U.S. Senators Vote Against Deputy Secretary Of Energy Nominee
On August 4, 2020, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) voted against Mark Menezes, who is nominated to become Deputy Secretary of Energy. In a statement, both Senators said that “[g]iven the uncertainty with the ‘gap year’ small refinery waivers, the wasted time and resources to score the waivers again, the lack of transparency in the entire process, and most importantly, the toll this has taken on Iowa’s farmers and biofuel producers, we could not in good faith support Mr. Menezes at this time.” The two Senators are pushing the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for increased transparency and certainty for Iowa’s farmers and producers, asking for information on DOE’s scoring of small refinery waiver petitions. They are also requesting information on when the score recommendation was transmitted back to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the statement, concerns continue to arise as DOE reviews petitions that have already been reviewed, wasting valuable time and resources to score the petitions again. A letter by the two formerly mentioned Senators has been submitted to Mr. Menezes further expressing their constituents’ concerns. The full text of the letter can be accessed here.
U.S. Senate Passes The Sustainable Chemistry Research And Development Act
On July 23, 2020, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed by the U.S. Senate; it includes the bipartisan Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019, led by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Introduced to the Senate in December 2019, the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019 establishes an interagency working group (IWG) led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate federal programs and activities in support of sustainable chemistry. The IWG will develop a roadmap for sustainable chemistry with a framework of attributes characterizing sustainable chemistry, assess the state of sustainable chemistry in the United States, and identify methods by which federal agencies can incentivize sustainable chemistry activities, challenges to sustainable chemistry progress, and opportunities for expanding federal sustainable chemistry efforts. Senator Coons celebrated the victory by stating that this “is an exciting opportunity to maintain our scientific leadership and ensure the sustainability of our chemical enterprise for years to come.”
DOE Announces $64 Million In Funding For H2@Scale Projects
On July 20, 2020, DOE announced that approximately $64 Million in funding for 18 projects to advance the H2@Scale vision. H2@Scale is a concept that explores the potential for wide-scale hydrogen production and utilization in the United States to enable resiliency of the power generation and transmission sectors while aligning diverse domestic industries, competitiveness, and job creation. Funded through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO), the 18 selected projects will advance hydrogen storage and infrastructure technologies.
FDA DHHS Announces 2021 Biosimilar User Fee Rates
On August 4, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced the rates for biosimilar user fees for fiscal year (FY) 2021. The fees assessed are used by FDA for certain activities in connection with biosimilar biological product development, review of applications for approval of biosimilar biological products, and approval of product applications. The established fees will apply from October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021.
DOE Announces Funding For Bioenergy R&D
On July 31, 2020, DOE announced more than $97 million in funding for 33 projects to support research and development (R&D) of high-impact technology to accelerate the U.S. bioeconomy. The aim is for the selected projects to improve the performance and lower the cost and risk of technologies that can be used to produce biopower, biofuels, and bioproducts from biomass and waste resources. Selected projects will address the following R&D areas:
- Scale-up of bench applications to reduce scale-up risks for biofuel and bioproduct processes;
- Waste-to-energy strategies, including strategies for municipal solid waste; wet wastes, like food and manures; and municipal wastewater treatment;
- Cost reduction of algal biofuels by improving carbon efficiency and by employing direct air capture technologies;
- Quantification of the economic and environmental benefits associated with growing energy crops, focusing on restoring water quality and soil health;
- Development and testing of low-emission, high-efficiency residential wood heaters;
- Innovative technologies to manage major forms of urban and suburban waste, with a focus on using plastic waste to make recycled products and using wastes to produce low-cost biopower; and
- Scalable carbon dioxide electrocatalysis technologies.
USDA Requests Comments On Update To Bioengineered Foods List
On July 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced its solicitation for comments and feedback on recommendations to update the List of Bioengineered Foods as it pertains to the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. Comments are due by August 24, 2020.
DOE Selects R&D Projects In The Biomanufacturing Sector
On July 10, 2020, DOE EERE announced that it has selected eight projects totaling more than $5 million to conduct R&D needed to accelerate the U.S. biomanufacturing sector. These projects are a part of the Agile BioFoundry (ABF) consortium and will leverage National Laboratory capabilities to address challenges in biomanufacturing. Each of these ABF selected projects has been invited to collaborate with National Laboratory research facilities to conduct their proposed research. The seed awards provide up to $500,000 in DOE funds to the laboratories for up to two years. Full awards, however, will receive up to $2 million for up to three years. The aim is for the projects to develop novel microbial hosts and bioproducts, use artificial intelligence and machine learning in synthetic biology, and address the problem of production heterogeneity in industrial microbiology. Each awardee has committed to a minimum of 20 percent cost-share contribution.
DOE SBIR/STTR Programs Office Announces FOA Topics For FY 2021
On July 13, 2020, DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs Office (SBIR/STTR Programs Office) issued topics for its FY 2021 SBIR/STTS Phase I Release 1 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). The topics are available online. DOE participating program offices include the Office of Science’s (SC) Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR), Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), and Office of Nuclear Physics (NP). DOE SBIR/STTR will hold a webinar on August 14, 2020, to discuss the FOA and application process, as well as important changes to the SBIR and STTR programs for 2021. Important upcoming dates include:
- August 31, 2020 – Letter of Intent (LOI) Due;
- September 21, 2020 – Non-responsive LOI Feedback Provided;
- October 13, 2020 – Application Due;
- January 4, 2021 – Award Notification; and
- February 16, 2021 – Start of Grant Budget Period.
The 2021 important dates are subject to change.
EPA OIG Finds Safer Choice Program Would Benefit From Formal Goals And Additional Oversight
On June 30, 2020, EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on its audit to determine whether the Safer Choice program effectively meets its goals and whether the program achieves quality standards through its product qualification, renewal, and required audit processes. OIG states that EPA’s Safer Choice program does not have formal goals included in the FY 2018-2022 EPA Strategic Plan, and the program has not reported results for FYs 2018-2019. The program does have internal, non-outcome-oriented goals, however, which it is generally achieving. The Safer Choice program’s goal is to add 200 Safer Choice products to the program and 25 chemicals to the Safer Chemical Ingredients List each year. According to OIG, in FY 2019, EPA added 265 products and 24 chemicals. OIG states that by not including formal goals for the Safer Choice program in EPA reports while continuing to receive Congressional funding and support, EPA limits not only accountability to Congress and the public, but also the extent that the program can use performance management information to make policy, budget, and management decisions. OIG notes that the Safer Choice program has general controls in place for the required Safer Choice audit process, and EPA reviews audit summaries and corrective actions provided by third-party profilers (TPP). EPA does not routinely review all supporting documentation, however, relying on TPPs to review and retain these documents. Additionally, the Safer Choice program does not have procedures in place to conduct any formal performance reviews of TPPs or oversight reviews of TPP partner audits. According to OIG, without periodic audit oversight, including full reviews of supporting documents and formal performance reviews of TPPs, EPA risks approving products that do not comply with the Safer Choice Standard. OIG recommends that the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention develop and publish adequate Safer Choice program goals and performance measures, establish and implement procedures for formal audit oversight of TPPs, amend its memorandums of understanding with TPPs to require performance reviews conducted by EPA, and collect and document TPP audit supporting information.
DOE Announces Funding For Small Business R&D
On July 14, 2020, DOE EERE announced that it will fund approximately $53 million to 49 new SBIR and STTR R&D projects. The selected projects will receive Phase II Release 2 grants for principal R&D efforts based on the technical feasibility demonstrated in Phase I projects. Phase II awards range up to $1,500,000 for two years. Further information about the awardees can be found here.
ACS Opens Call For Nominations For SC&E Lectureship Awards
The American Chemical Society (ACS) has announced its 2021 call for nominations for the ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering (SC&E) Lectureship Awards. The awards will recognize the contributions of early career investigators from around the world who are doing exceptional research impacting sustainability, green chemistry, or green engineering. One award recipient will be chosen from three regions: the Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa, and Asia/Pacific. Awardees will not only receive an award plaque but also an honorarium of $1,000 and travel and accommodation funding of up to $1,500 to attend and present at the 2021 Green Chemistry and Engineering (GC&E) Conference in Reston, VA, from June 14 through 16, 2021. Eligible nominees include:
- Faculty members within ten years or less of their initial academic appointment;
- Industrial and other non-academic scientists within ten years or less from their last professional training (terminal degree or postdoc); and
- Individuals who have taken formal family leave which affects their eligibility under the ten-year timeline described above.
Self-nominations are allowed. The deadline for nominations is August 31, 2020. Selected winners will be announced in the fall of 2020.
ACS Announces Call For Symposia For Its 25th Annual GC&E
ACS has also recently announced a call for symposia topics for its 25th GC&E conference mentioned in the article above. The theme of the conference is “Sustainable Production to Advance the Circular Economy,” which directly links to the United Nations (U.N.) Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. The proposal submission deadline is October 9, 2020, and notifications of acceptance will be announced by November 20, 2020.