By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On April 4, 2017, the Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) announced that the Iowa Department of Revenue’s 2016 Retailers Fuel Gallons Annual Report demonstrated that more than half of Iowa’s fuel retailers carried biodiesel blends in 2016. In 2016, 344.8 million gallons of on-road biodiesel blends were sold, which accounts for 54.7 percent of total on-road diesel fuel sales. The report also showed that twice as many gallons of 11 - 20 percent biodiesel (B11-B20) were sold compared to lower blends. IBB credits the growth in the use of higher biodiesel blends to Iowa’s proactive state policies, which are working as intended to increase production and consumption. Due to the instability at the federal level, Grant Kimberley, the IBB executive director, stated that Iowa’s biofuel producers need state tax credits to stay in place now more than ever to remain competitive.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On April 4, 2017, the Hawaii State Senate Committee on Ways and Means passed HB 1580, which sets a goal of having all ground transportation in Hawaii run on renewable fuel by 2045. The bill, which does not contain an enforcement mechanism, provides a benchmark framework for achieving the ambitious target and establishes an intermediate target to reduce the sale of imported fuels by five percent in 2025. The Senate Committee introduced amendments that clarify the bill does not create a mandate to move to 100 percent clean ground transportation, but it outlines a path to achieve such a goal. According to the bill, clean ground transportation includes all transportation that avoids the consumption of fossil fuels.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On March 23, 2017, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board (ARB) announced the release of new carbon intensity pathways for fuels certified under the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) using the CA-GREET 2.0 model. Of the 18 pathways approved in March, eight are first generation biodiesel carbon intensity pathways and four are second generation renewable diesel carbon intensity pathways. A pathway for biodiesel produced from used cooking oil has been provisionally certified, as well. The approved pathways can be used for credit reporting purposes beginning with reports for Q1 2017. The LCFS regulation aims to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels sold in California by 10 percent by 2020 in line with the California Health and Safety Code mandate to reduce greenhouse gases in California.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On March 24, 2017, the California Energy Commission (CEC) published a notice on the proposed recipients of up to $23 million in Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) funding for applied research and development (AR&D) and technology demonstration and development (TD&D) activities focused on advancing bioenergy electricity generation. The funding opportunity is focused on three main bioenergy applications, including:
||Efficient, Sustainable and Lower-Cost Bioenergy: Innovations to Improve Woody Biomass-to-Electricity Systems ($5,000,000);
||Demonstration and Evaluation of Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Woody Biomass-to-Electricity Systems ($10,000,000); and
||Demonstration and Evaluation of Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Food Waste Biomass-to-Electricity Systems ($8,000,000).
Of the 57 abstracts submitted, 28 passed Phase 1 screening. All of the 23 proposals received during Phase 2 passed the administrative screening process. CEC published the recommended funding and score for each of the 23 proposed projects. The funding recommendations will be approved during the Energy Commission Business meeting, at which time the Energy Commission can add, remove, or shift funding to make additional awards and negotiate with applicants to modify the project scope, schedule, or funding level.
On March 13, 2017, the South Dakota Farmers Union announced that the National Farmers Union had passed a resolution calling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to open the market to higher blends of ethanol during its annual meeting in San Diego. The resolution, which was brought forward by the South Dakota Farmers Union delegation, promotes the use of higher blended fuels, such as E30, as a way to expand the retail fuels infrastructure and support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
In addition to passing the resolution, the National Farmers Union filed legal comments regarding EPA’s overreach in its interpretation of the Clean Air Act (CAA), which limits ethanol content to 15 percent. Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union, called on EPA and all government regulators to reverse statements and policies that unfairly limit the amount of ethanol in fuel and stated that both the state and national organization continue to seek greater market access for higher blended fuels.
On February 9, 2017, Illinois State Senators Andy Manar and Chapin Rose introduced legislation aimed at growing Illinois’ biobased economy by providing incentives under the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program Act. The program would provide credit against taxes for eligible Illinois businesses that produce renewable chemicals within the state using biomass feedstock and other renewable sources. The legislation defines a renewable chemical as a building block with a biobased content of at least 50 percent. According to the legislation, eligible businesses will be required to submit to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity an application for the tax credit that includes the amount of renewable chemical produced during the calendar year and any other information needed to verify eligibility as identified by the Department. The proposed tax credit will not exceed $1 million for businesses that have been in operation in Illinois for five years or less, and $500,000 for businesses that have been in operation longer than five years.
The New York State Clean Heating Fuel Tax Credit has been extended through 2020. The personal income tax credit, which was initially authorized in 2006, is provided to eligible taxpayers for biodiesel purchases used for residential space and water heating. For each percent of biodiesel blended with conventional home heating oil, a tax credit of $0.01/gallon is available up to a maximum of $0.20/gallon. A partial credit will be calculated for buildings with a shared oil storage tank for residential and non-residential space that is based on the percentage of residential square footage. A refund will be provided to taxpayers whose allowable credit exceeds their liability for that year.
On December 22, 2016, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced that the public comment period for the draft Alternatives Analysis (AA) Guide for the Safer Consumer Products (SCP) program has been extended to February 3, 2017. The guide, which was released on December 19, 2016, aims to help relevant stakeholders navigate all phases of the SCP AA process and provide useful approaches, methods, resources, tools and examples of how to fulfill SCP's regulatory requirements. The draft AA Guide is available through the Safer Consumer Products Information Management System (CalSAFER). The SCP program aims to reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products using a four step process that identifies specific products that contain potentially harmful chemicals and asks manufacturers to assess whether the chemical is necessary and whether a safer alternative can be used.
On September 28, 2016, the City of New York passed a bill, 47 to three, increasing the amount of biodiesel in the city’s heating oil. Heating oil in New York City currently contains two percent biodiesel, which will increase to five percent on October 1, 2017, ten percent in 2025, 15 percent in 2030, and 20 percent in 2034. The first increase from a two to five percent biodiesel blend is expected to reduce an equivalent amount of emissions, taking 45,000 cars off the road, with the final target of a 20 percent reduction of emissions equivalent to removing over 250,000 cars. This legislation, which is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is part of New York City’s target to reach an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions between 2005 and 2050.
On September 6, 2016, 61 members of the Florida House of Representatives issued a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to urge them to: (1) declare a public health emergency for the Zika virus; (2) grant Florida’s state and local governments access to Oxitec Ltd.’s (Oxitec) genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes that can suppress the local Aedes aegypti mosquito population; and (3) grant an Emergency Use Authorization under Section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to make Oxitec’s GE mosquitos immediately available in any Florida area “where Zika is being transmitted or is likely to be transmitted.”
FDA completed and issued the final environmental review for a proposed field trial to determine whether the release of Oxitec’s GE mosquitoes (OX513A) will suppress the local Aedes aegypti mosquito population in the release area at Key Haven, Florida on August 5, 2016. FDA's final issuance of an Environmental Assessment (EA) and its Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) does not mean that Oxitec's GE mosquitoes are approved for commercial use, however, as Oxitec is still responsible for ensuring all other local, state, and federal requirements are met before conducting the proposed field trial, and, together with its local partner, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, determining whether and when to begin the proposed field trial in Key Haven, Florida.
More information on Oxitec’s GE mosquitos is available in the Oxitec Case Study section of a report authored by the legal experts, scientists, and policy specialists of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and released through the Wilson Center's Synthetic Biology Project, "The DNA of the U.S. Regulatory System: Are We Getting It Right for Synthetic Biology?" (October 2015).