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 Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On April 4, 2017, Members of the European Parliament (MEP) approved a resolution calling on the European Commission (EC) to phase out the use of palm oil as a component of biofuels and advocating for a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the European Union (EU).  The resolution states that biofuels production accounts for 46 percent of the palm oil imported by the EU and requires about one million hectares of tropical soils.  To limit the deforestation and habitat degradation that comes from unsustainable palm oil production, the EU aims to phase out the use of vegetable oils that drive deforestation as a component of biofuels by 2020.  Additionally, the resolution encourages the use of a single certification scheme with specific sustainability criteria for palm oil to ensure that only sustainably produced palm oil and products enter the EU market.  MEP also called on EC to improve the traceability of imported palm oil. 
 
Following the approval of the resolution, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced an update to the Crude Palm Oil Dashboard on its website.  The dashboard provides information on Neste’s crude palm oil suppliers across the supply chain in an effort to improve supply chain transparency.  Neste states that all of its crude palm oil has been fully traceable to the plantation level since 2007 and has been 100 percent certified since 2013.


 

 

On September 28, 2016, the City of New York passed a bill, 47 to three, increasing the amount of biodiesel in the city’s heating oil.  Heating oil in New York City currently contains two percent biodiesel, which will increase to five percent on October 1, 2017, ten percent in 2025, 15 percent in 2030, and 20 percent in 2034.  The first increase from a two to five percent biodiesel blend is expected to reduce an equivalent amount of emissions, taking 45,000 cars off the road, with the final target of a 20 percent reduction of emissions equivalent to removing over 250,000 cars.  This legislation, which is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is part of New York City’s target to reach an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions between 2005 and 2050.


 

On March 22, 2016, a team visited Malmstrom Air Force Base to test a new biobased synthetic oil in the base's vehicles. The testing is sponsored by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, with four bases chosen to use the plant based synthetic oil in vehicles. The Department of Homeland Security's Law Enforcement Training Center has also begun testing the oil and will be monitoring the impacts on vehicle performance and engine quality over the next 12-18 months. George Handy, the project manager, stated that the use of biobased oil is not expected to result in "any change in the performance of any of the vehicles because they are already running on synthetic fuels." If the testing goes well, the biobased oil will be available to purchase through normal channels, improving national security through the use of a domestically produced sustainable product.


 

On January 12, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of EPA’s response to a petition it received from the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). BRAG requested EPA to promulgate a rule pursuant to TSCA Section 8 that would establish a process to amend the list of natural sources of oil and fat in the “Soap and Detergent Association” (SDA) nomenclature system by considering the chemical equivalency of additional natural sources. While EPA denied the TSCA Section 21 petition, EPA left the door open for additional relief in this area and its notice provides useful information regarding options for doing so.

EPA concurred with BRAG that SDA nomenclature is currently limited to the listed sources. In its notice, EPA states, “[t]he petition correctly recognizes the current limitations of certain TSCA Inventory listings (i.e., those listings that incorporate particular assumptions about the natural sources of fats or oils from which the listed substance is derived, because they were named according to the SDA naming convention). Manufacturers of a new chemical substance that clearly falls outside the definitional scope of an existing chemical substance are not allowed to determine that the new chemical substance is nonetheless sufficiently ‘similar’ to the existing chemical substance, and simply deem the new chemical substance to be an existing substance on the basis of that similarity.”

While not providing details as to how it could be accomplished, EPA’s response seems to indicate that there may be opportunities for BRAG to achieve its goal. EPA stated “the petition presumes, without justification, that until a certain preliminary EPA rulemaking has been completed, those same manufacturers lack a meaningful opportunity to request that EPA enlarge the definitional scope of one or more existing chemical substances named according to the SDA naming convention.” “Although the response indicates that the current SDA Nomenclature system is limited to the original 35 sources, it is encouraging that EPA does not see a regulatory barrier to adding additional sources,” stated Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist with Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and BRAG advisor. Further, “[t]his language appears to support the contention that there may be an opportunity to request EPA to expand the SDA naming convention beyond the current list of 35 plant and animal sources.”

Similarly, Kathleen M. Roberts, Executive Director of BRAG, stated “BRAG is encouraged by the language in Assistant Administrator James J. Jones’ letter to BRAG, in which he highlighted Section 5(h)(4) as a potential mechanism to achieve BRAG’s goal with the Section 21 petition.” Section 5(h)(4) allows EPA to develop a rulemaking for exemption of certain chemical substances if EPA determines that the manufacture, processing, distribution, use, or disposal will not present an unreasonable risk.

Ms. Roberts also stated that “BRAG members are evaluating next steps, including careful consideration of the potential pathways to achieve the ultimate goal of the petition that EPA identified in its response.” As part of its 2016 efforts, BRAG is expanding its membership to include more companies that have already been or may be adversely impacted by EPA’s current naming convention policies, such as companies looking to produce bio-based chemicals from algae or non-traditional plant materials.


 

On December 21, 2015, LUX Research released a list of Top 10 Innovative Companies from 2015, chosen from 1,189 companies. Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) Member Elevance Renewable Sciences received an honorable mention for its plan to expand production of specialty chemicals from crude palm oil outside of Europe and the Americas by building or retrofitting plants in Malaysia. The report rated the assessment of Elevance's prospects as "Positive." The other biobased company on the list was Fulcrum BioEnergy for its biojet fuel and renewable diesel, as well as plans to produce fuel from municipal solid waste.


 

 

EPA is inviting public comment on its analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production and transport of cottonseed oil feedstock used in the production of biofuels. The Federal Register notice also provides an overview as to how EPA may apply its analysis in future determinations, as to whether biofuels from cottonseed oil will meet the criteria for renewable fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard program. EPA notes that, based on its current analysis, it anticipates that biofuels produced from cottonseed oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biofuel if typical fuel production process technologies are used. Comments on the draft analysis must be submitted by August 13, 2015.


 

On March 20, 2015, the Notice of Opportunity to Comment on an Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Attributable to Production and Transport of Pennycress (Thlaspi Arvense) Oil for Use in Biofuel Production that was discussed in the March 19, 2015, Biobased and Renewable Products Update was published in the Federal Register. The docket number is EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0091 and comments on the notice close on April 20, 2015.

 

 

On March 12, 2015, Christopher Grundler, Director of EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, signed the Notice Of Opportunity to Comment on an Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Attributable to Production and Transport of Pennycress (Thlaspi Avense) Oil for Use in Biofuel Production. This notice states that biofuels produced from pennycress oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biofuel when they are produced using typical fuel production process technologies. The notice is the result of an analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that come from the production and transport of pennycress oil. According to the analysis, pennycress oil has less than or equal GHG emissions per ton of oil than soybean oil when accounting for crop inputs, crushing, extraction, and direct and indirect land use change. Soybean oil and pennycress oil are expected to also have the same fuel yield per pound of oil. This means that pennycress oil-based biofuels could produce less GHG than soybean oil-based biofuels. The notice has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but once posted will be found at the soon to be opened Docket No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0091. Comments will be open for 30 days after publication.

 

 
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