On May 20, 2014, the House Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee) and the Senate Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee) marked up and passed their separate versions of a Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 spending bill for USDA. A copy of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee's draft bill is available online. A copy of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee's "Mark-up Bill Summary" for its version of the FY 2015 USDA spending bill is available online.
The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee's bill is controversial and includes steep cuts to Farm Bill Energy Title programs recently expanded and provided mandatory funding by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), including to the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program. Mandatory funding is not usually subject to cuts through the annual appropriations process. The biofuels and renewable chemicals industries are working to ensure mandatory funding for these programs is included in the final FY 2015 USDA spending bill.
The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG™) reported on the significance of the expanded Energy Title programs and mandatory funding for them provided under the 2014 Farm Bill. A copy of that report is available online.
On March 12, 2014, the House Energy and Commerce Environment and the Economy Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the Discussion Draft of the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA). CICA, which was released last week by Subcommittee Chair John Shimkus (R-IL), is designed to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Biobased and Renewable Products and Advocacy Group (BRAG™) reported on the release of CICA. That report is available online.
Eleven witnesses testified at the hearing. Several witnesses were critical of CICA, stating that it offered less protections than those included in S. 1009, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), which is the bipartisan Senate TSCA reform bill introduced last May by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA). Senators Vitter and Tom Udall (D-NM) are currently working to revise S. 1009 to address concerns that have been raised over that bill's level of protection. A detailed summary of the hearing prepared by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is available online.
Nearly 30 Democratic Senators participated in an all-night session from the evening of March 10, 2014, through the morning on March 11, 2014, to highlight the need for action to combat the harmful effects of climate change. This session was the first major act of the Senate Climate Action Task Force, which was formed earlier this year by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to urge action on the issue. The all-night session was organized by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are leading a new Senate Task Force on Climate Change designed to combat stated plans by some in the Republican leadership to weaken President Obama's expected upcoming Executive actions to address climate change. While legislative action on climate change remains unlikely this year, Members of the Senate Task Force are doing what they can to highlight the issue. To this end, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) is organizing an all-night Senate floor session during which the issue of climate change will be discussed. The session is expected to take place sometime in March 2014.
It is reported that House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on the Environment and Economy Chair John Shimkus (R-IL) is working on draft legislation to reform TSCA, which Shimkus expects to introduce and on which he expects to hold a hearing in the coming weeks. B&C has issued a memorandum providing an overview of the Subcommittee's fifth hearing on TSCA reform held on February 4, 2014. The memorandum is available online.
There is a renewed sense of urgency for TSCA reform to be completed this year in the wake of the chemical spill into the Elk River in West Virginia last month, and the recent announcements that House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) is retiring this year and that Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is running for Governor of Louisiana. Representative Waxman is a champion of environmental issues and may view accomplishing TSCA reform important before he leaves, especially since it appears unlikely that a bill to address climate change -- one of his most passionate issues -- will pass this year. Senator Vitter is the co-sponsor of the Senate's bi-partisan TSCA reform bill, S. 1009, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA). B&C has issued a memorandum providing an overview and analysis of CSIA. The memorandum is available online.
Following the confirmation of Senator Max Baucus as the next Ambassador to China, on February 11, 2014, Senate Democrats voted to shift the leadership and make-up of impacted Committees. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) will now be the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, while Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) will take over as Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Newly elected Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) will now serve on the Senate EPW Committee.
Senator Landrieu is reportedly working to identify her priorities for the Senate Energy Committee. She is known to be a supporter of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and for increased opportunities for liquefied natural gas exports. The coal industry has stated its public support for Senator Landrieu's new position.
Senator Markey is a longtime champion of environmental issues and will likely add to the momentum to reform TSCA. The Senate version of TSCA reform legislation, S.1009, CSIA, must pass through the Senate EPW Committee before being considered by the full Senate.
On December 18, 2013, President Obama announced that he will nominate Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) to be the next Ambassador to China. The nomination is expected to pass quickly and without much opposition. Senator Baucus serves as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, the tax writing Committee. When he leaves the Senate, current Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) is expected to assume the chairmanship.
These moves will impact the fate of incentives for the biofuels and renewable chemicals and products industries, including whether and when the Senate considers a tax extenders package, or tax reform, among other tax policies impacting the industry.
It has been reported that the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power Chair John Shimkus (R-IL) has listed reform of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) among his top priorities for 2014. Chair Shimkus has stated publicly that the House is still determining how best to draft and move TSCA reform legislation, but he expects a House TSCA reform bill to be introduced by the spring, with action on it likely next summer.
Chair Shimkus reportedly has also indicated that he expects no action on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in the House before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgates its 2014 RFS rule. The oil and gas industry has been advocating for legislative action to repeal the RFS in spite of EPA's proposed 2014 RFS rule that would reduce required volume obligations for cellulosic biofuels, as well as advanced biofuels and corn ethanol. The biofuels industry has argued that no legislative action is needed given EPA's regulatory flexibility to modify gallon requirements as needed under the law.
Attendees at the Society for the Commercial Development of Industrial Biotechnology's (SCD-iBIO) 2nd Annual "Commercializing Global Green" forum in Philadelphia this week participated in a practical, in-depth three-hour workshop presented by the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG™) on the critical policy, legislative, and regulatory issues impacting the commercialization of renewable chemicals. Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and Of Counsel with BRAG, shared the latest developments from Capitol Hill on the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CSIA) (S. 1009), in what she referred to as a "groundbreaking legislation" with bi-partisan support. Ms. Bergeson cautioned that "many difficulties remain and the likelihood of success is unclear." Ms. Bergeson also emphasized the need for the biochemical industry to engage with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and identified strategies for companies to move successfully new chemicals through the regulatory process with EPA under the current version of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
Kathleen M. Roberts, Executive Director of BRAG, updated workshop attendees on BRAG's efforts to petition for partial reporting exemptions under the TSCA Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule, and other efforts BRAG is making to level the regulatory playing field for biobased chemical manufacturers. Attendees learned about the complexities surrounding byproduct reporting under the CDR. They also learned that a number of listed chemicals, mainly derivative of the petroleum process stream, are exempted from Part III reporting, but those from renewable feedstocks are not, so the renewable chemicals may face higher regulatory hurdles than manufacturers anticipate. BRAG will be petitioning EPA early in 2014 for exemptions using a list of Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) numbers provided by members, and Ms. Roberts urged renewable chemical manufacturers to contact her to be included on this list.
Copies of BRAG's workshop presentations are available by contacting Chad Howlin at Tags: TSCA, workshop
On October 30, 2013, the Conference Committee selected to merge the House and Senate versions of the next five-year Farm Bill met to begin formal negotiations. This Farm Bill Conference Committee is comprised of 41 bi-partisan Members of the U.S. House and Senate.
Though Farm Bill Conference Committee negotiations are expected to be difficult, pressure is on Members of Congress to pass a final version of the next five-year bill by the end of this year. If it fails to do so, farm policy will be governed by an outdated supply-side permanent law from 1949. In that situation, milk prices would be expected to increase sharply, among other things. In addition, the old law includes nothing to cover or help promote renewable energy, including biofuels and renewable chemicals.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the next five-year Farm Bill, S. 954, including funding for farm, nutrition, and energy programs. Importantly, the Senate bill continues and provides mandatory funding for existing Farm Bill energy programs and extends eligibility to renewable chemicals. It includes $4 billion in cuts to nutrition programs. After failing to pass a combined bill, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a "farm-only" bill this summer and then a separate "nutrition-only" bill cutting $40 billion in food stamps. The House farm-only Farm Bill contains an energy title without mandatory funding that will instead be subject to annual appropriations, and it does not extend the energy programs to renewable chemicals.
The biofuels and renewable chemicals industries continue efforts to gain support for an energy title that would support their development and include mandatory funding in the final version of the next Farm Bill.