On February 18, 2016, at the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference 2016 (ABLC2016), Dr. Catherine Woteki, Chief Scientist and Undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), announced the release of the Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy. The report was created to share current federal agency activities that help to develop and support the bioeconomy. The report first introduces the importance of fostering the bioeconomy and the purpose of the Biomass Research & Development Board. From there the report covers all research, loan, and other projects that federal agencies are currently engaged in. The agencies covered in this report are:
- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE);
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
- The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI);
- The National Science Foundation (NSF);
- The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD);
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT); and
- The Executive Office of the President of the United States.
On May 21, 2015, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2015 (S. 1447). The legislation is intended to help coordinate and expand the many different programs that have been enacted across the federal government to promote and assist the development of sustainable chemistry that reduces risks to human health and benefits the environment. The bill would create a federal Interagency Work Group (IWG), lead by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that would work with a diverse Advisory Council (AC) to develop and implement a strategy to advance sustainable chemistry. This would streamline existing federal activities that promote the development of sustainable chemistry through grants and prize competitions. The Act does not create any regulatory components or authorize new spending by taking advantage of programs that are already in place and making them more efficient.
The bill calls for an examination of methods that the government could use to provide additional incentives and would require the IWG to track the amount spent on sustainable chemicals by the federal government and include those amounts in a report to Congress and the Government Accountability Office. The report will also analyze the progress that has been made and evaluate future strategies to ensure that efforts are not duplicated and interagency coordination is streamlined. The overarching goal of the IWG and the AC will be to produce a national strategy and implementation plan for sustainable chemistry that will advance research, development, technology, commercialization, education, and training within two years of the start of the program.
On June 2 and 3, 2015, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a markup hearing for the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2576) after years of progress on Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform. The bill was praised for its bipartisan support as well as the removal of burdensome testing that has hindered the implementation of TSCA. The modernized TSCA will change how EPA regulates existing chemicals, with EPA first deciding if a chemical poses an unreasonable risk under its conditions of use, and then deciding how to manage the risk. A technical amendment was added to the Act and the Committee passed the amended bill. Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) expects the bill to be on the House floor by the end of June 2015. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. has published a memorandum on the hearing and a memorandum providing a detailed analysis of the slightly revised version of the bill on its website.
B&C has no involvement in or knowledge of the award selection process.
This year's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge winners will be announced at the 20th Annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Ceremony, July 13, 2015, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.
The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge, administered through a partnership between EPA and the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI), promotes the environmental and economic benefits of developing and using novel green chemistry, and has significantly reduced the hazards associated with designing, manufacturing, and using chemicals.
Since 1996, the 98 winning technologies have made billions of pounds of real, measurable progress, including:
- 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents eliminated each year -- enough to fill almost 3,800 railroad tank cars or a train nearly 47 miles long;
- 21 billion gallons of water saved each year -- the amount used by 820,000 people annually; and
- 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents released to air eliminated each year -- equal to taking 810,000 automobiles off the road.
Past winners include:
- An environmentally safe alternative to toxic and bioaccumulating ships' hull coatings;
- A water-based, catalytic method used to produce gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel from sugar, starch, or cellulose;
- A process to create tiny micelles, or "nanoreactors," in water, within which a variety of chemical reactions can occur, eliminating the need for organic solvents;
- A polymer that coats titanium dioxide to reduce pigment clumping in paint, so less pigment needs to be used to achieve the same results, lowering carbon footprint, water use, and release of volatile compounds; and
- An enzyme that increases the ability of cellulose fibers to bind together, therefore reducing the paper's weight without sacrificing performance, and making it possible to use higher percentages of recycled pulp.
Detailed descriptions of all the winning technologies, processes, and discoveries are available on EPA's Green Chemistry website.
Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards are awarded in six categories:
- Focus Area 1: Greener Synthetic Pathways;
- Focus Area 2: Greener Reaction Conditions;
- Focus Area 3: The Design of Greener Chemicals;
- Small Business (for a technology in any of the three focus areas developed by a business with annual sales of less than $40 million);
- Academic (for a technology in any of the three focus areas developed by an academic researcher); and
- Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change (for a technology in any of the three focus areas that reduces greenhouse gas emissions).
Information and instructions on nominating a product, process, or technology for an award are available on the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award website.
ACS GCI offers a wealth of resources regarding green chemistry, including the brochure "Design Principles for Sustainable and Green Chemistry and Engineering," the What's Your Green Chemistry? YouTube channel, and Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog.
Journalists interested in covering the safer, cleaner, greener chemistry that is being done by this year's winning chemistry innovators are encouraged to contact the EPA and ACS representatives listed below. There are both compelling business and consumer stories to be told about the companies and scientists who are working to make the products and services traded every day more profitable, sustainable, and renewable.
On March 18, 2015, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced S. 791,
American Energy Renaissance Act of 2015." Representative Jim
Bridenstine (R-OK) introduced companion legislation, H.R. 1487. The legislation
would phase out the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), approve the Keystone XL
pipeline, open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas
exploration, and stop EPA from regulating GHG emissions. Under the bill, the
RFS would start to be phased out in 2016 with a 20 percent reduction in the
volumetric requirements proposed by EPA. The 20 percent reductions would
continue each year until 2020
when the requirements would reach zero.
The legislation is unlikely to pass, but it is another example of
the ongoing RFS fight in Congress. The majority of the biofuels industry is
united in its advocacy to maintain the current RFS law, while the oil industry,
among others, has been fighting for its repeal.
March 10, 2015, Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced
R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a
bipartisan bill that would reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The
bill has 15 co-sponsors -- seven Democrats and eight Republicans. The bill
builds on the proposed Chemical Safety Improvement Act offered by Senator
Vitter and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in 2013. According to the
overview provided on Senator Udall's webpage, the 2015 bill
clarifies that cost cannot be a consideration factor in determining chemical
safety, provides a definition for "vulnerable populations," and
implements specific deadlines for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) in evaluating existing chemicals. The bill attempts to address the most
contentious issue surrounding TSCA reform -- state preemption. Under the
proposal, state chemical regulations in place prior to January 2015 would be
grandfathered. In addition, states would be able to act on chemical
restrictions until and unless EPA takes up the same chemical for the same use
applications, and can request a waiver to set different regulations than EPA
during the safety assessment and final rule. The goal is to have a uniform
federal standard for the entire nation, which increases regulatory certainty
while still protecting citizens. See the detailed analysis of the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act prepared by BRAG affiliate Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.
On February 25, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee
on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittees on Energy and Power and Environment and
the Economy held a joint hearing on "The
Fiscal Year 2016 EPA Budget." During the hearing, both
supporters and opponents of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)
criticized U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina
McCarthy on the Agency's implementation of the program. RFS supporters pointed
out that EPA's delay in issuing the 2014 RFS rule in final has compromised the
stability of the RFS. RFS opponents argued that the RFS itself is unworkable
and that EPA's implementation of the program harmed the refining industry.
Members of the Subcommittees also expressed concern that EPA was spending too
much time on other policies, including the ozone standard, thus taking away
from its implementation of the RFS.
This hearing occurred in the same week that Senators Dianne
Feinstein (D-CA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced the Corn Ethanol Mandate
Elimination Act of 2015. The bill would eliminate the corn ethanol requirements
under the RFS. The biofuels industry has expressed its strong opposition to
this legislation, arguing that eliminating the corn ethanol requirements under the
law would destabilize the RFS policy and investment in the entire biofuels
industry, including advanced and cellulosic biofuels. In a win for the biofuels
industry, this week, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Chair, James Inhofe (R-OK), reportedly expressed doubt that the bill would be
considered by his Committee this year because he does not expect to be able to
build enough support to pass it.
By Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.
In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI)
renewed their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), continuing the partnership
centered on the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. The award cycle
returned to its original schedule with the 2015 ceremony set to coincide with
the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, as it had until 2013. This
year the conference will be held on July 14-16, 2015, in North Bethesda,
Maryland. This recommitment between EPA and ACS GCI is an expression of the
continued dedication each has to creating opportunities for the growth and development
of green chemistry. 2015 is especially significant as it represents the 20th
year for the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. The award ceremony
and conference should highlight both the success of years past and the
potential of years to come.
There are other positive indicators about the
direction of green chemistry in the coming year as well. On January 5, 2015, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®)
and Outlook for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
(OCSPP) 2015” (The Outlook). It covers the full range of OCSPP issues,
including green chemistry and Design for the Environment (DfE).
In 2014, Jim Jones, OCSPP’s Assistant
Administrator, continued his focus on green chemistry and DfE. Jones visited
award winners to gain a deeper understanding of their technologies and
businesses. Jones’s engagement in both programs should continue in 2015. DfE is
undergoing revitalization in 2015.
EPA is expected to reveal the new Safer Product Labeling logo. DfE
is also looking to expand its Safer Chemical Ingredients
List (SCIL) and is providing new opportunities for DfE partners to be recognized for their efforts.
The New Year will also see more interactions
between green chemistry and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). As you may
know, manufacturers must submit “premanufacture notices” (PMN) to EPA prior to
manufacturing or importing any substance not listed on the TSCA Inventory or
otherwise exempt. TSCA allows EPA to review new substances for unreasonable
risk to human health or the environment.
Most green chemistry technologies are
classified as “new” under TSCA rules, so they must clear this hurdle. Some
green chemistry technologies have drawbacks in one phase of their lifecycle and
benefits in another. For example, a biobased substance may be less toxic to
humans, but more toxic to fish relative to the petroleum-based incumbent. The
challenge for EPA is how to consider these impacts, both positive and negative,
especially relative to existing chemicals in commerce. Historically, EPA
has only focused on the substance itself, its hazard, releases, and exposures,
to determine “unreasonable risk.” Biobased chemicals, using waste as a feedstock,
and greener production methods present new challenges to EPA as these benefits
are upstream of the substance itself. As discussed in The Outlook, some
green chemistry technologies have languished in the new chemicals review
process or have been subject to requirements different from those imposed on
nearly identical, existing chemicals. To avoid undue delays, some submitters
have taken advantage of voluntary pollution prevention (P2) statements in PMNs
to clarify the benefits of the novel technology to aid EPA in its
decision-making. Even with this additional information, it is not a trivial
task for EPA to compare and evaluate the relative risks and benefits at
different stages of a chemical’s lifecycle. Novel biobased feedstocks,
intermediates, and products will challenge both EPA and industry in 2015.
While some aspects of TSCA may be a barrier to
new green chemistry technologies, TSCA can also be a driver for change. EPA
regulatory action on existing chemicals will provide new drivers for companies
to develop and deploy green chemistry. Near the end of 2014, EPA published its
update on Work Plan and Action Plan chemicals. In particular, decisions on
trichloroethylene, dichloromethane, benzedine dyes, short-chain chlorinated
paraffins, phthalates, and long-chain perfluoroalkyl carbonates all present
increasingly important targets for green chemistry innovations. Similarly, the California
Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is moving ahead with its actions
on priority chemicals and, of course, implementing the Safer Consumer
Information about chemical design may get a
boost from the maturation of EPA’s Computation Toxicology tools that allow
rapid screening for endocrine disruption. The coming year is likely to also see
progress on TSCA reform, which may include provisions relating to green
While EPA struggles with diminished funding and
diminished numbers of senior scientists (mostly through retirement), the
fundamental prospects for green chemistry remain sound: There are many problems
to solve and many scientists and engineers working to find sustainable ways to
solve them. EPA and ACS GCI will continue to be central to supporting and
nurturing green chemistry.
Reprinted by permission from The
Nexus Blog, a publication of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®
On Wednesday, December 10, 2014, the House Committee on Oversight
and Government Reform's Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and
Entitlements held a hearing on "Examining EPA's Management of the
Renewable Fuel Standard Program." The sole witness was Janet McCabe,
Acting Administrator for Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA). A copy of Ms. McCabe's written testimony is available online.
Subcommittee Members on both sides of the aisle sharply criticized
EPA on its recent announcement that it is delaying issuing a final 2014
Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule until sometime in 2015. The rule was due to
be issued by statute by November 30, 2013. EPA renewed its strong support for
the RFS, and explained how it sought public comment on alternative approaches
to setting the volume requirements. Comments received have been extensive and
divergent, especially in light of drastically reduced gasoline prices and lower
consumption, whether and on what basis statutory volumes for renewable fuels
should be lowered, and concerns about the ability of the proposed approach to
provide progress toward achieving continued progress towards achieving the
volumes of renewable fuel targeted by law. EPA intends to take action on the
RFSs for 2014-2016 to provide much needed certainty to investors and others.
Republican and Democrat Subcommittee Members suggested that EPA's actions on
issuing the final rule contributed to instability in the biofuels market, and
may be cause for Congressional action to repeal the law, an outcome vehemently
opposed by most in the biofuels industry.
With Republicans recapturing the Senate majority, GOP lawmakers now take the helm of several Senate committees of interest. For the most part, those Republican Senators who were ranking members now move into the chair roles.
Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee: Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) will take over the EPW reins from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). His committee will have the primary role in amending the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Senator Inhofe was lauded by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) for his assistance in working with stakeholders on TSCA reform. In a public statement, Senator Inhofe stated that although TSCA's current risk-based review process protects human health and the environment, he is open to changes to the law "but only if those changes modernize chemical reviews, increase public understanding of the process, and strengthen protections for human health and the environment." He set forth several principles that he believes any TSCA revisions must follow. These are:
* The use of data and methods based on the best available science and risk-based assessment.
* Including cost/benefit considerations for the private-sector and consumers.
* Protecting proprietary business information, as well as information that should be protected for security reasons.
* Prioritizing reviews for existing chemicals.
* Eliminating provisions that encourage litigation or citizen suits.
* Avoiding provisions that compel product substitution.
Senator Inhofe is an unabashed skeptic of climate change and critic of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). He has sponsored numerous bills aiming to "rein in" the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He is also likely to be critical of many of EPA's most prominent rules, including those on powerplant emissions, fracking, water quality, and other issues. He will likely be joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Budget Committee: Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will take over the Budget Committee. He is a fiscal conservative, a budget hawk, and a vocal critic of the Obama Administration's spending policies.
Finance Committee: Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will take the helm of the Finance Committee and will have significant influence on the prospects for major tax and trade reform. He is a conservative politician, but one who has demonstrated the ability and willingness to reach across the aisle to Democrats.
Energy and Natural Resources Committee: Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) takes over this Committee and is most likely to battle federal control of mining and drilling interests.
In the House, Republicans retained control in the mid-term elections, but because of retirements and party-imposed term limits on committee Chairs, more than half a dozen committees will be getting new Chairs. Under House rules, GOP members can only serve three terms as senior members of a committee, unless they are granted a waiver by the Republican Steering Committee. Major House committees of interest expected to get new leaders next year include:
Agriculture Committee: With Oklahoma Representative Frank Lucas term-limited, Representative Michael Conaway (R-TX) is the most likely replacement. Representative Conaway now chairs the Ethics Committee.
Budget Committee: Representative Tom Price (R-GA) is in line to succeed Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Chair of the Budget Committee. Representative Price worked closely with Representative Ryan in assembling prior GOP budgets and he is likely to take a similar approach in crafting this year's budget.
Natural Resources Committee: Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) is expected to take over this Committee. He has pushed for more oil and gas leases on federal land and has accused the Obama Administration of using the Antiquities Act to designate unilaterally public acreage as national monuments off limits to developers.
Oversight and Government Reform Committee: In a bit of good news for the Obama Administration, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is considered the favorite to succeed term-limited Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA). Representative Chaffetz will likely be challenged by Representative Michael Turner (R-OH) and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH). Representative Chaffetz, who currently chairs the Oversight Committee's Subcommittee on National Security, has led the investigation into security breaches involving the Secret Service, giving him a high-profile. He has a reputation for being less confrontational than Representative Issa and has reached out to Democrats on the panel, including Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Representative Issa has been a major burr under the Obama Administration's saddle, leading investigations into the Internal Revenue Service -- the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, among other topics. Along the way he has alienated not just Democrats but also fellow Republicans with his confrontational and overbearing style. Chaffetz has made it clear he would do things differently. A strong conservative, he is liked by fellow Republicans and viewed as being dogged but not shrill in his committee role.
Ways and Means Committee: Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) is expected to move from the Budget Committee to become Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, which is arguably the most powerful House Committee chairpersonship.