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.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 16, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced the winners of DOE’s Solar Decathlon® Design Challenge, which was held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO, from April 12-14, 2019. The Challenge consisted of ten contests in which student teams designed highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy. The winners are teams that best blended architectural engineering excellence with innovation, market potential, smart energy production, and building efficiency.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 15, 2019, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote an article for Medium Politics, titled “My plan for public lands.” In the article, Warren highlights the importance and value of U.S. public lands and the need to make them part of the climate solution rather than the issue. Emphasizing her position on corporate profits and how they should not be prioritized over local communities’ health and safety, Warren states that on her first day in office as President, she will “sign an executive order that says no more drilling—a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands.” Furthermore, she vows to set a goal of providing ten percent of the U.S.’s electricity generation from renewable sources offshore or on public lands.
- Reuters, “U.S. EPA Revives Provision That May Name Refiners Applying for Biofuel Waivers”
- Washington Examiner, “2020 Democrats Embrace Green New Deal at Their Peril in Iowa, Land of Ethanol”
- Reuters, “U.S. EPA May Grant Fewer Biofuel Waivers Due to Low Credit Prices: Wheeler”
- The Chemical Engineer, “BP Joins Effort to Make Paraxylene from Biological Sources”
- The Western Producer, “Canola-based Plastic May Hit Market Soon”
- The Hindu, “ICGEB’s Novel Yeast Strain Increases Ethanol Production”
- Forbes, “From Cooking Oil to Biofuel: Eni’s Project in the Venice Biorefinery”
- WVTM 13, “Grant Awarded to Auburn University for Biofuels Study”
- The Journal Gazette, “Ashley Getting Plastic-to-fuel Plant”
- CBC, “AquaBounty Considers Labelling Genetically Modified Salmon”
- Biomass Magazine, “MTI Funds Project by Biofine to Produce Biobased Levulinic Acid”
- Verdict Foodservice, “McDonald’s UK to Turn Waste Grease into Biofuel and Prevent Fatbergs”
- Plastics Today, “Bio-based Innovation Award Finalists Announced”
- Plastics Technology, “Eastman Launches Chemical Recycling Innovation for Complex Plastic Waste”
- Euractiv, “Eastern Europe Backs Locally Produced Biofuels to Save Climate and Farmers”
- Ethanol Producer Magazine, “When Will the EU ‘Get Real’ on Biofuels?”
- PowerboatWorld.com, “Boaters Urged to Tell EPA to Stop the Summertime Sale of E15 Fuel”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 8, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) announced a new prize competition to support and accelerate the development of pumped storage hydropower (PSH). The prize, titled Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time (FAST) Commissioning for Pumped Storage Hydropower (PSH), seeks innovative solutions and technologies that can assist PSH developers facing non-regulatory challenges. It would also support DOE’s goal to reduce PSH time commission from ten years to five. FAST PSH will provide winners with cash and in-kind laboratory support prizes. Prize competition concepts could include standardization of equipment, application of advanced manufacturing, new layouts, creative construction management, or improved construction equipment. In the first stage of the competition, ten finalists will be selected for 50 hours of support over three months from the FAST national laboratory partners. This initial stage will be in preparation for a pitch contest with up to $950,000 of combined cash prizes and vouchers support, and up to three winners. FAST PSH is part of a larger effort conducted by DOE in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest Laboratory. Part of this effort also involves the development of a baseline framework to assist industry and understand costs, time, and risk burdens associated with PSH. The first stage of the prize competition closes on May 24, 2019.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 4, 2019, DOE EERE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced the appearance of 23 journal articles from some of the nation’s leading biomass experts in the journal Frontiers in Energy Research. The collection of articles, titled Advancements in Biomass Feedstock Preprocessing: Conversion Ready Feedstocks, focuses on the many years of research and development into biomass preprocessing that has been largely supported by DOE EERE’s BETO. According to the announcement, researchers from Idaho National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were part of more than 100 authors representing more than 30 research institutions, universities, and private companies who contributed to the special issue containing these 23 articles.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is offering an opportunity for funding to advance a bioenergy or biochemical production technology toward commercial scale through the construction and operation of a pilot plant. To be eligible for the AGRI Bioenergy/Biochemical Pilot Project Grant, applicants must be a Minnesota-based company, learning institution, local government unit, Native American Tribal community, or individual (including for-profit businesses and colleges/universities). Eligible grant projects will be for the development of innovative bioenergy or biochemical production technology ideas that have advanced beyond the proof of concept and are at the scaling up to pilot-plant stage. Up to $150,000 will be awarded and must be used for: (1) wages, software, or anything else necessary to perform the tasks of the grant project’s work plan; and (2) equipment needed for the project implementation. Applications are due by 4:00 p.m. (CDT) on April 26, 2019. For further details, see the Request for Proposals.
Last week, from April 3-5, 2019, Biofuels Digest hosted its annual Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference (ABLC) in Washington, D.C. Among those present were various industry stakeholders, government representatives, and federal agency staffers. Innovative technologies were presented and much networking was done. The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) presence was welcomed and provided an opportunity for industry stakeholders to gain insight into regulatory developments in the biobased sector, particularly during the Regulatory Workshop that took place on April 4, 2019. The workshop was moderated by Richard Engler, Ph.D., Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. While Engler covered timelines for approval of new substances, Ray Matulka, The Burdock Group, covered new food or feed additives, which is especially important if fermentation byproducts will be used as animal feed. Graham Noyes, Noyes Law Firm, covered California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard Program, its success, and similar other state-level efforts.
A large number of panels held during the conference circled back to concerns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program and measures associated with its implementation. Highlighting the importance of the intersection between policy and commerce, panelists in the Bioeconomy Policy Forum were particularly frustrated with the number of small refinery exemptions under the Trump Administration. The fact that, under President Trump’s two years, a greater number of small refinery waivers has been granted than during the Obama Administration’s eight years was highly criticized. Panelists went as far as stating that these measures under the RFS Program are leading to demand destruction for renewable fuels.
In agreement with industry, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) expressed frustration with the small refinery exemptions granted thus far. Despite these obstacles, however, Senator Grassley also stated that he is encouraged by the Trump Administration in working on short- and long-term solutions for issues that often create barriers towards alternative energy goals. Senator Grassley ensured his support for industry, emphasizing alternative energy’s key role in supporting national security, the economy, good environment, and energy independence.
- Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. TSCAblog™, “EPA Releases Budget Justification that Increases Budget for Chemical Risk, Review, and Reduction Program”
- Phys.org, “Technology Turns Municipal Wastewater Algae into Specialty Chemicals for Biofuels, Bioplastics”
- RealClear Energy, “The Unintended Consequences of the Renewable Fuel Standard”
- Quad-City Times, “Biofuels Are Not the Answer on Climate Change”
- Bloomberg, “These Companies Are Trying to Reinvent Recycling”
- Food Navigator, “Chilean Start-up Creates Bioplastic from Walnut Waste”
- Phys.org, “How to Convert Wheat Straw Waste into Green Chemicals”
- Happi, “Croda Wins ‘Bio-based Industry Story of the Year’ Award”
- Curbed, “This Gorgeous Marble-like Material Comes from Sunflowers”
- Renewable Energy Magazine, “The Role of Renewable Energy in the Manufacturing Sector”
- Interesting Engineers, “Clear Wood: New Material Could Replace Glass”
- de zeen, “Thomas Vailly Uses Sunflowers to Make Bio-based Materials”
- KFGO, “Aerion Designing Supersonic Jet to Run Completely on Biofuels: CEO”
- Ethanol Producer Magazine, “Wheeler Addresses SREs, RVO Reallocations During Recent Hearings”
- Purdue University Research Foundation News, “Technology Shown to Turn Municipal Wastewater Algae into Specialty Chemicals for Biofuels, Bioplastics”
- The Jakarta Post, “EU Biofuel Directive Protectionist, CPOPC Says”
- ScienceDirect, “Biofuel Impact on Food Prices Index and Lang Use Change”
- ScienceDirect, “An Optimal Carbon Fiber Interlayer Integrated with Bio-based Gel Polymer Electrolyte Enabling Trapping-diffusion-conversion of Polysulfides in Lithium-sulfur Batteries”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 25, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally weighed-in on the murky and often misunderstood topic of label claims for plant regulators and plant biostimulants in posting its Draft Guidance for Plant Regulator Label Claims, Including Plant Biostimulants in Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2018-0258. EPA issued the notice of availability in the Federal Register on March 27, 2019. 84 Fed. Reg. 11538. EPA states that the draft guidance, issued under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), is intended to “provide guidance on identifying product label claims that are considered to be plant regulator claims” by EPA, thereby subjecting the products to regulation as pesticides under FIFRA. EPA notes that when determining whether a plant biostimulant may trigger pesticide registration requirements, or may be excluded or exempt from FIFRA regulation, a “key consideration is what claims are being made on product labels.” Comments on the draft guidance are due by May 28, 2019.
Please see the Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) full memorandum for more information on this draft guidance including some background, information on the definition of a plant biostimulant, examples of product label claims, and B&C’s commentary.