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.

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.
 


 

On August 7, 2014, a group of nine Democratic Senators led by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) sent a letter to the EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, on the treatment of biogenic carbon emissions from stationary sources. The other eight Senators who signed the letter are: Tim Johnson (D-SD); Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND); Ron Wyden (D-OR); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Al Franken (D-MN); Patty Murray (D-WA); Joe Donnelly (D-IN); and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The letter comes at a time when EPA is working to issue in final a rulemaking providing guidelines for such treatment.


In their letter, the Senators caution that treating biogenic carbon emissions in the same way as fossil fuel emissions could negatively impact the development and commercialization of advanced biofuels, biopower, renewable chemicals, and other industrial biotechnologies. They urge EPA to recognize in its treatment of biogenic carbon emissions that "carbon emissions resulting from the utilization of sustainably-sourced, renewable biomass feedstocks do not result in lasting increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, and therefore should not be subject to greenhouse gas regulations."


BRAG has previously reported on developments in the biogenic carbon debate. The most recent report is available online.
 


 

On May 15, 2014, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a procedural measure that would have allowed for that body to consider and vote on S. 2260, the "Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act," the package of tax extenders approved by the Senate Finance Committee in April. The EXPIRE Act includes extensions through December 31, 2015 (and retroactive to January 1, 2014), of the following key biofuels incentives that have expired: the Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit; the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit; the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property; the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit; and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. A copy of the EXPIRE Act is available online. A summary of the bill is also available online.


The EXPIRE Act has broad bipartisan support among Senators. The vote on cloture to end debate on the bill and pave the way for Senate consideration failed last week because the Senate Republican and Democratic leadership had a fundamental disagreement over whether and which amendments could be offered to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) preserved his right to bring the bill up again for consideration. Senator Reid could do so soon if the leaders are able to agree on rules for offering amendments to the bill. The bill is widely expected to be considered later this year, however, during a lame duck session following the November elections. It is important that the Senate passes tax extender legislation that includes energy incentives in order to help ensure they are included in the final bill. The House of Representatives is expected to consider a smaller package of tax extenders that will likely not include the retroactive biofuels incentives so important to the industry.
 


 

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.
 


 
‹ First  < 8 9 10 11 >