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 and Margaret R. Graham

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 (82 Fed. Reg. 51582) stating that it was withdrawing its January 19, 2017, proposed rule on the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms 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” (82 Fed. Reg. 7008).  Citing comments on the proposed rule critical of the proposed revisions, USDA stated it is committed to “explor[ing] a full range of policy alternatives” instead, and that it will “re-engage with stakeholders to determine the most effective, science-based approach for regulating the products of modern biotechnology while protecting plant health.”  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. 


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 25, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) published a notice in the Federal Register regarding an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee.  The meeting will take place November 15-16, 2017, in Washington D.C., and will focus on developing advice and guidance that promotes research and development (R&D) for the production of biobased fuels and products.  The tentative agenda includes updates on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DOE Biomass R&D activities, and presentations on improving feedstock supply chain cost and efficiency.  Stakeholders interested in attending the meeting and/or presenting oral comments should contact Dr. Mark Elless (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and Roy Tiley (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) at least five business days prior to the meeting.  Meeting minutes will be available for public review on the Biomass R&D website following the meeting.

Tags: DOE, R&D, EERE, Biomass

 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), announced that up to $9 million in funding will be available through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) in fiscal year (FY) 2017.  Projects funded by BRDI will focus on developing economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increasing the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products, and diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio.  DOE and NIFA are soliciting applications from all interested parties, including for-profit entities, universities, nonprofits, and national laboratories, to address any or all of the following legislatively mandated technical areas:

  • Feedstocks development;
  • Biofuels and biobased products development; and
  • Biofuels development analysis.
DOE anticipates funding one to six awards and NIFA anticipates funding three to 14 awards, with awards ranging from $500,000 to $2 million.  Concept papers are due by July 7, 2017, and full applications are due by September 22, 2017.  More information on BRDI is available on DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Exchange website
Tags: DOE, USDA, NIFA, BRDI, EERE

 
 
On May 23, 2017, EERE published in the Federal Register a solicitation for candidates to fill vacancies on the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Technical Advisory Committee.  The committee meets quarterly to advise DOE and USDA points of contact on the Biomass R&D Initiative and priority technical biomass R&D needs, and to make written recommendations to the Biomass R&D Board, while aiming to not duplicate efforts of other federal advisory committees.  Nominations are due to Dr. Mark Elless, the EERE Designated Federal Officer, by June 30, 2017

The next Biomass R&D Technical Advisory Committee meeting, which is open to the public, will take place June 15-16, 2017, in Washington, D.C. and will focus on developing advice and guidance that promotes R&D leading to the production of biobased fuels and biobased products.  Stakeholders interested in attending the meeting and/or presenting oral comments should contact Dr. Mark Elless (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and Roy Tiley (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) at least five business days prior to the meeting.  Meeting minutes will be available for public review on the Biomass R&D website following the meeting.  More information on the meeting is available in the Federal Register notice.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On May 18, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the dates it would be hosting three public meetings to provide the public with an opportunity to offer comments on the proposed revisions to its regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms.  82 Fed. Reg. 22802.  USDA has stated that it is updating its regulations “in response to advances in genetic engineering and [its] accumulated experience in implementing the current regulations, as well as [to] reduce the burden on regulated entities.”  The dates and locations for the public meetings are:

  • June 6, 2017, at the APHIS Center for Animal Welfare in Kansas City, Missouri;
  • June 13, 2017, at the University of California, Davis Conference Center, Davis, California; and
  • June 16, 2017, at the USDA Center at Riverside, Riverdale, Maryland. 

APHIS will be accepting comments on the proposed revisions until June 19, 2017, in Docket ID No. APHIS-2015-0057-0001Registration is available online.  The meetings will be webcast for those unable to attend in person.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On May 1, 2017, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) published a notice in the Federal Register regarding its intent to extend its use of the EERE Environmental Questionnaire, with changes, for three years.  The questionnaire allows EERE to collect project-specific information from federal financial assistance awardees to evaluate the potential environmental impact of projects that it is considering for funding, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969.

EERE is also requesting comments on the questionnaire, specifically on:

  • Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of DOE, including whether the information shall have practical utility;
  • The accuracy of DOE's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, 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 respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

Comments are due by June 30, 2017.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On April 19, 2017, DOE announced an open teleconference of the State Energy Advisory Board (STEAB) in the Federal Register.  STEAB advises DOE and EERE on the operation of its energy efficiency programs, renewable energy programs, and grant programs for research and deployment in energy efficiency and renewable energy fields.  The tentative agenda includes:

  • STEAB Task Force updates and objectives for fiscal year (FY) 2017;        
  • Follow-up opportunities and engagement with EERE and other DOE staff as needed to keep Task Force work moving forward;                  
  • Continued engagement with DOE, EERE, and DOE’s Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis (EPSA) staff regarding energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and initiatives; and     
  • Updates on member activities within their states.
The meeting will occur on May 18, 2017, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EDT).  To receive call-in information or to submit a request to make oral comments, contact Michael Li, Policy Advisor, EERE, at 202-287-5718 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by May 11, 2016.

 

On March 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) published a notice in the Federal Register regarding an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Technical Advisory Committee.  The meeting will take place March 30-31, 2017, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, and will focus on developing advice and guidance that promotes R&D for the production of biobased fuels and products.  The tentative agenda includes updates on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DOE Biomass R&D activities, the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, and other biomass related R&D programs.  Stakeholders interested in attending the meeting and/or presenting oral comments should contact Dr. Mark Elless (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and Roy Tiley at (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) at least five business days prior to the meeting.  Meeting minutes will be available for public review on the Biomass R&D website following the meeting.

Tags: DOE, EERE, R&D, Meeting

 

On July 29, 2016, President Obama signed into law Senate Bill 764 (S. 764), creating a national bioengineered food disclosure standard. This law requires companies to provide information on food packaging directing customers to a website or phone line for more information about genetically modified organisms (GMO) that are present in the food product. S. 764 also contains specific language preempting State regulations on "labeling of whether a food (including food served in a restaurant or similar establishment) or seed [in interstate commerce] is genetically engineered ... or was developed or produced using genetic engineering."

In addition to requiring companies to disclose the presence of bioengineered ingredients, S. 764 creates an official definition of bioengineering as "a food -- (A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant [DNA] techniques; and (B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature." The law also creates a "non-GMO" label that can be displayed on products that are U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) "certified organic." While harmful effects of GMOs have not been proven, this law allows consumers to educate themselves on the ingredients in their food while creating consistent national language and requirements for bioengineered foods. More information about this bill is available in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group's (BRAG®) article "Senate Passes GMO Bill Creating A National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard With Federal Preemption And Exclusion Information."


 
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