On Monday, the 41 member bicameral Farm Bill Conference Committee announced that it had reached agreement on a compromise Farm Bill, the Agriculture Act of 2014. A copy of the legislation is available online. The Conference Committee was led by House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK), Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS). A copy of the Senate Agriculture Committee press release on the compromise legislation is available online.
The bill includes $881 million in mandatory funding for renewable energy programs over the next ten years, and extends eligibility to renewable chemicals for the first time. It continues the majority of the energy programs covered under the 2008 Farm Bill, including the Biobased Markets and Biorefinery Assistance Programs, and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program to help encourage and facilitate the growth of purpose grown energy crops to be used for energy production. The legislation will modify the existing Biorefinery Assistance Program to create the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program that would expand funding eligibility to producers of renewable chemicals and biobased products. This mandatory funding and expanded eligibility marks a big victory for the biofuels and renewable chemicals and products industries.
The House of Representatives passed this compromise Farm Bill on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. The Senate is expected to take it up for consideration and potentially vote on it as early as the end of this week. The President is expected to sign it.
On January 28, 2014, the pro-safer chemicals coalition Safer States released a report in which it found that "at least 33 states are considering policies [to enhance chemical safety]. Some would change disclosure rules for manufacturers, so that concerned consumers will know what chemicals are in their products. Some would phase out the use of chemicals like bisphenol A, formaldehyde and toxic flame retardants." The report is available online.
There is increased momentum for chemical safety legislation in the wake of the January 9, 2014, chemical spill in West Virginia. Several bills have also been introduced at the federal level to increase chemical safety and security. In particular, the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014 was introduced this week (see above). The bill will strengthen states' ability to prevent chemical spills. Additionally, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) was introduced last year to reform TSCA. CSIA has been criticized for having weak state preemption provisions. B&C has issued a summary of both bills, which are available here and here.
In an article appearing in the January/February 2014 issue of The Environmental Forum, a publication of the Environmental Law Institute, the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group's (BRAG™) Lynn L. Bergeson and Kathleen M. Roberts discuss the latest developments in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approach under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to biobased chemicals, and offer strategies on how biobased chemical manufacturers can best navigate current TSCA requirements.
"Sustainability is a watchword for many brand owners, especially those that market to consumers, and renewable chemicals can facilitate the marking off of many boxes on the 'environmentally preferred' checklist. One big box that remains unchecked and curiously sometimes unnoticed altogether is an understanding of the application of TSCA to renewable chemicals. We discuss here TSCA's requirements and restrictions, offer a few thoughts for stakeholders to assure the successful marketing of these chemical products, and explain why there is an urgent need for an even playing field within TSCA and its implementing regulations that will promote and not discourage the development of new, greener chemical substances."
The full article can be found here.
On January 22, 2014, the largest U.S. biodiesel producer, the Renewable Energy Group, Inc.® (REG), headquartered in Ames, Iowa, announced that it has acquired renewable chemical producer LS9, Inc. for over $61 million. LS9 will be renamed REG Life Sciences LLC and will produce renewable chemicals and products. A copy of REG's press release is available online.
A research team from the University of Wisconsin at Madison reportedly has developed a promising process using a renewable chemical for biofuels production. Under the process, the researchers used biobased gamma valerolactone (GVL) to break down plants and produce sugars for the production of biofuels. The use of the biobased material could make the process more sustainable and affordable. The findings are published in the January 17, 2014, issue of the journal Science.
The 5th Annual Next Generation Bio-Based and Sustainable Chemicals Summit takes place Tuesday through Friday, February 4-7, 2014, in sunny San Diego, California. The premier biobased and sustainable chemicals information and networking event for biobased start-ups, global chemical majors, brand owners, feedstock providers, venture capitalists, and academics will feature a Keynote address by Kaj Johnson, Green Chef and Senior Director of Product Development from Method, who will speak about Sustainability by Design, and nine Real-World Case Studies from Novomer, Genomatica, POET, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Succinity GmbH, RSC Bio Solutions and Waste Pro USA, Novasep, and ENVIRON and Sigma-Aldrich will be provided.
Tuesday's pre-conference program is a strategic business forum dedicated to "Policy, Economics, Investment and Global Partnering to Support the Growth of Bio-Based Industry." Sessions will cover critical business issues for biobased products, including obtaining capital, developing global partnerships, and a presentation on the "Regulatory Opportunities and Challenges on the Road to Commercialization" by Lynn L. Bergeson.
Wednesday's pre-conference forum is titled "Moving Bio-Based Chemicals Beyond Technology: Fitting Bio-Based Materials into the Larger Picture of Global Sustainability" and will feature case studies and panel discussions, including "The Commercialization and Adoption of Readily Biodegradable, Biobased Functional Fluids and Cleaners" and "NGO Perspective for Evaluating Bio-Based Materials & Importance of their Role in the Industry."
The main summit gets underway Thursday with a keynote panel discussion, "Spurring Market Adoption -- Brand Owner and Chemical Major Perspectives," moderated by summit chair and Executive Director of Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG™) Kathleen M. Roberts. Over the two-day program, attendees will learn from a myriad of the leading business innovators in biobased and renewable chemicals, including Sherwin-Williams, International Paper, IBM, Myriant, Beta Renewables, Virdia, ARPA-E, Avantium, Elevance, Bioamber, Metabolix, DSM, Seventh Generation, and more.
Intuitively, entities in the "biobased" space may think the "naturally occurring" substance exemption under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the law that governs chemical products in the U.S., applies to their "biobased" materials. The scope of the exemption is limited, however, and complications arise when companies mistakenly assume a material is naturally occurring and therefore exempt from TSCA.
Learn more about this important issue online.
LignoTech Developments Ltd. subsidiary Xylemer BioProducts of New Zealand will soon open a new facility in Kearney, Nebraska. The facility will produce biomass-based resins. Distillers grains will be the first feedstocks used, likely followed by sugar beet pulp and rice hulls.
On December 19, 2013, Cortec Corporation headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, announced its Patent Pending BioPad® product. The company states that BioPad® "is a unique flexible corrosion inhibiting device constructed from 100% biobased non-woven material, containing 66% biobased content. BioPad® provides an eco-friendly sustainable packaging option for corrosion inhibition and has been awarded USDA BioPreferredSM designation. It is specially designed with Vapor phase Corrosion Inhibitors (VpCI®) impregnated throughout the substrate." A copy of Cortec's press release is available online.
On December 31, 2013, Ironridge Global Partners, LLC, an institutional investor based in Los Angeles, California, announced that it has launched a green initiative designed to fund sustainable businesses, including emerging growth companies focused on environmental sustainability and environmentally-friendly products and services. As part of the initiative, Ironridge has provided over $6 million to Cereplast, Inc., a leading manufacturer of proprietary biobased, compostable and sustainable bioplastics, and its creditors. A copy of the press release is available online.