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 May 9, 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with seven additional Democratic Senators, sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) requesting an investigation into the activities of Carl Icahn for potential insider trading, market manipulation, and other securities and commodities law violations in the renewable fuel credit market.  The letter states that the actions of and the massive profit earned by Icahn raise questions related to conflict-of-interest rules that apply to government officials, and questions regarding insider trading and market manipulation of renewable fuel credits, known as Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) -- which SEC, EPA, and CFTC have jurisdiction over.  EPA oversees the issuance and trading of RINs.  CFTC works with EPA to ensure integrity in the RIN market since it has broad authority to prevent insider trading and other market manipulation in commodities markets and futures markets.  SEC has jurisdiction to investigate whether Icahn’s actions as a senior adviser to President Trump affected CVR Energy's stock value or the accuracy of the company's annual and quarterly financial reporting and disclosure. 
 
The Senators maintained that RIN insider trading and market manipulation hurts all parties, including biofuel producers and refineries, and requested an investigation by the three agencies based on the publically available information detailed in the letter.  The Senators also requested information on whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and SEC Chairman Jay Clayton would recuse themselves from the investigation.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On May 12, 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) published in the Federal Register its preliminary determinations regarding the antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations of biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia.  ITC confirmed that there is a reasonable indication that an industry in the U.S. is materially injured by imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia, which are alleged to be sold in the U.S. at less than fair value (LTFV) and to be subsidized by the governments of Argentina and Indonesia.  As a result, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) will continue conducting its AD and CVD investigation.  According to the notice, ITC will publish a final phase notice of scheduling in the Federal Register upon notice from DOC of affirmative preliminary determinations in the investigations, or, if the preliminary determinations are negative, upon notice of affirmative final determinations in those investigations.  More information on the ITC determinations, which were made pursuant to Section 703(a) and 733(a) of the Tariff Act of 1930, is currently available on ITC’s website and will be available in the ITC public report titled “Biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia: Investigation” (publication number 4690).


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On May 1, 2017, the University of Maine (UMaine) began a continuous 100-hour demonstration of a biomass to bioproducts pilot plant at its Technology Research Center (TRC).  The plant, which is the result of a partnership between UMaine and Biofine Technology, is capable of processing up to one ton of woody biomass per day into chemicals for the manufacturing of biofuels, biochemical, and advanced materials.  UMaine will use the plant to scale up the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute’s (FBRI) patented conversion technology to produce jet fuel from woody biomass.  Data from the 100-hour demonstration will assist in the commercialization of the operation.  FBRI researchers aim to add another pilot plant that would manufacture larger quantities of biofuel from the platform chemicals as a prototype for commercialization.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and Sapphire Energy completed the first EPA-sanctioned outdoor field trial for GE algae, which was focused on understanding how GE algae perform in outdoor cultivation.  The 50-day experiment studied algae (Acutodesmus dimorphus) that was GE with genes for enhanced fatty acid biosynthesis and recombinant green fluorescence protein (GFP) expression under real world conditions in parallel with non-GE algae strains.  The results demonstrate that GE algae can be cultivated outdoors while maintaining the GE traits, and that the specific GE algae investigated does not adversely impact native algae populations.  According to the researchers, the study provides a framework to evaluate GE algae risks associated with outdoor GE algae production, which offers the promise of producing sustainable food, fuel, and other valuable products.

Tags: UCSD, GE, Algae

 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On May 18, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the dates it would be hosting three public meetings to provide the public with an opportunity to offer comments on the proposed revisions to its regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms.  82 Fed. Reg. 22802.  USDA has stated that it is updating its regulations “in response to advances in genetic engineering and [its] accumulated experience in implementing the current regulations, as well as [to] reduce the burden on regulated entities.”  The dates and locations for the public meetings are:

  • June 6, 2017, at the APHIS Center for Animal Welfare in Kansas City, Missouri;
  • June 13, 2017, at the University of California, Davis Conference Center, Davis, California; and
  • June 16, 2017, at the USDA Center at Riverside, Riverdale, Maryland. 

APHIS will be accepting comments on the proposed revisions until June 19, 2017, in Docket ID No. APHIS-2015-0057-0001Registration is available online.  The meetings will be webcast for those unable to attend in person.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On May 5, 2017, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced to the Senate Finance Committee legislation focused on reducing carbon pollution over the next decade by incentivizing clean energy and promoting new technologies in the private sector.  The Clean Energy for America Act, which was co-sponsored by 21 Democratic Senators, provides a simplified set of long-term, performance-based energy tax incentives to promote clean energy production and storage.  The legislation would create a technology-neutral incentive for the domestic production of renewable transportation fuels based on the lifecycle carbon emissions of the fuel.  The lifecycle emissions would need to be 25 percent less than the U.S. nationwide average for the fuel to be eligible for a tax credit.  Zero and net-negative emission fuels would be eligible for the maximum incentive of $1 per gallon.  To assist in the transition, the proposed legislation would extend the current expiring clean energy provisions through December 31, 2018.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is hosting its tenth annual Bioeconomy 2017: Domestic Resources for a Vibrant Future conference on July 11-12, 2017, in Arlington, Virginia.  As in years past, the conference will bring together government agency officials, members of Congress, industry leaders, national laboratory scientists, and academic researchers focused on moving the American bioeconomy forward.  Discussion will focus on:

  • Innovative technologies for the emerging bioeconomy; 
  • The economic opportunities of reliable American feedstock;           
  • New and growing markets for the bioeconomy;
  • Bioenergy as part of the modern transportation future; and     
  • Leveraging the bioeconomy to create new jobs and address global challenges.

Registration is available online.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On April 28, 2017, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its monthly biodiesel production report for February 2017.  According to the report, U.S. biodiesel production increased by one million gallons between January and February of this year but production is 11 million gallons less than February 2016.  Production came from 95 biodiesel plants with capacity of 2.3 billion gallons per year.  The report also states that 37 million gallons of 100 percent biodiesel (B100) were sold, and an additional 46 million gallons of B100 were sold in biodiesel blends.  Of the 736 million pounds of feedstocks used to produce biodiesel in February 2017, soybean oil remained the largest biodiesel feedstock with 369 million pounds consumed in February.


 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

On May 1, 2017, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) published a notice in the Federal Register regarding its intent to extend its use of the EERE Environmental Questionnaire, with changes, for three years.  The questionnaire allows EERE to collect project-specific information from federal financial assistance awardees to evaluate the potential environmental impact of projects that it is considering for funding, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969.

EERE is also requesting comments on the questionnaire, specifically on:

  • Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of DOE, including whether the information shall have practical utility;
  • The accuracy of DOE's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
  • Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
  • ​Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

Comments are due by June 30, 2017.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On May 2, 2017, the Maine Senate approved a bill to support Maine’s emerging biobased products industry.  An Act to Improve the Ability of Maine Companies to Manufacture and Market Bioplastics (LD 656) would provide the Maine Technology Institute with a $1.5 million grant to provide competitive grants for the development, production, and marketing of bioplastics.  The bill was introduced by Senator Jim Dill (D-Old Town) and endorsed by Senator Dana Dow (R-Waldoboro), Senator Tom Saviello (R-Wilton), and 17 Democratic Senators.  Following approval by the Senate, the bill will be introduced to the Maine House of Representatives for an initial vote.


 

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On April 24, 2017, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys representing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the renewable fuels and petroleum industries presented oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit regarding the petition to review the renewable volume obligations (RVO) for 2014-2016.  The petition, which was filed on January 8, 2016, by seven biofuel and agricultural groups, challenged EPA’s authority to set volume requirements for biofuel blending below standards put forth in the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) law.  During the oral arguments, Samara Spence, a DOJ attorney, argued that insufficient infrastructure prevented EPA from setting a higher advanced biofuel standard in the 2014-2016 final rule.  Seth Waxman, an attorney representing Americans for Clean Energy, argued that EPA misunderstood its authority under the statute.  According to statements from the federal appeals court judges, scaling back the blending requirements may be viewed as an abuse of EPA’s authority. 
 
In a joint statement in response to the oral arguments, the American Coalition for Ethanol, BIO, Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Sorghum Producers, and the Renewable Fuels Association stated that they are “optimistic that the Court will honor Congress’ intent and remove these and other obstacles EPA has impermissibly erected to cleaner and more sustainable renewable fuels from entering the marketplace.”  More information on the petition to review the RFS for 2014, 2015, and 2016 is available in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post “Biofuel, Corn, And Sorghum Farmers Challenge Lowered RFS Volumes.”

Tags: DOJ, EPA, RVO, RFS, Biofuel

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On April 26, 2017, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate to reform the biodiesel tax credit and extend the new policy for three years.  The American Renewable Fuel and Job Creation Act of 2017, which was sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and 14 other senators, transfers the $1 gallon tax credit from the blenders to the producers of biofuels to ensure that it incentivizes domestic production.  The bill also provides an additional $0.10 gallon credit for small biodiesel producers in the United States.  According to a statement released by Grassely, the bill would incentivize domestic production, remove a system that allows foreign biodiesel producers to benefit from the tax credit, and would have little to no impact on the consumer. 


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is hosting a Workshop on Moving Beyond Drop-In Replacements:  Performance Advantaged Bio-Based Chemicals on June 1, 2017, in Denver, Colorado.  The purpose of the workshop is to solicit stakeholder feedback on what research and development is necessary for writing a functional replacements and novel biobased compounds strategic plan.  The discussion, which will be restricted to polymers, small molecules, and other building block chemicals, will center on the following questions:​

  • Would a strategy document for bio-based novel compounds and functional replacements be useful? What would it look like?
  • What is the best strategy for developing a bio-based novel compounds and functional replacements guiding document?
  • What are the biggest challenges in identifying novel compounds and functional replacements?  
  • What are the most critical properties to screen for when developing screening protocols?
  • How can BETO best bridge the gap between those producing novel bio-based compounds and those who need novel compounds or replacements for their formulations?

Registration is available online.


 
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