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).
On July 6, 2016, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed SB 2652 Related to Taxation -- Locally Produced Renewable Energy. This bill establishes a five-year renewable fuels production tax credit. The tax credit will take effect in 2017 and will provide 20 cents per gallon of ethanol (or 76,000 British thermal units (Btu) of renewable fuel) with a cap of $3 million. The tax credit is open to companies producing at least 15 billion Btu of fuel from renewable feedstocks per year. Acceptable fuels include, but are not limited to, ethanol, hydrogen, biodiesel, biogas, renewable jet fuel, and other biofuels.
On June 24, 2016, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 657 modifying provisions related to motor vehicles. Under this new law, liability insurance carried by gas stations will expand coverage to include the release of blended fuels from incompatible storage tanks. The inclusion of blended fuels under the required insurance policy will remove one more barrier towards increasing the number of blender pumps within the state. The bill was originally introduced on January 6, 2016, and will become effective on August 28, 2016.
On June 15, 2016, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) announced three new members of the Green Ribbon Science Panel (GRSP). The new members are Jack Linard, Ph.D., Personal Care Regulatory Affairs Team for Unilever North America; Elaine Cohen Hubal, Ph.D., Deputy National Program Director for EPA's Chemical Safety for Sustainability (CSS) Research Program; and Mark Nicas, Ph.D., MPH, CIH, Associate Adjunct Professor Emeritus for the University of California, Berkeley. The new members will work with existing panel members to advise DTSC on Safer Consumer Products (SCP) regulations implementation. GRSP will also provide input and advice on other discussion topics, including the Department's Alternative Analysis Guide, and the implementation of the 2015-2017 Priority Products Work Plan.
On May 24, 2016, Iowan Governor Terry Branstad signed Senate File 2309, an Act providing for tax credits and refunds relating to renewable fuels including their component biofuels and including effective date provisions. The bill extends a state biodiesel production tax credit providing 2 cents per gallon (cpg) on the first 25 million gallons of production per biodiesel plant. The bill also extends a credit for petroleum retailers of 4.5 cpg on blends of 5 percent biodiesel or more through the end of 2017, with the incentive changing to 3.5 cpg for 5-11 percent biodiesel blends and 5.5 cpg for biodiesel blends above 11 percent from 2018 to 2024. Without the extension, the bill was scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2017, but will now continue through December 31, 2024.
On April 27, 2016, the Iowa Senate voted 49-0 to extend the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP) through June 30, 2017. The legislation, House File 2464, was passed by the Iowa House 94-0 and provides funding for cost-share grants to upgrade fueling infrastructure. RFIP covers up to 70 percent of the installation cost of E15, E85, or biodiesel blend fuel pumps for Iowa retailers, up to $50,000 per project. "While we were hopeful for a long-term funding solution for the state's renewable fuels infrastructure program, we're very pleased today that the Iowa legislature was able to keep this vital initiative going for another year," stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Policy Director Grant Menke. "The [U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA)] Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership re-energized many Iowa retailers, leading to record participation in the blender pump program over the past year. This one-year funding extension allows us to build upon this momentum and ensure Iowans have greater access to cleaner-burning, lower-cost renewable fuels." The current source of RFIP funding is ending after this extension, so there is still need for a long-term solution to helping retailers supply more renewable fuels and higher ethanol blends to consumers.
On April 8, 2016, the California State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission (Commission) sued Mendota Bioenergy LLC, claiming it improperly spent public money targeted for equipment purchases. The bioenergy company entered into an agreement with the Commission in March 2013 to construct and operate a 10,000 ton beet to ethanol demonstration plant. After amending the agreement, Mendota agreed to build a 2,400 ton demonstration plant with the Commission providing nearly $5 million in reimbursements, with Mendota providing the remaining $6.5 million. Mendota submitted an equipment invoice from Easy Energy Systems for $1.77 million, which was reimbursed by the Commission, but it was later discovered that the invoiced equipment was never delivered and Mendota used the $1.77 million for other expenses, not all of which were reimbursable under the grant agreement. The Commission voted to end the grant agreement with Mendota in December 2015, and is seeking the return of public funds as well as punitive damages.
On April 6, 2016, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed Senate File 2300, creating a five cent tax credit, per pound of renewable chemicals produced from biomass feedstock between 2017 and 2026. Spokesman for Governor, Ben Hammes, stated, "Gov. Branstad believes this biochemical tax program will go even further to continue spurring economic growth all over Iowa, creating more high-quality jobs and attracting investments in renewable chemical manufacturing and advanced bio-refining." The bill passed the Iowa Senate on March 16, 2016, with a vote of 46-3, and the Iowa House on March 28, 2016, with a vote of 95-1.
The tax credit will take effect July 1, 2016, and will be capped at $105 million for each fiscal year through June 30, 2021. After 2021, the general assembly will determine if the tax credit limitation will be continued. The law does not apply to renewable chemicals that are sold to be used as food, feed, or fuel, but does include building-block chemicals, supplements, vitamins, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceuticals as long as there is no caloric value. Biomass-derived ethanol, fatty acid methyl esters, and butanol are eligible for the credit as long as they are produced and sold for uses other than food or fuel.