Biobased and Renewable Products Update
October 5, 2017
Senate Committee Holds Hearing On 2018 Farm Bill
On September 28, 2017, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing titled “Rural Development and Energy Programs: Perspectives for the 2018 Farm Bill” to gather stakeholder input regarding the programs under the Farm Bill that are working or need improvement. In his opening statement, Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) stated that it is critical for the next Farm Bill to support renewable energy and biobased product manufacturers, as well as rural businesses, cooperatives, health clinics, schools, and other essential service providers.
During the hearing, two panels presented testimony related to the Farm Bill. The first panel consisted of the Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development; the Acting Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service; the Acting Administrator for the Rural Housing Service; and the Acting Administrator for the Rural Business Cooperative Service, and discussed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s vision for fostering growth and economic prosperity throughout rural America and provided an update on program functions within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development. The second panel consisted of private sector stakeholders, including Dr. Brent Shanks, the Director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Engineering Research Center of Biorenewable Chemicals. During his testimony, Shanks suggested improvements to Title IX of the 2018 Farm Bill aimed at decoupling the risks between technology, market, and infrastructure inherent in completely new biorefineries.
More information on the testimony provided during the hearing is available on the Committee’s website.
Iowa Senators Respond To EPA NODA Regarding RFS Program
Last week, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Notice of Data Availability (NODA) regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume requirements (see below). On September 27, 2017, Ernst sent a letter to President Trump expressing concern over the proposed reduction in the volume requirements for 2018 and 2019. In the letter, Ernst highlights the importance of renewable fuel with regard to jobs in rural America, and energy security for the U.S. Additionally, the letter states that “[w]hile the [NODA] technically ‘provides the public notice and an opportunity to comment,’ in reality it serves to make the case for substantially lowering the volumes for U.S. produced biodiesel, just as domestic producers are making investments to bring unused capacity back online.”
In a September 26, 2017, statement, Grassley described the proposed reduction in renewable fuel volumes as a “bait-and-switch from the EPA’s prior proposal and from assurances from the President himself and Cabinet secretaries in [Grassley’s] office prior to confirmation for their strong support of renewable fuels.” According to Grassley, reducing the volume requirements would undermine domestic renewable fuel production, which contradicts the goal of America first, employing U.S. workers, and improving the U.S. economy and meeting the country’s fuel needs.
Additionally, industry representatives have raised concerns over Trump’s nomination of William Wehrum to be the EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR). In a statement regarding the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the nomination of Wehrum, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor highlighted the essential role the Assistant Administrator plays in managing EPA’s fuel policies and the need for assurance that EPA remains in sync with Trump and his commitment to renewable fuels. Skor urged the Senate to ensure that Wehrum would carry out the duties of the position in a manner that expands on the progress made since the RFS was passed.
EPA Issues NODA Regarding RFS Program
On October 4, 2017, EPA issued a NODA in the Federal Register to provide supplemental information and an opportunity for further public comment on potential reductions in the 2018 biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes, and/or the 2019 biomass-based diesel volume under the RFS program. The NODA follows the Agency’s July 21, 2017, proposed rulemaking on the volume requirements and provides additional information on production, imports, and cost of renewable fuel, and several options for how EPA may consider such data in establishing the final volume requirements.
In the notice, EPA acknowledges its authority under the Clean Air Act to waive a portion of the biomass-based diesel standard if there is a significant renewable feedstock disruption or other market circumstance that would make the price of biomass-based diesel fuel increase significantly, and to make related reductions in the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel volume requirements. EPA is seeking comments on whether it is appropriate to use this waiver authority in the final rule. Additionally, EPA invites comments on whether it is appropriate to consider possible impacts of the volumes of domestic production and imports on U.S. energy independence and security in setting the applicable standards under the RFS program, and on appropriate ways to determine the applicable volume requirements for 2018, and the biomass-based diesel volume requirement for 2019.
Comments are due October 19, 2017.
DOE Awards Up To $3.5 Million In Funding For Advancements In Algal Biomass Yield Project
On September 26, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of an additional project for the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) Advanced Algal Systems Program funding opportunity announcement (FOA). DOE is awarding up to $3.5 million to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to more than double the productivity of biofuel precursors from algae. Researchers aim to improve productivity by increasing algal cultivation productivity, optimizing biomass composition, and extracting and separating different types of algal lipids to reduce the cost for lipid upgrading to renewable diesel. The project team includes researchers from NREL, as well as Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, Arizona State University, Sandia National Laboratories, POS Bio-Sciences, Sapphire Energy, and Utah State University.
In addition to the $3.5 million being provided, DOE provided $15 million in Fiscal Year 2016 for three projects under the Algal Biomass Yield, Phase 2 (ABY2) FOA. BETO expects that projects selected under this FOA will help demonstrate a reasonable and realistic plan to produce 3,700 gallons/acre/year by 2020.
■ Senator Rounds, “Rounds Asks EPA Administrator for Continued Support of Renewable Fuel Standard”
■ DOE Joint Genome Institute, “2018 DOE JGI Community Science Program Allocations Announced”
■ Brookhaven National Laboratory, “With Extra Sugar, Leaves Get Fat Too — Scientists Tip Balance of Plant Metabolism to Increase Oil Content in Leaves with Aim of Making Biofuels and Related Useful Chemicals”
■ Cornell Chronicle, “Bioreactors on a Chip Renew Promises for Algal Biofuels”
ABOUT THE FIRM
The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.
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