New regs for Monday: Bridge inspections, substance abuse, uranium development

Monday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for bridge inspections, the privacy of alcohol and drug abuse patients, uranium development, and truck drivers.

Here's what is happening:

Uranium: The Department of Energy is moving forward with a program to develop uranium in Colorado mines.

The Energy Department's Office of Legacy Management announced Friday it will continue managing the Uranium Leasing Program after it conducted an environmental impact statement.

The Energy Department currently leases about 25,000 acres of land in Colorado for uranium development.

Pollution: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is adding seven sites to a list of national oil and hazardous substances facilities that may pose environmental and health risks, the agency announced Friday.

By adding these seven sites to the National Priorities List, it allows the EPA to keep a closer eye on them and investigate the risks they pose. The additions include two facilities in Nebraska, one facility in New York, one in New Jersey, one in Maine, one in Tennessee, and one in Arkansas.

"These further investigations will allow the EPA to assess the nature and extent of public health and environmental risks associated with the site and to determine what ... remedial actions, if any, may be appropriate," the agency wrote.

The rule goes into effect in 30 days.

Confidentiality: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering new privacy rules for patients seeking alcohol and drug abuse treatment.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of HHS, announced Friday a public hearing on June 11 to discuss the potential changes to the existing rules.

The new rules would allow doctors and health organizations to share treatment records with each other in an effort to coordinate patient care. The existing rules haven't been updated since 1987.

"Over the last 25 years, significant changes have occurred within the U.S. health care system that were not envisioned by these regulations, including new models of integrated care that are built on a foundation of information sharing to support coordination of patient care, the development of an electronic infrastructure for managing and exchanging patient data, the development of prescription drug monitoring programs and a new focus on performance measurement within the health care system," the agency wrote. "When the regulations were written, substance abuse treatment was primarily conducted by specialty treatment providers, and as a result, the impact on coordination of care was not raised as a core issue."

But HHS said the new rules would still protect the privacy of substance abuse patients.

"There continues to be a need for confidentiality protections that encourage patients to seek treatment without fear of compromising their privacy. (The agency) strives to facilitate information exchange, while respecting the legitimate privacy concerns of patients due to the potential for discrimination and legal consequences," the agency wrote.

Recording: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is loosening the restrictions on truck drivers, the agency announced Friday.

The FMCSA requires truck drivers to electronically record their driving hours and provide them to inspection officers upon request.

But some inspection officers have been demanding printouts of the records, which not all electronic recording devices are capable of doing. So the FMCSA issued guidance relaxing the rules to clarify that truck drivers do not have to print out this information, as long as the inspection officers can see it on the recording device.

The guidance goes into effect immediately.

Bridge: The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) is moving forward with new bridge inspection standards to ensure the safety of drivers.

The FHA issued guidance Friday that clarifies how states can comply with the National Bridge Inspection Standards and the penalties for states that do not comply.

The agency originally proposed the guidance in June 2013.