By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 12, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued in the Federal Register a notice announcing the submission of an information collection request (ICR) on the guidelines for designating biobased products for federal procurement to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Pursuant to Section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (FSRIA) of 2002, as amended by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008, and the Agricultural Act of 2014, federal agencies are required to purchase biobased products under the preferred procurement program. Product categories for preferred procurement are established by rulemaking based on the availability of biobased products, the economic and technological feasibility of using such products, and the costs of using such products. Additionally, federal agencies are provided with information on the availability, price, performance, and environmental and public health benefits of such product categories, and, where appropriate, the recommended level of biobased material to be contained in the procured product. Such information is gathered under the ICR from biobased product manufacturers and vendors by the Office of Procurement and Property Management (OPPM) and its contractors. USDA is seeking comments on:
- Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of USDA, including whether the information will have practical utility;
- The accuracy of USDA’s estimate of burden, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
- Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
- Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On July 26, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its analysis of the upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions attributable to the production of sugar beets for use as a biofuel feedstock. EPA considered a scenario in which non-cellulosic beet sugar is extracted for conversion to biofuel and the remaining beet pulp co-product is used as an animal feed. Based on the findings, EPA anticipates that biofuels produced from sugar beets could qualify as a renewable fuel or advanced biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, depending on the type and efficiency of the fuel production process technology used.
Comments on the analysis are due by August 25, 2017. The pre-publication version of the notice was issued on January 18, 2017, as previously reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post EPA Seeks Comments on GHG Analysis of Sugar Beets for Biofuel Feedstock.
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 November 22, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register of an opportunity to comment on petitions requesting EPA initiate a rulemaking process to reconsider its regulations that impose the obligation for compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) annual standards on gasoline and diesel fuel refiners and importers, as well as on EPA’s proposed denial of the petitions. As the notice states, EPA is looking for petitioners to demonstrate the change in the point of obligation would improve the effectiveness of the RFS program, thus warranting the substantial disruption and increased complexity it would bring to the program. According to EPA, the petitioners have not demonstrated that the change would result in increased use of renewable fuels. EPA is seeking comments on the submitted petitions and its proposed denial of the requests to initiate rulemaking. EPA requests that comments address the likelihood of a change in the point of obligation resulting in a significant increase in production, distribution, and use of renewable fuels. Comments are due January 23, 2017.
As previously reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) Biobased and Renewable Products Update of September 22, 2016, Clarifying Current Roles and Responsibilities Described in the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (Update to the Coordinated Framework) was published in the Federal Register . The Update to the Coordinated Framework provides a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with respect to the regulation of biotechnology products. More information about what this means for the future of biotechnology and the biotechnology industry is available in the Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) memorandum “Biotechnology: White House Releases Proposed Update to the Coordinated Framework and National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products.” Comments are due by November 1, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. (EDT).
On September 1, 2016, the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be hosting an "Opportunity for Public Comment on Algae Guidance for The Preparation of [Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)] Biotechnology Submissions." This meeting will receive public comments on EPA's algae guidance document, and will inform the development of EPA's "Algae Guidance for The Preparation of TSCA Biotechnology Submissions" document. Approximately 120 people will be able to attend in person, with unlimited access via web connect and teleconference. The meeting is scheduled for October 27, 2016, in Tempe, Arizona, immediately following the Algae Biomass Summit. ABO will post a specific time and location when more information becomes available.
On October 19, 2015 the Federal Register published a correction to the due date for comments for the Notice of Opportunity To Comment on an Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Attributable to Production and Transport of Jatropha Curcas Oil for Use in Biofuel Production. The October 15, 2015, Biobased and Renewable Products Update included the article EPA Issues Draft GHG Analysis For Production and Transport of Jatropha Oil that listed the incorrect date for comments to be received. The correct date that comments must be received by is November 12, 2015.
On September 15, 2015, the head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, spoke at the Growth Energy Advocacy Conference about the need of the upcoming RFS rule to encourage long-term investment in advanced biofuels to successfully grow capacity. McCarthy went on to say that the November 30, 2015, deadline is a priority for her to have the RFS rule finished to improve investment conditions for biofuels. She considers the RFS to be one of the best tools that the Administration has in the long-term fight against climate change. EPA is currently looking at approximately 650,000 comments from the proposed rule containing changes for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 blending requirements, and McCarthy stated that she has heard the industry's major concerns.