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 Kathleen M. Roberts

On May 9, 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with seven additional Democratic Senators, sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) requesting an investigation into the activities of Carl Icahn for potential insider trading, market manipulation, and other securities and commodities law violations in the renewable fuel credit market.  The letter states that the actions of and the massive profit earned by Icahn raise questions related to conflict-of-interest rules that apply to government officials, and questions regarding insider trading and market manipulation of renewable fuel credits, known as Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) -- which SEC, EPA, and CFTC have jurisdiction over.  EPA oversees the issuance and trading of RINs.  CFTC works with EPA to ensure integrity in the RIN market since it has broad authority to prevent insider trading and other market manipulation in commodities markets and futures markets.  SEC has jurisdiction to investigate whether Icahn’s actions as a senior adviser to President Trump affected CVR Energy's stock value or the accuracy of the company's annual and quarterly financial reporting and disclosure. 
 
The Senators maintained that RIN insider trading and market manipulation hurts all parties, including biofuel producers and refineries, and requested an investigation by the three agencies based on the publically available information detailed in the letter.  The Senators also requested information on whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and SEC Chairman Jay Clayton would recuse themselves from the investigation.


 

On April 1, 2016, The Plastics Industry Trade Association's SPI Bioplastics Division released a new report explaining and defining bioplastics. The report, Bioplastics Simplified: Attributes of Biobased and Biodegradable Products, educates consumers on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (Green Guides), and what this means in terms of claims that companies make about the origin and degradability of their products. The report discusses the difference between partially and fully biobased or biodegradable plastics, and discusses the environmental benefits of each type. Current industry progress and goals are also covered, from the current 30 percent bioplastic based PlantBottle™ developed by the Coca-Cola Company, to the eventual goal of a 100 percent biobased bottle.


 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced in a September 14, 2015, press release, "FTC Sends Warning Letters about Green Certification Seals," that it sent warning letters to five providers of environmental certification seals and 32 businesses using those seals, "alerting them to the agency's concerns that the seals could be considered deceptive and may not comply with the FTC's environmental marketing guidelines." FTC states that environmental certification seals are intended to help consumers tell whether a product has the environmental attributes it claims. FTC cautions that environmental seals "can inadvertently deceive consumers by conveying more than a marketer intends." FTC's Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (Green Guides) include guidance intended to help marketers avoid this issue. More information regarding the press release is available in Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.'s (B&C®) memorandum FTC Green Guides: FTC Sends Warning Letters Concerning Environmental Certification Seals.


 

In a letter from Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Edith Ramirez, the Senators have requested that the U.S. Department of Justice and the FTC investigate the efforts of the oil companies to block market access of renewable fuels in violation of the Sherman Act and the Gasohol Competition Act of 1980, which prohibits discrimination or unreasonable limits against the sale of gasoline or other synthetic motor fuels. A copy of the letter is available online.