New regs for Friday: Rail safety, synthetic pot

Friday's edition of the Federal Register contains 165 new agency submissions, including a handful of rules and proposed rules governing railroad worker safety and new strands of marijuana, notices and meetings.

Here's what's happening:

Railroads: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is modifying a final rule on railroad worker safety that could lead to a "very small increase in risk" and a "minor reduction in safety" for on-track roadway workers.

The rule expands the definition for on-track work and will now consider welding and the use of handheld power tools as a "minor correction." It will also increase the maximum speed for passenger trains to 40 miles an hour, when roadway workers are on adjacent tracks.

However, the FRA denied a request that would allow roadway workers to resume working on an adjacent track after the leading-end of a train that is traveling faster than 40 miles an hour has passed. Instead, roadway workers will be required to wait until until the entire train has passed the work zone.

The Federal Railroad Administration has delayed the rule twice since 2011. It will go into effect on July 1, 2014.

Medical devices: The Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule that will require companies that are seeking premarket approval of medical devices to submit information about the pediatric subpopulations that suffer from a disease or condition that the device is trying to treat, diagnose or cure. The rule goes into effect in three months.

Financial services: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a final rule to update the responsibilities of the agency's general counsel, as it continues to implement rules responding to the Dodd-Frank financial reform laws.

This expands the role of the SEC's top lawyer, currently Anne K. Small, who will not be responsible for providing advice to other SEC attorneys about professional responsibility and investigating professional misconduct allegations by SEC staff.

Health: The Department of Health and Human Services is considering updating the National Vaccine Injury Compensation program, which is designed for people who have been injured by vaccines, to include intussusception as an injury that is associated with rotavirus vaccines. The agency scheduled a hearing for Jan. 13 to propose to amend the Vaccine Injury Table.

Marijuana: The Drug Enforcement Administration has added four synthetic cannabinoids to the list of marijuana drugs that are outlawed. Anyone who distributes, possesses, imports or exports these drugs will now be subject to administrative, civil and criminal sanctions. The rule goes into effect immediately.