EPA issues revised rule on pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday issued final revisions to a 2010 air-quality rule, saying the changes would reduce costs associated with the regulations while protecting public health. 

The revisions stem from settlement agreements reached between the agency and industry groups that mounted a legal challenge following release of the original rule. 

The rule imposes air pollution standards for engines used in agriculture, at power plants and other industrial facilities.

As compared with the original regulations, the revisions would save an estimated $287 million in capital costs and an additional $139 million annually, the agency said. 

At the same time, the rule will improve air quality by reducing pollutants known to cause cancer and other serious health effects. The EPA estimates the regulations would cut 2,800 tons per year of hazardous pollutants, 36,000 tons of carbon monoxide, 9,600 tons of nitrogen oxides and 36,000 tons of volatile organic compounds.

ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. An agency within the Department of Health and Human Services has requested an investigation into state standards for Head Start to learn more about how local schools “define, measure and communicate school readiness goals.” 

The Administration for Children and Families has contracted with the Urban Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank, to conduct the research. Information will be collected via telephone interviews and in-person visits with staff, parents and teachers.

The agency is requesting public comment on whether the information collection is necessary and any suggestions on how to improve the process. Comments are due by March 16.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CORRECTIONS. The National Institute of Corrections is developing a paper that would detail recommendations for “safe and respectful” treatment of gay, lesbian and transgender inmates.

The institute said it is accepting applications from organizations, groups and individuals who want to enter into a “cooperative agreement” to work on the paper.

“While gender nonconforming offenders have always been present within correctional facilities and on caseloads, the current environment suggests the need for helping correctional agencies identify responsible and safe practices that are respectful of differences and that have the potential to reduce agencies’ susceptibility to liability and litigation,” the institute said in a notice to be published in Wednesday’s Federal Register.

“Non-heterosexual adult offenders report higher rates of sexual victimization while in custody,” the National Institute of Corrections’ post continues, adding that a 2009 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that “transgender offenders experienced sexual victimization at a rate 20 times higher than a random sampling of offenders in the same facility.”

FARM SERVICE AGENCY. The Department of Agriculture agency is changing its application process and eligibility standards for microloans to small farms, according to a notice for Wednesday’s Federal Register.

Officials hope to make the small loan program “more attractive” by reducing the application requirements, processing applications faster and making eligibility requirements more flexible. This final rule will be effective on Jan. 17.

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY. The Navy will be conducting an environmental impact report of a military training ground in the Gulf of Alaska.

The comments collected about the training ground — due March 18 — “will be used to identify community concerns and local issues that will be addressed.” The Navy said it would like to hear from federal agencies, Alaska Native Tribes, state agencies, local agencies and the public, according to a notice in Tuesday’s Federal Register. 

The impact report will focus mostly on “marine mammals and threatened and endangered species,” and will recommend the Navy will continue to be allowed to obtain permits for “incidental takes” of marine mammals and threatened or endangered wildlife.