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 June 27, 2019, U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) submitted a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue asking him to stop threatening energy jobs in Louisiana. In his letter to Secretary Purdue, Senator Kennedy outlines concerns related to Small Refinery Exemptions (SRE) issued by EPA under the RFS program. Of particular concern to Senator Kennedy are reports that Secretary Purdue continues to attempt to influence EPA decisions on small refinery waivers, despite clear measures in the Clean Air Act that prohibit him to do so. Senator Kennedy states that Secretary Purdue’s “efforts in this matter not only disregard congressional intent of the law, bur also threaten thousands of jobs in Louisiana and across the country.” While emphasizing consistency to statutory requirements, Senator Kennedy also highlights his opposition to EPA’s proposal to increase the total blending requirement in the reset rule or 2020 RVO rule. Arguing that increases of the blending requirements or changes to SRE would affect Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) prices, and therefore, jobs, Senator Kennedy ends the letter by threatening to block Secretary Purdue’s three USDA nominees awaiting confirmation before the Senate.

Tags: USDA, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 28, 2019, 13 U.S. Senators signed a letter to President Donald J. Trump expressing concerns about media reports that USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue is attempting to influence EPA decisions on small refinery waivers under RFS. Similar to the letter submitted to Purdue himself by Senator Kennedy, the 13 Senators express opposition to Secretary Purdue’s involvement in the SRE waivers decision-making process. Also referencing the Clean Air Act and its statutory requirements, the letter urges President Trump to prohibit Secretary Purdue from influencing or interfering with decisions concerning SRE by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The view expressed in the letter is that “any decisions to further delay, reduce, or deny hardship relief to small refineries, or reallocate the obligations of small refineries to other refineries,” would be the result of Secretary Purdue’s impermissible interference. The letter notes that federal courts would likely view any of the outlined attempts in the same way.

Tags: USDA, RFS, CAA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

An Executive Order (EO) issued by President Trump on June 14, 2019, would require all federal agencies and departments to evaluate the need for their current advisory committees established under Section 9(a)(2) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). 
 
Entitled “Executive Order on Evaluating and Improving the Utility of Federal Advisory Committees,” the EO also would require each federal agency to terminate at least one-third of its current committees by September 30, 2019.  The EO targets committees:

  • That have accomplished their stated objectives;
     
  • Where the subject matter or work of the committee has become obsolete;
     
  • Where the primary functions of the committee have been assumed by another entity; or
     
  • Where the agency determines that the cost of the operation of the committee is excessive in relation to the benefits to the federal government. 

The EO allows agencies to count committees terminated since January 20, 2017, toward the one-third goal.
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has 22 FACA committees and thus must terminate at least seven of them under the terms of the EO.  EPA’s FACA committees (and associated EPA offices) are:

  • Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee (Office of the Administrator/Office of Children’s Health Protection);
     
  • Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (Office of Air and Radiation);
     
  • Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (Office of the Administrator/Office of Science Advisory Board);
     
  • Environmental Financial Advisory Board (Office of Water);
     
  • Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board (Office of Research and Development);
     
  • Board of Scientific Counselors (Office of Research and Development);
     
  • Science Advisory Board (Office of the Administrator/Office of the Science Advisor);
     
  • Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Advisory Committee (Office of the Administrator);
     
  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP));
     
  • Good Neighbor Environmental Board (Office of Administration and Resources Management);
     
  • Governmental Advisory Committee to the United States Representative to the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (Office of Administration and Resources Management);
     
  • Great Lakes Advisory Board (Office of the Regional Administrator, Region 5);
     
  • Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest System Advisory Board (Office of Land and Emergency Management);
     
  • Human Studies Review Board (Office of Research and Development/Office of the Science Advisory);
     
  • Local Government Advisory Committee (Office of the Administrator/Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations);
     
  • National Advisory Committee to the United States Representative to the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (Office of Administration and Resources Management);
     
  • National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (Office of Administration and Resources Management);
     
  • National Drinking Water Advisory Council (Office of Water);
     
  • National Environmental Education Advisory Council (Office of the Administrator/Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education);
     
  • National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance);
     
  • Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (OCSPP); and
     
  • Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (OCSPP).
Tags: Federal

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 30, 2019, 15 U.S. Senators signed and submitted a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, urging him to protect U.S. consumers and account for the ethanol blend wall when setting annual target volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) requirements. According to the letter, a decrease in consumer demand for gasoline has occurred since the RFS Program was passed into law. Instead of the original 170 billion gallons projected, now, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects a gasoline demand for 2020 to be closer to 142 billion gallons and to decrease to 137 billion gallons by 2022. Therefore, in the letter, the Senators request that EPA acknowledge the “market reality when resetting the statutory targets such that the contribution of conventional biofuel is set below an implied 10 percent level for 2020.” They also emphasize that, should EPA fail to reset the volume below the blend wall, EPA would be violating the Congressional intent set forth under RFS, harming both consumers and refiners

Tags: RFS, Biofuel, EPA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 15, 2019, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote an article for Medium Politics, titled “My plan for public lands.” In the article, Warren highlights the importance and value of U.S. public lands and the need to make them part of the climate solution rather than the issue. Emphasizing her position on corporate profits and how they should not be prioritized over local communities’ health and safety, Warren states that on her first day in office as President, she will “sign an executive order that says no more drilling—a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands.” Furthermore, she vows to set a goal of providing ten percent of the U.S.’s electricity generation from renewable sources offshore or on public lands.

Tags:

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 27, 2019, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2019 (S. 581).  The legislation would remove “burdensome” regulations on domestic energy production.  The bill “provides new economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers by allowing fuel producers and automobile manufacturers to innovate and bring new products to market that will lower costs for consumers, increase domestic energy production, and protect the environment,” said Senator Paul.  The Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act would remove regulations blocking higher ethanol blends, such as gasoline blended with up to fifteen percent ethanol (E15), from entering the marketplace.  It also removes the requirement for EPA certifications on aftermarket vehicle conversions.  The bill specifically would reform Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) requirements by allowing higher blend levels of ethanol to exceed the current 9.0 pounds per square inch (psi) standard, and it prevents EPA from regulating biomass fuel.  RVP is a measure of how quickly fuel evaporates into the atmosphere. EPA regulates RVP in conjunction with ozone emissions in the summer months.  Congress previously directed EPA to issue a “one pound waiver” for ethanol blends of ten percent, allowing E10 to be sold at 10.0 psi.  Last year, President Trump signed an executive order directing EPA to look into the possibility of allowing year-round sales of E15.  This bill extends the Congressional waiver to higher blends of ethanol, including E15.

Tags: Biofuel, E15

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 15, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a bill originally introduced in early 2017 by Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) titled the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (2019 Appropriations Act). Of interest to stakeholders in the biobased sector is Section 428, which covers policies relating to biomass energy.  In this section, responsibilities assigned to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Agriculture, and EPA Administrator are outlined in support of the key role forests play in addressing U.S. energy needs.  Among these responsibilities are the establishment of clear and simple policies for forest biomass solutions to the U.S. carbon footprint and the encouragement of private investment throughout the forest biomass supply chain.  Government stakeholders should be consistent across all federal departments and agencies and recognize the full benefits of the use of forest biomass for energy, conservation, and responsible forest management.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 7, 2019, Representative Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), in partnership with Senator Ed Markey (D- MA), released the outline for the Green New Deal, a policy package designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the transformation of the U.S. economy. The outline includes highlights on the systemic impact from climate change, particularly on women, indigenous populations, deindustrialized and migrant communities, the poor, communities of color, depopulated rural communities, low-income workers, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth. Stating that climate change poses a direct threat to the U.S. national security, the outline of the Deal makes it the federal government’s duty to pass its measures. These duties include transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy; creating millions of high-wage jobs; ensuring economic security for everyone; investing in infrastructure and industry; ensuring clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, access to healthy food, and a sustainable environment; and promoting justice and equity that currently prevent oppression repair.  According to Ocasio-Cortez’s outline, all Green New Deal goals should be addressed in ten years through:

  • Resiliency building against climate change-related disasters;
  • Pollution elimination;
  • Expansion of renewable and zero-emission energy sources;
  • Spurring growth in clean manufacturing;
  • Promoting sustainable farming;
  • Building a sustainable food system;
  • Provision of resources, training, and education; and
  • Public investment in research and development (R&D), among other measures.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 10, 2019, more than 600 environmental groups signed a letter submitted to U.S. Representatives urging them to consider certain principles on climate change as a Green New Deal is developed.  As the 116th Congress begins to take into account climate change legislation, environmental groups would like to see affirmative actions focused on six key areas:

  • Fossil fuel phase-out;
  • Transition into renewable energy;
  • The role of public transportation;
  • The power of the Clean Air Act (CAA);
  • Community-led transitions; and,
  • The importance of indigenous rights.

Tying together these six concepts, the environmental groups’ letter highlights the role played by legislators and day-to-day community leaders/workers in integrating a 100 percent renewable energy system in the U.S. The suggested principles call for the expansion of public transportation as a means to phase out fossil fuel vehicles, as well as the prioritization of support for communities that have been historically most harmed by the dirty energy economy. In addition, a reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is made to emphasize Indigenous Peoples’ rights to receive remedies of losses or damages of their property. The signatory environmental groups also explicitly oppose rollbacks of existing environmental and human health protection policies, legislation that protects the fossil fuels industry, and policies that promote corporate profits over community burdens.


 

On January 8, 2019, B&C and its consulting affiliate The Acta Group (Acta®) published the 2019 Forecast.  The document details the legal, scientific, and regulatory trends in U.S. and global chemical law, providing informed judgment as to the shape of key developments we are likely to see in 2019.  Sections on biobased products and biotechnology are included in the document.  The full document can be accessed here.

Tags: B&C, Acta

 
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