost, non-polluting, and renewable device, can generate energy even in areas with extremely low humidity, such as the Sahara Desert. Although the current generation of Air-gen devices are only able to power small electronics, both scientists state that the ultimate goal is to develop large-scale systems that will highly contribute to sustainable energy production.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 11, 2020, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and U.S. Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced a bill that would phase out unnecessary single-use plastic products: Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020. The legislation would also hold corporations accountable for wasteful products, reform the broken waste and recycling collection system, and reduce wasteful packaging. According to Udall, 92 percent of plastic waste in the United States is never recycled. Focused on waste reduction and waste management policies that can reverse this trend in the country, the implementation of this act would shift the responsibility for recycling and cleanup to the companies that produce wasteful products. The Senate bill is co-sponsored by five other Democratic Senators and 28 Democratic House Representatives. The bill would:

  • Spur innovation through incentives for big corporations to make reusable products and items that can actually be recycled;
  • Establish minimum recycled content requirements for beverage containers, packaging, and food-service products, while standardizing recycling and composting labeling;
  • Reduce and ban certain single-use plastic products that are not recyclable;
  • Require big corporations to take responsibility for their pollution, requiring producers of plastic products to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs;
  • Spur massive investments in the U.S. domestic recycling and composting infrastructure, while pressing pause on new plastic facilities until critical environmental and health protections are put in place;
  • Create a nationwide beverage container refund program, which is successful at the state level;
  • Encourage the design of less wasteful products by ensuring that producers are responsible for cleanup costs and recycling infrastructure; and
  • End the hazardous practice of exporting plastic waste overseas to developing countries that do not have the infrastructure in place to manage that waste.

The full bill text can be accessed here, and a summary is available here.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

Federal enforcement of chemical product laws is alive and well, despite a broadly held misconception to the contrary. We have seen over the past 18 months or so an uptick in federal enforcement under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) writes to alert stakeholders of this fact. B&C believes that this trend will continue in 2020. Check out its memorandum on the topic here.

Tags: TSCA, FIFRA

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 10, 2020, the Governor of Wyoming, Mark Gordon, delivered his 2020 State of the State Address, which included a request to lawmakers of a $25 million investment to establish the Energy Commercialization Program. The program is designed to provide a coordinated approach to support research on technologies that advance zero or net-negative carbon uses for coal and other fossil fuels. Gordon stated: “Wyoming will always advocate for our industries, whether it be to protect against unconstitutional restraint of trade, or in their endeavors to deliver cleaner, more dependable, more affordable, and safer energy to our nation.” While supporting coal mines and preventing them from closing, Gordon seeks to build a carbon capture and sequestration facility in Wyoming. Criticizing states such as California, Oregon, and Washington, Gordon went as far as stating that Wyoming will require true carbon dioxide sequestration and “not just some artificial notion that wind and solar can cure climate change all by themselves.” The Wyoming Governor also urged lawmakers to support legislation that would require all new electric generation capacity in the state to be reliable, consistent, and reasonably net carbon negative.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

The European Commission (EC) will host a webinar on biobased products developed from fast pyrolysis oil, where four companies will present their work. A technology that can convert a wide range of biomass into clean and uniform bio-oil that is easy to transport and store, fast pyrolysis has mostly focused, thus far, on the use of pyrolysis oil for energy purposes. According to EC, the Horizon 2020 project called Bio4Products, however, has recently developed a technology to divide pyrolysis oil into multiple fractions that could be used for material applications. In its webinar, EC will showcase some of the latest results from companies using this technology. Part of a series of webinars called From Biomass to Biobased Products, the webinar will be on February 20, 2020, at 5:00 a.m. (EST). Interested parties may register for the webinar here.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Pollution Prevention (P2) Grant Program has announced the availability of funds to provide technical assistance (e.g., information, training, tools) to businesses to encourage the development and implementation of source reduction practices. EPA states that source reduction practices can help businesses save money by reducing resource use, expenditures, waste, and liability costs, while at the same time reducing their environmental footprint and helping to protect human health and the environment. Applications for fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021 are due March 31, 2020.

EPA states that it anticipates awarding approximately $9.38 million in total federal pollution prevention grant funding over a two-year funding cycle ($4.69 million in FY 2020 funds and approximately $4.69 million in FY 2021 funds). According to EPA, P2 grants are expected to be awarded in each EPA region and will be funded in the form of grants or cooperative agreements. EPA provides the following “quick facts” for P2 grants:
 

  • Eligibility: State governments, colleges, and universities (recognized as instrumentalities of the state), federally recognized tribes, and intertribal consortia;
     
  • Match requirement: 50 percent match; for tribal governments that place P2 grant activities into a performance partnership grant (PPG) agreement, the match for the tribe is reduced to five percent;
     
  • Review of applications: Along with other requirements that are noted in the Request for Applications (RFA), applications must address one of the following statutory/regulatory criteria to merit further review:
     
    • Provide technical assistance and/or training to businesses/facilities about source reduction techniques to help them adopt and implement source reduction approaches and to increase the development, adoption, and market penetration of greener products and sustainable manufacturing practices; and
       
    • Identify, develop, document, and share P2 best management practices and innovations so that this information may inform future technical assistance and these P2 approaches and outcomes may be replicated by others;
       
  • Range of awards: Individual grant awards may potentially be in the range of $40,000 - $500,000 for the two-year funding period (between $20,000 and $250,000 incrementally funded per year). Some EPA regions may have lower award caps, however; and
     
  • Average number of grants issued: 40.
     

EPA will hold an informational webinar on February 19, 2020, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (EST).

Tags: EPA, P2

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 6, 2020, EPA issued its final rule setting 2020 renewable fuel percentage standards under its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program. The final rule established the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel that apply to gasoline and diesel transportation fuel produced or imported in 2020. The volume requirements set are below the statutory volume targets. In addition to the 2020 annual percentage standards, the final rule establishes the applicable volume of biomass-based diesel for 2021. Other changes include the percentage standard calculations to account for fuel volumes exempted from the renewable volume obligation (RVO). Effective on April 6, 2020, this rule finalizes regulatory changes to the RFS Program, including clarifications of existing regulations, new pathways, and flexibilities for regulated parties.

Tags: RFS, Biofuel

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published a notice requesting comments and feedback on its draft instructions on testing methods under the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (Standard). According to the Standard, which became effective in 2019, with a mandatory compliance date of January 1, 2022, foods that do not contain bioengineered (BE) material do not require label disclosure. USDA’s definition of BE food (7 CFR 66.1) states that food does not contain modified genetic material if the genetic material is not detectable. Therefore, detectability testing for BE materials in foods plays a key role for stakeholders to determine labeling compliance. Given its importance, USDA AMS has drafted instructions on acceptable testing methodology to be used to satisfy the requirement that the food does not contain detectable BE material. Detectability testing must meet the following standard:

  • Laboratory quality assurance must ensure the validity and reliability of test results;
     
  • Analytical method selection, validation, and verification must ensure that the testing method used is appropriate and that the laboratory can successfully perform the testing;
     
  • The demonstration of testing validity must ensure consistent, accurate analytical performance; and
     
  • Method performance specifications must ensure that analytical tests are sufficiently sensitive for the purposes of the detectability requirements of this part.

Comments on USDA AMS’s draft instructions must be submitted on or prior to March 4, 2020.

Tags: USDA, BE

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 4, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that it is searching for professionals to fill vacant general engineer and physical scientist positions. Resumes can be submitted directly to EERE’s hiring staff with information on the position of interest and EERE office (Solar, Geothermal, Vehicles, and Buildings, among others). Should EERE be interested in a particular resume, DOE’s Human Capital Office will reach out to the applicant requesting a transcript demonstrating educational background. Further information on vacant positions at EERE can be accessed here.

Tags: DOE, EERE

 
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