New regs for Monday: In-flight calls, oil spills, nuclear power plants

 Monday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for in-flight calls, oil spills and nuclear power plants.

Here's what is happening:

In-flight calls: The Department of Transportation is considering adopting stricter measures to ban in-flight cellphone calls.

In what is turning into an interagency battle of the use of cellphones on airplanes, the Transportation Department announced Friday it is seeking public comment on the issue. 

This comes as the Federal Communications Commission is moving to allow the use of cellphones on airplanes. But they have faced resistance from other government agencies.

Three agencies claim jurisdiction over the use of cellphones on airplanes. The Department of Transportation controls whether it would be unfair for consumers to have to listen to other travelers talking on their phones, while the Federal Aviation Administration, a branch of the DOT, is in charge of making sure the use of cellphones on flights does not interfere with an aircraft's navigation or communications systems. The FCC, meanwhile, determines whether the use of cellphones on airplanes would affect cellular networks on the ground.

To avoid potential disruptions, the Transportation Department said it is considering whether to ban in-flight calls or place restrictions on them, such as no calls during night hours.

Nuclear: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Friday released a plan to revise outdated rules and policies. 

The final plan will take a retrospective look at existing rules to determine which ones need to be updated or thrown out, the agency said. This will include incorporating risk assessments into the regulatory decision-making process, addressing the cumulative effects of regulation and explaining the agency's methodology for prioritizing certain rules. The agency will also review rules that come in response to the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

The NRC, which originally issued the plan in November 2011, says the plan will give the public a look at how the agency determines whether regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded or repealed.

The move comes as part of an initiative by the Obama administration to regularly review outdated and unnecessary regulations.

Veterans: The Department of Labor is considering changes to "obsolete" Vietnam-era reporting requirements for federal contractors who employ veterans.

The Veterans' Employment and Training Service is proposing revising the rule from 1974 to make it easier for federal contractors to comply with the reporting requirements. 

Oil spills: The Department of the Interior is considering a rule that would raise the fines for companies that are responsible for oil spills to "preserve the deterrent effect and 'polluter pays' principle."

Oil companies' liability for the damage caused by spills is limited to $75 million, under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. But The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), a division of the Interior Department, wants to nearly double the liability limit to more than $133 million, in order to keep pace with inflation.

"The Department of the Interior has determined that this change would further protect the environment by ensuring that any party that causes an oil spill would pay an increased amount of any potential damages," the agency wrote.

Endangered species: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is adding the Georgetown salamander and the Salado salamander to the threatened species list. The rule is designed to protect the two types of the salamanders and their habitats.