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

On November 4, 2019, 60 organizations unified in an effort to urge U.S. President Donald Trump to reconsider EPA’s proposed amendments to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. Signed by organizations such as the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, the letter to the President indicates flaws within the aforementioned proposal released on October 15, 2019. Arguing that the proposed amendments would not accurately account for small refiner exemptions (SRE), the letter authors state that “[t]he flawed proposal swaps out a critical component of the SRE remedy sought by farmers and the biofuels industry,” failing to achieve its mission to incentivize farm economies. Given the proposal to recover gallons of biofuel exemptions based on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) recommendations, the proposed amendment would lead to a “bureaucratically uncertain path that recovers only one fraction of those gallons lost to SREs and could result in RFS backsliding in 2020.” Therefore, the letter concludes by urging President Trump to consider SRE accountability based on a rolling average of the actual volumes exempted by EPA during the three compliance years. Similar concerns and requests have been expressed by many industry stakeholders via docket comments as well as during last week’s public hearing held by EPA. The comment period ends on November 29, 2019, and doubts continue as industry expects EPA’s final rulemaking.

Tags: RFS, BIO, BRAG

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced open meetings of the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Technical Advisory Committee. The first meeting is scheduled for November 19, 2019, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST), and the second meeting will take place on November 20, 2019, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (EST) in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the committee is to advise the Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture with respect to the Biomass Initiative. The committee also evaluates and makes recommendations in writing to the Biomass R&D Board. The meetings will address the advice and guidance the committee will promote for R&D leading to the production of biobased fuels and biobased products. The meetings’ tentative agenda includes updates on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biomass R&D activities, presentations from government and industry that provide insights on the intersection of forest health and bioenergy growth, and updates on DOE Biomass R&D activities. Written and oral statements will be accepted. The meeting summary will be available for public review here.

Tags: DOE, EERE, Biomass

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 25, 2019, Iowa State University’s (ISU) Vice President for Research, Dan Kirkpatrick, announced that Sundeep Vani, Ph.D., has joined the team as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Biobased Products, a newly created role. Announced in an ISU press release, Dr. Vani’s role will be to serve as a conduit between research and industry. Dr. Vani will work closely with the Biobased Product platform leader, Brent Shanks, his team, and the Iowa Innovation Corporation (IIC) CEO. Identifying promising emerging technologies and facilitating their development into market scale will also be at the top of Dr. Vani’s list of priorities. Dr. Vani stated that he is “excited to join Iowa State in this mission to grow Iowa’s economy through the state’s overall Biosciences initiative.” His addition to the team is partially attributed to Iowa’s legislature in July 2019 granting the university $825,000 in fiscal year 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 17, 2019, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology unanimously approved the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act (H.R. 2051), a companion bill to legislation introduced in the Senate by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced the House bill on April 3, 2019. It is co-sponsored by Representative John Moolenaar (R-MI). The bill is intended to improve coordination of federal activities, including research and development of more sustainable chemicals, processes, and systems, by establishing a coordinating entity under the National Science and Technology Council within the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The legislation would allow the agencies involved in this entity to work, in consultation with qualified stakeholders, to assess the state of sustainable chemistry in the United States and encourage the validation of tools for assessment of sustainable chemistry processes or products. The agencies would include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and other related federal agencies, as appropriate. The bill also supports improved education and training in sustainable chemistry.


 

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 October 15, 2019, EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, signed a supplemental notice of the proposed rule on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that proposes to establish the cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes for 2020 and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2021. Although the rule does not change the volumes for 2020 and 2021 proposed in July 2019, it proposes and seeks comment on adjustments to the way that annual renewable fuel percentages are calculated. Annual renewable fuel percentage standards are used to calculate the number of gallons each obligated party is required to blend into their fuel or to otherwise obtain renewable identification numbers (RIN) to demonstrate compliance. Specifically, EPA is seeking comment on projecting the volume of gasoline and diesel that will be exempt in 2020 due to small refinery exemptions based on a three-year average of the relief recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), including where DOE had recommended partial exemptions. EPA intends to grant partial exemptions in appropriate circumstances when adjudicating 2020 exemption petitions. EPA proposes to use this value to adjust the way it calculates renewable fuel percentages.

According to the prepublication notice, comments must be received on or prior to November 29, 2019. EPA will hold a public hearing in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on October 30, 2019, starting at 9:00 a.m. (EDT).


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 4, 2019, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Sonny Perdue, announced President Trump’s negotiated agreement on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  Under the agreement, EPA and USDA will undertake the following actions:

  • In a forthcoming supplemental notice building off the recently proposed 2020 Renewable Volume Standards and the Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2021, EPA will propose and request public comment on expanding biofuel requirements beginning in 2020.
    • EPA will seek comment on actions to ensure that more than 15 billion gallons of conventional ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply beginning in 2020, and that the volume obligation for biomass-based diesel is met.  This will include accounting for relief expected to be provided for small refineries.
       
    • EPA intends to take final action on this front later this year.
       
    • In the most recent compliance year, EPA granted 31 small refinery exemptions.
       
  • Building on the President’s earlier decision to allow year-round sales of E15, EPA will initiate a rulemaking process to streamline labeling and remove other barriers to the sale of E15.
     
  • EPA will continue to evaluate options for [renewable identification number] RIN market transparency and reform.
     
  • USDA will seek opportunities through the budget process to consider infrastructure projects to facilitate higher biofuel blends.
     
  • The Administration will continue to work to address ethanol and biodiesel trade issues.
EPA Administrator Wheeler commended Trump’s leadership in this matter, stating that this agreement continues to promote domestic ethanol and biodiesel production in support of U.S. farmers.  In addition, the agreement, according to USDA Secretary Perdue, found a way to pursue policy that promotes economic growth and energy security. A number of other elected officials also applauded Trump’s agreement.
Tags: RFS, Biofuel, EPA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 2, 2019, the government of Quebec, Canada, published in its Official Gazette a notice of a draft regulation setting standards for the integration of renewable fuels into gasoline and diesel fuel.  Under the draft regulation, the standards will apply on July 1, 2021, and will then increase. As of July 1, 2025, the integration of a minimum volume of ethanol of 15 percent into gasoline and a minimum volume of biobased diesel fuel of 4 percent into diesel fuel will be required. Given the evaluation by the Canadian government of this matter, the notice states that the proposed regulation would have no particular impact on small and medium-sized businesses because the petroleum products distribution sector is made up of large businesses.  Also on July 1, 2025, enterprises subject to the regulation will invest a total of 110 million Canadian dollars in infrastructure to comply with the set standards for the integration of renewable fuels into gasoline and diesel fuel.


 

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

On October 2, 2019, the Green Party of Canada commented, via a press release, on its Green Climate Action Plan called “Mission:  Possible.” Aiming to exceed the U.S. Green New Deal, under this plan, the Green Party outlines a 20-step action plan to achieve the goal of zero emissions by 2050.  Part of the strategy outlined emphasizes the idea that heavy-duty industrial machinery will need to rely on biofuels.  Although the plan is to ban internal combustion engines and ensure that cars, buses, and trains are powered by electricity by 2030, biofuels will still be needed for fishing, mining, and forestry equipment.  According to the plan, these biofuel needs will be addressed through the creation of biofuels using waste plant matter from forests and agriculture -- and only plant-based biofuels.  Claiming that food that would otherwise be used to feed Canadians, the Green Party highly opposes food-based biofuels.  Its plan, therefore, promotes development of local, small-scale biodiesel production that would rely primarily on used vegetable fat from restaurants across Canada, along with wood and agricultural waste.  Fuel switching to biodiesel would be required for agricultural, fishing, and forestry equipment.


 

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.


 
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