On March 28, 2014, Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve Womack (R-AR), and Peter Welch (D-VT) sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy with targeted questions related to the implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The four Members of Congress all believe the RFS is not working in its current form. Last fall, they introduced H.R. 1462, the "RFS Reform Act," which eliminates corn-based ethanol requirements, limits the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at ten percent, and requires EPA to set accurately the annual cellulosic renewable volume obligations (RVO) at actual production levels.
In their letter, which followed a recent meeting with Administrator McCarthy, the Representatives reiterated their position that the RFS is not working given current market conditions. They also asked six questions to inquire about EPA's ability and willingness to reduce annual RVOs. A copy of the letter is available online.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will take approximately the next six months to evaluate and improve the petition process for new fuel pathways under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Every producer that wants their renewable fuel to qualify under the RFS must have its fuel pathway, including feedstock and technology process, approved by EPA. EPA intends to make the process more efficient and transparent, and thereby reduce the amount of time it takes to make determinations on new fuel pathway petitions. The Agency also intends to develop and issue improved guidance for petitioners, and to have a more automated review process for petitions using previously approved feedstocks and well known production process technologies.
EPA suggests that parties intending to submit new fuel pathway petitions wait to do so until after the Agency issues its new guidance. EPA will continue to review petitions currently under review, but will prioritize them based on the following criteria:
* Ability to contribute to the cellulosic biofuel mandate.
* Potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a per gallon basis, for example by using feedstocks that likely do not have significant indirect land use change emissions (such as non-food feedstocks).
* Ability to contribute to near-term increases in renewable fuel use. This criterion would include, for example, consideration of the ability of the intended biofuel product to be readily incorporated into the existing fuel distribution network.
This review comes after years of criticism that the petition process for new fuel pathway approvals under the RFS takes too long and impedes progress of projects that could produce fuels that meet the annual RFS volumetric requirements. Some companies have been waiting for over two years for EPA's determination on their petitions.
We are very pleased to announce some of the speakers who are scheduled to participate in the session the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG™) is hosting May 13, 2014, at BIO World Congress, titled "Commercializing Renewable Chemicals and Biobased Products: The Importance of Successfully and Efficiently Navigating the Regulatory Process":
* Tracy Williamson, Ph.D., Chief, Industrial Chemistry Branch, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, EPA;
* David Widawsky, Ph.D., Director -- Economics, Exposure, and Technology Division of EPA and Manager of the EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards; and
* Frank Pacholec, Ph.D., Vice President, R&D/Corporate Sustainability Officer, Stepan Company (Stepan).
Through presentations and panel discussion, this session will fully inform, equip, and assist renewable chemical producers in finding the path of least resistance on the road to commercialization. Topics to be discussed include:
* Overview of the 90-day EPA new chemical notification review process;
* Filling out the Pre-manufacture Notification (PMN) form -- Top Ten Mistakes and How to Avoid Them;
* Challenges posed by chemical identity/nomenclature under U.S. and European Union (EU) law; and
* Leveraging successfully pollution prevention benefits.
The BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology is the world's largest industrial biotechnology event for business leaders, investors, and policy makers in biofuels, biobased products, and renewable chemicals. The congress takes place May 12 - 15, 2014, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Early bird registration ends March 31, 2014. Information and registration is available online.
On March 13, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a pre-rule notice to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on "Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Mixtures." This action shows that EPA is moving forward on a rulemaking under TSCA Sections 8(a) and 8(d) to obtain data on chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a process used in oil and gas production.
EPA explained in the Fall 2013 Unified Agenda that although the Agency "has granted the petitioners' request to initiate a rulemaking proceeding under TSCA sections 8(a) and 8(d), the Agency is not committing to a specific rulemaking outcome. EPA intends to first develop an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and initiate a stakeholder process to provide input on the design and scope of the TSCA reporting requirements that would be included in a proposed rule. EPA anticipates that States, industry, public interest groups, and members of the public will be participants in the process. The stakeholder process will bring stakeholders together to discuss the information needs and help EPA to ensure any reporting burdens and costs are minimized, ensuring information already available is considered in order to avoid duplication of efforts. The dialogue will also assist EPA in determining how information that is claimed Confidential Business Information could be aggregated and disclosed to maximize transparency and public understanding." The pre-rule notice, including links to EPA's statements on the subject in 2012 and 2013 Unified Agendas, is available online.
On March 12, 2014, Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), shared with his colleagues a vision plan that was developed to guide OCSPP's work over the next several years. The document, entitled Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Envisioning Accomplishments in 2017, outlines several actions that will be taken by OCSPP regarding pesticide registration, existing chemicals, the EDSP, creating a whole new Design for the Environment (DfE), and employing green solutions. Actions that will be taken in implementing OCSPP's vision are also outlined. Of particular note to biobased chemical producers and stakeholders, EPA "[w]ill have begun to look at additional elements of a chemical's life-cycle to factor into sustainability evaluations." This is yet another expression of commitment by EPA to ensuring sustainability is a component of all decisions at EPA. The document is available online.
On March 18, 2014, EPA issued a press release seeking nominations for EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. Biobased chemical producers and stakeholders are urged to consider submitting a nomination, or at the least preparing to submit one for next year. The award is prestigious and well worth the time and effort it takes to submit a compelling nomination application. Nominations are due to the Agency by April 30, 2014. EPA's press release about the awards and entry process is available online.
On March 4, 2014, President Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2015 Budget request, which includes aggressive proposed funding to carry out the Administration's Climate Action Plan designed to reduce harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the impacts of climate change. The President's FY 2015 Budget includes funding for several programs and initiatives to help facilitate the continued development and production of biofuels and biobased products. Consistent with the newly enacted Farm Bill, the Budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) includes increased funding for biobased product manufacturing. Given political realities and this midterm election year, it is not expected that the President's FY 2015 Budget Request will be enacted as proposed. It represents a starting point in the budget process, however, and indicates the Administration's priorities.
Here are highlights from the FY 2015 Budget proposal:
• U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): While the total budget request for EPA of $7.9 billion represents a decrease of $0.3 billion from last year, the cuts are mostly found within water infrastructure funds, with several programs seeing an increase over last year's levels. EPA's budget summary document notes that the Agency intends on evaluating its workforce and "identifying needed skills for a streamlined EPA." EPA's Appendix notes that under the "TSCA Confidential Business Information [CBI] Fund," the "Budget proposes to expand EPA's existing authority to collect fees to recover a portion of the costs of reviewing and maintaining the CBI."
• U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE): The FY 2015 Budget includes $27.9 billion for DOE, a 2.6 percent increase over FY 2014 enacted levels. This funding includes several programs designed to encourage and facilitate the development and production of advanced biofuels. For instance, the FY 2015 Budget would fund the DOE's:
o Bioenergy Technology Program At $253 Million: A $12 million decrease over FY 2014. This program funds research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects to advance biofuels technologies and to validate and assist in the commercialization of integrated biorefinery technologies that will help transform the nation's transportation sector.
o Energy Security Trust At $2 Billion Over Ten Years: According to the DOE's FY 2015 Budget Appendix, this trust would be newly created to "support research into a range of technologies -- like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, hydrogen, and domestically produced natural gas -- to allow the Nation to transition from oil towards more secure alternatives. The [t]rust will be funded from existing royalty revenues generated from [f]ederal oil and gas development. Establishing a guaranteed source of funding will allow the Department of Energy to maintain targeted and sustained investments that will directly advance U.S. energy security."
o Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy At $2.3 Billion: An increase of approximately $0.2 billion over FY 2014. Under this program, DOE invests in the development of renewable generation technologies, sustainable transportation technologies, and advanced manufacturing technologies, as well as in improving energy efficiency in our homes, buildings and industries.
o Advanced Research Projects Agency At $325 Million: An increase of $76 million over FY 2014 levels. This program provides funding for research and development of transformational clean energy technologies.
• USDA: The FY 2015 Budget includes $23.7 billion in discretionary funding for USDA, a decrease of approximately $1 billion from FY 2014. The Budget provides for the USDA launch of three new multidisciplinary agricultural research institutes, one of which would be dedicated to advanced biobased manufacturing. It also includes the mandatory funding provided in the newly enacted Farm Bill for important energy programs designed to help encourage the production of biofuels and biobased chemicals. For instance, the FY 2015 USDA Budget Request provides funding for the:
o Biobased Markets Program At $3 Million In Mandatory Funding, the same level as FY 2014: The Biobased Markets (BioPreferred®) Program creates a procurement preference at federal agencies for biobased products.
o Biobased Research And Development Initiative At $3 Million In Mandatory Funding, a decrease of approximately $2 million from FY 2014: This program provides competitive funding for RD&D of technologies and processes leading to commercial production of biofuels and biobased products.
o Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) At $25 Million In Mandatory Funding: BCAP provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to establish, cultivate and harvest eligible biomass for heat, power, biobased products, research, and advanced biofuels. Crop producers and bioenergy facilities can team together to submit proposals to USDA for selection as a BCAP project area.
o Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, And Biobased Manufacturing Assistance Program At $50 Million In Mandatory Funding, a decrease of $80 million from FY 2014: This program provides competitive loan guarantees and grants for the construction or retrofitting of demonstration-scale facilities for the commercial production of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products.
On March 3, 2014, EPA released its final rule on "Control of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards" (the "Tier 3 rule"). A copy of the 1069-page Tier 3 rule is available online. A copy of EPA's five-page fact sheet on "EPA Sets Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards" is available online.
The Tier 3 rule is designed to reduce air pollution from passenger cars and trucks. Beginning in 2017, the Tier 3 rule will set new vehicle emissions standards and reduce the sulfur content of gasoline. It will treat the vehicle and its fuel as an integrated system. The final Tier 3 rule is very similar to the proposed version of the rule, although the final Tier 3 rule sets the ethanol content for emissions test gasoline at ten percent (E10) instead of at 15 percent (E15) as proposed.
The final Tier 3 rule is a part of the Obama Administration's efforts to combat the harmful impacts of climate change. It is expected to reduce several tons of harmful GHG emissions by 2030.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has awarded more than $3 million in funding to four research institutions to study how chemicals behave when they come into contact with biological systems. The projects will focus on developing better models that predict the connection between exposures to chemicals and the chain of events that lead to an unwanted health effect. The results are expected to assist EPA in its mission to protect human health and the environment, to inform and impact EPA's chemical safety research, and to develop solutions for more sustainable chemicals and use computational science to understand the relationship between chemical exposures and health outcomes. A copy of EPA's press release is available online.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken two actions this month to update Design for the Environment's (DfE) Safer Chemical Ingredients List. On January 23, 2014, EPA announced that it is adding 50 chemicals to the list, "bringing the number of safer fragrance chemicals to 150 and the total number of safer chemicals to nearly 650." The list is available online.
On January 29, 2014, EPA announced that it has issued final DfE alternatives assessments for Decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE) and Bisphenol A (BPA). The 901 page report on alternatives for the flame retardant DecaBDE is available online, and the 519 page report on BPA alternatives is available online.