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

On September 7, 2018, U.S. Congressman David Young (R-IA) introduced, in a bipartisan effort with U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), the Restoring Our Commitment to Renewable Fuels Act. Under this bill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be required “[t]o provide for reallocation of the renewable fuel obligation of exempted small refineries under section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7545(o)) to other refineries, blenders, distributors, and importers, and for other purposes.”  As a response to EPA’s 2019 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) proposal, the bill aims to address issues related to the former EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, and his decision to undercut the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) through “hardship” waivers received by refineries. Calling for greater transparency within EPA’s decisions on issuing these waivers, this Act holds EPA accountable to meet and maintain the RVOs set annually. The bill also calls for the reallocation of each gallon of renewable fuel covered by these exemptions.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 23, 2018, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and 37 others submitted a bipartisan letter, asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase the renewable volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as proposed by EPA in June 2018. Under the aforementioned proposed RFS, EPA would raise the advanced biofuel volume for 2019 to 4.88 billion gallons and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2020 to 2.43 billion gallons. The bipartisan group argues that although these increases may be promising, the potential of biodiesel is still taken too lightly. Not only does the biodiesel industry have prodigious growth potential, its expansion would significantly generate jobs in the U.S. In particular, the Senators emphasized the need to also recognize small refiners’ economic hardship exemptions during the 2019 compliance year.

Tags: Senate, RFS, EPA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 2, 2018, the Trump Administration’s Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gregory J. Sheehan, reversed an Obama era 2014 policy on the use of biotechnology on wildlife refuges. On July 17, 2014, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum prohibiting the use of genetically modified biotechnology crops to feed wildlife and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in agricultural practices. This ban was issued in response to lawsuits that claimed the use of toxic pesticides and genetically engineered crops violated environmental laws. The 2014 memorandum declared that the use of these products should be phased out by 2016. In his 2018 memorandum, Sheehan argued that genetically modified crops and bee-killing pesticides are necessary to promulgate maximum production of farming practices in refuges.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 19, 2018, the bipartisan Carbon Utilization Act was introduced by Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA) and David Young (R-IA) to promote biogas and carbon capture utilization and sequestration (CCUS) technologies. Biogas is produced by converting organic waste material into CO2, methane, and other carbon products that then are captured by CCUS technologies to use as energy or fuel. The newly introduced bill incentivizes the use of innovative technologies for farmers, biotech businesses, research programs, and rural development programs.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 28, 2018, the U.S. Senate passed S.3042 -- Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) with a vote of 86-11. This bill includes mandatory funding for Energy Title programs, including the Biomass Research and Development Initiative; the Biobased Markets Program; the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Product Manufacturing Assistance Program; the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels; the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP); and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). In addition to securing funding for a range of bioenergy programs, the legislation also expands the types of renewable chemical and biobased product technologies that are eligible for funding. The U.S. House of Representatives version of this bill, H.R. 2, was passed on June 21, 2018, and does not include mandatory funding for Energy Title programs. While this funding was not included in H.R. 2, a previous vote to repeal the Energy Title programs was defeated in the House on May 17, 2018, by a vote of 75-340, signaling strong bipartisan support of the programs. (See the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) Blog post “Bipartisan Support Keeps Energy Title Programs In Farm Bill.”) The differences between the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill will be resolved in committee.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts 

On June 13, 2018, representatives of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) and representatives of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff to discuss the two groups’ white paper, “Proposal for a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory Representation and Equivalency Determinations for Renewable and Sustainable Bio-based Chemicals.”  BRAG and BIO members provided a presentation for EPA staff that outlined the regulatory challenges and market impendence facing the biobased industry related to current naming conventions.  BRAG and BIO look forward to further dialogue with EPA on this crucial issue.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 17, 2018, a proposed amendment to repeal the Farm Bill’s energy title programs was defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 75-340. These title programs provide grants and loan guarantees to rural lenders and businesses, as well as research and development support for renewable energy products. While these programs account for less than one percent of the total amount that the federal government spends on agriculture and nutrition programs, they provide a strong return on investment and provide vital access to capital for rural businesses. Lloyd Ritter, Director of the Agriculture Energy Coalition, stated, “The House of Representatives’ overwhelming vote shows that there is strong, bipartisan support for the energy title programs. These programs support more than 1.5 million U.S. workers who manufacture biobased products and help rural America adopt new technologies for renewable energy economic opportunities. The final farm bill must include an Energy Title, with strong mandatory funding and necessary updates for the vital programs.”

Tags: Farm Bill

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 8, 2018, President Trump met with a group of Republican Senators and told them that he is considering allowing exported ethanol to count toward the volumes mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  During this meeting, Mr. Trump also reiterated support for expanding sales of E15, and withdrew his verbal proposal to cap the price of RINs, which had been widely criticized by the ethanol industry. These announcements came after increasing concern about the future stability of the RFS after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently granted over two dozen hardship waivers to small refineries for 2017, a drastic increase from EPA’s prior practice of granting between six to eight hardship waivers annually.
 
The ethanol industry reacted favorably to some of these proposals, with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), releasing a statement thanking President Trump for rejecting the RIN cap and for his support of year round sales of E15. Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, stated:  “Ensuring that E15 can be sold year round in states and regions where it is already approved will give advanced and cellulosic ethanol more opportunity to compete in the market in coming years. E15 reduces the price of gasoline by 5 to 15 cents per gallon, and it lowers tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions all year round. . . . BIO and its members continue to oppose unnecessary changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard. EPA has already provided unwarranted waivers to oil refiners that are destroying demand for all biofuels and undercutting industry investments. We thank Senators Grassley and Ernst for standing with us in opposition to the damaging proposal for a cap on RIN prices.” Mr. Trump’s proposal to allow RINs from exported ethanol to count towards mandated volumes under the RFS was greeted with more caution, with Erickson stating: “We remain concerned about the impact counting RINs from exported renewable fuels would have on the development of advanced biofuels and we look forward to working with the Senators to ensure the RFS continues to promote production and use of homegrown biofuels.” Kevin Skunes, President of the National Corn Growers Association, was also distrustful of this proposal, stating:  “Offering RIN credits, which are supposed to be derived from a domestic renewable fuel use, for ethanol exports would threaten trade markets and impact corn farmers’ economic livelihoods.”

Tags: RFS, E15, RIN

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 30, 2018, 18 pro-ethanol Senators sent a bi-partisan letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt requesting a “transparent timeline … on the regulatory pathway forward to address the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) issue,” “an expected timeline of the rulemaking process to clarify how the agency will make this change to allow higher ethanol blends access to the marketplace” and “immediate clarity to allow higher ethanol blends to be sold in the interim while the outdated regulation is being changed” as related to President Trump’s commitment to allow for 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) to be sold year-round and Pruitt’s statements in an EPA budget hearing in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment regarding EPA’s issuance of a waiver that would allow year-round sales of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol.

Tags: EPA, E15, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 12, 2018, House Agriculture Committee Chair Michael Conaway (R-TX) released the Committee’s draft Farm Bill reauthorization, the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018” (H.R. 2).  The 600-plus page draft legislation includes a number of provisions that will be of interest to Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) members and the biofuel industry, including the following sections:

  • Sec. 6402. Biobased markets program.  Section 6402 amends section 9002(i) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by authorizing appropriations of $2,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023. Additionally, the section prohibits other federal agencies from placing limitations on procurement of wood products.
  • Sec. 6403. Biorefinery, renewable, chemical, and biobased product manufacturing assistance.  Section 6403 amends section 9003 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by expanding eligibility of eligible projects. The section authorizes appropriations of 48 $75,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023.
  • Sec. 6405. Bioenergy program for advanced biofuels.  Section 6405 amends section 9005(g) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by authorizing appropriations of $50,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023.
  • Sec. 6406. Biodiesel fuel education program. Section 6406 amends section 9006(d) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by authorizing appropriations of $2,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023.
  • Sec. 6410. Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Section 6410 amends section 9011(f) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by authorizing appropriations of $25,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023.
  • Section 7509. Biomass research and development.  Section 7509 amends section 9008(h) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to reauthorize appropriations for biomass research and development through fiscal year 2023

The full text of H.R. 2 and a section-by-section summary are available on the House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill webpage along with several related fact sheets.  The House Agriculture Committee marked-up and passed the bill package on April 18, 2018.  The House is likely to hold a floor vote in early May.


 
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