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 Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On October 2, 2019, the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, announced that applications are now open for all 15 seats on the Governor’s Biofuels Council.  Established in September 2019 by Governor Walz, the Governor’s Biofuels Council advises the Governor and cabinet on how best to support Minnesota’s biofuels industry. Council members will include representatives of agriculture, biofuels, and transportation industries and environmental and conservation groups.  The Governor’s Biofuels Council is tasked with creating a report to advise the Governor and cabinet on the best methods to expand the use of biofuels, increase the carbon efficiency of biofuels, and implement biofuels as part of Minnesota’s larger goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) production in the transportation sector.  Under Governor Walz’s September 16, 2019, Executive Order, the Governor’s Biofuels Council must complete the report by November 2020.  Thus far, 30 individuals have applied, and Governor Walz encourages “Minnesotans in every corner of the state to apply and share their expertise on this critical issue.”  Interested parties can access the application here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Green Building Council Massachusetts (USGBC) recently published its 2019 Report titled Zero Energy Buildings in Massachusetts: Saving Money from the Start. The report assesses zero energy (ZE) upfront building costs, model performance, and life-cycle costs in Massachusetts (MA). Local MA leaders have been working to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduce energy use in the built environment. This work has been done by retrofitting existing buildings and constructing new buildings to achieve ZE standards. Although many stakeholders and decision-makers cite high costs as the primary barrier for ZE buildings, USGBC reports that many types of ZE buildings can be constructed without an upfront cost. Also according to the report, some commercial buildings may even see return on investment in as little as one year. Key findings and policy recommendations are outlined, accompanied by examples that can be used as a template to overcome the ZE building barriers often encountered. The full report can be accessed here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On September 16, 2019, Governor of Virginia, Ralph S. Northam (D), signed Executive Order Forty-Three, establishing statewide objectives for clean energy production expansion. The target goals outlined in the Executive Order include a 30 percent increase of electricity powered by renewable energy resources by 2030, and achieving 100 percent of energy by carbon-neutral resources by 2050. Directing the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) to develop a plan of action to meet the renewable energy goals, the plan should address issues related to storage, energy efficiency, equity, and environmental justice. Governor Northam emphasizes in his Executive Order how advancements in clean energy can offer Virginia an opportunity to address inequities for Virginia’s vulnerable populations. DMME is advised to work in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, the Secretary of Natural Resources, and the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality to develop this plan. Governor Northam’s concerns related to this imperative issue clearly stand out in his Executive Order. The Executive Order was effective upon its signing.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

Recently, the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council (NDCUC) announced the implementation of its new program, the North Dakota Unleaded88 Expansion Program, in partnership with the North Dakota Ethanol Council (NDEC). The goal of the program is to partner with fuel retailers to provide drivers with Unleaded 88, which consists of a higher octane fuel containing 15 percent ethanol blend with 85 percent gasoline. Through June 30, 2020, NDCUC will grant funds to fuel retailers for infrastructure needs to offer Unleaded88. Claiming that Unleaded88 provides a safe, economical, and cleaner fuel option to consumers, NDCUC’s Chairman, Terry Wehlander states that 40 to 60 percent of North Dakota’s corn crop is purchased by its five ethanol plants. Therefore, Wehlander and the Chairman of NDEC both argue that increasing the availability of Unleaded88 will create more market stability for consumers and agricultural producers. Retailers interested in applying for the program can find the application and guidelines on NDCUC’s website and submit the application via e-mail.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 19, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in the Federal Register that a proposed collection of information on the Review Transparency and Communication in Reviews of 351(k) Biologics License Applications in Biosimilars User Fee Act has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval. This information collection supports the review program under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), which allows FDA to collect user fees for the review of human drug and biologics applications for fiscal years 2013 through 2021. OMB is now accepting comments on the collection of information until September 18, 2019.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 2, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced via the Federal Register the rates for biosimilar user fees for FY 2020. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) authorizes FDA to assess and collect user fees for certain activities in connection with biosimilar biological product development; review of certain applications for approval of biosimilar biological products; and each biosimilar biological product approved in an application. The established fees will apply to the period from October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 6, 2019, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced four grants aiming to expand biofuel access and production to advance the state’s renewable energy efforts. Awarded to four recipients by MDA’s Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Program, the grants total more than $500,000. One Bioenergy/Biochemical Pilot Project Grant was awarded, providing funding to advance bioenergy and biochemical production technology to a commercial scale. Three Biofuel Blending Infrastructure Grants were awarded to expand the use of blending infrastructure equipment in Minnesota.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 6, 2019, the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) announced its partnership with The Power for America Training Trust Fund (P4A) for the launch of a renewable energy specialist apprenticeship program. Certified by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the program aims at assisting individuals with a path to employment for highly demanded jobs in the renewable energy sector. Under this program, individuals will be taught specialized skills in the fields of solar generation, battery storage, and offshore and onshore wind. An earn-while-you-learn program, this two-and-a-half-year apprenticeship guarantees participants a job with a Michigan-based company. P4A is currently looking for more companies with which to form partnerships.

Tags: DOL

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 5, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Procurement and Property Management published a final rule that will amend the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement (Guidelines) to add 30 sections designating the product categories within which biobased products would be afforded procurement preference by federal agencies and their contractors. These 30 product categories contain finished products that are made, in large part, from intermediate ingredients that have been designated for federal procurement preference. Additionally, USDA is amending the existing designated product categories of general purpose de-icers, firearm lubricants, laundry products, and water clarifying agents. The rule will be effective on August 5, 2019.
 
According to the final rule, when USDA designates by rulemaking a product category for preferred procurement under the BioPreferred Program, manufacturers of all products under the umbrella of that product category that meet the requirements to qualify for preferred procurement can claim that status for their products. To qualify for preferred procurement, a product must be within a designated product category and contain at least the minimum biobased content established for the designated product category. With the designation of these specific product categories, USDA invites manufacturers and vendors of qualifying products to provide information on the product, contacts, and performance testing for posting on its BioPreferred website. USDA states that procuring agencies will be able to use this website “as one tool to determine the availability of qualifying biobased products under a designated product category.”
 
For further information, see Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s memorandum on the final rule. In the memorandum, we link to the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) and its interest in biobased products.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 27, 2019, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved a rule requiring the gradual transition of fixed-route airport shuttles into 100 percent zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2035. Applied to public and private shuttles that serve the state’s 13 largest airports, including rental car agencies, hotels, and parking facilities, the regulation was approved with an expectation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 500,000 metric tons. According to CARB, the regulation will also benefit shuttle fleet owners through an estimated $30 million in reduced fuel and maintenance costs. Currently, six airports and private businesses serving nine airports already have zero-emission shuttles operating in the state. This new rule presents “a great opportunity for showcasing this process,” stated CARB Executive Officer, Richard Corey. CARB states that airport shuttles are well-suited to zero-emission technology because they operate on short, fixed routes up to 200 miles per day with low average speeds in a stop/go pattern. When operating in this manner, ZEVs are advantageous from an energy and fuel efficiency perspective. The rule will require annual reporting of vehicles to CARB in 2022, and end in 2035 with full compliance of ZEV airport shuttles.


 
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