By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On March 23, 2017, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board (ARB) announced the release of new carbon intensity pathways for fuels certified under the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) using the CA-GREET 2.0 model. Of the 18 pathways approved in March, eight are first generation biodiesel carbon intensity pathways and four are second generation renewable diesel carbon intensity pathways. A pathway for biodiesel produced from used cooking oil has been provisionally certified, as well. The approved pathways can be used for credit reporting purposes beginning with reports for Q1 2017. The LCFS regulation aims to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels sold in California by 10 percent by 2020 in line with the California Health and Safety Code mandate to reduce greenhouse gases in California.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On March 24, 2017, the California Energy Commission (CEC) published a notice on the proposed recipients of up to $23 million in Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) funding for applied research and development (AR&D) and technology demonstration and development (TD&D) activities focused on advancing bioenergy electricity generation. The funding opportunity is focused on three main bioenergy applications, including:
||Efficient, Sustainable and Lower-Cost Bioenergy: Innovations to Improve Woody Biomass-to-Electricity Systems ($5,000,000);
||Demonstration and Evaluation of Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Woody Biomass-to-Electricity Systems ($10,000,000); and
||Demonstration and Evaluation of Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Food Waste Biomass-to-Electricity Systems ($8,000,000).
Of the 57 abstracts submitted, 28 passed Phase 1 screening. All of the 23 proposals received during Phase 2 passed the administrative screening process. CEC published the recommended funding and score for each of the 23 proposed projects. The funding recommendations will be approved during the Energy Commission Business meeting, at which time the Energy Commission can add, remove, or shift funding to make additional awards and negotiate with applicants to modify the project scope, schedule, or funding level.
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 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 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 October 4, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill No. 1032, an act to amend Sections 60501 and 60505.5 of the Revenue and Taxation code, relating to taxation, into law. The bill adds biodiesel to the list of fuels that are eligible for tax refunds when they are used for nontaxable purposes. Starting on January 1, 2016, the State Board of Equalization will provide refunds on the portion of nontaxable biodiesel removed from the terminal to those that can show that they have already paid the tax on the fuel.
On October 7, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed S.B. 350, The Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 (the Act). The law will require the percent of electricity produced from renewable sources to increase over stages until 2030 when 50 percent of electricity used in California will be produced using renewable sources. While the majority of renewable electricity is expected to come from solar and wind power, the Act encourages use of diverse energy sources, including biomass, geothermal, and transportation electrification. The original draft of the Act included a requirement to reduce the use of petroleum in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent through the use of non-petroleum, low-carbon fuels and increased fuel efficiency, but was cut before the final legislation was passed.
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has issued a draft of its Stage 1 Alternatives Analysis (AA) Guide. DTSC developed this guidance to help the regulated community conduct AA and regulatory requirements under the California Safer Consumer Products (SCP) program. Comments on the draft document can be submitted online at the SCP Information Management System (CalSafer) website and are due by October 23, 2015. DTSC is holding two webinars, the second of which occurs on October 21, 2015, for participants to learn about and discuss the draft AA Guide. Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) affiliate B&C's memorandum DTSC Issues Guidance to Companies on How to Prepare Alternative Analysis under the Safer Consumer Products Regulations contains an overview of the guidance with commentary for companies doing business in California.
On May 22, 2015, the California State Assembly passed the Plastic Microbeads Nuisance Prevention Law, a bill designed to ban the use of microbeads in beauty products and prevent the environment harm that occurs when they inevitably end up in waterways. California is not the first state to restrict microbeads as Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, and Colorado have also done so and several other states are in the process of creating bans. The big difference with this legislation is that California is the first state to ban petroleum-based plastic microbeads as well as biodegradable biobased microbeads. Critics of the biobased exception state that there is not enough research into how the biobased beads degrade under different conditions, and state that the bioplastics may still absorb toxic chemicals and introduce them to the food chain. The bill has been moved to the California senate and referred to the Committees on Environmental Quality and Judiciary.
The Green Chemistry Clearinghouse Conference held on September 16, 2014, in San Francisco included several interesting panels discussing topics including California Safer Consumer Products Regulations' (SCPR) recently released Work Plan, the future of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform, and the increasing push by retailers to require information from the supply chain.
Jim Jones, EPA's Assistant Administrator at the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), spoke regarding several EPA activities under TSCA, including but not limited to the schedule for risk assessments of Work Plan chemicals, the recently released proposal to redesign EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) label, and the ChemView database providing access to health and safety data on chemicals regulated under TSCA. Jones stated EPA will be revising its list of Work Plan chemicals based on recent data indicating that production volumes of certain chemicals have decreased sufficiently to warrant EPA removing these substances for risk assessment and instead selecting other substances.
There also was discussion about another draft bill to reform TSCA to be released shortly, perhaps even this week, that many are hopeful will bridge the gaps in sections of prior bills that have been particularly contentious, including but not limited to the scope of preemption. As discussed at the Conference, the new legislation rumored to be under consideration in the Senate may have significant bipartisan sponsors. This would not increase any likelihood of action this year (zero), but definitely will put an important marker down for the starting point of future attempts to craft a bipartisan bill in 2015. According to trade press reports, last ditch efforts to draft a bipartisan bill cratered in the Senate Wednesday night. Certain environmental groups, specifically the Environmental Working Group, were reported to reject the revised measure claiming it was no better than current law. Whether the bipartisan group intends to surface a Senate bill without Senator Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) support remains to be seen.