By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On July 23, 2020, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed by the U.S. Senate; it includes the bipartisan Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019, led by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Introduced to the Senate in December 2019, the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019 establishes an interagency working group (IWG) led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate federal programs and activities in support of sustainable chemistry. The IWG will develop a roadmap for sustainable chemistry with a framework of attributes characterizing sustainable chemistry, assess the state of sustainable chemistry in the United States, and identify methods by which federal agencies can incentivize sustainable chemistry activities, challenges to sustainable chemistry progress, and opportunities for expanding federal sustainable chemistry efforts. Senator Coons celebrated the victory by stating that this “is an exciting opportunity to maintain our scientific leadership and ensure the sustainability of our chemical enterprise for years to come.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
ACS has also recently announced a call for symposia topics for its 25th GC&E conference mentioned in the article above. The theme of the conference is “Sustainable Production to Advance the Circular Economy,” which directly links to the United Nations (U.N.) Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. The proposal submission deadline is October 9, 2020, and notifications of acceptance will be announced by November 20, 2020.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On January 28, 2020, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) published a memorandum on the regulatory developments of the Sustainable Chemistry R&D Act of 2019 (Act), which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives late last year. The memorandum not only provides an overview of the proposed legislation, its implementation, and limitations, but also highlights the important milestones that could be achieved if the bill passes. The proposed bill seeks to broaden the support of efforts to move the chemical enterprise toward a sustainable economy and to leverage existing efforts across the federal government to seek effective new technologies that are also more sustainable than incumbent technologies. It will be important for stakeholders to review the proposed bill and consider any opportunities to engage with the working group to be created, as well as the member departments and agencies.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On December 9, 2019, the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019 (H.R. 2051) was passed by the House of Representatives. H.R. 2051 establishes an interagency working group (IWG) led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate Federal programs and activities in support of sustainable chemistry. The IWG will develop a roadmap for sustainable chemistry with a framework of attributes characterizing sustainable chemistry, assess the state of sustainable chemistry in the United States, and identify methods by which federal agencies can incentivize sustainable chemistry activities, challenges to sustainable chemistry progress, and opportunities for expanding federal sustainable chemistry efforts. On December 10, 2019, the bill was received in the Senate, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 30, 2018, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Coons (D-DE) reintroduced their sustainable chemistry bill, the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2018 (S. 3296). This bill encourages the development of new and innovative chemicals, products and processes with an improved “environmental footprint” through efficient use of resources, reducing or eliminating exposure to hazardous substances, or otherwise minimizing harm to human health and the environment. The legislation is intended to support new innovations in chemistry that benefit the economy, the environment, and human health. The bill supports coordinated efforts in sustainable chemistry across federal agencies through research and development, technology transfer, commercialization, education, and training programs -- including partnerships with the private sector. The bill does not include any regulatory components, nor does it authorize new spending. Its goal, rather, is to coordinate better federal activities in sustainable chemistry and encourage industry, academia, nonprofits, and the general public to innovate, develop, and bring to market new sustainable chemicals, materials, products, and processes.
On September 5, 2016, a group of non-profits, including Oxfam International, Fern, and Greenpeace, published a report outlining policy measures that should be taken by the European Commission (EC) to ensure that bioenergy is as low-carbon and resource efficient as possible. The report, "A New EU Sustainable Bioenergy Policy Report," was published after EC stated a willingness to listen to new proposals to improve sustainable bioenergy policies. EC is planning on proposing an updated bioenergy sustainability policy for the use of biomass in heating, electricity, and transport by the end of 2016, as part of the Climate and Energy Package for 2030. To ensure the sustainability of new bioenergy policies, the report discusses the need and practicality of implementing the following safeguards:
- A limit to the use of biomass for energy production to levels that can be sustainably supplied;
- An efficient and optimal use of biomass resources, in line with the principle of cascading use;
- Robust and verifiable emission savings on the basis of correct carbon accounting for bioenergy emissions; and
- A comprehensive, binding set of environmental and social sustainability criteria.
This report proposed sustainability criteria across all energy uses of biomass that has been grown on land, as well as residues, waste, and side-products, but not for biomass from aquaculture and marine areas.
On February 29, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced eight small business contracts through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. The eight Phase II contracts provide the companies with $300,000 each to develop and commercialize innovative products that address environmental and public health issues. Phase II funding is typically made available to companies that have already been granted Phase I funding through the SBIR Program. This round of funding included two biobased businesses, Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, a company that is developing a system to produce biofuel from grease trap waste, and Sustainable Bioproducts, LLC, a company that is developing a low-cost, simple, and scalable microbial process for the conversion of organic municipal solid waste to fuels using fungus. The SBIR Program is open to for-profit U.S. businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Open solicitations for applicants are listed on the SBIR website, but applications for this specific program are currently closed.
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.
On May 21, 2015, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2015 (S. 1447). The legislation is intended to help coordinate and expand the many different programs that have been enacted across the federal government to promote and assist the development of sustainable chemistry that reduces risks to human health and benefits the environment. The bill would create a federal Interagency Work Group (IWG), lead by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that would work with a diverse Advisory Council (AC) to develop and implement a strategy to advance sustainable chemistry. This would streamline existing federal activities that promote the development of sustainable chemistry through grants and prize competitions. The Act does not create any regulatory components or authorize new spending by taking advantage of programs that are already in place and making them more efficient.
The bill calls for an examination of methods that the government could use to provide additional incentives and would require the IWG to track the amount spent on sustainable chemicals by the federal government and include those amounts in a report to Congress and the Government Accountability Office. The report will also analyze the progress that has been made and evaluate future strategies to ensure that efforts are not duplicated and interagency coordination is streamlined. The overarching goal of the IWG and the AC will be to produce a national strategy and implementation plan for sustainable chemistry that will advance research, development, technology, commercialization, education, and training within two years of the start of the program.
On June 1, 2015, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) voted to pass the new Low iLUC Risk Biomass Criteria and Compliance Indicators standard. The standard was approved as an optional module for those undergoing RSB certification, and will be used to show that biomass is produced with low indirect land use change (iLUC), resulting in little impact on food production and biodiversity. It is important to demonstrate how iLUC in order to prove that a biobased alternative to a traditional product is better for the environment than the original product. iLUC takes into account the indirect carbon emissions released due to expansion of croplands for biomass production, in part due to clearance of forest areas.