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

On January 13, 2020, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne announced that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has responded to a bipartisan letter submitted by members of the House Biofuels Caucus (HBC) requesting an investigation into misuse of small refinery exemptions (SREs) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Submitted in August 2019, the bipartisan letter requested that GAO examine EPA’s review and approval of SRE waivers under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). HBC’s letter also included a request for inspection of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) viability scores for SREs reviewed in 2018. HBC’s concerns were mostly related to the economic consequences to rural communities due to the exemption of approximately four billion gallons of fuel from the RFS in 2018. In addition to the aforementioned requests, HBC members asked that GAO also consider the following questions:

  • Has DOE changed the criteria, the interpretation of the criteria, the methodology, or any other significant aspect of how it makes its recommendations to EPA for SREs?
     
  • Other than the viability score provided by DOE, what other factors are being considered by EPA in awarding SRE waivers? How has this changed since the previous Administration?
     
  • Since the development of DOE’s 2011 methodology, what percentage of applications that received a disqualifying viability score from the DOE were granted?
     
  • How many times has DOE recommended a partial waiver for a refinery?
     
  • Has EPA granted a partial waiver?
     
  • Does EPA or DOE consider the economic viability of the parent refiner company when considering an application from an individual refinery?
     
  • Does DOE take Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) into account when assessing relief petitions?

On January 10, 2020, GAO responded to the bipartisan request, agreeing to review matters related to the approval of SRE waivers and stating that it will begin its work shortly. Mark E. Gaffigan, Managing Director of GAO’s Natural Resources and Environment, and his staff will be in charge of the investigation.

In August 2019, Axne had also submitted a letter to EPA’s Acting Inspector General (IG), Charles Sheehan, requesting an investigation of this matter. In its response letter to HBC, GAO stated that it will be in contact with the cognizant IG’s office to ensure that efforts are not duplicated.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On December 9, 2019, the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019 (H.R. 2051) was passed by the House of Representatives. H.R. 2051 establishes an interagency working group (IWG) led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate Federal programs and activities in support of sustainable chemistry. The IWG will develop a roadmap for sustainable chemistry with a framework of attributes characterizing sustainable chemistry, assess the state of sustainable chemistry in the United States, and identify methods by which federal agencies can incentivize sustainable chemistry activities, challenges to sustainable chemistry progress, and opportunities for expanding federal sustainable chemistry efforts. On December 10, 2019, the bill was received in the Senate, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On December 9, 2019, 22 Senate Democrats released a letter supporting the expansion of green energy tax credits. This letter was drafted in response to the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act discussion draft that was circulated in the U.S. House of Representatives on November 19, 2019. The Senators agree with the priorities of the GREEN Act and pledge to similarly prioritize and include:

  • Offshore Wind Investment Tax Credit,
     
  • Storage Investment Tax Credit,
     
  • Solar and Clean Energy Investment Tax Credit Extension,
     
  • Energy Efficiency Tax Credit,
     
  • Clean Vehicles, and
     
  • Onshore Wind.
     

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 13, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. (EST), the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing on “Strengthening Transparency or Silencing Science? The Future of Science in EPA Rulemaking.” The Committee will hear from the following witnesses:

Panel 1

  • Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD); EPA Science Advisor.
     

Panel 2

  • Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); Director of NIEHS, 2009-2019;
     
  • Dr. Mary B. Rice, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center;
     
  • Dr. David Allison, Dean, School of Public Health, Indiana University-Bloomington; Member, “Reproducibility and Replicability in Science” Committee, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; and
     
  • Dr. Todd Sherer, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
     

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 17, 2019, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology unanimously approved the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act (H.R. 2051), a companion bill to legislation introduced in the Senate by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the House bill on April 3, 2019. It is co-sponsored by Representative John Moolenaar (R-MI). The bill is intended to improve coordination of federal activities, including research and development of more sustainable chemicals, processes, and systems, by establishing a coordinating entity under the National Science and Technology Council within the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The legislation would allow the agencies involved in this entity to work, in consultation with qualified stakeholders, to assess the state of sustainable chemistry in the United States and encourage the validation of tools for assessment of sustainable chemistry processes or products. The agencies would include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and other related federal agencies, as appropriate. The bill also supports improved education and training in sustainable chemistry.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 22, 2019, Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Chair, and Paul Tonko (D-NY), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee (ECCS), announced that a legislative hearing will be held on October 29, 2019, at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) on Capitol Hill. Titled “Protecting the RFS: The Trump Administration’s Abuse of Secret Waivers,” the hearing will focus on the EPA’s mismanagement of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program under the Trump Administration. The Subcommittee has not yet released the witness list for the legislative hearing; it has, however, stated that the purpose of the meeting is to examine H.R. 3006, the RFS Integrity Act of 2019, introduced by Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN). Further information for the hearing, including the Committee Memorandum, legislation, witness list, testimony, and a live webcast will be posted online as soon as it becomes available.

Tags: RFS

 

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

On September 17, 2019, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) chaired a hearing to discuss the use and sourcing of minerals needed for clean energy technologies. Highlighting the fact that renewable technologies such as batteries and wind turbines are built from minerals, Senator Murkowski stated that “[t]he United States is capable of being a leader in the development of the minerals needed for clean energy technologies.” As Chairman for the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, she further argued that for this to be achieved, the production, manufacturing, and recycling of minerals must expand to rebuild a robust domestic supply chain. In her opening statement, Senator Murkowski announced the release of a report by the Congressional Research Service. The report summarizes analyses of the quantity of materials needed to meet renewable and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals. The report includes an analysis of a World Bank Group (WB) study, which forecasts that demand for certain minerals will increase under an aggressive scenario to limit warming. The other two analyses in the report consist of DOE critical mineral demand projections and a gross domestic product (GDP) electricity demand study by Halada et al.

Tags: GHG, Report

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 9, 2019, the House of Representatives returned to work after a six-week August recess and passed a package of energy-related bills. By a roll call vote of 295 to 114, the House approved a bill (H.R. 1768) that would extend the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act through 2024. The vote would keep alive an EPA program that takes older diesel-powered equipment off the market. House lawmakers also approved: H.R. 1420 to improve energy efficiency in federal buildings; H.R. 2114 to provide states with financial and technical support on energy security; and H.R. 1760 that would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to create a uranium program.

Tags: Energy

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 10, 2019, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship held a hearing on the clean energy economy. In a notice, the Subcommittee stated that there are growing opportunities for small companies, including farmers, to respond to energy challenges through new and innovative solutions. The clean energy economy covers many industries that are dominated by small businesses, including construction, agriculture, and renewable energy sectors. The Committee explored the economic opportunities for small businesses that come through efforts to address unpredictable weather patterns, reduce fossil fuel consumption, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy efficiency. Witnesses shared how small businesses are growing and creating well-paying jobs within clean energy sectors, as well as what they need to continue to succeed. Testifying before the committee were Lynn Abramson, President, Clean Energy Business Network; Thomas Brooks, General Manager, Western Dubuque Biodiesel LLC; Michael Williams, Deputy Director, BlueGreen Alliance; and David Spigelmyer, President, Marcellus Shale Coalition. Hearing information, witness testimony, and an archived webcast of the hearing are available online.


 

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

On September 3, 2019, Medium published an article by U.S. Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren where she outlines her plan for achieving 100 percent clean energy. Highlighting the fact that the United States is the world’s largest historical carbon polluter, Warren claims that the United States has a “special responsibility to lead the way” in the clean energy movement. As an original supporter of the Green New Deal, which outlines a plan to achieve zero-net domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, Warren continues her public campaign calling for large and sustainable structural changes to decarbonize key sectors of the U.S. economy. In her article, Warren challenges other Presidential candidates to do the same in demonstrating commitment to clean energy through the decarbonization of electricity, vehicles, and buildings. Warren expands her argument by stating that a federal investment of $3 trillion will leverage additional trillions in private investment and create millions of jobs in addition to achieving:

  • 100 percent zero-carbon pollution for all new commercial and residential buildings by 2028;
     
  • 100 percent zero emissions for all new light-duty passenger vehicles, medium-duty trucks, and all buses by 2030; and
     
  • 100 percent renewable and zero-emission energy in electricity generation by 2030.

To achieve the goals outlined above, Warren states that there is no time to waste and that changes must begin now, including the readjustment of the U.S. economic approach to assure communities of color and other underserved populations are not left behind. As part of her campaign, Warren further delves into measures she would take as President to achieve these goals. Among these measures are the establishment of high standards for utilities; the creation of a Federal Renewable Energy Commission; federal subsidies to speed clean energy adoption; greater interstate and regional coordination; and the use of federal investment and policy to accelerate the transition. Warren further outlines her plan in her article, concluding by stating that should she win the election, she will “take bold action to confront the climate change crisis, starting on day one.”


 
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