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 Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 31, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its final rule to set the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2018 and 2019 to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.  Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA must issue a final rule to set standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel by November 30, 2017.  Typically, OMB review is the last step before the final rule is published in the Federal Register and takes 30 days. Timely issuance of the final volume requirements is critical for preventing uncertainty in the biofuel industry. In previous years, delays in the establishment of volume requirements resulted in a decrease in production and investments in the biofuel industry.

  • 238 million gallons for cellulosic biofuel in 2018, down from 311 million gallons in 2017; 
  • 4.24 billion gallons for advanced biofuel in 2018, down from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017;
  • 19.24 billion gallons for renewable fuel in 2018, down from 19.28 billion gallons in 2017; and
  • 2.1 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel in 2018 and 2019.
Many in the biofuels industry were concerned with the proposed reduction in the amount of renewable fuel, compared to previous years.  In an October 19, 2017, letter to Republican Senators, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated that the final Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) amounts would be set at levels equal to or greater than the proposed amounts.  More information on the proposed requirements is available in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) blog post, “EPA Publishes Proposed 2018 RFS Requirements.”
Tags: EPA, RFS, Biofuel

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) issued a statement soliciting applications for its Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program.  The program aims to support the generation of new information that will assist federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the effects of introducing genetically engineered (GE) organisms, including microorganisms, into the environment.  Exploratory research that relates specifically to federal regulatory needs is preferred. USDA anticipates approximately $3.5 million in funding will be available for 2018 grants.  Applicants must submit a letter of intent by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on December 21, 2017.  Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on February 22, 2018.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On November 9, 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) issued affirmative final determinations in the countervailing duty (CVD) investigations of imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia.  Following a nine month investigation, DOC determined that Argentina and Indonesia are providing unfair subsidies to its producers of biodiesel at rates from 71.45 to 72.28 percent and 34.45 to 64.73 percent, respectively.  As a result, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will collect cash deposits from importers of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia based on the final rates.
 
Following DOC’s final determination, the International Trade Commission (ITC) will make its final determination within 45 days.  According to Argentine President Mauricio Macri, the Argentine government would appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) if the DOC follows through on the duties on Argentine biodiesel.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On November 13, 2017, Neste, a member of BRAG, announced it has entered into an agreement with American Airlines to explore opportunities to reduce the airline’s environmental footprint.  To achieve this goal, the companies are evaluating in-flight and on-the-ground opportunities to utilize Neste’s renewable fuels.  One aspect of the collaboration will involve complementary efforts to facilitate acceptance and commercialization of High Freeze Point HEFA (HFP-HEFA) renewable jet fuel, which is currently under consideration for approval by the American Society for Testing and Materials’ (ASTM) International.  According to Kaisa Hietala, Neste's Executive Vice President of Renewable Products, both companies “share a common view that innovative low-carbon solutions are needed to help the aviation industry meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, and renewable jet fuel is an important part of the solution.”  Neste's renewable jet fuel is made from renewable and sustainable raw materials, and provides aircraft engine performance, and storage stability and integrity.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 14, 2017, the Governors' Biofuels Coalition announced that grain and ethanol industry stakeholders, including the U.S. Grains Council, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), and Growth Energy, sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to request that the U.S. suspend Brazil’s designated country status as a result of a 20 percent tariff on ethanol exports to Brazil.  The tariff is to be assessed on all current and future imports of ethanol exceeding a 159-million-gallon quota.  Since the U.S. exports nearly 500 million gallons of ethanol to Brazil, the tariff would apply to imports of U.S. ethanol despite an agreement between Brazil and the U.S. regarding zero-duty tariffs for ethanol.  In the letter, industry representatives indicate their intent to file a petition for a suspension of Brazil’s status in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which requires WTO member countries to treat imports from all other WTO member countries as those countries would treat their most-favored trading partners.  The letter states that given “their protectionist and market distorting actions in implementing a tariff rate quota that affects imports of U.S. ethanol, and pursuant to their obligations under 19 U.S. Code 2462, we believe that Brazil is no longer eligible for GSP trade benefits.”


 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Industrial Biotechnology recently published a special issue to highlight the advances and challenges in algae-based products and applications.  The article, written by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C. (BCCM) affiliate Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) Managing Partner, Lynn L. Bergeson; B&C Senior Chemist, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.; and BCCM Manager, Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D., examines the complex regulatory domain and discusses the significance and implications of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for industrialized microorganisms, such as algae.  The article titled “TSCA Affects on Algae, Other Novel Biosources, and Bioprocesses” provides an overview of the fundamentals of TSCA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) review of new substances, the impact that chemical identity has on EPA’s regulation of new substances, and available reporting exemptions.  In the article, the authors highlight the need for chemical product innovators “to understand how TSCA, significantly amended in 2016, applies to biomass starting material, including industrial microorganisms (such as algae); intermediates; and commercial products, and build TSCA compliance into business timelines and budgets.”  While the products of industrial microbes have the potential to reduce toxicity, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and dependence on non-renewable resources, companies must comply with TSCA and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to ensure that such products successfully enter the market.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On November 1, 2017, DOE, along with Israel’s Ministry of Energy (MOE) and the Israel Innovation Authority, awarded $4.8 million in funding to five Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Energy projects.  The five projects represent the ninth selection of BIRD Energy projects and span the fields of hydrogen storage, advanced biofuels, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency.  Despite the diversity among the topic areas, all BIRD Energy projects aim to promote energy innovation, economic security, and bilateral cooperation through a partnership between U.S. and Israeli researchers.  Among the selected projects is a collaboration between CelDezyner Ltd. (Rehovot, Israel) and AdvanceBio LLC (Milford, Ohio) on the development of a process for production of ethanol from lignocellulosic feedstocks.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On November 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it was withdrawing its proposed rule that would have revised the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms.  The proposed rule, which was issued on January 19, 2017, aimed to “update the regulations in response to advances in genetic engineering and understanding of the plant pest and noxious weed risk posed by [GE] organisms, thereby reducing burden for regulated entities whose organisms pose no plant pest or noxious weed risks.”  After reviewing public comments on the proposed rule, USDA decided to re-engage with stakeholders and explore alternative policy approaches.  More specific comments from USDA and the reasons supporting its decision are set forth in the notice.
 
While it appears that some in industry may welcome the withdrawal, most would agree that all stakeholders should work collaboratively and quickly to develop a new framework to speed the process to market, and to ensure the regulatory landscape is more efficient and clearer than it currently is.  USDA and pertinent others should immediately begin another process to enable the regrouping to begin.


 

 
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