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.

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Donald LaVoy and DOE Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes announced on October 24, 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two departments to promote rural energy and the development of technologies to support and advance rural and agricultural communities and domestic manufacturing. Required under Section 6501 of the 2018 Farm Bill, the MOU is meant to improve collaboration and coordination between DOE and USDA. A number of areas are covered by the MOU, including:

  • Streamlining, leveraging, and optimizing program resources;
     
  • Strengthening energy-related infrastructure;
     
  • Facilitating energy-related investments in rural communities;
     
  • Ensuring affordable and reliable power;
     
  • Offering technical assistance to rural communities;
     
  • Encouraging innovation; and
     
  • Helping rural businesses export energy products and manufactured goods around the globe.
     
Tags: USDA, DOE

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 15, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS) announced via the Federal Register the solicitation of applications for funds under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (the Program). Under the Program, USDA provides guaranteed loans to fund the development, construction, and retrofitting of commercial scale biorefineries using eligible technology. The loans are also used to fund the development of biobased product manufacturing facilities that use technologically new commercial-scale processing and manufacturing equipment to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs of biorefineries into end-user products on a commercial scale. There will be two separate application cycles. The first cycle closed on October 1, 2019, and the second cycle will close on April 1, 2020. Applications filed after the aforementioned dates will be considered for the next application cycle, should funding be available.


 

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, U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) submitted a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue asking him to stop threatening energy jobs in Louisiana. In his letter to Secretary Purdue, Senator Kennedy outlines concerns related to Small Refinery Exemptions (SRE) issued by EPA under the RFS program. Of particular concern to Senator Kennedy are reports that Secretary Purdue continues to attempt to influence EPA decisions on small refinery waivers, despite clear measures in the Clean Air Act that prohibit him to do so. Senator Kennedy states that Secretary Purdue’s “efforts in this matter not only disregard congressional intent of the law, bur also threaten thousands of jobs in Louisiana and across the country.” While emphasizing consistency to statutory requirements, Senator Kennedy also highlights his opposition to EPA’s proposal to increase the total blending requirement in the reset rule or 2020 RVO rule. Arguing that increases of the blending requirements or changes to SRE would affect Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) prices, and therefore, jobs, Senator Kennedy ends the letter by threatening to block Secretary Purdue’s three USDA nominees awaiting confirmation before the Senate.

Tags: USDA, RFS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 28, 2019, 13 U.S. Senators signed a letter to President Donald J. Trump expressing concerns about media reports that USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue is attempting to influence EPA decisions on small refinery waivers under RFS. Similar to the letter submitted to Purdue himself by Senator Kennedy, the 13 Senators express opposition to Secretary Purdue’s involvement in the SRE waivers decision-making process. Also referencing the Clean Air Act and its statutory requirements, the letter urges President Trump to prohibit Secretary Purdue from influencing or interfering with decisions concerning SRE by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The view expressed in the letter is that “any decisions to further delay, reduce, or deny hardship relief to small refineries, or reallocate the obligations of small refineries to other refineries,” would be the result of Secretary Purdue’s impermissible interference. The letter notes that federal courts would likely view any of the outlined attempts in the same way.

Tags: USDA, RFS, CAA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a proposed rule on June 6, 2019, on the movement of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms.  84 Fed. Reg. 26514.  The proposed rule would revise the regulations regarding the movement, including the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain GE organisms in response to advances in genetic engineering and APHIS’ understanding of the plant pest risk posed by them, “thereby reducing regulatory burden for developers of organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks.”  APHIS notes that the proposed rule “would mark the first comprehensive revision of the regulations since they were established in 1987.”  It would provide “a clear, predictable, and efficient regulatory pathway for innovators, facilitating the development of new and novel [GE] organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks.”  Comments on the proposed rule are due by August 5, 2019. For further details, see the Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C) memorandum here.

Tags: USDA, APHIS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 8, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) announced the pilot launch of its new online permitting system: APHIS eFile. Launching on July 23, 2019, APHIS will be inviting, at the end of May, those who have been issued a BRS permit or notification in the past two years to apply for the pilot program. The plan is for BRS to transition fully to APHIS eFile in November 2019 to allow applicants who join the pilot to learn the system. The pilot will be a way for APHIS BRS to test the new system in a real-world environment. Replacing the ePermits system, APHIS eFile, is expected to reduce regulatory burdens and offer intuitive, user-friendly digital experiences. Applicants who do not participate in the pilot should continue to apply for BRS permits using the old system until APHIS eFile’s full release.

Tags: USDA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 12, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the reopening of the public review and comment period for the draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) and the preliminary Pest Risk Assessment (PRA). These two documents have been prepared in response to a permit application from a company requesting the environmental release of genetically engineered (GE) Citrus tristeza virus (CTV). The reopening of comments is the result of a new research paper released after the initial comment period back in the summer of 2018. The research paper examines the movement of CTV, which could raise questions regarding the transmissibility of GE CTV. Updates to the dEIS and PRA have been made according to the new information obtained. While the dEIS evaluated the environmental impacts that could result from approving the permit application, the preliminary PRA analyzes the GE plant virus as a biological control measure and its potential to pose a risk to plant health. In its announcement, USDA APHIS clearly states that applying GE CTV does not mean that the trees are themselves GE. The permit application requests the approval for the use of GE CTV as a biological control agent that would help manage citrus greening disease. Instead, a gene from spinach is delivered to the tree’s circulatory system. Comments must be submitted on or prior to April 30, 2019.

Tags: USDA, APHIS

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced a request for comments on two documents related to the potential deregulation of a canola variety genetically engineered (GE) to convert oleic acid to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaeonic acid (EPA), as well as for resistance to an imidazolinone herbicide. The documents are a draft Environmental Assessment (dEA) and a draft Plant Pest Risk Assessment (dPPRA). While the dEA analyzes potential issues and environmental impacts, the dPPRA examines any plant pest risks. DHA and EPA are omega-3 fatty acids that support brain development and protect neurological function. The aforementioned GE canola accumulates higher concentrations of these fatty acids. Therefore, in a petition submitted by BASF Corporation (BASF), it stated that this canola provides a plant-based and scalable production system for omega 3-fatty acids that can be another source of EPA and DHA for consumers either as a food ingredient or as an aquaculture feed ingredient. Based on BASF’s statement and the draft documents, USDA will be accepting comments until May 6, 2019. APHIS intends to thoroughly review and consider the information provided in the completion of the final environmental documents and regulatory determinations.

Tags: USDA, APHIS, GE

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 18, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Technical Advisory Committee.   84 Fed. Reg. 9769.  The meeting will take place in Arlington, Virginia, on March 27 - 28, 2019, and will include discussions on developing advice and guidance promoting R&D leading to the production of biobased fuels and products.  The tentative agenda includes updates not only on DOE Biomass R&D activities, but also on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biomass R&D activities.  Presentations from government and industry can also be expected to provide insight on the intersection of forest health and bioenergy growth.  DOE will allow oral statements to be made during the meeting and will also be accepting written comments either before or after the meeting.  Meeting minutes will be available for public review and copying on the Biomass Board’s website.

Tags: DOE, USDA, Biomass

 
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