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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On November 1, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced 26 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners, recognizing their achievements in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals. The awardees represent a wide variety of organizations, including small- and medium-sized businesses, women-owned companies, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and trade associations.
 
EPA encouraged applicants for the 2022 awards to show how their work advances environmental justice, bolsters resilience to the impacts of climate change, results in cleaner air or water, or improves drinking water quality. According to EPA, many of the organizations being recognized are working to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combat the climate crisis. For example, several winners offer products with concentrated formulas that reduce water consumption and plastic use. This practice also lowers GHG emissions by reducing the amount of product that must be transported.
 
EPA states that additionally, many awardees increased access to products with safer chemical ingredients in underserved and overburdened communities. For example, one nonprofit winner conducted targeted outreach in both English and Spanish to promote safer cleaning techniques and products, including Safer Choice-certified products, in food trucks. Many of these businesses are owned and operated by immigrant entrepreneurs. Another winner made its Safer Choice-certified product line more accessible to lower income shoppers by offering affordable prices and making these products available at retailers that often serve low-income communities.
 
In early 2023, EPA intends to build on this work by announcing a grant opportunity for projects that can increase supply and demand for safer, environmentally preferable products such as those certified by the Safer Choice program or identified by EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program.
 
The 2022 winners include:

  • American Cleaning Institute, District of Columbia;
  • The Ashkin Group, LLC, Channel Islands Harbor, California;
  • Bona US, Englewood, Colorado;
  • Case Medical, Bloomfield, New Jersey;
  • Church & Dwight Co., Inc., Ewing, New Jersey;
  • Clean Safety & Health in Food Trucks (CleanSHiFT) Team, Seattle, Washington;
  • The Clorox Company, Oakland, California;
  • Colgate-Palmolive, New York, New York;
  • Design for the Environment Logo Redesign Coalition: Environmental Defense Fund, The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Clorox Company, The Procter & Gamble Company, and Reckitt;
  • Dirty Labs Inc., Portland, Oregon;
  • ECOS, Cypress, California;
  • Grove Collaborative, San Francisco, California;
  • The Hazardous Waste Management Program, Seattle, Washington;
  • Holloway House, Inc., Fortville, Indiana;
  • The Home Depot, Atlanta, Georgia;
  • Household & Commercial Products Association, District of Columbia;
  • Jelmar, LLC, Skokie, Illinois;
  • Lemi Shine, Austin, Texas;
  • LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, San Francisco, California;
  • Mother Africa, Kent, Washington;
  • Novozymes North America, Raleigh, North Carolina;
  • The ODP Corporation, Boca Raton, Florida;
  • The Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, Ohio;
  • PurposeBuilt Brands, Gurnee, Illinois;
  • Sensitive Home, Greenbrae, California; and
  • Solutex, Sterling, Virginia.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 18, 2022, that it is accepting nominations for the 2023 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards from companies or institutions that have developed a new green chemistry process or product that helps protect human health and the environment. The awards again include a category to recognize technology that reduces or eliminates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. EPA will hold a webinar on September 28, 2022, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. (EDT) to educate stakeholders on the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards and the nomination process. Registration for the webinar is open. Nominations are due to EPA by December 9, 2022.
 
EPA states that green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation and use of chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and people’s health. According to EPA, its efforts to “speed the adoption of this revolutionary and diverse discipline” have led to significant environmental benefits, innovation, and a strengthened economy. Green chemistry aims to prevent pollution before it is created, making it the preferred approach for providing solutions to some of the most significant environmental challenges.
 
An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute will formally judge the 2023 nominations and make recommendations to EPA for the 2023 winners. EPA anticipates giving awards to outstanding green chemistry technologies in six categories in fall 2023.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On February 24, 2022, EPA announced the selection of 11 organizations to receive a total of approximately $2 million in funding to divert food waste from landfills by expanding anaerobic digester capacity nationwide. Anaerobic digestion (AD) produces biogas that can be captured and used for energy production and digestate (a fertilizer product) by using microorganisms to break down organic materials, such as food scraps and manure, in the absence of oxygen. By reducing the amount of wasted food in landfills and consequently methane emissions, AD may reduce significantly the impacts of climate change. EPA’s food recovery hierarchy includes AD as a strategy that is preferable to landfilling and incineration, because it contributes to building a circular economy. Each of the selected organizations will receive between $150,000 and $200,000 over two years. A list of the selected projects 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 December 28, 2021, EPA announced that it will hold a public virtual meeting to discuss biofuel greenhouse gas (GHG) modeling. EPA is soliciting information on the current scientific understanding of GHG modeling of land-based biofuels used in the transportation sector. According to EPA, the information gathered during this meeting will be used to inform current and future EPA actions, including the method for quantifying GHG emissions under RFS. Of particular interest to EPA, is input on:

  • How to incorporate the best available science into an update of EPA’s biofuels lifecycle analysis (LCA); and
  • The next steps EPA should take in this work area.

Hosted by EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality in consultation with USDA and DOE, the virtual public meeting is scheduled for February 28, 2022, and March 1, 2022, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EST). EPA will also be accepting comments on these topics until April 1, 2022.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson 

On October 1, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of the Draft FY 2022-2026 EPA Strategic Plan86 Fed. Reg. 54448. The draft Strategic Plan communicates EPA’s priorities and provides the roadmap for achieving its mission to protect human health and the environment. The draft Strategic Plan outlines objectives with the following goals:

  • Goal 1: Tackle the Climate Crisis;
  • Goal 2: Take Decisive Action to Advance Environmental Justice and Civil Rights;
  • Goal 3: Enforce Environmental Laws and Ensure Compliance;
  • Goal 4: Ensure Clean and Healthy Air for All Communities;
  • Goal 5: Ensure Clean and Safe Water for All Communities;
  • Goal 6: Safeguard and Revitalize Communities; and
  • Goal 7: Ensure Safety of Chemicals for People and the Environment.

Goal 7 includes two objectives. Objective 7.1, “Ensure Chemical and Pesticide Safety,” is intended to protect the health of families, communities, and ecosystems from the risks posed by chemicals and pesticides. It includes the following long-term goals:

  • By September 30, 2026, complete annually at least eight High-Priority Substance (HPS) Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluations within statutory timelines compared with the fiscal year (FY) 2020 baseline of one;
  • By September 30, 2026, review 90 percent of risk mitigation requirements for TSCA new chemical substances compared to the FY 2021 baseline of none;
  • By September 30, 2026, renew 40 percent of expiring lead-based paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) firm certifications within 30 days compared to the FY 2021 baseline of 36 percent;
  • By September 30, 2026, complete 78 pesticide registration review cases;
  • By September 30, 2026, consider the effects determinations or protections of federally threatened and endangered species for new active ingredients in 90 percent of the risk assessments supporting pesticide registration decisions for new active ingredients compared to the FY 2020 baseline of 50 percent;
  • By September 30, 2026, consider the effects determinations or protections of federally threatened and endangered species in 50 percent of the risk assessments supporting pesticide registration review decisions compared to the FY 2020 baseline of 25 percent; and
  • By September 30, 2026, support Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) pesticide safety training for 20,000 farmworkers annually compared with the FY 2018-2020 annual average baseline of 11,000.

Objective 7.2, “Promote Pollution Prevention,” is intended to encourage the adoption of pollution prevention and other stewardship practices that conserve natural resources, mitigate climate change, and promote environmental sustainability. It includes the following long-term goals:

  • By September 30, 2026, reduce a total of 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent released attributed to EPA pollution prevention grants; and
  • By September 30, 2026, EPA’s Safer Choice program will certify a total of 2,300 products compared to the FY 2021 baseline of 1,950 total certified products.

According to the notice, EPA is seeking comment from individual citizens, states, tribes, local governments, industry, the academic community, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and all other interested parties. Comments are due November 12, 2021. EPA states that it “anticipates the final Strategic Plan will be submitted to Congress in February 2022.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On October 1, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of the Draft FY 2022-2026 EPA Strategic Plan. 86 Fed. Reg. 54448. The draft Strategic Plan communicates EPA’s priorities and provides the roadmap for achieving its mission to protect human health and the environment. The draft Strategic Plan outlines objectives within the following strategic goals:

  • Goal 1: Tackle the Climate Crisis;
  • Goal 2: Take Decisive Action to Advance Environmental Justice and Civil Rights;
  • Goal 3: Enforce Environmental Laws and Ensure Compliance;
  • Goal 4: Ensure Clean and Healthy Air for All Communities;
  • Goal 5: Ensure Clean and Safe Water for All Communities;
  • Goal 6: Safeguard and Revitalize Communities; and
  • Goal 7: Ensure Safety of Chemicals for People and the Environment.

Goal 7 includes two objectives. Objective 7.1, “Ensure Chemical and Pesticide Safety,” is intended to protect the health of families, communities, and ecosystems from the risks posed by chemicals and pesticides. It includes the following long-term goals:

  • By September 30, 2026, complete at least eight High Priority Substance (HPS) Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluations annually within statutory timelines compared with the fiscal year (FY) 2020 baseline of one;
  • By September 30, 2026, review 90 percent of risk mitigation requirements for TSCA new chemical substances compared to the FY 2021 baseline of none;
  • By September 30, 2026, renew 40 percent of expiring lead-based paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) firm certifications within 30 days compared to the FY 2021 baseline of 36 percent;
  • By September 30, 2026, complete 78 pesticide registration review cases;
  • By September 30, 2026, consider the effects determinations or protections of federally threatened and endangered species for new active ingredients in 90 percent of the risk assessments supporting pesticide registration decisions for new active ingredients compared to the FY 2020 baseline of 50 percent;
  • By September 30, 2026, consider the effects determinations or protections of federally threatened and endangered species in 50 percent of the risk assessments supporting pesticide registration review decisions compared to the FY 2020 baseline of 25 percent; and
  • By September 30, 2026, support Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) pesticide safety training for 20,000 farmworkers annually compared with the FY 2018-2020 annual average baseline of 11,000.

Objective 7.2, “Promote Pollution Prevention,” is intended to encourage the adoption of pollution prevention and other stewardship practices that conserve natural resources, mitigate climate change, and promote environmental sustainability. It includes the following long-term goals:

  • By September 30, 2026, reduce a total of 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent released attributed to EPA pollution prevention grants; and
  • By September 30, 2026, EPA’s Safer Choice program will certify a total of 2,300 products compared to the FY 2021 baseline of 1,950 total certified products.

According to the notice, EPA is seeking comment from individual citizens, states, tribes, local governments, industry, the academic community, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and all other interested parties. Comments are due November 12, 2021. EPA states that it “anticipates the final Strategic Plan will be submitted to Congress in February 2022.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On August 26, 2021, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED) announced the launch of the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize. The new prize will provide cash prizes of up to $250,000 each -- totaling $2.5 million -- to groups and organizations in support of entrepreneurship and innovation in communities historically underrepresented and underserved in the energy sector. Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman said that this new prize is part of EERE’s effort to address the urgent need for diversity in the funding applications EERE receives. Ms. Speakes-Backman added, “We know climate change disproportionally affects underserved communities, so it is also critical that we change that -- by partnering with these communities when developing climate solutions together.” This new prize aligns with President Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative that aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments in climate and clean energy to underserved communities.
 
In hopes of attracting and supporting innovators and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize aims to:

  • “Support organizations to create or identify activities that provide incubation, acceleration, and community-based entrepreneurship and innovation services in climate and clean energy technologies.
  • Identify and fund activities that will help traditionally underrepresented groups apply for and receive DOE funding in support of DOE’s Justice40 goals.
  • Build trust and strengthen relationships and partnerships with underrepresented, underserved, and frontline communities or community-serving organizations to understand and lower barriers to entry to DOE funding opportunities.
  • Foster grassroots innovation in policy and process related to just and equitable clean energy deployment.
  • Support colleges, universities, and other educational institutions that serve large populations of students traditionally underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), including Minority Serving Institutions, tribal colleges, community colleges, and predominantly undergraduate institutions.”

The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize will open to submissions later in September 2021, welcoming applications from community-centric organizations and educational institutions with experience engaging with and promoting underrepresented communities. These organizations will support environmental, climate, and energy justice by using their experience and institutional knowledge to serve as a bridge between DOE and innovators.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (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.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory published an article titled “Retrospective Analysis of the U.S. Corn Ethanol Industry for 2005-2019: Implications for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions.” Using a life-cycle analysis (LCA), researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory quantified the life cycle of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of fuels to compare relative GHG impacts among different fuel production pathways. According to the retrospective analysis conducted, since 2000, corn ethanol production in the United States quadrupled due to supportive biofuels policies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Consequently, carbon intensity (CI) over the past 15 years has significantly decreased by 23 percent. Since 2000, the corn ethanol production pathway, including corn farming and biorefineries, has substantially evolved. Researchers state in the article that this shift into more efficient farming and biorefinery practices increases revenue while also potentially reducing the emission burdens of ethanol production. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory researchers conclude that biofuels, including corn ethanol, can and likely will play a key role in decarbonizing the U.S. economy.
 
The article’s findings will also be used by DOE to update key corn ethanol parameters in the Argonne National Laboratory’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) Model 2021, which will be released in October 2021.


 
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