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.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 25, 2017, bipartisan legislation aimed at leveling the playing field between renewable and fossil fuels was re-introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives.  Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), along with eight bipartisan co-sponsors, introduced the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act (S. 2005) in the Senate.  Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), along with six co-sponsors, introduced similar legislation (H.R. 4118) in the House.  The legislation would allow investors in a range of clean energy projects, including renewable fuels, access to a corporate structure whose tax advantage is currently available only to investors in fossil fuel-based energy projects.  According to Senator Coons, “[‌u]pdating the tax code in this way will help increase parity and ensure that [clean] energy technologies can permanently benefit from the incentives that traditional energy sources have depended on to build infrastructure for more than 30 years.”  The bills were previously introduced in the Senate and House on June 24, 2015.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 18, 2017, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced to the Senate the Renewable Chemicals Act of 2017 (S. 1980), which aims to establish a short-term tax credit for the production of renewable chemicals and for investment in renewable chemical production facilities.  If enacted, the legislation would allow taxpayers to claim a production credit equal to $0.15 per pound of biobased content of each renewable chemical produced.  In lieu of the production credit, taxpayers would be able to claim an investment credit equal to 30 percent of the basis of any eligible property that is part of a renewable chemical production facility.   The bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and is companion legislation to H.R. 3149, which was introduced in the House in June 2017 by Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ).


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) to confirm his commitment to support the spirit and the letter of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  In the letter, Pruitt stated that, following a detailed analysis, numerous stakeholder meetings, and review of public comments, it was determined that EPA would not grant the petition to move the point of obligation to blenders.  Additionally, EPA intends to issue a final Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rulemaking by the statutory deadline of November 30, 2017.  While the rulemaking process is ongoing, Pruitt indicated that the final RVO amounts would be set at levels equal to or greater than the proposed amounts.  Finally, Pruitt highlighted EPA’s willingness to work with Congress on a nationwide Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver for E15.  Senators Ernst, Grassley, Thune, and Fischer each released statements to confirm their commitment to working collaboratively with EPA on these issues.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Senate

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 17, 2017, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-FL), and 77 additional House members sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to urge the agencies to work together to promote innovative new technologies aimed at increasing crop yields and reducing the cost of production.  According to Congressman Panetta, the letter was prepared in response to duplicative or inconsistent regulatory proposals regarding biotechnology.  In the letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members highlighted several recent biotechnology regulatory efforts that warrant the Administration’s attention, as well as the importance of a consistent, science-based, risk-proportionate regulatory system.  Members concluded by urging the agencies to cooperate in creating consistent regulatory proposals that foster innovation; to increase engagement with trading partners to promote a harmonized, science-based international regulatory system for agricultural products; and to consider ways to engage with the public to discuss the continued advancement of biotechnology in agriculture.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 19, 2017, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), an Associate member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that it and its member companies sent a letter to the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture requesting the reauthorization of the Farm Bill’s Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003).  According to the letter, “[s]everal renewable chemical startups and mature chemical companies are waiting to build their first-of-a-kind manufacturing facilities in the United States from homegrown biomass and technologies and will do so with the proper federal policy support.”   The letter explained that renewable chemicals provide economic stability for the construction of a biorefinery, since such products generate a higher value than biofuels.  Beyond supporting the U.S. manufacturing industry, manufacturing renewable chemicals in the U.S. helps to improve the trade balance, maintain U.S. leadership in renewable energy while reducing dependence on foreign oil, provide value-added crop for products, and create thousands of high quality jobs.  BIO and its member companies concluded by urging the Committees “to provide stable mandatory funding for all the core energy title programs that will continue the development of biorefineries, positively impacting the biobased economy and creating thousands of rural jobs.”


 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On September 28, 2017, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing titled “Rural Development and Energy Programs: Perspectives for the 2018 Farm Bill” to gather stakeholder input regarding the programs under the Farm Bill that are working or need improvement.  In his opening statement, Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) stated that it is critical for the next Farm Bill to support renewable energy and biobased product manufacturers, as well as rural businesses, cooperatives, health clinics, schools, and other essential service providers. 
 
During the hearing, two panels presented testimony related to the Farm Bill.  The first panel consisted of the Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development; the Acting Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service; the Acting Administrator for the Rural Housing Service; and the Acting Administrator for the Rural Business Cooperative Service, and discussed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s vision for fostering growth and economic prosperity throughout rural America and provided an update on program functions within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.  The second panel consisted of private sector stakeholders, including Dr. Brent Shanks, the Director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Engineering Research Center of Biorenewable Chemicals.  During his testimony, Shanks suggested improvements to Title IX of the 2018 Farm Bill aimed at decoupling the risks between technology, market, and infrastructure inherent in completely new biorefineries. 
 
More information on the testimony provided during the hearing is available on the Committee’s website.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Last week, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Notice of Data Availability (NODA) regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume requirements (see EPA Issues NODA Regarding RFS Program).  On September 27, 2017, Ernst sent a letter to President Trump expressing concern over the proposed reduction in the volume requirements for 2018 and 2019.  In the letter, Ernst highlights the importance of renewable fuel with regard to jobs in rural America, and energy security for the U.S. Additionally, the letter states that “[w]hile the [NODA] technically ‘provides the public notice and an opportunity to comment,’ in reality it serves to make the case for substantially lowering the volumes for U.S. produced biodiesel, just as domestic producers are making investments to bring unused capacity back online.” 
 
In a September 26, 2017, statement, Grassley described the proposed reduction in renewable fuel volumes as a “bait-and-switch from the EPA’s prior proposal and from assurances from the President himself and Cabinet secretaries in [Grassley’s] office prior to confirmation for their strong support of renewable fuels.”  According to Grassley, reducing the volume requirements would undermine domestic renewable fuel production, which contradicts the goal of America first, employing U.S. workers, and improving the U.S. economy and meeting the country’s fuel needs.
 
Additionally, industry representatives have raised concerns over Trump’s nomination of William Wehrum to be the EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR).  In a statement regarding the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the nomination of Wehrum, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor highlighted the essential role the Assistant Administrator plays in managing EPA’s fuel policies and the need for assurance that EPA remains in sync with Trump and his commitment to renewable fuels.  Skor urged the Senate to ensure that Wehrum would carry out the duties of the position in a manner that expands on the progress made since the RFS was passed. 

Tags: Iowa, RFS, Response

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 11, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in response to the request by Senator Whitehouse and four other Democratic Senators to explain Carl Icahn’s role in shaping the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  According to Pruitt, Icahn did not exercise excessive influence on the U.S. biofuels policy while acting as an advisor of President Trump.  The letter states that Icahn was one of many advisors that Trump met with during his confirmation and no assurances were made regarding any substantive issue, including the point of obligation.  Following an investigation into the e-mails of 39 of EPA’s senior leadership, EPA’s Office of Environmental Information (OEI) found no correspondence to or from Icahn or his company, CVR Energy, between February and August.  A spokesman for Senator Whitehouse stated that the letter was being reviewed “for accuracy and to determine whether additional steps are warranted.”

Tags: EPA, RFS, Ichan

 
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