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 Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) to confirm his commitment to support the spirit and the letter of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  In the letter, Pruitt stated that, following a detailed analysis, numerous stakeholder meetings, and review of public comments, it was determined that EPA would not grant the petition to move the point of obligation to blenders.  Additionally, EPA intends to issue a final Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rulemaking by the statutory deadline of November 30, 2017.  While the rulemaking process is ongoing, Pruitt indicated that the final RVO amounts would be set at levels equal to or greater than the proposed amounts.  Finally, Pruitt highlighted EPA’s willingness to work with Congress on a nationwide Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver for E15.  Senators Ernst, Grassley, Thune, and Fischer each released statements to confirm their commitment to working collaboratively with EPA on these issues.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Senate

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 25, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) published a notice in the Federal Register regarding an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee.  The meeting will take place November 15-16, 2017, in Washington D.C., and will focus on developing advice and guidance that promotes research and development (R&D) for the production of biobased fuels and products.  The tentative agenda includes updates on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DOE Biomass R&D activities, and presentations on improving feedstock supply chain cost and efficiency.  Stakeholders interested in attending the meeting and/or presenting oral comments should contact Dr. Mark Elless (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and Roy Tiley (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) at least five business days prior to the meeting.  Meeting minutes will be available for public review on the Biomass R&D website following the meeting.

Tags: DOE, R&D, EERE, Biomass

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 24, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that it was the only energy company to reach the Leadership-class ranking in three Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) programs.  Neste received an A- ranking in the CDP Climate, CDP Forests, and CDP Water programs.  CDP is a not-for-profit organization that manages a global disclosure system allowing companies, cities, states, and regions to measure and manage their environmental impact.  The CDP Climate program focuses on corporate measures to combat climate risks and take advantage of low-carbon products and services.  According to Pekka Tuovinen, Neste's Senior Advisor for sustainability, “[t]he more efficiently we operate, and the more we can reduce the climate emissions of our own supply chains, the greater will be the climate benefits of the products and solutions we offer.” 
 
Neste is the only energy sector company to transparently disclose its forest footprint as part of the CDP program.  The Leadership-class ranking demonstrates Neste’s commitment to preventing deforestation in its supply chain and requiring similar action from its raw material suppliers.  Neste continues to work on improving the traceability of various kinds of processing residues used as raw materials beyond what is mandated by regulatory requirements.
 
For the first time, Neste participated in the CDP Water program, which requires companies to disclose the measures they implement for responsible water use and water risk management.  According to Mr. Tuovinen, Neste has been carrying out water footprint calculations for its refineries and products since the 1990s.


 

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 17, 2017, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-FL), and 77 additional House members sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to urge the agencies to work together to promote innovative new technologies aimed at increasing crop yields and reducing the cost of production.  According to Congressman Panetta, the letter was prepared in response to duplicative or inconsistent regulatory proposals regarding biotechnology.  In the letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members highlighted several recent biotechnology regulatory efforts that warrant the Administration’s attention, as well as the importance of a consistent, science-based, risk-proportionate regulatory system.  Members concluded by urging the agencies to cooperate in creating consistent regulatory proposals that foster innovation; to increase engagement with trading partners to promote a harmonized, science-based international regulatory system for agricultural products; and to consider ways to engage with the public to discuss the continued advancement of biotechnology in agriculture.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 17, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy issued a $26 million funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for cost-shared research and development projects that support the DOE Carbon Capture Program’s goal of broad, cost-effective carbon capture deployment.  The Novel and Enabling Carbon Capture Transformational Technologies FOA consists of two areas of interest, specifically:

  • Development of novel transformational materials and processes; and
  • Enabling technologies to improve carbon capture systems.
DOE anticipates selecting up to 14 projects focused on demonstrating the potential to provide step-change reductions in both cost and energy penalties associated with implementing carbon capture and enabling technologies for the coal and natural gas power generation sector.  The projects will be managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 17, 2017, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the recipients of 17 grants totaling $7.3 million for projects focused on the development of next generation agricultural technologies and systems to meet the growing demand for food, fuel, and fiber.  Funding is provided by NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), as authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.  Recipients include:

  • Auburn University, which received $481,539 to develop and optimize the hydrothermal liquefaction of lignin (HTL) chemical stream and to determine the best way to modify epoxy-based resins with the lignin derived material;
  • University of Georgia, which received $472,965 to develop new markets, products, and processes using activated carbon monolith catalysts produced from wood and to generate value added products from platform chemicals derived from agricultural and forest resources;
  • Iowa State University, which received $482,905 to further develop the engineering of the membrane of microbial cell factories to improve production of biobased fuels and chemicals;
  • Ohio State University, which received $482,448 to improve the efficiency, costs, and emissions of the feedstock supply system for cellulosic biorefineries by conjointly supplying corn grain and stover; and
  • University of North Texas, which received $482,905 to improve the efficiency of the pyrolysis production of biomass and product quality for biofuel and activated carbon from self-activation process.

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 19, 2017, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), an Associate member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that it and its member companies sent a letter to the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture requesting the reauthorization of the Farm Bill’s Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003).  According to the letter, “[s]everal renewable chemical startups and mature chemical companies are waiting to build their first-of-a-kind manufacturing facilities in the United States from homegrown biomass and technologies and will do so with the proper federal policy support.”   The letter explained that renewable chemicals provide economic stability for the construction of a biorefinery, since such products generate a higher value than biofuels.  Beyond supporting the U.S. manufacturing industry, manufacturing renewable chemicals in the U.S. helps to improve the trade balance, maintain U.S. leadership in renewable energy while reducing dependence on foreign oil, provide value-added crop for products, and create thousands of high quality jobs.  BIO and its member companies concluded by urging the Committees “to provide stable mandatory funding for all the core energy title programs that will continue the development of biorefineries, positively impacting the biobased economy and creating thousands of rural jobs.”


 

 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 10, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register its final rule establishing exemptions for a tolerance limit to use tall oil fatty acids (TOFA) as an inert ingredient “[‌i]n pesticide formulations applied to growing crops and raw agricultural commodities after harvest; in pesticides applied in/on animals, and in antimicrobial formulations for food contact surfaces.”  Pursuant to Section 408(c)(2)(A)(i) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), EPA has the authority to establish exemptions from the requirement of a tolerance only when it can be demonstrated clearly that the risks from aggregate exposure to the pesticide residue, including all anticipated dietary exposures and all other exposures, particularly to infants and children, for which there is reliable information, will pose no appreciable risks to human health.  In analyzing the risk, EPA considers both the toxicity of the inert ingredient and the reasonably foreseeable circumstances for exposure to the substance.  Following its evaluation and consideration of the validity, completeness, and reliability of available toxicity data, EPA determined that sufficient data were available to conclude that TOFA do not have a toxic mechanism and will not pose a risk to the U.S. population. 
 
EPA established the final rulemaking following a petition by Spring Trading Company on behalf of Ingevity Corporation requesting that 40 C.F.R. Sections 180.910, 180.930, and 180.940(a) be amended to establish the exemptions.  The regulation is effective immediately and eliminates the need to establish maximum permissible levels for residues of TOFA that are consistent with the conditions of these exemptions.  Objections and requests for hearings regarding the regulation are due by December 11, 2017.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 12, 2017, Edeniq, Inc., a leading cellulosic and biorefining technology company, announced that Flint Hills Resources, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), received approval from EPA for cellulosic ethanol production at its Iowa Falls ethanol plant.  The 100 million gallons per year plant will use Edeniq’s Pathway technology to produce the cellulosic ethanol and will be eligible to qualify its cellulosic gallons for generating D3 Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN).  Iowa Falls is the second Flint Hills Resources plant, and the fifth overall, to receive approval for cellulosic ethanol production using Edeniq’s technology.  Edeniq announced in December 2016 that EPA approved Flint Hills Resources’ registration of its Shell Rock ethanol plant for cellulosic ethanol production.  According to Edeniq, its Pathway technology “remains the lowest-cost solution for producing and measuring cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber utilizing existing fermenters at existing corn ethanol plants, and has already proven cellulosic ethanol yields of up to 2.5% or higher, as a percentage of its customers’ total volume output.”  Additionally, the technology allows for increases in corn oil production and greater overall ethanol yields.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 9, 2017, American Process Inc. and Byogy Renewables, Inc. announced the launch of Phase 1 of its “Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts with AVAP (ABBA)” project following the completion of negotiations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  American Process received $3.7 million in funding for ABBA from DOE under the “Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower” program.  The ABBA project aims to co-produce full replacement renewable jet fuel, gasoline, diesel and Bioplus® nanocellulose from woody biomass to demonstrate that co-production of high volume commodity fuels and low volume, high value co-products enables profitable biorefineries at commercial scale.  Phase 1 of ABBA involves defining engineering, permitting, and financing activities. Following successful completion of Phase 1, ABBA is eligible for a Phase 2 award of up to $45 million from DOE for construction and operation of the project. Production will take place in an integrated biorefineray at AVAPCO, an American Process biomass research, development and demonstration facility.  The patented technologies and intellectual property provided by AVAPCO, Byogy, and Petron will allow for the conversion of wood to cellulose and cellulosic sugars, which are then converted to cellulosic biojet and nanocellulose.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Researchers at DOE’s Ames Laboratory are experimenting with chemical reactions that will provide an economical method of deconstructing lignin into stable, readily useful components.  Lignin is the second largest renewable carbon source on the planet, making it of interest to researchers focused on developing biofuels and bioproducts.  Currently, lignin is processed via pyrolysis or the use of an acid and high heat.  Both processes are inefficient and require high energy consumption.  Igor Slowing, an expert in heterogeneous catalysis, and his team are focused on developing a method of processing lignin at low temperature and pressure.  To achieve this goal, the team combined the decomposition and stabilization process into a single step using mild conditions and a multi-functional catalyst, specifically phosphate-modified ceria.  According to Slowing, the two processes appear to work synergistically at a lower temperature.  Following the promising results, the team aims to achieve lignin deconstruction using hydrogen from a renewable source.


 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On October 15, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill (S.B.) 258, the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017, which would require manufacturers of cleaning products to disclose certain chemical ingredients on the product label and on the manufacturer’s website.  The final version of S.B. 258 was passed by the California Senate on September 13, 2017, by a vote of 27 to 13.  The California Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 55 to 15, with nine votes not recorded, on September 12, 2017.  The online disclosure requirements would apply to a designated product sold in California on or after January 1, 2020, and the product label disclosure requirements would apply to a designated product sold in California on or after January 1, 2021.  The bill was co-sponsored by several non-governmental organizations as well as a few manufacturers of cleaning products including Honest Company, Seventh Generation, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, RB - Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, Eco Lab WD-40, fragrance maker Givaudan, and the Consumer Specialty Products Association.  More information on S.B. 258 is available in our memorandum “California Bill Would Require Disclosure of Cleaning Product Ingredients.” 

The State of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Division of Materials Management will soon release formally a similar initiative, the Household Cleaning Product Information Disclosure Program.  This program will require manufacturers of domestic and commercial cleaning products distributed, sold, or offered for sale in New York State to furnish information regarding such products in a certification form prescribed by the Commissioner, and is expected to require disclosure of many more chemicals than S.B. 258.  The period for comments on the draft certification form and guidance document related to the program ended on July 14, 2017.

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) will soon be releasing a detailed memorandum on both developments to be available on our regulatory developments webpage


 
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