Biobased Products News and Policy Report – Update from Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

Biobased and Renewable Products Update
August 5, 2021


Coalition Of Chemical Manufacturers, Brand Owners, NGOs, States, And Municipalities Call On Congress To Restore Funding For EPA’s Safer Choice Program

On June 24, 2021, a “unique and broad group” of chemical manufacturers, brand owners, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO), states, and municipalities sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to express their “strong support” for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice Program and to encourage that the program be funded fully. The letter asks that the following language be included in the report:

The Committee supports the Safer Choice program and directs that the program be funded and operated at least at levels consistent with Fiscal Year 2014, adjusted for inflation.

According to the letter, in the last quarter of 2020, EPA reorganized the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), dissolving the Safer Choice branch and reassigning most staff to the areas of OCSPP. The letter states that “[a]s a result, the program is now severely under-resourced with approximately four full-time staff.” The Biden-Harris EPA has taken steps to restore the program, but EPA still faces resource constraints.

The letter describes how companies across the value chain use the Safer Choice brand to advance their individual safer chemical initiatives. Chemical manufacturers invested in developing safer chemicals now listed on the Safer Choice’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL). Brand owners and product manufacturers have reformulated products using the SCIL to obtain Safer Choice certification. Major retailers specify the Safer Choice label as a verifiable way to meet corporate goals laid out in public-facing chemicals policies.

According to the letter, the Safer Choice Program also provides value to entities outside of the supply chain. States and municipalities rely on the Safer Choice Program “because it is the only third-party program that requires all ingredients to be screened for hazards instead of simply using a restricted substances list.” NGOs and consumers “find significant value in an authoritative government program that can be trusted to vet safer chemicals and products.”

Bipartisan Bill Introduced To Clarify Oil Refinery Exemptions

On July 2, 2021, U.S. Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN) and Randy Feenstra (R-IA) introduced a bill called the Small Refinery Exemption Clarification Act of 2021. The bill clarifies that only oil refineries that have been continuously receiving small refinery exemptions (SRE) since 2011 should be eligible to petition for extensions of renewable fuel blending requirement exemptions. The SRE Clarification Act follows the Supreme Court’s decision in late June 2021 that, according to Representatives Craig and Feenstra, could negatively influence the biofuels industry by making it easier for oil refineries to avoid Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements. Representative Craig stated that “[i]t is vital that we continue to support the clean biofuels industry as we reduce the carbon intensity of our transportation sector and make important investments across rural America.” Representative Feenstra emphasized that “we must erase ambiguities and ensure oil refineries are not able to take shortcuts when it comes to blending biofuels.”

DOE Announces Phase I Selections For WTE Technical Assistance

On July 6, 2021, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced Phase I selections for the Waste-to-Energy Technical Assistance for Local Governments Program. Designed by NREL to provide assistance in the development of waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies on behalf of BETO, the goal of this program is to identify gaps and gather data and information on organic waste streams. The information gathered is used to:

  • Provide data to local decisionmakers;
  • Deploy the analyses that have been developed for various energy/resource recovery strategies; and
  • Locally foster public-private partnerships.

BETO aims to enable organic waste energy and/or resource recovery at the municipal level by leveraging technical expertise and data to address specific issues each municipality may encounter with their waste streams. Phase I of the program funds collaborations between NREL and 16 local government bodies to provide strategic planning support, quantification of local organic waste resources, and mitigation approaches for localized environmental impacts. A full list of Phase I selectees can be accessed here. Phase II funding will depend on BETO’s funding availability later in 2021.

Sustainable Shopping Initiative Highlights EPA’s Safer Choice Program

EPA announced on July 13, 2021, that Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative now includes cleaning and other products certified by EPA’s Safer Choice Program. According to EPA, Safer Choice is now one of 30 sustainability certifications highlighted under Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative that helps customers shop for more than 75,000 products through the Company’s online store. EPA notes that highlighting Safer Choice-certified products makes it easier for consumers to locate products that contain safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance. Products identified as Climate Pledge Friendly are distinguished on Amazon’s website by an hourglass-with-wings symbol. The Company also provides its customers with detailed web pages that include information on how and why products are certified as sustainable.

DOE Announces New Goal For Its Energy Earthshots Program

On July 14, 2021, DOE announced a new goal under the Energy Earthshots Initiative: “Long Duration Storage Shot.” The Energy Earthshots program focuses on scientific breakthroughs that can lead to more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within this decade as the United States aims to achieve net-zero carbon goals by 2050. The second target within Energy Earthshots aims to accelerate innovation in long-term storage of clean electricity. Long duration energy storage, defined by DOE as systems that can store more than ten hours of energy at once, would facilitate the capture and storage of energy for later use when energy generation is unavailable or lower than demand. Scenarios provided by DOE include solar-generated power that could be used at night or nuclear energy generated during times of low demand to be used when demand increases. The Long Duration Storage Shot will consider all types of technology, including electrochemical, mechanical, thermal, chemical carriers, or combinations of these technologies.

DOE Announces Funding For University-Based IACs

On July 26, 2021, DOE announced the availability of $60 million in funding for its cohort of university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC). The IACs assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers in reducing their carbon footprint and lowering energy costs. IACs, with particular attention to disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, also train the next generation of energy-efficiency workers, as highlighted by Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm: “America’s best and brightest university students are successfully helping local manufacturers reduce pollution, save energy, and cut their electricity bills.” Composed of 32 universities, the new cohort of IACs will focus on improving productivity, enhancing cybersecurity, promoting resiliency planning, and providing training to entities in disadvantaged communities. IACs will also partner with community colleges and technical programs to participate in a new pilot project focused on the commercial building market that will train diverse students and professions to conduct energy-efficiency assessments of small to medium-sized buildings.

Managed by DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), the IACs program was founded in 1976, and it is one of DOE’s longest running programs. IACs have provided approximately 20,000 no-cost assessments for small- and medium-sized manufacturers and more than 147,000 recommendations for improvement measures. Such assessments usually identify more than $130,000 in potential annual savings opportunities for the manufacturers that are assessed. More than 19,500 IAC assessments have been conducted to date.

Manufacturers must meet the following criteria for eligibility to receive an IAC assessment:

  • Fall within Standard Industry Codes (SIC) 20-39;
  • Be located less than 150 miles from a participating university;
  • Have gross annual sales below $100 million;
  • Have fewer than 500 employees at the plant site;
  • Have annual energy bills that are more than $100,000 but less than $3.5 million; and
  • Lack professional in-house staff to perform the assessment.

After a remote survey of the plant, the IAC team conducts a one- to two-day site visit to take engineering measurements. The team then performs a detailed process analysis to generate specific recommendations for the manufacturer, followed by a call to the plant manager after six to nine months to verify what recommendations were implemented. Detailed information regarding how to apply is available here.

FDA Announces Biosimilar User Fees For FY 2022

On July 28, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced fee rates for biosimilar user fees for fiscal year (FY) 2022. FDA is authorized under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), as amended by the Biosimilar User Fee Amendments of 2017 (BsUFA II), to assess and collect user fees for:

  • Biosimilar biological product development;
  • Application reviews for approval of biosimilar biological products; and
  • Each biosimilar biological product approved in an application.

Before the beginning of each FY, BsUFA II directs FDA to establish the amount of initial and annual biosimilar biological product development fees, the reactivation fee, and the biosimilar biological product application and program fees. FY 2022 fees will apply from October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022. A breakdown of HHS’ fees are available in FDA’s Federal Register announcement.

USDA Issues Economic Impact Analysis Of The U.S. Biobased Products Industry

On July 29, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, Justin Maxson, announced the availability of a report titled “An Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry.” According to the report, USDA’s analysis shows that the biobased industry in the United States generates substantial economic growth and positively impacts the environment compared to petroleum-based and other non-biobased products. The biobased products industry is responsible for nearly five million jobs in the United States alone, stated Maxson.

The report addresses seven key elements within the biobased products industry:

  • Quantity of biobased products;
  • Value of biobased products;
  • Quantity of jobs contributed;
  • Quantity of petroleum displaced;
  • Environmental benefits;
  • Economic impacts of biobased exports; and
  • Areas where the use or manufacturing of biobased products would be more effective.

Based on an analysis of the key elements provided above, the report identified several challenges that the biobased products industry faces currently. Such challenges include technical barriers for the development and scaling up of biobased products, competition from petroleum-based products, lack of infrastructure, and policy uncertainty. To address these challenges, the report concludes by making five recommendations to the biobased industry sector:

  • Improvement of tracking biobased products in federal acquisition systems;
  • Increase of incentives for biobased research and market growth;
  • Increase of opportunities for collaboration across the public, private, and social sectors;
  • Expansion of education on USDA’s BioPreferred Program and Certified Biobased Product labels; and
  • Improvement in leveraging biobased product goals with DOE and other federal entities.

The full report is available here.

DOE Announces Funding For 11 Projects To Develop Biomass Resources For Bioenergy Technology

On August 3, 2021, DOE announced that $34 million will be invested into 11 projects focused on high-impact research and development (R&D) to improve and produce biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts for planes and ships. In particular, the selected projects will research and develop waste for energy conversion and improve algae farming practices to increase production.

According to DOE, the transportation sector accounts for approximately 30 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, generating the largest share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Also known as feedstocks, biomass resources can be produced by municipal solid waste (MSW) streams and algae and converted into low-carbon fuels that contribute to the decarbonization of aviation and marine transportation sectors. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm stated that “[t]he companies and universities leading these projects will ensure that our cutting-edge biofuel technologies reduce carbon emissions, create new jobs up and down the supply chain, and are made in America by American workers.”


DOE Virtual Roundtable On The Future Of Manufacturing

On July 29, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. (EDT), Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm hosted a virtual roundtable on the future of manufacturing. Roundtable discussions focused on DOE’s efforts to:

  • Decarbonize the manufacturing sector in the United States;
  • Manufacture clean-energy technologies; and
  • Pave the way to a resilient, carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

During the roundtable’s panel discussion, Secretary Granholm announced several new DOE initiatives pertaining to manufacturing. The panel discussion featured a diverse range of stakeholders, including government and academia representatives, and DOE private-sector partners.

The Critical Role of Product Stewardship in Business Continuity, August 19, 2021, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EDT, via webinar

Join the Product Stewardship Society (PSS) and a panel of experts for a unique webinar on how your role as a product steward can make an impact. You will learn strategies you can use to support your organization during business disruptions. “The Critical Role of Product Stewardship in Business Continuity” includes a facilitated panel discussion with real-world examples provided of product stewardship management in the aftermath of disruptive events like the pandemic. Specific examples will be shared to illustrate how product stewards can help organizations successfully transition from incident management to recovery and resume operations in a “new normal.” Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is pleased to sponsor this complimentary webinar. 

Other News

Fast Company, “What Is Bioleaching, and How Can It Make Cars Greener?
Live Science, “Microbes in Cow Stomachs Can Help Recycle Plastic
Fast Company, “Petrochemicals Are in All Sorts of Products. This Startup Makes the Same Compounds Out of Captured CO2
Argus Media, “Philippines Revamps Biofuels Compliance Rules
ScienceDaily, “Bioengineering Discovery Paves Way for Improved Production of Bio-Based Goods
Successful Farming, “RFS Must Consider Impact on Biodiversity, Court Tells EPA, “Economical Synthesis of Polyacrylates and Polymethacrylates from Biobased Materials
The Hindu, “Technology to Produce Biogas from Water Hyacinth

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