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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On March 22, 2022, DOE announced a $34.5 million funding opportunity to improve the science and infrastructure for converting waste streams into bioproducts and biofuels that can benefit the local energy economy. DOE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Kelly Speakes-Backman, stated that “through this investment, we see an opportunity to support the bioeconomy and the equitable transition to a clean energy economy.” The FY22 Waste Feedstock and Conversion R&D Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) encourages the development of improved organisms and inorganic catalysts to support the next generation of low-carbon biofuels and bioproducts. This FOA has four topic areas:

  • Community Scale Resource and Energy Recovery from Organic Wastes;
  • Municipal Solid Waste Feedstock Technologies;
  • Robust Catalytic Processes; and
  • Robust Microbial Cells.

DOE will accept concept papers for this FOA until 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on April 18, 2022. Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on June 7, 2022. Additional information on this FOA is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 16, 2022, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing on “Bioenergy Research and Development for the Fuels and Chemicals of Tomorrow.” According to the hearing charter, the purpose of the hearing was to examine the status of bioenergy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The hearing also considered advancements in bioenergy research and the potential role of this resource in a cleaner energy transition. Lastly, the hearing was intended to help inform future legislation to support and guide the United States’ bioenergy RD&D enterprise. Read more in Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) March 18, 2022, memorandum, “House Committee Holds Hearing on Bioenergy RD&D for the Fuels and Chemicals of Tomorrow."


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a virtual public meeting April 20-21, 2022, to seek individual input on the proposed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program. 87 Fed. Reg. 10784. In addition, EPA announced the availability of and is soliciting public comment on the draft document entitled “Modernizing the Process and Bringing Innovative Science to Evaluate New Chemicals Under TSCA.” EPA states that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) is proposing to develop and implement a multi-year collaborative research program focused on approaches for performing risk assessments on new chemical substances under TSCA. According to EPA, the effort will be performed in partnership with its Office of Research and Development (ORD) and other federal entities to leverage their expertise and resources. Written comments are due April 26, 2022. Registration for the meeting is now open.

According to EPA, the research program will refine existing approaches and develop and implement new approach methodologies (NAM) to ensure the best available science is used in TSCA new chemical evaluations. Key areas proposed in the TSCA New Chemicals Collaborative Research Program include:

  • Updating OCSPP’s approach to using data from structurally similar chemicals to determine potential risks from new chemicals, also known as read-across. According to EPA, this will increase the efficiency of new chemical reviews, promoting the use of the best available data to protect human health and the environment.
  • Digitizing and consolidating information on chemicals to include data and studies that currently exist only in hard copy or in various disparate TSCA databases. EPA will combine the information with publicly available sources to expand the amount of information available, enhancing chemical reviews and enabling efficient sharing of chemical information across EPA. Safeguards for confidential business information (CBI) will be maintained as appropriate in this process.
  • Updating and augmenting the models used for predicting a chemical’s physical-chemical properties and environmental fate/transport, hazard, exposure, and toxicokinetics to provide a suite of models to be used for new chemicals assessments. The goal of this effort is to update the models to reflect the best available science, increase transparency, and establish a process for updating these models as science evolves.
  • Exploring ways to integrate and apply NAMs in new chemicals assessments, reducing the use of animal testing. EPA states that as this effort evolves, the goal is to develop a suite of accepted, fit-for-purpose NAMs that could be used by external stakeholders for data submissions under TSCA, as well as informing and expanding new chemical categories.
  • Developing a decision support tool that integrates the various information streams specifically used for new chemical risk assessments. The decision support tool will integrate more efficiently all the data streams (e.g., chemistry, fate, exposures, hazards) into a final risk assessment and transparently document the decisions and assumptions made. Simply put, this will facilitate the new chemicals program tracking decisions over time and evaluating consistency within and across chemistries.

EPA states that additional information on each of these areas will be provided in the draft collaborative research plan that will be available in the docket by March 14, 2022. Later in 2022, EPA plans to engage its Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), a federal advisory committee, for peer review. EPA also intends to issue a Federal Register notice announcing the BOSC meeting and to open a docket for public comments.

Although the notice states that EPA’s background documents and the related supporting materials to the draft are available in the docket established for this meeting, Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2022-0218, nothing is available at this time. EPA states that it will provide additional background documents as the materials become available. After the virtual public meeting, EPA will prepare meeting minutes summarizing the individual comments received at the meeting. EPA will post the meeting minutes on its website and in the relevant docket.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On February 1, 2022, DOE EERE BETO issued two new requests for information (RFI) on biomass conversion R&D and community organic waste programs. The RFI titled “Biomass Conversion Research, Development, and Analysis Programs” focuses on biomass conversion R&D and seeks to address improved robustness of microbial cells, catalytic processes, and state-of-technology analyses in the BETO research portfolio. Through this program, BETO is interested in receiving feedback on barriers, capabilities, tools, and other general information needed to prioritize future R&D programs in the areas of organism and catalyst development. BETO also seeks input on which analyses are most useful to the broader bioenergy research and industrial community. Responses to this RFI must be submitted by March 11, 2022, and are required to be provided as an attachment via e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

DOE EERE BETO’s RFI titled “Community-scale Resource and Energy Recovery from Waste Solutions” requests feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to community programs for organic waste. DOE EERE wishes to understand better which wastes related to economic, environmental, and social impacts are of highest priority to communities and how DOE can make its Conversion R&D program more effective in addressing these types of challenges. BETO is particularly interested in input on five different waste streams: dairy manure, swine manure, food waste, municipal wastewater residuals, and fats/oils/greases. Responses to this RFI must also be submitted by March 11, 2022, and provided as an attachment via e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). In lieu of providing written responses to this RFI, BETO is also accepting requests for a 30-minute individual discussion via e-mail. Additional information on both RFIs is available here.


 

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

On November 11, 2021, the University of Iowa announced that its Department of Biology scientists discovered a new type of genetic variation in yeast that can improve the production of ethanol. According to the study conducted by the University’s biologists, yeast strains with certain alleles of gene MED15 are more efficient at fermentation. The study was led by Professor Jan Fassler, who states that these findings may assist scientists in engineering a better yeast strain to produce more efficiently bioethanol for fuel and wine.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On November 23, 2021, ACS announced that it is accepting applications for its Heh-Won Chang, Ph.D. Fellowship in Green Chemistry. This opportunity provides $5,000 in financial support to full-time graduate students conducting research in green chemistry. This one-time payment may be used for any purpose, including conference travel, professional development, and living expenses while the recipient is in graduate school. This opportunity is open to full-time graduate students across the globe who have at least one full year of study remaining in their graduate programs. Recipients must present their research at the annual ACS GC&E, where the award will be presented formally. Applications are due by December 31, 2021. Additional information on application requirements is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On November 23, 2021, the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) announced that it is accepting applications for the Nina McClelland Memorial Award for postdoctoral chemists engaged in green chemistry research. Annually, two awardees will receive a $2,000 sponsorship to participate in and present their research at the annual ACS Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (GC&E).

The 2022 GC&E will be held in Reston, Virginia, from June 6 to June 8, 2022. Both U.S. and international postdoctoral scholars are eligible to apply for this opportunity. For purposes of this award, ACS GCI characterizes green and sustainable chemistry innovation activities as:

  • Elimination and reduction of toxics and pollution;
     
  • Holistic systems design;
     
  • Maximization of resource efficiency; and
     
  • Utilization of life cycle thinking.

Applications must address at least one of these attributes, and nominees are encouraged to address as many of them as possible. The application deadline is December 31, 2021. Additional information on how to apply is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On October 28, 2021, the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced that several of its scientists discovered in a study that bioplastics can be chemically recycled into nitrogen-rich fertilizers in an environmentally friendly manner. Assistant Professor Daisuke Aoki and Professor Hideyuki Otsuka led the study hoping to address plastic pollution, petrochemical resource depletion, and world hunger. In their novel method, plastics produced from biomass (bioplastics) are chemically recycled back into fertilizers.
 
The study was published in Green Chemistry, a Royal Society of Chemistry journal focused on innovation research on sustainable and eco-friendly technologies.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On October 1, 2021, EPA announced a series of virtual meetings of the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) Chemical Safety for Sustainability and Health and Environmental Risk Assessment (CSS HERA) Subcommittee to review recent progress and activities of the Chemical Safety Analytics (CSA) and Emerging Materials and Technologies (EMT) research areas. Meetings are open to the public, and EPA is accepting comments until November 3, 2021. Interested parties may also request the draft agenda or request to present at any of the meetings by November 3, 2021.

The initial meeting will be held over a two-day period via videoconference on November 4 and 5, 2021, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EDT). Registration is required by November 3, 2021. The following meetings are also scheduled:

  • BOSC Deliberation Videoconference: November 18, 2021, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (EST) – Registration is required by November 17, 2021.
     
  • Final BOSC Deliberation Videoconference: December 10, 2021, from 11: 00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (EST) – Registration is required by December 9, 2021.

Meeting times are subject to change.

Tags: EPA, BOSC, Research

 
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