Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C., law firm providing biobased and renewable chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in bringing innovative products to market.

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

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers are leading analyses of recycling, repairing, and reusing solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in support of NREL’s mission to incentivize a circular economy for energy materials.  According to NREL, the increase in the installation of PV systems is leading to environmental and supply chain concerns because the technology relies on imports and mining of raw materials to meet domestic demands.  NREL predicts that, by 2030, decommissioned PV modules could total a million tons of waste in the United States or one percent of the world’s e-waste.  Concerned by these facts, NREL researchers have been leading ongoing analyses of the end-of-life management of PV modules in the current market.  Taylor Curtis, an NREL sustainability analyst, highlights that “[r]epair, reuse, or recovery of this equipment would reduce negative environmental impacts, reduce resource constraints, and stimulate U.S. economic growth.”
 
According to NREL research, if best practices are applied and regulatory barriers removed in the future, the U.S. industry for recovered PV materials could total $60 million by 2030 or $2 billion by 2050, from modules alone.  A summary of NREL’s recommended best practices for retiring PV systems is detailed in this report, and a detailed analysis of current federal and state regulatory barriers to PV module recycling and recovery is available in NREL’s March 2021 report titled “Solar Photovoltaic Module Recycling: A Survey of U.S. Policies and Initiatives.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On February 23, 2021, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) announced that in association with other relevant Directorates-General (DG) of the European Commission (EC), DG Environment has opened a call for applications to select members for an expert group, the High-Level Roundtable on Implementation of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. According to EU-OSHA, the expert group’s mission “is to set the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability objectives and monitor its implementation in dialogue with the stakeholders concerned.” Specific tasks include contributing to identifying and addressing social, economic, and cultural barriers to the transition toward safe and sustainable chemicals. The expert group will act as a core group of ambassadors to facilitate discussions and promote this transition in the economy and society, developing a regular exchange of views, experiences, and good practices between the EC and stakeholders on the main objectives of the Strategy, namely:

  • Innovating for safe and sustainable chemicals, including for materials and products;
     
  • Addressing pressing environmental and health concerns;
     
  • Simplifying and consolidating the legal framework;
     
  • Providing a comprehensive knowledge base on chemicals; and
     
  • Setting the example for global sound management of chemicals.

The expert group will consist of up to 32 members, with a maximum of:

  • The member state holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union;
     
  • Ten third-sector organizations in the following areas: health protection, environmental protection, human rights, animal protection, consumer rights, and workers’ rights;
     
  • Eight scientific organizations, academia, and research institutes providing a suitable balance between expertise in fundamental research, applied research, and training/education;
     
  • Ten industries, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) or associations of enterprises, including an adequate representation of frontrunners in the production and use of safe and sustainable chemicals. Those should include chemical industries, downstream users (from different sectors), and retailers; and
     
  • Three international organizations -- the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Interested organizations are invited to submit their applications before March 18, 2021.


 

By   Lynn L. Bergeson 

EPA announced on January 8, 2021, that it released an updated and improved version of OncoLogic™, a system used to evaluate a chemical’s potential to cause cancer. EPA states that, in partnership with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it developed “a more user-friendly version of the most widely used piece of this system, greatly expanding its usability across the agency and the scientific community.” According to EPA, the updated module (version 9) is used to analyze organic chemicals, the largest group of chemicals contained in this tool. It features:

  • A streamlined interface that does not require expert knowledge to navigate;
     
  • A standardized reporting format that allows users to view and export results quickly; and
     
  • Increased transparency in the science behind the predictions provided by the model.

EPA notes that OncoLogic™ is one of many publicly available assessment methods, databases, and predictive tools it developed to estimate hazard to humans and the environment, particularly in the absence of test data. According to EPA, these tools and models support it in implementing programs and regulations, such as TSCA, and help external users assess and manage chemical risks. EPA states that version 8.0, which continues to include modules for fibers, metals, and polymers, will remain available to the public.


 

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

On December 17, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced the seven winners of Phase II of the Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize. The prize is designed to facilitate innovative solutions to collecting, storing, and transporting discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling. Its goal is to develop processes that have the potential to capture 90 percent of all discarded or spent lithium-based batteries in the United States and reintroduce key materials into the U.S. supply chain. The seven selected prize teams will focus on building industry partnerships to design, simulate, and prototype a proof-of-concept solution. Each Phase II winner will receive a $357,000 cash prize in addition to $100,000 in non-cash vouchers to use at DOE National Laboratories and approved organizations within the American-Made Challenges Network. The winners will also advance to the third and final phase of the prize that entails a pilot validation.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 8, 2020, the European Commission (EC), under the European Union (EU) State aid rules, approved the prolongation of tax exemptions for biofuels in Sweden. Having exemptions for liquid biofuels from energy and carbon emissions taxation since 2002, Sweden’s scheme aims to increase biofuels use while reducing the fossil fuels use in transport. With EC’s decision, the tax exemption has now been prolonged by one year from January 1, 2021, until December 31, 2021. EC stated that the tax exemptions are not only appropriate, but necessary for stimulating the production and consumption of domestic and imported biofuels in Sweden. In addition, EC found that the Swedish scheme will contribute to the delivery of the EU’s goals in the Paris Agreement and EU’s move towards its 2030 renewables and carbon emissions targets.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 23, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives agreed by a record vote of 229-187 to the passing of a bill titled “Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act.” The bill aims to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy to address climate change. The Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act creates R&D programs to reduce fossil fuel production through various energy sources. It also incentivizes innovation through grant programs in energy efficiency, clean transportation, grid modernization, and workforce development.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) recently released Environment 2021: What Comes Next?, a report that looks at the Trump Administration’s impact on environmental law and policy and what lies ahead. ELI states that the report is “a response to growing demand for analysis of how deregulatory initiatives by the Trump Administration will affect environmental protection, governance, and the rule of law with a focus on what might happen in a second Trump administration or a new administration.” According to ELI, the report:

  • Assesses the Trump Administration’s steps to remake federal environmental regulation and redefine the relationships among state and federal environmental decisions;
  • Identifies key categories of action affecting environmental regulation and examines some possible future outcomes; and
  • Helps environmental practitioners, policymakers, and the public at large think about what lies ahead, looking particularly at the nation’s ability to address new problems and confront as yet unsolved challenges, such as environmental justice.
Tags: ELI, Election

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 26, 2020, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, announced the winners of its 2020 Start-Up Stadium competition. The competition had 30 finalists that were evaluated during BIO Digital in June, by expert judges with backgrounds in investment, entrepreneurship, start-ups, economic development, capital formation, and academia. Five winners were chosen based on their commercially viable cutting-edge technologies and therapeutic solutions. Competition winners will receive:

  • A one-year membership in BIO;
  • Four hours of complimentary legal services;
  • One-hour advisory discussion with two venture capital firms; and
  • A “fast-track” accelerator application and nomination into the final selection phase for up to a $10,000 sequencing grant.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued the much-anticipated final Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule. 85 Fed. Reg. 29790. The rule is intended to update and modernize USDA’s biotechnology regulations under the Plant Protection Act. The final rule amends the regulations regarding the movement (importation, interstate movement, and environmental release) of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms in response to advances in genetic engineering and APHIS’s understanding of the plant pest risk posed by GE organisms, thereby reducing the regulatory burden for developers of organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks. For more information, please read the full memorandum here.

Tags: USDA, APHIS, SECURE, GE

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 15, 2020, U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2020, creating a federal research initiative to ensure continued United States leadership in engineering biology. The National Engineering Biology Research and Development Initiative would focus on the advancement of societal well-being, national security, sustainability, and economic productivity and competitiveness. It would accomplish these goals through:

  • Advancement of areas of research at the intersection of biological, physical, chemical, data, and computational sciences;
  • Advancement of areas in biomanufacturing research;
  • Support of social and behavioral sciences and economics research that advances the field of engineering biology;
  • Improvement of the understanding of the engineering biology;
  • Support of risk research;
  • Development of novel tools and technologies to accelerate scientific understanding and technological innovation in engineering biology;
  • Expansion of the number of researchers, educators, and students with engineering biology training;
  • Acceleration of the translation and commercialization of engineering biology research and development by the private sector; and
  • Improvement of the interagency planning and coordination of federal government activities related to engineering biology.

According to Senator Rubio, the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2020 has been endorsed by a number of leading research institutes, including the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member.


 
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