FAQs: Regulation & Policy

What is the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS)?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the RFS program under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  It was designed to encourage the development and commercialization of biofuels in the U.S. by requiring the use or purchase of a minimum volume of renewable fuels.  The RFS was expanded under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.  For additional information on the RFS, visit http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/index.htm

What is a Renewable Identification Number (RIN)?

A RIN is a unique 38-character numeric code that corresponds to a volume of renewable fuel produced or imported into the U.S. RINs are generated by renewable fuel producers and importers and used by obligated parties to fulfill their renewable volume obligation (RVO) under the RFS. 

Does the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) apply to renewable chemicals?

Yes, renewable chemicals are chemical substances and, as such, are subject to TSCA.  TSCA authorizes EPA to regulate chemical substances, defined broadly to include "any organic or inorganic substance of a particular molecular identity."  Renewable chemicals include substances of a particular molecular identity; that these substances may be derived from renewable feedstocks does not preclude application of regulation under TSCA.  All renewable chemicals under TSCA’s jurisdiction and not exempt are required either to be listed on the TSCA Inventory or be submitted for review by EPA as a new chemical. 

Are renewable chemicals considered "new chemicals" under TSCA?

Many renewable chemicals can be considered "new chemicals" under TSCA.  TSCA Section 8(b)(1) directs EPA to compile and keep current a list, commonly referred to as the TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory, of each chemical substance that is domestically manufactured or imported into the U.S.  The TSCA Inventory was initially created in the late 1970s, during a time when commercial chemistry was largely petroleum-based.  While renewable chemicals were present on the original TSCA Inventory, their number and variety were limited in comparison to petroleum-based substances.  As such, many of the renewable chemicals entering the market will be considered "new chemicals" subject to TSCA Section 5 notification. 

What is a Premanufacture Notice (PMN) and how does it apply to renewable chemical substances?

Under TSCA Section 5, anyone planning to manufacture or import a new chemical (see above) for non-exempt commercial purposes must provide EPA with a notice before initiating the activity.  The PMN must be submitted at least 90 days prior to the manufacture or import of the chemical.

A renewable chemical under TSCA's jurisdiction that is not listed on the TSCA Inventory and not exempt must be submitted for review by EPA as a "new chemical" (see above).  The PMN requirement may be avoided if Inventory listing for the chemical can be established.  The process by which a renewable chemical that is structurally similar to an already existing, Inventory-listed petroleum counterpart is considered a "new chemical" and may be determined based on naming rules. 

How does EPA apply naming rules and conventions to biobased chemicals?

The Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Chemical Abstract (CA) Index Names and Registry Numbers (CASRN) is used under TSCA and is widely accepted around the world as a consistent and valid method of identifying chemicals.  EPA and the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA, now the American Cleaning Institute) jointly developed a system for naming chemical substances derived from natural fats and oils and their synthetic substitutes.  This system, referred to as the SDA Nomenclature system, may be of special relevance to renewable chemical substances derived from natural fats and oils.

EPA applies CAS nomenclature in naming TSCA Inventory chemicals, although EPA may also follow a number of naming conventions that are or can be distinct from a strict CAS approach.  These conventions may be based on the way EPA approached the naming of a particular chemical or are derivative of approaches outlined in EPA documents that provide guidance in the naming and identification of TSCA-regulated chemicals. 

What is the Farm Bill?

Typically, every five years Congress passes a comprehensive legislation package commonly known as the "Farm Bill."  It sets the U.S. national policy for agriculture and food.  The most recent Farm Bill, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246 (the 2008 Farm Bill) expired on September 30, 2012.  Certain provisions of the Act were extended through September 30, 2013, with the signing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.  Importantly, the energy title of the 2008 Farm Bill was not extended.  Farm Bill advocates are working hard this year to pass a new five-year Farm Bill that includes a strong energy title that would, among other things, support the continued development and production of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products. 

What is the BioPreferred® Program?

Created by the 2002 Farm Bill, the Farm, Security and Rural Energy Act of 2002, the BioPreferred®Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), serves to increase the purchase of biobased products by the federal government by awarding federal procurement preference status to qualifying products.  The program was expanded significantly in the 2008 Farm Bill. 

Was the BioPreferred® Program terminated?

No.  The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 did not include funding for the program under provisions extending parts of the 2008 Farm Bill.  As a result, USDA has suspended the processing of applications for voluntary certification of biobased products.  USDA expects to continue limited activities related to the federal procurement preference program as staff resources allow.  All existing biobased product label certifications will remain valid.  For information on the current status of the BioPreferred®Program, and answers to frequently asked questions on it, please visit http://www.biopreferred.gov/

What is the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP)?

BCAP was established by the 2008 Farm Bill as a new Title IX energy program to support and promote feedstocks for the production of biofuels.  The Program provides matching payments to qualified land owners and operators for the delivery of eligible material sold to qualified biomass conversion facilities.  It also provides annual payments to certain producers entering into contracts with the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to produce biomass crops on contract acres.  Additional information on BCAP is available online.

What is the National Bioeconomy Blueprint?

The National Bioeconomy Blueprint is the Obama Administration's plan that "outlines the steps that agencies will take to drive the bioeconomy -- economic activity powered by research and innovation in the biosciences -- and details ongoing efforts across the Federal government to realize this goal."  The Blueprint specifically outlines strategic objectives for a bioeconomy with the potential to generate economic growth and address societal needs.  The Blueprint is available online.  

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