New regs for Friday: Illegal immigrants on fishing boats, body scanners in prisons

The winter storm may have shut down the federal government, but it didn't stop the Obama administration from issuing another round of rules, in what is a particularly busy day at the Federal Register, where Friday's edition will contain more than 220 new rules, proposed rules, notices and meeting announcements.

Fishing: The U.S. Coast Guard is moving forward with a rule that would make it easier to employ illegal immigrants on commercial fishing vessels. 

The rule, which goes into effect in one month, will allow ship captains to request waivers of citizenship requirements for crew members who would not otherwise be authorized to work in the U.S. These workers would be considered unlicensed seamen.

Currently, captains can request waivers, as long as these unlicensed seamen don't account for more than 25 percent of the ship's crew members, though many captains don't realize this. The new rule, which goes into effect in one month, will waive this 25 percent limit and publicize the issue, so more captains are aware of it.

The problem, under current rules, is that, in some cases, ship captains will either sail short-handed, which can lead to safety concerns, according to the Coast Guard, or they will not report the unlicensed seamen on their ships.

This rule is expected to save money for both ships and the Coast Guard.

Prisons: The Bureau of Prisons is considering a new rule that would allow guards to use body scanners, similar to those used at airports, to search inmates for contraband.

Currently, inmates must consent to the use of medical x-ray devices, which could cause problems for guards who want to use body imaging search devices or metal detectors to see whether inmates are hiding contraband in body cavities that may not otherwise be revealed by a simple pat-down.

In response to this potential loophole in the system, the Prisons Bureau is clarifying that electronic search devices are different than medical x-ray machines and don't require an inmate's consent.

"Inspection of an inmate’s person using electronic devices does not require the inmate to remove clothing," the agency wrote. "The inspection may also include a search of the inmate's clothing and personal effects. Staff may conduct an electronic device search of an inmate on a routine or random basis to control contraband." 

Energy efficiency: The Department of Energy is considering extending energy conservation standards to apply to certain commercial heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, water heating, and refrigeration equipment that had previously been exempt from the rules.

The rules, originally published in March 2011, require manufacturers to submit annual compliance statements and certification reports to the Energy Department. But many manufacturers were exempted from the rules to give them more time to prepare.

The Energy Department is now proposing to end that extension, so they have to comply with the rules, as well.

Hazardous waste: The Environmental Protection Agency is publishing data about hazardous waste management practices in the retail industry. The agency is invited retailers and others in the public to comment about how the environmental and economic impact of these policies and regulations.

Sensitizer: The Consumer Product Safety Commission is revising how it defines "strong sensitizer" under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. The new definition is based on the severity of reaction.