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

On January 27, 2021, U.S. President Biden signed an “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” which established a National Climate Task Force (Task Force) and puts the climate crisis at the forefront of U.S. domestic and foreign policy. Highlighting the urgency in addressing the climate crisis, this EO requires short-term global reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and net-zero emissions by 2050 or before. Under the EO, the United States has rejoined the Paris Agreement and will begin implementing its three overarching goals:

  1. A safe global temperature;
     
  2. Increased resilience; and
     
  3. Financial goals aligned with a pathway toward low GHG emissions and climate-resilient development.

The EO also includes a provision (Section 216(b)(i)) stating that the Secretary of Agriculture must initiate efforts in the first 60 days, to obtain input from Tribes, farmers, forest owners, conservation groups, and other stakeholders on how to maximize the use of different U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and those of other authorities. Input on how to encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices will also be welcome. The aim of this provision is to achieve additional measurable and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration that source sustainable bioproducts and biofuels. The input received must be submitted to the Task Force for review within 90 days of the date of the EO, including recommendations for an agricultural and forestry climate strategy. This EO may play a key role for the biobased products and biofuels industry.


 

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

EPA, on January 15, 2021, issued a proposed rule to modify certain compliance dates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The proposed deadline extension for the 2019 compliance year and the associated deadline for submission of attest engagement reports for the 2019 compliance year for small refineries are as follows: November 30, 2021, and June 1, 2022, respectively. The second extension would be for the 2020 compliance year and the associated deadline for submission of attest engagement reports for obligated parties and Renewable Identification Number (RIN)-generating renewable fuel producers and importers, among other parties holding RINs. The new deadlines for these would be January 31, 2022, and June 1, 2022, respectively.

Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by March 11, 2021. A virtual public hearing will take place on February 9, 2021, to discuss questions and concerns about the proposed rule.


 

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

On January 19, 2021, EPA issued a request for comment on petitions submitted in 2020 for a waiver of the RFS obligations that apply to 2019 and 2020. The petitions argue that recent events warrant EPA exercising its general waiver authority on the basis of severe economic harm. In late March 2020, a group of small refineries requested a waiver of the 2019 and 2020 RFS obligations. In April 2020, Governors of several states submitted three petitions for waivers of the nationwide volumes. Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA is granted the discretion to waive the requirements of the RFS program in whole or in part if the EPA Administrator determines, after a notice and comment, that the implementation of the applicable annual volume requirements would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, region, or the United States. Comments on the aforementioned petitions are due on February 18, 2021.


 

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

DOE’s EERE announced an FOA of up to $35 million for bioenergy feedstock technologies and algae R&D. This FOA supports the White House’s priority to advance the domestic bioeconomy and DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BTO) goal to improve the performance and lower the cost and risk of technologies that can be used to produce biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts. Topic areas include the characterization of municipal solid waste (MSW) to enable production of conversion-ready feedstocks and algae productivity exceeding expectations (APEX). The application process requires a concept paper and a full application. While concept papers must be submitted to DOE by February 1, 2021, the full applications are due on April 5, 2021.


 

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

On December 19, 2020, the Government of Canada’s Department of the Environment published a proposed rule titled Clean Fuel Regulations. The proposed rule addresses Canada’s concerns in achieving its net-zero emissions by 2050 under the Paris Agreement. In an effort to reduce the largest sources of greenhouse gases (GHG), the Clean Fuel Regulations would require liquid fossil fuel primary suppliers to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of the liquid fossil fuels they produce in and import into Canada from 2016 CI levels by 2.4 g of CO2/megajoule (MJ) in 2022, increasing to 12 g of CO2/MJ in 2030. The proposed rule would also establish a credit market whereby the annual CI reduction requirement could be met via three main categories of credit-creating actions:

  • Actions that reduce the CI of the fossil fuel throughout its life cycle;
  • Supplying low-carbon fuels; and
  • Specified end-use fuel switching in transportation.

The Clean Fuels Regulations would also retain the minimum volumetric requirements of at least five percent low CI fuel content in gasoline and two percent low CI fuel content in diesel fuel and light fuel oil that are currently set out in the federal Renewable Fuels Regulation (RFR). The RFR would be repealed, and parties that are not primary fossil fuel suppliers would be able to participate in the credit market as voluntary credit creators by completing certain actions. Further details are available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 13, 2020, DOE’s EERE announced that the Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative issued a call for white papers. The Co-Optima initiative focuses on the development of new high-performance fuels that, when combined with advanced combustion approaches, can increase energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint. The initiative is seeking white papers to leverage National Laboratory resources and overcome technical challenges to advancing new liquid fuels and blendstocks. Proposals must address specific technical challenges and barriers that Co-Optima researchers can work on to move new fuels closer to market in conjunction with advanced, high-efficiency engines. The call for white papers is a Directed Funding Opportunity (DFO) available for U.S. domestic for-profit or non-profit businesses interested in Co-Optima’s goals and objectives. Foreign entities, including U.S. subsidiaries with a foreign-owned parent company, are also eligible to apply with a waiver request. Approval of the waiver, however, is subject to DOE discretion. All project work must be performed in the U.S.

Application templates are available here and must be submitted via e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by 5:00 p.m. (EST) January 14, 2021. Anticipated final selection decisions and notifications will be released on March 1, 2021, and the project will begin on May 1, 2021.

Four anticipated project awards are expected with $250,000 of Co-Optima National Laboratory assistance over a project duration of 12 to 18 months. Industry partners will fund their own labor, materials, and other expenses, which contribute toward a 20 percent minimum cost-share requirement.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 18, 2020, U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and encourage low-carbon fuel production. Titled “The Streamlining Advanced Biofuels Registration Act,” this bill would eliminate existing barriers for biofuels plants to increase production of cellulosic biomass into renewable fuels. Representative Bustos criticized the lack of timely response from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), adding that through this bill, “we can encourage the use of cellulosic biomass in low-carbon, renewable fuel production and continue to create cleaner, more environmentally-friendly fuels.” The legislation would ensure that EPA acts on outstanding applications under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and compel EPA to accept applications if the fuel could participate in at least one state’s clean transportation program. Biofuels industry stakeholders have demonstrated support for the bill.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 8, 2020, Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made $22 million available in grants to increase sales of ethanol and biodiesel. The funds are coming out of the $100 million in grants available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) and have been disbursed to 14 states. USDA predicts that the investments will increase ethanol demand by approximately 150 million gallons annually.

HBIIP aims to assist biodiesel distribution facilities and transportation fueling facilities with the conversion to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing costs related to installing fuel pumps and related equipment and infrastructure. Eligible grant applicants are vehicle fueling facilities, including, but not limited to:

  • Local fueling stations and locations;
  • Vehicle fueling facilities;
  • Hypermarket fueling stations;
  • Convenience stores;
  • Fuel terminal operations;
  • Fleet facilities;
  • Midstream partners; and
  • Distribution facilities.

Higher fuel blends mean fuels that contain ethanol over ten percent by volume and/or fuels containing biodiesel blends higher than five percent by volume. More information on USDA’s HBIIP can be found here.

Tags: USDA, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 19, 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that, in 2019, renewable energy consumption levels in the United States increased for the fourth year in a row, reaching a record 11 percent of total energy consumption. Wood and waste energy, wood pellets, and biomass waste from landfills accounted for approximately 24 percent of U.S. renewable energy use. According to EIA, industrial, commercial, and electric power facilities use wood and waste as fuel to generate electricity, manufacture goods, and produce heat. Biofuels, which includes fuel ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuels, accounted for approximately 20 percent of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. A detailed chart prepared by EIA further outlines the breakdown, including percentages for hydropower, solar, and wind energy consumption in 2019.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The government of Manitoba, Canada, is currently working to amend three regulations under the Biofuels Act. The amendments will update Manitoba’s clean fuel standards by increasing the ethanol and renewable fuel content in gasoline. The proposed amendments include:

  • “Ethanol General Regulation is amended to:
     
    • Include the latest fuel standards for ethanol blended gasoline;
       
    • Remove the quarterly reporting requirements of obligated entities; and
       
    • Increase ethanol content from 8.5% to 10%.
       
  • Biodiesel Mandate for Diesel Fuel Regulation is amended to:
     
    • Increase renewable fuel content of diesel from 2% to 5%;
       
    • Adjust the compliance formula to reflect the 5% blending requirement; and
       
    • Adjust the shortfall calculation to reflect the 5% blending requirement, and to increase the penalty amount from $0.45 to $1.50 per litre.
       
  • Biodiesel (General) Regulation is amended to:
     
    • Repeal the definition of “non-commercial licence;
       
    • Include the latest fuel standards for biodiesel and renewable diesel sold or offered for sale in Manitoba;
       
    • Include the latest fuel standards for biodiesel blends eligible under the Biodiesel Mandate;
       
    • Remove the non-commercial biodiesel manufacturing licence class;
       
    • Clarify the conditions required to hold a commercial biodiesel manufacturing licence; and
       
    • Remove references to the non-commercial licence class.”
       

The primary public policy objective of Manitoba’s government is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while increasing renewable fuels use. The regulatory amendments will come into force on January 1, 2021.


 
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