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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 13, 2021, that Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative now includes cleaning and other products certified by EPA’s Safer Choice program. According to EPA, Safer Choice is now one of 30 sustainability certifications highlighted under Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative that helps customers shop for more than 75,000 products through the company’s online store. EPA notes that highlighting Safer Choice-certified products makes it easier for consumers to locate products that contain safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance. Products identified as Climate Pledge Friendly are distinguished on Amazon’s website by an hourglass-with-wings symbol. The company also provides its customers with detailed web pages that include information on how and why products are certified as sustainable.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 24, 2021, a “unique and broad group” of chemical manufacturers, brand owners, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO), states, and municipalities sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to express their “strong support” for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice Program and to encourage that the program be funded fully. The letter asks that the following language be included in the report:

The Committee supports the Safer Choice program and directs that the program be funded and operated at least at levels consistent with Fiscal Year 2014, adjusted for inflation.

According to the letter, in the last quarter of 2020, EPA reorganized the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), dissolving the Safer Choice branch and reassigning most staff to the areas of OCSPP. The letter states that “[a]s a result, the program is now severely under-resourced with approximately four full-time staff.” The Biden-Harris EPA has taken steps to restore the program, but EPA still faces resource constraints.

The letter describes how companies across the value chain use the Safer Choice brand to advance their individual safer chemical initiatives. Chemical manufacturers invested in developing safer chemicals now listed on the Safer Choice’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL). Brand owners and product manufacturers have reformulated products using the SCIL to obtain Safer Choice certification. Major retailers specify the Safer Choice label as a verifiable way to meet corporate goals laid out in public-facing chemicals policies.

According to the letter, the Safer Choice Program also provides value to entities outside of the supply chain. States and municipalities rely on the Safer Choice Program “because it is the only third-party program that requires all ingredients to be screened for hazards instead of simply using a restricted substances list.” NGOs and consumers “find significant value in an authoritative government program that can be trusted to vet safer chemicals and products.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 2, 2021, U.S. Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN) and Randy Feenstra (R-IA) introduced a bill called the Small Refinery Exemption Clarification Act of 2021. The bill clarifies that only oil refineries that have been continuously receiving small refinery exemptions (SRE) since 2011 should be eligible to petition for extensions of renewable fuel blending requirement exemptions. The SRE Clarification Act follows the Supreme Court’s decision in late June 2021 that, according to Representatives Craig and Feenstra, could negatively influence the biofuels industry by making it easier for oil refineries to avoid Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements. Representative Craig stated that “[‌i]t is vital that we continue to support the clean biofuels industry as we reduce the carbon intensity of our transportation sector and make important investments across rural America.” Representative Feenstra emphasized that “we must erase ambiguities and ensure oil refineries are not able to take shortcuts when it comes to blending biofuels.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On July 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced Phase I selections for the Waste-to-Energy Technical Assistance for Local Governments Program. Designed by NREL to provide assistance in the development of waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies on behalf of BETO, the goal of this program is to identify gaps and gather data and information on organic waste streams. The information gathered is used to:

  • Provide data to local decisionmakers;
  • Deploy the analyses that have been developed for various energy/resource recovery strategies; and
  • Locally foster public-private partnerships.

BETO aims to enable organic waste energy and/or resource recovery at the municipal level by leveraging technical expertise and data to address specific issues each municipality may encounter with their waste streams. Phase I of the program funds collaborations between NREL and 16 local government bodies to provide strategic planning support, quantification of local organic waste resources, and mitigation approaches for localized environmental impacts. A full list of Phase I selectees can be accessed here. Phase II funding will depend on BETO’s funding availability later in 2021.

Tags: DOE, BETO, NREL, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 28, 2021, DOE announced the dates of the 2021 SBIR Week. The virtual event is scheduled for July 19, 2021, through July 23, 2021, and aims to connect entrepreneurs working on advanced technologies to the United States’ largest source of early-stage funding: DOE’s SBIR and STTR programs. The SBIR and STTR programs, also known as America’s Seed Fund, provide more than $4 billion annually in funding to small businesses developing new technologies.
 
The 2021 SBIR Week will include live-streaming panels and presentations with federal agencies that administer new awards. Participants will have an opportunity to meet with DOE Office of SBIR/STTR Programs staff on an individual basis or in roundtable discussions. DOE Office of SBIR/STTR Programs available staff will include:

  • Eileen Chant, Outreach Program Manager;
  • Carl Hebron, Program Coordinator; and
  • Manny Oliver, Director.

Registration is required and open to innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, and small technology businesses.

Tags: DOE, SBIR

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 14, 2021, the Senate confirmed by voice vote Michal Freedhoff to be the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As reported in our January 22, 2021, blog item, Freedhoff was onboarded in January 2021 as Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. On April 14, 2021, President Joseph Biden nominated Freedhoff for Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. According to Biden’s announcement, Freedhoff has more than 20 years of government experience, most recently as the Minority Director of Oversight for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She began her Congressional service in 1996 in then-Representative Ed Markey’s (D-MA) office as a Congressional Science and Engineering fellow after receiving a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Rochester. Freedhoff also served on the staffs of the House Science Committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the House Natural Resources Committee. The announcement states that Freedhoff’s legislative work includes the 2016 re-authorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 2019 legislation to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, the fuel economy provisions in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, and a law requiring the creation of an online database of potential consumer product safety defects.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 15, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced and recognized the winners of the 2021 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. According to EPA’s announcement, this year’s winners have developed new and innovative green chemistry technologies that provide solutions to significant environmental challenges and spur innovation. The announcement was made during the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. Co-sponsored by EPA and ACS, the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Further details are available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that it will host a webinar with EERE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Renewable Power, Alejandro Moreno, on June 17, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. (EDT). The one-hour webinar will cover activities, programs, and initiatives proposed in EERE’s budget request. EERE requested $4.7 billion in an effort to lead the transition of the national economy into a 100 percent clean energy economy. The webinar is titled “EERE FY 22 Budget Request: Renewable Power.” DAS Moreno will be joined by several directors from EERE’s Renewable Power Technology pillar:

  • Becca Jones-Albertus, Director, Solar Energy Technologies Office;
  • Jennifer Garson, Acting Director, Water Power Technologies Office;
  • Susan Hamm, Director, Geothermal Technologies Office; and
  • Robert Marlay, Director, Wind Energy Technologies Office.

The final 15 minutes will be reserved for questions. Registration is require via this link. EERE will host two additional webinars on the FY22 budget request for the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Transportation pillars.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that 235 U.S. small businesses will receive $54 million in critical seed funding for 266 projects focused on developing and deploying novel technology solutions that contribute to the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Administered by DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, selected projects include:

  • Grid-smart building controls;
  • Solving laser distortions; and
  • Workforce development and experiential bioenergy.

The class of awardees is designing new solutions to U.S. energy needs through carbon capture and storage, electric vehicle batteries, and solar and hydrogen power, among other types of energy. Additional information about the selected projects is available here.
 
As part of its announcement, DOE released an Inclusive Innovation Request for Information (RFI) to ensure that funding opportunities and innovation activities are more inclusive. More information on the RFI is available here. The deadline for full application submission is August 6, 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 1, 2021, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced that its scientists have developed a novel solvent that results in a more efficient process to recover valuable materials from used lithium-ion batteries. According to ORNL’s press release, this new method supports a stable domestic supply chain for new batteries and keeps old ones out of landfills.
 
Currently, the recycling process of batteries involves smelting, which is an expensive, energy-intensive process that releases toxic gas. This new process developed by ORNL, however, recovers cathode materials and aluminum foils from lithium-ion batteries using a less hazardous solvent. It is a wet chemical process that uses triethyl phosphate to dissolve the binder material that adheres cathodes to metal foil. This process results in efficient recovery of cobalt-based cathodes and graphite, among other valuable materials, such as copper foils, that can be reused in new batteries. ORNL’s Ilias Belharouak stated that, in addition to repurposing materials, the new process reduces toxic exposure for workers. The full publication of ORNL’s study is available here.


 
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