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.

On March 26, 2015, Representative Todd Young (R-IN) introduced H.R. 1665, the Alternative Fuel Tax Parity Act, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to equalize the excise tax on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (propane). This legislation would attach federal tax parities for LNG and propane to the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit (AFTC) that currently covers alternative fuel mixtures, alcohol fuel, and biodiesel. The AFTC has expired and is awaiting renewal. If H.R. 1665 is attached to the AFTC, LNG and propane would be taxed based on their energy output rather than volume, changing the tax on LNG from 24.3 cents-per-gallon to 14.1 cents-per-gallon and the tax on propane from 18.3 cents-per-gallon to 13.2 cents-per-gallon. The bill is intended to level the playing field by taxing LNG and propane at the same energy based rate as gasoline. Gasoline is currently taxed at 18.3 cents-per-gallon.

 
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On March 26, 2015, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced S. 899, the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015, a bill to provide regulatory relief to alternative fuel producers and consumers. The bill would require EPA to provide a volatility waiver to E15, allowing the higher ethanol blend to be sold year round. Fuels have volatility limits in the summer to prevent excess evaporation that results in smog. Some areas cannot obtain the lower-volatility gas that would be able to be mixed with the ethanol and sold. Because of this situation, E15 cannot be sold in the summer in some areas. Also, to avoid consumer confusion and investment in infrastructure in a product that has limited sales, many retailers choose not to carry E15 at all. A similar waiver is already granted for E10 that allows the fuel to be sold through the summer even if it exceeds volatility limits.

 
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On March 30, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew a Direct Final Rule for Partial Exemption of Certain Chemical Substances from Reporting Additional Chemical Data. The direct final rule, issued in January 2015, would have exempted manufacturers of six biobased diesel chemicals from reporting processing and use information for the compounds under the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule. It resulted from a regulatory petition filed by the Biobased and Renewable Advocacy Group (BRAG®). The EPA decision to withdraw the rule was in response to a single comment posted during the short comment period.

Kathleen Roberts, BRAG's Executive Director, stated: "Albeit disappointing, the response is not unexpected given the strict procedures associated with direct final rules. EPA has stated it plans to proceed with a proposed rulemaking to list the chemicals soon and we will urge them to move as quickly as possible. Our hope is EPA can complete the rulemaking process in time for the next reporting CDR cycle, which starts in June 2016."

Until the new rule is completed, manufacturers of the six affected biobased diesel chemicals should be prepared to submit processing and use information under the CDR in 2016.

 

 

 

EPA is accepting public comments through May 26, 2015, on two proposed information collection requests (ICR) published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. The proposed ICRs concern projected cellulosic biofuels volumes and gasoline containing greater than 10 volume percent ethanol up to 15 volume percent ethanol (E15). Comments received will assist EPA as the agency prepares to submit the final ICRs to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for its official approval and dissemination.

In the first proposed ICR on "Cellulosic Production Volume Projections and Efficient Producer Reporting," EPA is seeking to collect information from potential cellulosic biofuel producers to aid in determining the annual volume standards. In the second proposed ICR on "Recordkeeping and Reporting Related to E15 (Renewal)," EPA is seeking comment on recordkeeping and reporting items related to the legal use of E15 in commerce.

 

 

On March 20, 2015, the Notice of Opportunity to Comment on an Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Attributable to Production and Transport of Pennycress (Thlaspi Arvense) Oil for Use in Biofuel Production that was discussed in the March 19, 2015, Biobased and Renewable Products Update was published in the Federal Register. The docket number is EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0091 and comments on the notice close on April 20, 2015.

 

 

On March 12, 2015, Christopher Grundler, Director of EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, signed the Notice Of Opportunity to Comment on an Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Attributable to Production and Transport of Pennycress (Thlaspi Avense) Oil for Use in Biofuel Production. This notice states that biofuels produced from pennycress oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biofuel when they are produced using typical fuel production process technologies. The notice is the result of an analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that come from the production and transport of pennycress oil. According to the analysis, pennycress oil has less than or equal GHG emissions per ton of oil than soybean oil when accounting for crop inputs, crushing, extraction, and direct and indirect land use change. Soybean oil and pennycress oil are expected to also have the same fuel yield per pound of oil. This means that pennycress oil-based biofuels could produce less GHG than soybean oil-based biofuels. The notice has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but once posted will be found at the soon to be opened Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0091. Comments will be open for 30 days after publication.

 

 

The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota is advocating strongly for two bills in the state that if passed would result in a two-year, $5 million production incentive for producers, and a capital loan equipment program. The bills, HF 536 and SF 517, would benefit companies that develop biochemicals, advanced biofuels, and anaerobic digestion projects. There is concern, however, that the legislation would increase the production of corn rather than encourage the production of crops that do not require the same heavy use of fertilizer as corn. Citing concerns about fertilizer runoffs in the river, combined with corn being an easy source to convert to biofuel, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership and Friends of the Mississippi River have suggested amending the bills to: (1) require biofuel refineries receiving the production incentive to have at least 50 percent of their feedstock come from perennials; and (2) pay incentives to farmers who switch from corn to perennials. HF 536 has already been changed to include a 20 percent bonus for the use of perennials over corn. It is likely that both bills will continue to change to reflect continued concerns about water quality in Minnesota.

 

 

 

On March 7, 2015, the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit brought together several Republican Presidential hopefuls to discuss agricultural issues, including the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), in the United States. The potential candidates present at the summit included former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL), Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), former Governor George Pataki (R-NY), former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR), former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), and former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX). Walker, Bush, and Graham all stated that they supported the RFS, with Walker stating that he "believes in a free and open market ... but it is an access issue, so it is something that I am willing to go forward on, continuing the RFS." Graham also appreciated how the RFS has improved the United States' energy independence. Cruz and Perry both support biofuels but Cruz does not think that the federal government should allow the market to dictate what renewable energy sources succeed, while Perry stated that biofuels are more of a state issue than a federal issue. Generally, the potential candidates seemed to be pro-biofuels, a stance that was very popular at the Iowa Ag Summit. Many Iowa farmers produce crops that are used as biomass to make biofuels and renewable chemicals. While many of the possible candidates indicated their support for biofuels, they were generally more restrained in their support for the RFS, with some suggesting that the RFS should only be used in the short term or that the RFS should be re-worked on a state level, or changed so that implementation was encouraged but voluntary.

 

 
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