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 Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) to confirm his commitment to support the spirit and the letter of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  In the letter, Pruitt stated that, following a detailed analysis, numerous stakeholder meetings, and review of public comments, it was determined that EPA would not grant the petition to move the point of obligation to blenders.  Additionally, EPA intends to issue a final Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) rulemaking by the statutory deadline of November 30, 2017.  While the rulemaking process is ongoing, Pruitt indicated that the final RVO amounts would be set at levels equal to or greater than the proposed amounts.  Finally, Pruitt highlighted EPA’s willingness to work with Congress on a nationwide Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver for E15.  Senators Ernst, Grassley, Thune, and Fischer each released statements to confirm their commitment to working collaboratively with EPA on these issues.

Tags: EPA, RFS, Senate

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 17, 2017, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-FL), and 77 additional House members sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to urge the agencies to work together to promote innovative new technologies aimed at increasing crop yields and reducing the cost of production.  According to Congressman Panetta, the letter was prepared in response to duplicative or inconsistent regulatory proposals regarding biotechnology.  In the letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members highlighted several recent biotechnology regulatory efforts that warrant the Administration’s attention, as well as the importance of a consistent, science-based, risk-proportionate regulatory system.  Members concluded by urging the agencies to cooperate in creating consistent regulatory proposals that foster innovation; to increase engagement with trading partners to promote a harmonized, science-based international regulatory system for agricultural products; and to consider ways to engage with the public to discuss the continued advancement of biotechnology in agriculture.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 19, 2017, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), an Associate member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that it and its member companies sent a letter to the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture requesting the reauthorization of the Farm Bill’s Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003).  According to the letter, “[s]everal renewable chemical startups and mature chemical companies are waiting to build their first-of-a-kind manufacturing facilities in the United States from homegrown biomass and technologies and will do so with the proper federal policy support.”   The letter explained that renewable chemicals provide economic stability for the construction of a biorefinery, since such products generate a higher value than biofuels.  Beyond supporting the U.S. manufacturing industry, manufacturing renewable chemicals in the U.S. helps to improve the trade balance, maintain U.S. leadership in renewable energy while reducing dependence on foreign oil, provide value-added crop for products, and create thousands of high quality jobs.  BIO and its member companies concluded by urging the Committees “to provide stable mandatory funding for all the core energy title programs that will continue the development of biorefineries, positively impacting the biobased economy and creating thousands of rural jobs.”


 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On September 28, 2017, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing titled “Rural Development and Energy Programs: Perspectives for the 2018 Farm Bill” to gather stakeholder input regarding the programs under the Farm Bill that are working or need improvement.  In his opening statement, Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) stated that it is critical for the next Farm Bill to support renewable energy and biobased product manufacturers, as well as rural businesses, cooperatives, health clinics, schools, and other essential service providers. 
 
During the hearing, two panels presented testimony related to the Farm Bill.  The first panel consisted of the Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development; the Acting Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service; the Acting Administrator for the Rural Housing Service; and the Acting Administrator for the Rural Business Cooperative Service, and discussed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s vision for fostering growth and economic prosperity throughout rural America and provided an update on program functions within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.  The second panel consisted of private sector stakeholders, including Dr. Brent Shanks, the Director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Engineering Research Center of Biorenewable Chemicals.  During his testimony, Shanks suggested improvements to Title IX of the 2018 Farm Bill aimed at decoupling the risks between technology, market, and infrastructure inherent in completely new biorefineries. 
 
More information on the testimony provided during the hearing is available on the Committee’s website.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Last week, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Notice of Data Availability (NODA) regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume requirements (see EPA Issues NODA Regarding RFS Program).  On September 27, 2017, Ernst sent a letter to President Trump expressing concern over the proposed reduction in the volume requirements for 2018 and 2019.  In the letter, Ernst highlights the importance of renewable fuel with regard to jobs in rural America, and energy security for the U.S. Additionally, the letter states that “[w]hile the [NODA] technically ‘provides the public notice and an opportunity to comment,’ in reality it serves to make the case for substantially lowering the volumes for U.S. produced biodiesel, just as domestic producers are making investments to bring unused capacity back online.” 
 
In a September 26, 2017, statement, Grassley described the proposed reduction in renewable fuel volumes as a “bait-and-switch from the EPA’s prior proposal and from assurances from the President himself and Cabinet secretaries in [Grassley’s] office prior to confirmation for their strong support of renewable fuels.”  According to Grassley, reducing the volume requirements would undermine domestic renewable fuel production, which contradicts the goal of America first, employing U.S. workers, and improving the U.S. economy and meeting the country’s fuel needs.
 
Additionally, industry representatives have raised concerns over Trump’s nomination of William Wehrum to be the EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR).  In a statement regarding the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the nomination of Wehrum, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor highlighted the essential role the Assistant Administrator plays in managing EPA’s fuel policies and the need for assurance that EPA remains in sync with Trump and his commitment to renewable fuels.  Skor urged the Senate to ensure that Wehrum would carry out the duties of the position in a manner that expands on the progress made since the RFS was passed. 

Tags: Iowa, RFS, Response

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 11, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in response to the request by Senator Whitehouse and four other Democratic Senators to explain Carl Icahn’s role in shaping the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  According to Pruitt, Icahn did not exercise excessive influence on the U.S. biofuels policy while acting as an advisor of President Trump.  The letter states that Icahn was one of many advisors that Trump met with during his confirmation and no assurances were made regarding any substantive issue, including the point of obligation.  Following an investigation into the e-mails of 39 of EPA’s senior leadership, EPA’s Office of Environmental Information (OEI) found no correspondence to or from Icahn or his company, CVR Energy, between February and August.  A spokesman for Senator Whitehouse stated that the letter was being reviewed “for accuracy and to determine whether additional steps are warranted.”

Tags: EPA, RFS, Ichan

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On August 21, 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) released their interim report titled A Proposed Framework for Identifying Potential Biodefense Vulnerabilities Posed by Synthetic Biology.  The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) asked NAS to develop the framework to:

  • Guide an assessment of the security concerns related to advances in synthetic biology;
  • Assess the level of concern warranted for various advances and identify areas of vulnerability; and
  • Prioritize options to address these vulnerabilities.
The report provides an overview of the categories of synthetic biology and a set of initial questions aimed at guiding the assessment of concern related to the technologies and applications of the field.  The framework outlines factors for assessing the levels of concern that each technology and application presents in terms of malicious use, as well as factors for assessing the capability for mitigation.  The final report will use the framework to provide DOD with an assessment of concerns and mitigation options by developing informed answers to the questions posed in the interim report.

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On September 5, 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) published in the Federal Register a notice of an open meeting of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (REEEAC).  REEEAC will hold a meeting from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on November 16, 2017, in Washington, D.C.  REEEAC provides the Secretary of Commerce with advice from the private sector on the development and administration of programs and policies to expand the export competitiveness of the U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency products and services.  The meeting will include REEEAC subcommittee working sessions, a discussion on next steps for each subcommittee, consideration of recommendations for approval, and an update from DOC and other agencies on major issues affecting the competitiveness of the U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.  An agenda will be available upon request by November 1, 2017.  Stakeholders interested in participating in the meeting must register with Victoria Gunderson (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on November 10, 2017.

Tags: DOC, REEEAC

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On August 28, 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued in the Federal Register a notice of request for public comment on an extension of a previously approved information collection requirement regarding Biobased Procurements.  Pursuant to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Clause 52.223-2, Affirmative Procurement of Biobased Products Under Service and Construction Contracts, prime contractors are required to report annually the product types and dollar values of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-designated biobased products purchased to the System for Award Management (SAM) website.  Federal agencies use the submitted information to report annually to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) concerning actions taken to implement and measure progress in carrying out the preference for biobased products required under Section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, codified at 7 U.S.C. § 8102.  
 
Comments are due by October 27, 2017.  Public comments are invited specifically on:

  • Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of functions of the FAR, and whether it will have practical utility;
  • Whether the estimate of the public burden of this collection of information is accurate, and based on valid assumptions and methodology;
  • Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
  • Ways in which we can minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, through the use of appropriate technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
Tags: DOD, GSA, NASA, Biobased

 
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