Proposed Action

DOE proposes to develop and implement EHEC programs to catalyze the deployment of EHECs. A main component of the proposed programs would be to provide financial assistance to funding recipients, such as research institutions, independent contract growers, or commercial entities, to conduct confined field trials to test the effectiveness of EHECs. Confined field trials are experiments to evaluate the performance of a crop under stringent terms and conditions designed to confine the experimental crop. Confined field trials range in size and could include development-scale (up to 5 acres), pilot-scale (up to 250 acres), and demonstration-scale (up to 15,000 acres). Confined field trials are essential to test the viability of EHECs under real field conditions in local environments. Engineered crops within confined field trials are grown only after obtaining regulatory permits that identify procedures to prevent the unintentional spread and establishment of the crop.

Specifically, funding recipients would need to acquire a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) before initiating each confined field trial. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, regulates the planting and food and feed use of transgenic plants into which genetic material has been inserted that imparts pesticidal properties. The Food and Drug Administration, under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, regulates transgenic food and feed crops or products from transgenic crops that may come in contact with food. Analyses from this PEIS would help support these permit applications.

Examples of EHECs that may be used in confined field trials include, but are not limited to, crops being investigated under ARPA-E’s PETRO program, such as engineered varieties of camelina, loblolly pine, tobacco, giant cane, sugarcane, miscanthus, sorghum, and switchgrass.

DOE intends for the geographic scope of the PEIS to include Alabama, Florida (excluding the Everglades/Southern Florida coastal plain ecoregion), Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. These states offer favorable conditions for the cultivation of EHECs (including crops being investigated under the PETRO program), with short, mild winters and growing seasons of at least six months before the first frost. If experience in these states indicates expansion of the EHEC program is warranted, additional states may be assessed in subsequent environmental reviews. DOE is proposing to use the Level II ecoregions defined in “Ecoregions Maps and GIS Resources”. Ecoregions are determined based on the presence or absence of common flora, fauna, and non-living ecosystems characteristics. The graphic below depicts the geographic scope for the EHEC PEIS illustrating the Level II ecoregions.

Geographic Scope illustrating Level II ecoregions