By Kathleen M. Roberts
On April 4, 2017, the Hawaii State Senate Committee on Ways and Means passed HB 1580, which sets a goal of having all ground transportation in Hawaii run on renewable fuel by 2045. The bill, which does not contain an enforcement mechanism, provides a benchmark framework for achieving the ambitious target and establishes an intermediate target to reduce the sale of imported fuels by five percent in 2025. The Senate Committee introduced amendments that clarify the bill does not create a mandate to move to 100 percent clean ground transportation, but it outlines a path to achieve such a goal. According to the bill, clean ground transportation includes all transportation that avoids the consumption of fossil fuels.
On February 9, 2017, Illinois State Senators Andy Manar and Chapin Rose introduced legislation aimed at growing Illinois’ biobased economy by providing incentives under the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program Act. The program would provide credit against taxes for eligible Illinois businesses that produce renewable chemicals within the state using biomass feedstock and other renewable sources. The legislation defines a renewable chemical as a building block with a biobased content of at least 50 percent. According to the legislation, eligible businesses will be required to submit to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity an application for the tax credit that includes the amount of renewable chemical produced during the calendar year and any other information needed to verify eligibility as identified by the Department. The proposed tax credit will not exceed $1 million for businesses that have been in operation in Illinois for five years or less, and $500,000 for businesses that have been in operation longer than five years.
On September 6, 2016, 61 members of the Florida House of Representatives issued a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to urge them to: (1) declare a public health emergency for the Zika virus; (2) grant Florida’s state and local governments access to Oxitec Ltd.’s (Oxitec) genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes that can suppress the local Aedes aegypti mosquito population; and (3) grant an Emergency Use Authorization under Section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to make Oxitec’s GE mosquitos immediately available in any Florida area “where Zika is being transmitted or is likely to be transmitted.”
FDA completed and issued the final environmental review for a proposed field trial to determine whether the release of Oxitec’s GE mosquitoes (OX513A) will suppress the local Aedes aegypti mosquito population in the release area at Key Haven, Florida on August 5, 2016. FDA's final issuance of an Environmental Assessment (EA) and its Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) does not mean that Oxitec's GE mosquitoes are approved for commercial use, however, as Oxitec is still responsible for ensuring all other local, state, and federal requirements are met before conducting the proposed field trial, and, together with its local partner, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, determining whether and when to begin the proposed field trial in Key Haven, Florida.
More information on Oxitec’s GE mosquitos is available in the Oxitec Case Study section of a report authored by the legal experts, scientists, and policy specialists of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and released through the Wilson Center's Synthetic Biology Project, "The DNA of the U.S. Regulatory System: Are We Getting It Right for Synthetic Biology?" (October 2015).
On June 17, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced an open teleconference of the State Energy Advisory Board (STEAB) in the Federal Register. STEAB advises DOE and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) on the operation of its energy efficiency programs, renewable energy programs, and grant programs for research and deployment in energy efficiency and renewable energy fields. The tentative agenda includes:
"Receive STEAB Task Force updates on action items and revised objectives for FY 2016, discuss follow-up opportunities and engagement with EERE and other DOE staff as needed to keep Task Force work moving forward, continue engagement with DOE, EERE and EPSA staff regarding energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and initiatives, and receive updates on member activities within their states. Recap June meeting and follow-up on action items from that meeting."
On September 25, 2015, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to amend the Biofuel Development and In-State Production Incentive Act by removing a ten percent ethanol blend requirement that occurs when Pennsylvania ethanol production exceeds 350 million gallons. The Act was originally passed in 2008. Since the incentive was put in place, Pennsylvania has not come close to reaching the 350 million gallon threshold. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
On August 10, 2015, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) signed into law S.B. 2599/A-4121, an act concerning the definition of certain fuels and amending P.L.2010, c.22. The legislation clarifies New Jersey's Motor Fuel Tax Act exemptions to include biofuels made from recycled grease, plants, and animal fats. In addition, biobased liquid fuel and biodiesel fuel are now defined as renewable biomass. The clarification of the biofuel tax exemption is intended to encourage biodiesel businesses to invest in New Jersey now that they can be certain that they qualify for tax exemptions. The bipartisan bill was passed unanimously by the New Jersey Assembly on June 25, 2015.
Iowa Senate bill SF 350: the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program was introduced in March 2015, and is awaiting review in the Ways & Means Committee. If passed, the legislation will allow producers of renewable chemicals in Iowa to claim a five cent per pound tax credit, with a maximum credit of $1 million for businesses operating in Iowa for five years or less, and a maximum credit of $500,000 for businesses operating in Iowa for more than five years. Chemicals must have at least a 50 percent biobased content to qualify as renewable chemicals under the bill, and must also be sold and used for purposes other than food, feed, or fuel.
On April 1, 2015, the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich (R), signed the 2016-2017 Transportation Budget Bill (Sub. H.B. 53). The state transportation budget does not include a requirement on alternative fuel use in the state vehicle fleet, a requirement that had been in place since 2006. Ohio Department of Transportation's Matt Bruning stated that the requirement mandated the state increase the amount of alternative fuels each year with no cap in place, resulting in higher costs for the state, especially with the recent decrease in prices for traditional petroleum-based fuels. "It's not that we don't like alternative fuels -- it's just a cost thing, really," stated Bruning to WOSU Public Media. The loss of the biofuels mandate in Ohio will only impact fuels used by state vehicle fleets.
On October 29, 2014, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) announced that Appalachian Biofuels LLC will invest about $3.5 million to establish its headquarters and an enzymatic biodiesel production facility in St. Paul, Virginia. The location is expected to create 40 jobs, which will be filled by former coal miners from the town of St. Paul and surrounding areas. Appalachian Biofuels will be refining waste feedstock materials with an enzyme to create biodiesel. The two organizations mainly responsible for offering financial incentives for Appalachian Biofuels to settle in Virginia are the Governor's Opportunity Fund, which provided a $200,000 grant, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, which provided a $210,000 grant.
During the next state legislative session, which begins in January, Iowa's Economic Development Agency will reportedly seek approximately $20 million in new incentives for companies that use chemicals derived from ethanol production to produce biobased products. The Agency reportedly believes sufficient incentives exist to promote biofuel development in Iowa. This new incentive would be needed to help further the biobased economy in the State. More information on this effort is available in The Des Moines Register news story "Biochem Tax Credit Pitched By Economic Agency."