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 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.”


 

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

On July 26, 2019, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced that he is working with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on the Restore Environmental Sustainability to Our Renewable Energy (RESTORE) Act. In an effort to end what Toomey describes as an “egregious form of corporate welfare that hurts the environment and drives up the cost of everything,” the RESTORE Act would abolish the corn ethanol mandate under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Toomey further argues that, because the RFS forces drivers to purchase billions of gallons of corn ethanol annually, it also harms the environment and causes prices to rise, not only of gasoline, but also of damaged engines and groceries. Calling for a phaseout of the ethanol mandate, the RESTORE Act focuses on transitioning to advanced, lower carbon fuels for the country’s transportation needs.
 
The RESTORE Act is not Toomey’s and Feinstein’s first attempt to abolish the corn ethanol mandate. In 2015, Feinstein and Toomey offered an amendment to the Keystone pipeline bill that would have repealed the corn ethanol mandate under RFS: the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015. This Feinstein-Toomey amendment suggested the same modifications the RESTORE Act now proposes and the language used to describe the need for these changes is similar in both Toomey’s July 2019 and Feinstein’s 2015 announcements. Using the exact same arguments that were used in 2015, the RESTORE Act demonstrates Toomey and Feinstein’s determination to abolish the corn ethanol mandate.

Tags: Biofuel, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 25, 2019, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Zero Waste Act, which intends to create a federal grant program to invest in solutions that address waste. The bill, if passed, will go towards recycling infrastructure or the creation of partnerships with local businesses focused on waste reduction. Representative Omar believes the bill will not only create jobs, but also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, grow domestic manufacturing, clean waterways, save energy, ensure safety from health hazards, and grow the U.S. economy. Omar’s bill has been endorsed by several organizations, including the City of Minneapolis, Eureka Recycling, Climate Generation, and Surfrider Foundation, among others. Presenting this bill through the lens that waste is an environmental justice issue, Representative Omar stated that “[a]ddressing the waste crisis is critical to preventing further damage to our climate—it is integral to racial justice and a clean, equitable future.” At a time where climate change debates have been of high interest to the U.S. population, in particular as the presidential candidate debates continue, it will be interesting to see whether this bill is passed. The full text of the bill can be accessed here.

Tags: House, Climate

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 10, 2019, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Representatives Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Bill Foster (D-IL) reintroduced the STRONGER (Support Technology & Research for Our Nation’s Growth and Economic Resilience) Patents Act of 2019. This legislation, an improvement on legislation introduced last year under the same name, would reform the inter partes post-grant review process, ensure all fees paid to the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) are used for their intended purposes, and protect patent holders and small businesses from predatory demand letters. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has come out in favor of this bill, stating, “Without strong patent rights, the financing to take revolutionary biotechnology discoveries from the lab to the patient, farmer, and consumer would be unavailable. Weak or inconsistent patent protections threaten new investment in the innovation sector of our economy and, with it, the jobs and industries of the future.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 12, 2019, the House Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucus and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute co-hosted the 22nd Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Policy Forum. The forum brought together government agencies, businesses, and trade associations to showcase renewable energy technologies and discus sustainable public policy options. Ruth McCormick, Director, Federal and State Affairs, Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), focused on the economic benefits of renewable energy saying that shifts to using a diverse set of clean and affordable energy resources, technologies, and services have resulted in substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions while also supporting over three million American jobs. Video recordings from this forum are available now.


 

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

 
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