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
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
) 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-2015-0057-0001. Registration 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.
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."
On July 7, 2016, the Senate passed a bill, An Act to Reauthorize and Amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for Other Purposes (S. 764), through agreement to the House's amendment to S. 764, with further amendment. While the bill is being referred to as a genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling bill, there is no actual requirement to print GMO ingredients on labels. Instead, companies would be required to print information on the packaging (through text, a symbol such as a QR code, or an electronic link) directing consumers to a website or phone line for more information. The national bioengineered food disclosure standard includes a definition for "bioengineering": "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," as well as specifics on how the new standard will be established through requirements and procedures. The new requirements and procedures include the following:
- Prohibition of a food derived from an animal to be considered a bioengineered food solely because the animal consumed feed produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered substance;
- Determination of the amounts of a bioengineered substance that may be present in food for the food to be a bioengineered food;
- Establishment of a process for requesting and granting a determination by the Secretary regarding other factors and conditions under which a food is considered a bioengineered food;
- Provision of alternative reasonable disclosure options for food contained in small or very small packages; and
- Requirements and procedures specific to small food manufacturers.
Subtitle F includes a section on federal preemption, which states that any 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," and also a section on exclusion from federal preemption -- that nothing in the subtitle, or in Subtitle E, "shall be construed to preempt any remedy created by a State or Federal statutory or common law right." The bill will allow producers with a U.S. Department of Agriculture "certified organic" designation to display an additional "non-GMO" label on their products. S. 764 is now back in the House and is expected to be taken up before Congress's seven week recess beginning July 15, 2016.
On April 15, 2016, DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced a Notice of Intent (NOI) to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled "Project Definition for Pilot and Demonstration Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower (PD2B3)." The FOA would be managed by the Bioenergy Technologies Office, and will support technology development plans for drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels, bioproducts, or biopower manufacturing. Applicants should address a topic within the following priority areas:
- Pilot-scale production of biofuels from high impact cellulosic, algal, or biogas feedstocks;
- Demonstration-scale production of biofuels from high impact cellulosic, algal, or biogas feedstocks; and
- Production of biopower, bioproducts, and biofuels from biosolids and other waste streams.
The full FOA is expected to be posted on the EERE Exchange on May 2, 2016, with the full NOI currently available.
On March 10, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced a Request for Information (RFI) on integrated biorefinery optimization. The RFI covers information on the technical and financial challenges that biorefineries run into in order to run continuously and reliably. BETO is primarily interested in stakeholder input on systems that use between one and 1,000 dry tonnes per day of feedstock in order to:
- Understand scale-up and mitigate operational risks and challenges;
- Develop robust handling of variable solid materials;
- Improve pre-processing methodologies;
- Advance process intensification focused on simplification; reduce cost through innovative fabrication and construction methods; and/or develop efficient water management techniques;
- Address unique process issues and pathways; and
- Develop strategies to lower capital expense costs by reducing technical risks and ensuring minimum modifications.
The full RFI is available on the EERE Exchange website and responses are due by 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on April 6, 2016.