New regs for Tuesday: Property seizures, laundry machines, flights

Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for energy efficient laundry machines, property seizures by government agencies, and hazardous materials that travelers cannot bring on flights. 

Here's what is happening:

Property forfeiture: The Department of Justice is extending a program that allows the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to seize property that is used to produce or distribute drugs.

The Justice Department said ATF seized 339 assets during the first year of the program in 2013, and that those assets had a total value of more than $5 million. Seizing the property of drug dealers can help cut off an entire operation, the agency noted.

The ATF is going after drug dealers as a way to tackle weapons trafficking. The agency said the two offenses are often linked in criminal organizations.

"The Department of Justice believes that forfeiting the assets of criminals is an essential tool in combating criminal activity and provides law enforcement with the capacity to dismantle criminal organizations that would otherwise continue to function after the conviction and incarceration of individual participants," the agency wrote.

The ATF's authority to seize properties for drug-related offenses under this program expired on Feb. 25, but the Justice Department is extending it for another year, effective immediately.

Laundry machines: The Department of Energy is considering new energy efficiency standards for commercial clothes washers, arguing the changes save consumers millions of dollars in energy bills. 

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced the proposed rules Monday that would cover both front- and top-loading laundry machines.

The Energy Department estimates the consumer savings will outweigh the increased costs to manufacturers. The agency predicts it could save consumers more than $900 million over a 30-year period, but would cost manufacturers $6 million to implement.

The Energy Department has scheduled a public meeting on April 21 to discuss the proposal.

Flights: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering a new rule that would change how travelers are notified of the dangerous items that they are not allowed to bring in their baggage. 

The new standards would update hazardous materials regulations by allowing travelers to be notified online and in other ways. 

The FAA published such recommendations last November and is now seeking public comment.

Commodity trading: The Federal Reserve is extending the comment period on a rule that regulates commodity trading by financial holding companies. The rule is designed to ensure that these companies trade in a safe manner, as to not shake the financial system.

The Fed announced Monday it is extending the comment period through April 16.

Medical products: The Food and Drug Administration is seeking public comment about the challenges associated with collecting and analyzing demographic data as it relates to approval of human medical products.

The public hearing is scheduled for April 1.