By Lynn L. Bergeson
On November 18, 2020, U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and encourage low-carbon fuel production. Titled “The Streamlining Advanced Biofuels Registration Act,” this bill would eliminate existing barriers for biofuels plants to increase production of cellulosic biomass into renewable fuels. Representative Bustos criticized the lack of timely response from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), adding that through this bill, “we can encourage the use of cellulosic biomass in low-carbon, renewable fuel production and continue to create cleaner, more environmentally-friendly fuels.” The legislation would ensure that EPA acts on outstanding applications under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and compel EPA to accept applications if the fuel could participate in at least one state’s clean transportation program. Biofuels industry stakeholders have demonstrated support for the bill.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
This June, the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis released a report titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” Providing a road map for Congress to follow, the action plan has three main goals:
- Reaching 100 percent clean, net zero emissions economy-wide in the U.S. by 2050;
- Establishing ambitious interim targets to assess progress and reduce pollution in environmental justice communities; and
- Achieving net-negative emissions during the second half of the century.
The action plan consists of a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for Congressional action aggressively to reduce carbon pollution as quickly as possible while making communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change and building a clean energy economy. Successfully implemented, the Select Committee’s action plan would at minimum:
- Reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions before 2050;
- Reduce net U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 37 percent below 2010 levels in 2030 and 88 percent below 2010 levels in 2050;
- Avoid 62,000 premature deaths annually by 2050; and
- Provide almost $8 trillion in cumulative climate and health benefits through 2050.
The Climate Crisis Action Plan calls on Congress not only to grow the U.S. economy and put Americans to work in clean energy jobs, but also to protect family health, protect U.S. land and waters for the next generation, and ensure that communities and farmers can withstand climate change impacts. The full report is available here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 28, 2020, U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) introduced the Clean Fuels Deployment Act of 2020, which would fund installation and conversion of fuel pump infrastructure to deliver higher blends of biofuel. Co-sponsored by Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Roger Marshall (R-KS), this bipartisan bill creates a clean fuels grant program with $600 million over a six-year period to help biofuel retailers. The plan is to assist retailers to offer higher ethanol blends; expand the geographic area selling ethanol blends; accelerate the deployment of fueling infrastructure; and support biodiesel, bioheat, and sustainable aviation fuel markets. A number of biofuels and energy associations and companies are in support of the bill. Thanking Representative Finkenauer for introducing the bill, Kelly Nieuwenhuis, representing the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA), stated that the Clean Fuels Deployment Act will “expand long-term economic opportunities for farmers and biofuels producers.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On January 29, 2020, Congressman Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and other House Democrats unveiled a five-year, $760 billion investment framework to repair and upgrade the U.S. infrastructure to create jobs while reducing carbon pollution, improving safety, and supporting economic activity. Called the “Moving Forward Framework for the People,” the plan includes measures to increase climate resiliency and put the United States on a path toward zero carbon pollution from transportation. The House Democratic proposal outlines a number of major investments, which include repairs and upgrades to surface transportation, rail and transit systems, airports, ports and harbors, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, brownfields, and broadband. According to Congressman Tonko’s press release, the proposed infrastructure framework would:
- Bring existing infrastructure into a state of good repair and enable the completion of critical projects through long-term, sustainable funding;
- Set a path toward zero carbon pollution from the transportation sector, creating jobs, protecting our natural resources, promoting environmental justice, and increasing resiliency to climate change;
- Ensure a transportation system that is green, affordable, reliable, and efficient and provide access to jobs;
- Provide safe, clean, and affordable water and wastewater services;
- Prioritize the safety of the traveling public;
- Help combat climate change by creating well-paying jobs in clean energy, investing in energy efficiency, and reducing GHG pollution;
- Expand broadband Internet access, including adoption for unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban communities;
- Modernize 9-1-1 public safety networks;
- Create family-wage jobs using the Davis-Bacon Act and other strong worker protections; and
- Support U.S. industries, including steel and manufacturing, through strong Buy America protections.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On November 13, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. (EST), the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing on “Strengthening Transparency or Silencing Science? The Future of Science in EPA Rulemaking.” The Committee will hear from the following witnesses:
- Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD); EPA Science Advisor.
- Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); Director of NIEHS, 2009-2019;
- Dr. Mary B. Rice, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center;
- Dr. David Allison, Dean, School of Public Health, Indiana University-Bloomington; Member, “Reproducibility and Replicability in Science” Committee, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; and
- Dr. Todd Sherer, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On September 10, 2019, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship held a hearing on the clean energy economy. In a notice, the Subcommittee stated that there are growing opportunities for small companies, including farmers, to respond to energy challenges through new and innovative solutions. The clean energy economy covers many industries that are dominated by small businesses, including construction, agriculture, and renewable energy sectors. The Committee explored the economic opportunities for small businesses that come through efforts to address unpredictable weather patterns, reduce fossil fuel consumption, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy efficiency. Witnesses shared how small businesses are growing and creating well-paying jobs within clean energy sectors, as well as what they need to continue to succeed. Testifying before the committee were Lynn Abramson, President, Clean Energy Business Network; Thomas Brooks, General Manager, Western Dubuque Biodiesel LLC; Michael Williams, Deputy Director, BlueGreen Alliance; and David Spigelmyer, President, Marcellus Shale Coalition. Hearing information, witness testimony, and an archived webcast of the hearing are available online.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 25, 2019, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Zero Waste Act, which intends to create a federal grant program to invest in solutions that address waste. The bill, if passed, will go towards recycling infrastructure or the creation of partnerships with local businesses focused on waste reduction. Representative Omar believes the bill will not only create jobs, but also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, grow domestic manufacturing, clean waterways, save energy, ensure safety from health hazards, and grow the U.S. economy. Omar’s bill has been endorsed by several organizations, including the City of Minneapolis, Eureka Recycling, Climate Generation, and Surfrider Foundation, among others. Presenting this bill through the lens that waste is an environmental justice issue, Representative Omar stated that “[a]ddressing the waste crisis is critical to preventing further damage to our climate—it is integral to racial justice and a clean, equitable future.” At a time where climate change debates have been of high interest to the U.S. population, in particular as the presidential candidate debates continue, it will be interesting to see whether this bill is passed. The full text of the bill can be accessed here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 19, 2018, the bipartisan Carbon Utilization Act was introduced by Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA) and David Young (R-IA) to promote biogas and carbon capture utilization and sequestration (CCUS) technologies. Biogas is produced by converting organic waste material into CO2, methane, and other carbon products that then are captured by CCUS technologies to use as energy or fuel. The newly introduced bill incentivizes the use of innovative technologies for farmers, biotech businesses, research programs, and rural development programs.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 12, 2018, House Agriculture Committee Chair Michael Conaway (R-TX) released the Committee’s draft Farm Bill reauthorization, the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018” (H.R. 2). The 600-plus page draft legislation includes a number of provisions that will be of interest to Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) members and the biofuel industry, including the following sections:
- Sec. 6402. Biobased markets program. Section 6402 amends section 9002(i) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by authorizing appropriations of $2,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023. Additionally, the section prohibits other federal agencies from placing limitations on procurement of wood products.
- Sec. 6403. Biorefinery, renewable, chemical, and biobased product manufacturing assistance. Section 6403 amends section 9003 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by expanding eligibility of eligible projects. The section authorizes appropriations of 48 $75,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023.
- Sec. 6405. Bioenergy program for advanced biofuels. Section 6405 amends section 9005(g) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by authorizing appropriations of $50,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023.
- Sec. 6406. Biodiesel fuel education program. Section 6406 amends section 9006(d) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by authorizing appropriations of $2,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023.
- Sec. 6410. Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Section 6410 amends section 9011(f) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 by authorizing appropriations of $25,000,000 per fiscal year and reauthorizing the program through 2023.
- Section 7509. Biomass research and development. Section 7509 amends section 9008(h) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to reauthorize appropriations for biomass research and development through fiscal year 2023.
The full text of H.R. 2 and a section-by-section summary are available on the House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill webpage along with several related fact sheets. The House Agriculture Committee marked-up and passed the bill package on April 18, 2018. The House is likely to hold a floor vote in early May.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On October 17, 2017, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-FL), and 77 additional House members sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to urge the agencies to work together to promote innovative new technologies aimed at increasing crop yields and reducing the cost of production. According to Congressman Panetta, the letter was prepared in response to duplicative or inconsistent regulatory proposals regarding biotechnology. In the letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members highlighted several recent biotechnology regulatory efforts that warrant the Administration’s attention, as well as the importance of a consistent, science-based, risk-proportionate regulatory system. Members concluded by urging the agencies to cooperate in creating consistent regulatory proposals that foster innovation; to increase engagement with trading partners to promote a harmonized, science-based international regulatory system for agricultural products; and to consider ways to engage with the public to discuss the continued advancement of biotechnology in agriculture.