EC Calls For Applications For Expert Group On Chemicals Strategy For Sustainability
On February 23, 2021, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) announced that in association with other relevant Directorates-General (DG) of the European Commission (EC), DG Environment has opened a call for applications to select members for an expert group, the High-Level Roundtable on Implementation of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. According to EU-OSHA, the expert group’s mission “is to set the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability objectives and monitor its implementation in dialogue with the stakeholders concerned.” Specific tasks include contributing to identifying and addressing social, economic, and cultural barriers to the transition toward safe and sustainable chemicals. The expert group will act as a core group of ambassadors to facilitate discussions and promote this transition in the economy and society, developing a regular exchange of views, experiences, and good practices between the EC and stakeholders on the main objectives of the Strategy, namely:
- Innovating for safe and sustainable chemicals, including for materials and products;
- Addressing pressing environmental and health concerns;
- Simplifying and consolidating the legal framework;
- Providing a comprehensive knowledge base on chemicals; and
- Setting the example for global sound management of chemicals.
The expert group will consist of up to 32 members, with a maximum of:
- The member state holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union;
- Ten third-sector organizations in the following areas: health protection, environmental protection, human rights, animal protection, consumer rights, and workers’ rights;
- Eight scientific organizations, academia, and research institutes providing a suitable balance between expertise in fundamental research, applied research, and training/education;
- Ten industries, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) or associations of enterprises, including an adequate representation of frontrunners in the production and use of safe and sustainable chemicals. Those should include chemical industries, downstream users (from different sectors), and retailers; and
- Three international organizations — the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Interested organizations are invited to submit their applications before March 18, 2021.
Richard E. Engler, Ph.D. And Jeffrey T. Morris, Ph.D. Publish “Why The US EPA Can, And Should, Evaluate The Risk-Reducing Role A New Chemical May Play If Allowed On The Market,” In Chemical Watch
In the 21st century, we take as given a continuous stream of new and better products. From electronics to building materials to transportation solutions, the flow of new and better products and applications seems unending. New chemical substances play a fundamental role in creating those products and making existing products better. If the pipeline of new chemicals were closed off, the flow of new products and applications would slow to a trickle and eventually dry up. Modern life as we know it would not exist without the continued invention, production, and use of new chemicals.
In the United States, all new chemicals must be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they can enter commerce. The Agency looks at new chemicals to determine whether their manufacturing, processing, and use would adversely affect people or the environment. If EPA identifies risks that it determines to be unreasonable, then it either prohibits use of the chemical, or requires restrictions on the chemical to control for risks. Since the 1970s, tens of thousands of chemicals have come through EPA for review and have been allowed into U.S. commerce.
In this article, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D. and Jeffery T. Morris, Ph.D. write that more robust consideration of a new chemical’s potential to prevent pollution and lower risks could help achieve the right balance between safety and innovation. The full article is available at https://chemicalwatch.com/220164/guest-column-why-the-us-epa-can-and-should-evaluate-the-risk-reducing-role-a-new-chemical-may-play-if-allowed-on-the-market (subscription required).
EPA Extends Comment Period For Proposed Updates To TSCA Fees Rule
EPA announced that it is extending the public comment period on proposed updates to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Fees Rule to give stakeholders more time to review and comment. The current comment period was set to close on February 25, 2021. Comments are now due on March 27, 2021. Information on the proposed updates is available in the Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) December 30, 2020, memorandum, “EPA Intends Proposed Rule to Increase Flexibility and Reduce Burdens under TSCA Fees Program.”
On February 18, 2021, EPA held a virtual public meeting on the TSCA Fees Rule, allowing stakeholders to provide input on the proposed rulemaking. One of the main concerns by industry stakeholders was related to fees collection under TSCA Section 4. Stakeholders reported that EPA should not collect such fees under Section 4 because the same fees are collected under Section 5. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation proposed instead a tiered fees structure, given that the rule as proposed includes downstream user fees, which would double fees within the supply chain.
On the other hand, representatives from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) expressed opposition to the exemptions outlined in the proposed rule and criticized EPA for relying on voluntary information requests.
Following Brexit, UK Establishes New Chemical Regulatory Regimes
The United Kingdom (UK) completed its withdrawal from the EU on December 31, 2020, and, as of January 1, 2021, is a “third country” from the EU perspective. Companies worldwide must be aware of the significant implications for compliance under the following newly established independent chemical regulatory regimes: the Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) (GB) Biocidal Products Regulation (GB BPR); the GB Classification, Labeling, and Packaging Regulation (GB CLP); the GB Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Regulation (GB PIC); Regulation (EC) 1107/2009 concerning plant protection products (PPP); and the UK REACH Regulation. On February 5, 2021, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provided a brief overview of the new chemical regulatory regimes and links to resources available online. Further information is available in The Acta Group’s, B&C’s affiliate, February 9, 2021, memorandum.
EPA Updates TSCA CBI Review Statistics
EPA published on February 8, 2021, a periodic update of the TSCA confidential business information (CBI) review statistics. TSCA Section 14(g)(1) requires that EPA, within 90 days of receipt of a CBI claim:
- Review and make determinations on CBI claims for chemical identity after the chemical substance has been offered for commercial distribution; and
- Review and make determinations on a representative subset of at least 25 percent of other CBI claims that are not exempt from substantiation and review.
The updated data summarize the number of CBI cases under review and results of completed reviews through December 28, 2020. In addition, a spreadsheet is available showing the details of completed TSCA CBI determinations through December 28, 2020.
EPA states that making this information publicly available continues to demonstrate its commitment to transparency while fulfilling its responsibilities under TSCA. EPA notes that it has established numerous new processes, systems, and procedures to enable submitters to provide the information required when making confidentiality claims and to facilitate EPA’s review, and where applicable, determinations on these claims.
NREL Announces Strategy For Decarbonization In Transportation
On February 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced its comprehensive strategy to decarbonize transportation by 30-85 percent by 2050. A strategy based on research and engineering, it aims to enable industry stakeholders, government bodies, communities, and early adopters to meet their climate goals. In a nutshell, the strategy takes a whole-system approach to pair the best technology with the right application. Chris Gearhart, NREL’s Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences Director, stated that NREL envisions “a mobility system fueled with clean, renewable energy, delivered directly by vehicle electrification, or indirectly by low-carbon, energy dense fuels and renewable hydrogen for those sectors, like marine and aviation, that are harder to electrify.” Johney Green, Associate Laboratory Director for NREL’s Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences, expanded: “The spectrum of technological, social, and environmental shifts happening today requires a novel research agenda.” Keeping long-term trends in mind, NREL’s vision entails a multi-pronged strategy that provides scientific building blocks for advancing research and development (R&D) priorities such as:
- Accelerating vehicle technology innovations;
- Increasing transport efficiency;
- Maximizing the use of renewable electrons through time; and
- Integrating transportation with building, the grid, and renewables to realize system-wide benefits.
American Jobs And Manufacturing Act Of 2021 Would Provide Tax Credits For Domestic Manufacturers
On March 1, 2021, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced the American Jobs in Energy Manufacturing Act of 2021 (Act), which would incentivize domestic manufacturing of energy technologies by providing tax credits for domestic manufacturers in rural areas. The Act encourages the transition to cleaner energy by driving reinvestment into communities that have been most impacted by economic downturn. “This bill will help revitalize these areas by making smart changes to the 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit to drive investment in these communities, strengthen domestic supply chains, create additional clean energy manufacturing jobs, and aid the nation’s recovery,” stated Senator Manchin. Senator Stabenow urged the Senate to pass the Act, stating that the transition to a clean energy economy would significantly contribute to the fight against climate change. The Act has been endorsed by several non-profit organizations and industry stakeholders.
Significant measures would be taken under the Act, including:
- Investment of $8 billion in American manufacturing and industry to serve as a tool to expand or build new facilities that make or recycle energy-related products; and
- Provision of assistance to applicants through new guidelines and technical assistance that promote reinvestment and job creation.
The full bill can be accessed here.
Bills Incentivizing Biofuels Introduced On The Same Day
On March 3, 2021, the co-chairs of the House Biofuels Caucus, U.S. Representatives Cindy Axne (D-IA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), introduced the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act, which would expand access to higher biofuel blends. Building off the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Higher Blends Infrastructure Inventive Program, this bill intends to provide consistent federal investment ($500 million over five years) on biofuels infrastructure, while also removing barriers to 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline (E15) fuel blends and allowing Underground Storage Tanks (UST) to store higher blends of ethanol.
On the same day, with the support of Representatives Axne and Davis, among others, U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced the Adopt GREET Act. The Adopt GREET Act would require that EPA update its greenhouse gas (GHG) models for ethanol and biodiesel to reflect better the environmental benefits of agriculture and biofuels. Specifically, EPA would be obligated, under this Act, to adopt the Argonne National Laboratory’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Model for both biodiesel and ethanol fuels and update its model as needed every five years.
Both pieces of legislation are being supported by several industry stakeholders, including the National Corn Growers Association, the Renewable Fuels Association, and Growth Energy.
USC New Aquaculture Technique Leads To Increased Biomass From Kelp Growth
On March 2, 2021, the University of Southern California (USC) Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Santa Catalina Island announced a new aquaculture technique that increases dramatically kelp growth and, consequently, yields four times more biomass than other natural processes. Using a “kelp elevator,” this new technique optimizes growth for bronze-colored floating algae by raising and lowering it to different depths. These findings suggest that the use of open ocean to grow kelp biomass for biofuel production can serve as a solution to the generation of biofuels from feedstocks such as corn and soybeans, which often increase water pollution. Corresponding author of the study, Diane Y. Kim, Ph.D., stated that “[f]orging new pathways to make biofuel requires proving that new methods and feedstocks work. This experiment on the Southern California coast is an important step because it demonstrates kelp can be managed to maximize growth.”
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