New regs for Thursday: Energy conservation standards

A slew of new rules are set to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday. Here are the highlights:

Energy and Environment:
The Department of Energy is adopting more stringent energy conservation standards for electric power distribution transformers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withdrawing a February rule that excluded a compound from the definition of volatile organic compounds.

The EPA is also proposing to require that manufacturers, importers and processors of eight chemical substances notify the agency before the chemical is used for a new activity.

The Farm Credit Administration is adopting a regulation to strengthen the system's banks' liquidity.


News bites: FAA orders no-fly zone over Boston in wake of explosions

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has until further notice blocked flights under 3,000 feet within a 2.3-mile radius centered on the location of Monday’s explosions, The Associated Press reports.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) plans to issue a cease-and-desist order JPMorgan Chase & Co. for failing to report suspicious activity during the Bernie Madoff affair, according to an exclusive report from Reuters. The order would require JPMorgan to put an end to failures in its anti-money laundering practices.

The Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) are pushing back their deadline for large banks to submit their “living wills” to the financial regulators, The Wall Street Journal reports. (subscription required)


Treasury loosens sanctions on Sudan

The Obama administration is relaxing certain U.S. sanctions on the war-torn country of Sudan, the Treasury Department announced on Monday.

The new regulations provide exemptions for academic travel or non-profit work and noncommercial research in the country. It represents a shift in policy since President Clinton first installed sanctions on Sudan in 1997. Every president thereafter has renewed or strengthened them, including President Obama.


High-speed trading exec in mix for SEC job

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering an executive at a high-speed trading firm for a job overseeing the industry.

Chris Concannon worked in the SEC's Trading and Markets Division two decades ago, and recently met with new SEC Commissioner Mary Jo White to discuss running that division, Bloomberg reports.


SEC names new economic analysis coordinator

A Securities and Exchange (SEC) veteran has earned a senior position in the regulator’s Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation.

On Thursday, the independent agency named Jennifer Marietta-Westberg the deputy director of the division, which was created in 2009, in the wake of the financial crisis.


US patent office to comply with treaty by cutting red tape

The federal patent office is moving to streamline its application system and cut red tape to comply with an international treaty.

On Thursday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will announce plans to implement the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012, which sailed through Congress in December. Included in that bill was the Patent Law Treaty, which 32 countries have agreed to implement.

The patent office's announcement says the the treaty "harmonizes and streamlines formal procedures pertaining to the filing and processing of patent applications."

The agency is not yet proposing a final rule, but hopes the process will put the United States in full compliance with the treaty, according to a spokesman.


DOJ seeks $382M for gun-control initiatives

President Obama’s budget plan released Wednesday seeks more than $382 million for the Justice Department’s efforts to prevent gun violence.

The president signed 23 Executive Orders at the beginning of the year tasking various federal agencies to carry out a wide-ranging effort to research causes of violence and strengthen law enforcement capabilities in the wake of a deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The $382 million would include $173.1 million to “invest in federal programs” and $222 million in new grant programs, including a $55 million grant to improve the submission of state criminal and mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).


FDA proposes increased fees to finance food safety

To pay for food safety measures in its $4.7 billion budget, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing new fees to make up the gap.

The budget request released by the agency on Wednesday called for industry fees to make up 94 percent of the budget's nearly $500 million increase from the previous year, and nearly half the agency's budget in 2014.