On June 15, 2016, H.R. 5489, Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act of 2016, was introduced to the House Ways and Means Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The bill would add additional biogas applications to the list of technologies that qualify for the federal Section 45 energy investment tax credit, increasing acceptable biogas technologies from only biogas-based electricity projects to "qualified biogas property" defined as:
property comprising a system which--
(i) uses anaerobic digesters, or other biological, chemical, thermal, or mechanical processes (alone or in combination), to convert biomass (as defined in section 45K(c)(3)) into a gas which consists of not less than 52 percent methane, and
(ii) captures such gas for use as a fuel.
Qualified biogas properties, as well as qualified manure resource recovery properties, will be eligible for a 30 percent tax credit under this bill. H.R. 5489 was introduced with bipartisan support by Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Ron Kind (D-WI), and signed by 12 other House members. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate,
On May 24, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2576, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the long-awaited Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform. Senate approval is expected, with the bill being signed into law soon after. The current, and likely final, version of the bill does not contain the sustainable chemistry provision in Section 27 entitled "Development and Evaluation of Test Methods and Sustainable Chemistry" that was in earlier versions of the bill. This provision would have provided funding, research, and support of green chemistry issues through the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Renewable chemicals will face the same changes as traditional chemicals, which are covered in detail on Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.'s (B&C®) TSCA Reform News & Information web page.
Chemical Watch is presenting a free webinar on the regulatory changes resulting from TSCA Reform, entitled "'The New TSCA' - What You Need to Know." B&C's Lynn L. Bergeson is participating on the expert panel, along with James V. Aidala, B&C, Charles M. Auer from Charles Auer & Associates LLC, and Richard A. Denison from the Environmental Defense Fund. The webinar will take place on June 13, 2016, at 11:00 a.m. (EDT), 8:00 a.m. (PDT), and 4:00 p.m. (BST)..
On February 18, 2016, at the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference 2016 (ABLC2016), Dr. Catherine Woteki, Chief Scientist and Undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), announced the release of the Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy. The report was created to share current federal agency activities that help to develop and support the bioeconomy. The report first introduces the importance of fostering the bioeconomy and the purpose of the Biomass Research & Development Board. From there the report covers all research, loan, and other projects that federal agencies are currently engaged in. The agencies covered in this report are:
- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE);
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
- The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI);
- The National Science Foundation (NSF);
- The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD);
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT); and
- The Executive Office of the President of the United States.
On December 14, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program: Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2017 in the Federal Register. The final rule will become effective on February 12, 2016, and establishes annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016 and biomass-based diesel for 2017. More information regarding the RFS final rule is available in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group's (BRAG®) article EPA Releases Final Renewable Fuel Standard Rule.
On October 8, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy announced the upcoming Bioproducts in the Federal Bioeconomy Portfolio Webinar. Bioenergy Technologies Office Technology Manager Nichole Fitzgerald, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred Deputy Program Manager Kate Lewis, and the Ohio State University Bioproducts Innovation Center's Director Dennis Hall will discuss how the federal government supports bioproducts research, commercialization, and market development as part of the expansion of the U.S. bioeconomy. The webinar is scheduled for October 26, 2015, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. (EDT), and registration is available online.
On September 25, 2015, EPA published Recommendations for Specifications, Environmental Performance Standards, and Ecolabels for Federal Procurement. The notice describes EPA's recommendations for federal agencies that are purchasing environmentally-friendly products. Section 3(i) of Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, directs federal agencies to adhere to certain environmental performance and sustainability standards when practicable. The new EPA recommendations list acceptable environmentally sustainable product brands and service providers that require a procurement preference, including EPA's voluntary program Energy Star®, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Certified Biobased label BioPreferred®, and EPA designated recycled content products, among others.
In the October 30, 2014, Federal Register, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued a notice of request for public comments regarding an extension of a previously approved information collection requirement regarding Biobased Procurements. The original notice was published in the Federal Register on August 20, 2014, and no comments were received. Comments are now due on December 1, 2014.
As summarized by the notice, the "Federal Acquisition Regulation clause 52.223-2, Affirmative Procurement of Biobased Products Under Service and Construction Contracts, requires prime contractors to report annually the product types and dollar values of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-designated biobased products purchased to the System for Award Management (SAM) Web site. The information reported by prime contractors enables Federal agencies to report annually to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) concerning actions taken to implement and measure progress in carrying out the preference for biobased products required under section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, codified at 7 U.S.C. 8102."
On March 4, 2014, President Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2015 Budget request, which includes aggressive proposed funding to carry out the Administration's Climate Action Plan designed to reduce harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the impacts of climate change. The President's FY 2015 Budget includes funding for several programs and initiatives to help facilitate the continued development and production of biofuels and biobased products. Consistent with the newly enacted Farm Bill, the Budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) includes increased funding for biobased product manufacturing. Given political realities and this midterm election year, it is not expected that the President's FY 2015 Budget Request will be enacted as proposed. It represents a starting point in the budget process, however, and indicates the Administration's priorities.
Here are highlights from the FY 2015 Budget proposal:
• U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): While the total budget request for EPA of $7.9 billion represents a decrease of $0.3 billion from last year, the cuts are mostly found within water infrastructure funds, with several programs seeing an increase over last year's levels. EPA's budget summary document notes that the Agency intends on evaluating its workforce and "identifying needed skills for a streamlined EPA." EPA's Appendix notes that under the "TSCA Confidential Business Information [CBI] Fund," the "Budget proposes to expand EPA's existing authority to collect fees to recover a portion of the costs of reviewing and maintaining the CBI."
• U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE): The FY 2015 Budget includes $27.9 billion for DOE, a 2.6 percent increase over FY 2014 enacted levels. This funding includes several programs designed to encourage and facilitate the development and production of advanced biofuels. For instance, the FY 2015 Budget would fund the DOE's:
o Bioenergy Technology Program At $253 Million: A $12 million decrease over FY 2014. This program funds research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects to advance biofuels technologies and to validate and assist in the commercialization of integrated biorefinery technologies that will help transform the nation's transportation sector.
o Energy Security Trust At $2 Billion Over Ten Years: According to the DOE's FY 2015 Budget Appendix, this trust would be newly created to "support research into a range of technologies -- like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, hydrogen, and domestically produced natural gas -- to allow the Nation to transition from oil towards more secure alternatives. The [t]rust will be funded from existing royalty revenues generated from [f]ederal oil and gas development. Establishing a guaranteed source of funding will allow the Department of Energy to maintain targeted and sustained investments that will directly advance U.S. energy security."
o Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy At $2.3 Billion: An increase of approximately $0.2 billion over FY 2014. Under this program, DOE invests in the development of renewable generation technologies, sustainable transportation technologies, and advanced manufacturing technologies, as well as in improving energy efficiency in our homes, buildings and industries.
o Advanced Research Projects Agency At $325 Million: An increase of $76 million over FY 2014 levels. This program provides funding for research and development of transformational clean energy technologies.
• USDA: The FY 2015 Budget includes $23.7 billion in discretionary funding for USDA, a decrease of approximately $1 billion from FY 2014. The Budget provides for the USDA launch of three new multidisciplinary agricultural research institutes, one of which would be dedicated to advanced biobased manufacturing. It also includes the mandatory funding provided in the newly enacted Farm Bill for important energy programs designed to help encourage the production of biofuels and biobased chemicals. For instance, the FY 2015 USDA Budget Request provides funding for the:
o Biobased Markets Program At $3 Million In Mandatory Funding, the same level as FY 2014: The Biobased Markets (BioPreferred®) Program creates a procurement preference at federal agencies for biobased products.
o Biobased Research And Development Initiative At $3 Million In Mandatory Funding, a decrease of approximately $2 million from FY 2014: This program provides competitive funding for RD&D of technologies and processes leading to commercial production of biofuels and biobased products.
o Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) At $25 Million In Mandatory Funding: BCAP provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to establish, cultivate and harvest eligible biomass for heat, power, biobased products, research, and advanced biofuels. Crop producers and bioenergy facilities can team together to submit proposals to USDA for selection as a BCAP project area.
o Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, And Biobased Manufacturing Assistance Program At $50 Million In Mandatory Funding, a decrease of $80 million from FY 2014: This program provides competitive loan guarantees and grants for the construction or retrofitting of demonstration-scale facilities for the commercial production of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that it will provide $40 million for a Center of Excellence (COE) on sustainable aviation fuel and the environment. The funds will be distributed in $4 million increments each year for the next ten years. Washington State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be leading the effort, and several other universities will be involved. For a full list of participants and more information on the initiative, please see a copy of FAA's press release, which is available online.
This announcement illustrates the federal government's important role in and commitment to facilitating the ongoing development and commercialization of U.S. biofuels. This year, the FAA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) renewed their joint agreement to promote the development of aviation biofuels. They are aiming for one billion gallons of commercial aviation capacity by 2018.