New regs for Wednesday: Distracted flying, residential cooking products

Wednesday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules to prevent pilots from distracted flying, and rules for energy conservation and environmental protection.

Here's what is happening:

Distracted flying: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is moving forward with a plan to block flightcrew members from using their cellphone or laptops while an aircraft is in flight.

The FAA said it is trying to prevent the "loss of situational awareness" by prohibiting personal cellphone use.

The rule comes in response to the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act that Congress passed in 2012, which makes it "unlawful for a flightcrew member of an aircraft used to provide air transportation...to use a personal wireless communications device or laptop computer while at the flightcrew member's duty station on the flight deck of such an aircraft while the aircraft is being operated."

There have been several incidents where pilots got lost because they were distracted with their laptops and cellphones. In one case, the agency noted, two pilots were using their laptops during a flight and ended up traveling 150 miles beyond their destination. In another example, a pilot sent a text message while a flight was being taxied.

"These incidents illustrate the potential for such devices to create a hazardous distraction during critical phases of the flight," the agency wrote. 

The rule carves out an exemption for crew members who are using their cellphones and laptops as part of their jobs or in the case of an emergency.

Residential cooking products: The Energy Department is considering new rules for residential conventional cooking products, as part of a review of its energy conservation standards.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy — a branch of the Energy Department — is seeking public comments as it considers updating existing rules for these cooking products.

The agency wants to know whether new conservation standards would result in a significant amount of energy savings and if it is economically justified.

Space stations: The Federal Communications Commission is moving forward changes to its rules that govern the licensing and operation of space stations and earth stations. The agency says the changes will streamline the its regulations and spur innovation.

Chemical substances: The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with new rules for 35 chemical substances. The rule will require manufacturers to notify the agency at least 90 days before they begin working with these chemicals.

Residues: The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with exemptions for certain residues that can wind up on foods like soybeans, parsley leaves and strawberries. The residues that will receive certain exemptions include thuringiensis, linuron, and thiram.