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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Chemicals Program will hold a webinar on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (EST) to learn about requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the premanufacture notice (PMN) process for biofuels. As reported in our January 24, 2022, blog item, in January 2022, EPA announced an effort to streamline the review of new biobased or waste-derived chemicals that could displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting transportation fuels. EPA states that to support this effort, it is offering outreach and training to stakeholders interested in biofuels. According to EPA, the bi-weekly webinar series includes reviewing TSCA requirements, outlining the streamlined approaches for risk assessments and risk management actions, and providing information on how to navigate the new chemicals PMN process. Future webinars will include:

Registration is required for the February 23, 2022, webinar.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On January 10, 2022, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that a team of its researchers has developed a promising approach to control methane emissions and remove methane from the air using zeolite clay. Zeolite clay is inexpensive and abundant. The MIT team found that, when treated with copper, the material is very effective at absorbing methane from the air even at low concentrations. According to researcher and Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Desiree Plata, Ph.D., this process is advantageous over other approaches to removing methane from the air, as other methods tend to use more expensive catalysts that require high temperatures. The method converts methane into carbon dioxide that, according to Plata, is much less impactful in the atmosphere than methane. Methane is about 80 times stronger as a greenhouse gas (GHG) over the first 20 years, and approximately 25 times stronger for the first century.
 
MIT researchers still have outstanding engineering details to address in this process. To do so, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $2 million grant for MIT to continue to develop specific equipment for methane removal in places with concentrated sources of methane, such as dairy barns and coal mines. Plata reported that the next phase of the project will focus largely on ways to structure the clay material in a multiscale, hierarchical configuration to demonstrate a proof of concept that this method can work in the field.
 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On January 21, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new effort under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to streamline the review of new chemicals that could be used to displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting transportation fuels. The Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention’s (OCSPP) New Chemicals Division (NCD) has implemented a “robust, consistent, and efficient process to assess the risk and apply mitigation measures, as appropriate, for substitutes to petroleum-based fuels and fuel additives that use biobased or waste-derived sources to produce biofuels.” EPA states that this effort supports its goals under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, as well as its 2021 Climate Adaptation Action Plan. According to the announcement, EPA has received over 30 biofuel premanufacture notices (PMN) “that collectively describe plans for close to 800 million gallons per year of production of advanced biofuels, that could contribute to annual volume mandates under the RFS program and help support the goals of energy security through increasing domestic production” within the United States.
 
The announcement includes:
 
New Chemicals Division Integrated Approach to Biofuels
 
Under this effort, NCD formed a dedicated team to collaborate on the review of PMNs for biobased or waste-derived feedstocks used to make transportation fuel substitutes with the goals to use the best available science while creating a consistent and efficient review process. EPA states that NCD developed a standardized process for the way biofuel PMNs are reviewed. For example, the same dedicated team will be conducting reviews for all biofuels PMNs, helping to ensure the assessments and determinations are consistent and aligned with requirements. Further, NCD will generate one report for biofuels PMNs that combines the six different risk assessments typically conducted for PMNs, helping to provide a clearer summary explanation of how EPA conducted its assessment and made its determination.
 
For risk management actions, NCD will apply appropriate mitigation measures to address any potential for unreasonable risk identified in an efficient and consistent manner within TSCA consent orders and significant new use rules (SNUR).
 
Outreach and Training
 
According to the announcement, OCSPP is launching outreach and training for interested stakeholders in the biofuels sector to review TSCA requirements, outline the streamlined approaches for risk assessments and risk management actions, and provide information on how to navigate the new chemicals PMN process.
 
OCSPP will hold a kick-off meeting on February 9, 2022, to provide an overview of this initiative and answer questions from stakeholders. Registration for the meeting is open.
 
Other planned outreach and training related to this biofuels initiative include webinars on:

  • TSCA requirements and the PMN process;
  • The TSCA Inventory, nomenclature, and Bona Fide process;
  • New chemicals risk assessments, including applications of the tools, models, and databases; and
  • New chemicals risk management actions, including TSCA Section 5 orders and SNURs.

EPA states that it may add additional outreach and training sessions, including training opportunities applicable to all new chemical submitters, based on stakeholder interest and feedback.

Tags: Biofuels, RFS, GHG, EPA, TSCA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On December 28, 2021, EPA announced that it will hold a public virtual meeting to discuss biofuel greenhouse gas (GHG) modeling. EPA is soliciting information on the current scientific understanding of GHG modeling of land-based biofuels used in the transportation sector. According to EPA, the information gathered during this meeting will be used to inform current and future EPA actions, including the method for quantifying GHG emissions under RFS. Of particular interest to EPA, is input on:

  • How to incorporate the best available science into an update of EPA’s biofuels lifecycle analysis (LCA); and
  • The next steps EPA should take in this work area.

Hosted by EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality in consultation with USDA and DOE, the virtual public meeting is scheduled for February 28, 2022, and March 1, 2022, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EST). EPA will also be accepting comments on these topics until April 1, 2022.


 

 By  Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 7, 2021, Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm launched the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Earthshots Initiative. Designed to accelerate innovation of abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the next ten years. Secretary Granholm stated that the first Energy Earthshot will be the Hydrogen Shot, which sets an ambitious yet achievable cost target to accelerate innovations and spur demand of clean hydrogen.” The Hydrogen Shot aims to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80 percent to $1 per kilogram (kg) while also creating more clean energy jobs. Currently, clean hydrogen costs approximately $5 per kg. This initiative will drive program development across DOE’s science and applied energy offices, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
 
DOE’s Hydrogen Program issued a Request for Information (RFI) on viable hydrogen demonstrations that can help to lower the cost of hydrogen, reduce carbon emissions, create jobs, and provide benefits to disadvantaged communities. Topics for the RFI include:

  • Hydrogen Production, Resources, and Infrastructure;
  • End Users for Hydrogen Based on Specific Regions, Cost, and Value Propositions;
  • Greenhouse Gas and Other Pollutant Emissions Reduction Potential;
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Jobs, and Environmental Justice; and
  • Science and Innovation Needs and Challenges.

RFI responses are due on July 7, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT). Additional information about the RFI is available here.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory published an article titled “Retrospective Analysis of the U.S. Corn Ethanol Industry for 2005-2019: Implications for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions.” Using a life-cycle analysis (LCA), researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory quantified the life cycle of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of fuels to compare relative GHG impacts among different fuel production pathways. According to the retrospective analysis conducted, since 2000, corn ethanol production in the United States quadrupled due to supportive biofuels policies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Consequently, carbon intensity (CI) over the past 15 years has significantly decreased by 23 percent. Since 2000, the corn ethanol production pathway, including corn farming and biorefineries, has substantially evolved. Researchers state in the article that this shift into more efficient farming and biorefinery practices increases revenue while also potentially reducing the emission burdens of ethanol production. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory researchers conclude that biofuels, including corn ethanol, can and likely will play a key role in decarbonizing the U.S. economy.
 
The article’s findings will also be used by DOE to update key corn ethanol parameters in the Argonne National Laboratory’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) Model 2021, which will be released in October 2021.


 

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

On October 20, 2020, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives the Zero-Emission Vehicles At of 2020 (the Act). The Act would amend Part A of Title II of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to create a federal national zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standard and address climate change by ending U.S. sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles in 2035. Senator Merkley and Representative Levin’s standard aims to boost the market for battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Sponsored by four other Senators and an additional 15 Representatives, the ZEV standard has also been criticized by conservatives and biofuels industry stakeholders. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stated that Iowans should not “allow coastal state lawmakers to dictate to Middle America how to live [their] lives or take away the freedom to choose what kind of car to buy.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The government of Manitoba, Canada, is currently working to amend three regulations under the Biofuels Act. The amendments will update Manitoba’s clean fuel standards by increasing the ethanol and renewable fuel content in gasoline. The proposed amendments include:

  • “Ethanol General Regulation is amended to:
     
    • Include the latest fuel standards for ethanol blended gasoline;
       
    • Remove the quarterly reporting requirements of obligated entities; and
       
    • Increase ethanol content from 8.5% to 10%.
       
  • Biodiesel Mandate for Diesel Fuel Regulation is amended to:
     
    • Increase renewable fuel content of diesel from 2% to 5%;
       
    • Adjust the compliance formula to reflect the 5% blending requirement; and
       
    • Adjust the shortfall calculation to reflect the 5% blending requirement, and to increase the penalty amount from $0.45 to $1.50 per litre.
       
  • Biodiesel (General) Regulation is amended to:
     
    • Repeal the definition of “non-commercial licence;
       
    • Include the latest fuel standards for biodiesel and renewable diesel sold or offered for sale in Manitoba;
       
    • Include the latest fuel standards for biodiesel blends eligible under the Biodiesel Mandate;
       
    • Remove the non-commercial biodiesel manufacturing licence class;
       
    • Clarify the conditions required to hold a commercial biodiesel manufacturing licence; and
       
    • Remove references to the non-commercial licence class.”
       

The primary public policy objective of Manitoba’s government is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while increasing renewable fuels use. The regulatory amendments will come into force on January 1, 2021.


 

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.


 
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