By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 25, 2019, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) held an event to provide an overview of their latest publication, a book titled Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States. Providing an overview of the book, a few of the authors were part of a panel discussion opened by William K. Reilly, former EPA Administrator under President George H. W. Bush. In his opening remarks, Mr. Reilly emphasized the potential existing with politics to change culture to achieve low-carbon emissions in the near future. Following Mr. Reilly, Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability Director at Widener University, John C. Dernbach, started the panel discussion by providing an overview of the contents of the book. According to Professor Dernbach, deep decarbonization is defined as achieving at least 80 percent GHG emissions through deep cuts by 2050. The book therefore contains chapters on federal, state, and tribal legal tools that are available to decarbonize the U.S. In the book, the authors present twelve types of legal tools available; some that are regulatory tools, and some that are not. Types of legal tools include, research and development (R&D), market leveraging approaches, removal of incentives for fossil fuels, and infrastructure development, among others. During the event, other authors and co-authors spoke about specific chapters of the book, stating that they were almost certain that the legal tools available would create economic, social, and environmental security. Unfortunately, the event was interrupted by a fire alarm in the building. For further information, the book can be found for purchase here.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
Sandia National Laboratories announced that it is helping HelioBioSys Inc. learn whether farming cyanobacteria on a large scale would be successful in producing sugar for biofuels. HelioBioSys Inc. patented a group of three non-genetically modified marine cyanobacteria for the production of sugars, which can then be converted into a variety of fuels and chemicals. Similar to algae, cyanobacteria grow in water and avoid competition with food crops for land, water, and other resources, making them a desirable renewable resource. Cyanobacteria colonies, however, grow more efficiently than algae and excrete sugars directly into the water where they grow. Whereas a typical algae farm may produce one gram of biomass per liter, small-scale testing of the cyanobacteria demonstrate that they can produce four to seven grams of sugar per liter of biomass, a 700 percent increase in efficiency. Additionally, filtering sugar from water is simpler and more cost effective than extracting lipids from algae.
Now that HelioBioSys has proven the efficacy of the cyanobacteria in a closed, controlled, sterile laboratory, the company is working with Sandia researchers to understand where predation may cause issues by growing the organisms in large open air raceway systems, and to further study how the three types of cyanobacteria work together.
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."
Oils Inc. issued a press release announcing the issuance of a feedstock-only
pathway for the production of Camelina-based fuels under the California Low
Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). According to the release, this action
by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) results in Camelina being the only
scalable, non-food based crop that meets both California and federal fuel
On October 27, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed to amend the regulations for the Voluntary Labeling Program for Biobased Products under USDA's BioPreferred Program. As explained in the Federal Register notice, the proposed amendments are needed to address certain legislative requirements in the 2014 Farm Bill that cannot be implemented without further guidance. Specifically, the proposed amendments allow for USDA promotion of biobased products regardless of date of entry into the marketplace, which overrides previous provisions that excluded mature market products. The proposal includes USDA promotion of biobased products, including forest products that incorporate "innovative approaches" per the direction of Congress. The proposal also revises the definition of "biobased product" to include forest products that meet biobased content requirements, regardless of the product's market share, age, or whether it is new.
The major provisions of the proposed rule include:
* Changes to Definitions: USDA proposes to delete definitions of "BioPreferred Product," "Designated Item," and "Mature Market Products." USDA proposes to revise the definitions of "Biobased Product," "Certification Mark Artwork," and "Intermediate Ingredient or Feedstock," and to add new definitions for "Designated Product Category," "Forest Product," "Qualified Biobased Product," and "Renewable Chemical."
* Changes to "Criteria for Product Eligibility to Use the Certification Mark": USDA proposes to describe the biobased content criteria for complex assemblies and to update the voluntary labeling program rules to include these products. USDA also proposes to present the criteria for determining whether a product is using "innovative approaches."
* Changes to "Initial Approval Process": USDA proposes to address situations in which a manufacturer seeks certification for a product that is similar in biobased ingredients and contact to a previously certified product. The proposal also clarifies that manufacturers of certified products are subject to periodic auditing and potential suspension or revocation of certification if violations are found. USDA also proposes to revoke a certification if an error is discovered during the USDA approval process.
* Changes to "Oversight and Monitoring": USDA proposes specific auditing efforts that will be used for the voluntary labeling program. USDA plans to audit the program on an ongoing basis with specific audit activities scheduled every other calendar year.
The proposed rule is open for comment for 60 days, with a comment deadline of December 26, 2014. More information is available in the USDA press release on the voluntary labeling program proposal.
In an article appearing in the January/February 2014 issue of The Environmental Forum, a publication of the Environmental Law Institute, the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group's (BRAG™) Lynn L. Bergeson and Kathleen M. Roberts discuss the latest developments in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approach under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to biobased chemicals, and offer strategies on how biobased chemical manufacturers can best navigate current TSCA requirements.
"Sustainability is a watchword for many brand owners, especially those that market to consumers, and renewable chemicals can facilitate the marking off of many boxes on the 'environmentally preferred' checklist. One big box that remains unchecked and curiously sometimes unnoticed altogether is an understanding of the application of TSCA to renewable chemicals. We discuss here TSCA's requirements and restrictions, offer a few thoughts for stakeholders to assure the successful marketing of these chemical products, and explain why there is an urgent need for an even playing field within TSCA and its implementing regulations that will promote and not discourage the development of new, greener chemical substances."
The full article can be found here.