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.

On March 19, 2017, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published the sixth edition of its specifications for marine fuels (ISO 8217:2017), which includes a redefined “class F” grade for biofuel blends in marine distillates.  Up to seven percent fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), which has similar physical properties to conventional diesel, is permitted in the new “F” grades, specifically DFA, DFZ, and DFB.  Additionally, the DMA specifications have been amended to permit 0.4 higher weight percent biodiesel, compared to the suggested level in the previous iteration of the standard.  Substantial amendments were also made to the scope and other general requirements.  The full specifications are available for purchase on the ISO website.


 

On November 8, 2016, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) announced its members voted unanimously to publish revised Principles & Criteria that streamline the requirements and make them more user-friendly. The decision was announced at the Annual Assembly of Delegates meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam.
 
RSB stated the amendments will offer:
 


 
A new user-friendly format, enabling easy understanding of how to apply the standard; 
 

 
Streamlined and clear impact assessment requirements;
 

 
Integration of the GHG calculation requirement with other available measurement tools;
 

 
A new approach to measure GHG emissions from forestry operations;
 

 
A new requirement that provides a grievance mechanism for workers and local communities; and
 
The addition of an integrated pest management requirement.
 
The RSB Standard is considered a trusted certification by many U.S. and European regulatory agencies, as it verifies that biomaterials are ethical, sustainable, and credibly-sourced.  As a result, the independent multi-stakeholder collective claims, RSC-certified products receive swift product approval and market access.

 

ASTM Committee D20 on Plastics and CEN TC411 issued a call for presentation abstracts for the Workshop on Degradable, Biodegradable, and Biobased Products Standards.  The 2017 workshop is designed to facilitate a discussion on standards development and implementation regarding testing and specification of biobased, degradable, and biodegradable materials.
 
Topics for presentation and panel discussions include:  


 
Biobased/renewable resource content testing, specification, and certification;
 

 
Aerobic degradability/biodegradability testing, specification, and certification; 
 

 
Anaerobic degradability/biodegradability testing, specification, and certification; and
 
Environmental degradability/biodegradability testing, specification, and certification.


The workshop will be held April 5, 2017, in Toronto, Canada.  The date for abstract submittal is December 9, 2016.


 

ASTM International's Committee on Plastics recently approved revisions to standard D6866, Test Methods for Determining the Biobased Content of Solid, Liquid, and Gaseous Samples Using Radiocarbon Analysis. This standard was originally approved in 2004, and is used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) BioPreferred® Program, by EPA when it is determining the sustainability of plastics, and by other corporations using biobased plastics. D6866 is used to determine the percent of carbons present in the final product that come from plant-biomass carbon feedstock versus petroleum-based carbon feedstocks.


 

On June 4, 2015, EPA published a notice in the Federal Register for a Public Hearing on the 2014, 2015, and 2016 Standards for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. As part of the hearing, EPA will consider amendments to the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biodiesel, and advanced biofuels that are added to fuel produced in the U.S. or imported for 2014, 2015, and 2016, and will consider amendments to the proposed biodiesel volume for 2017. The hearing will be held on June 25, 2015, at 9:00 a.m., at the Jack Reardon Center, 520 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas 66101.


 

On February 4, 2015, the newly formed Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for an update of the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that was put into place in 2007. The Coalition proposed a plan to create as many as 32,000 jobs annually by improving Illinois' energy economy. These improvements would be made through: (1) changes to the RPS to increase the use of renewable sources to create 35 percent of power by 2030; (2) improved energy efficiency standards so that overall electricity use declines by 20 percent by 2025; and (3) by encouraging market-based strategies to increase the production of cleaner energy while reducing carbon pollution.

 

 

On Wednesday, December 10, 2014, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements held a hearing on "Examining EPA's Management of the Renewable Fuel Standard Program." The sole witness was Janet McCabe, Acting Administrator for Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A copy of Ms. McCabe's written testimony is available online.

Subcommittee Members on both sides of the aisle sharply criticized EPA on its recent announcement that it is delaying issuing a final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule until sometime in 2015. The rule was due to be issued by statute by November 30, 2013. EPA renewed its strong support for the RFS, and explained how it sought public comment on alternative approaches to setting the volume requirements. Comments received have been extensive and divergent, especially in light of drastically reduced gasoline prices and lower consumption, whether and on what basis statutory volumes for renewable fuels should be lowered, and concerns about the ability of the proposed approach to provide progress toward achieving continued progress towards achieving the volumes of renewable fuel targeted by law. EPA intends to take action on the RFSs for 2014-2016 to provide much needed certainty to investors and others. Republican and Democrat Subcommittee Members suggested that EPA's actions on issuing the final rule contributed to instability in the biofuels market, and may be cause for Congressional action to repeal the law, an outcome vehemently opposed by most in the biofuels industry.

 

 

On March 20, 2014, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), which represent the ethanol industry, and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), along with the American Trucking Association and the Consumer Energy Alliance, filed petitions for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court to make a final determination on the constitutionality of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).


The groups are challenging the January 2014 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (the Ninth Circuit) to deny rehearing en banc in Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union v. Corey. On September 18, 2013, the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union v. Corey reversing a lower court opinion which found that the LCFS violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against ethanol produced outside of California. The LCFS assigns higher carbon intensity values to ethanol produced in the Midwest than in California. The press releases of Growth Energy and RFA (joint) and AFPM are available here and here.


One of the goals of the LCFS is to reduce the carbon content of transportation fuel by ten percent by 2020. It is significant to the biofuels industry, especially since several other states are considering similar programs and look to California's LCFS as an example.
 


 

On March 3, 2014, EPA released its final rule on "Control of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards" (the "Tier 3 rule"). A copy of the 1069-page Tier 3 rule is available online. A copy of EPA's five-page fact sheet on "EPA Sets Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards" is available online.


The Tier 3 rule is designed to reduce air pollution from passenger cars and trucks. Beginning in 2017, the Tier 3 rule will set new vehicle emissions standards and reduce the sulfur content of gasoline. It will treat the vehicle and its fuel as an integrated system. The final Tier 3 rule is very similar to the proposed version of the rule, although the final Tier 3 rule sets the ethanol content for emissions test gasoline at ten percent (E10) instead of at 15 percent (E15) as proposed.


The final Tier 3 rule is a part of the Obama Administration's efforts to combat the harmful impacts of climate change. It is expected to reduce several tons of harmful GHG emissions by 2030.
 


 

On Thursday, November 14, 2013, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), held a hearing to discuss EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standards for new power plants and draft legislation authored by Chairman Whitfield and Senator Joe Manchin. The hearing included three panels of ten witnesses, including Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and EPA Acting Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe, to discuss a potential legislative proposal by Subcommittee Chair Whitfield and Senator Manchin that would effectively prohibit EPA from promulgating or enforcing its recently released proposed rule to regulate GHG emissions from new power plants and make regulation of GHGs from existing plants contingent on Congressional approval.

Several states and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, support the Whitfield-Manchin proposal. Information on the hearing, including a list of witnesses and the draft legislation, may be found online.
 


 
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