New regs for Wednesday: Text-to-911 emergency services, pay for government scientists

Wednesday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for text-to-911 emergency services, critical habitats for jaguars, and pay for government scientists. 

Here's what is happening:

911: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering a new rule that would make text-to-911 emergency services available by the end of the year.

In an effort to develop what it calls "Next Generation capabilities," the FCC is looking into a new system that would allow people to send text messages to 911 operators -- as opposed to phone calls -- to alert them of emergency situations.

The FCC has previously floated the idea around, but now it is looking to speed up the timeline to make these emergency services available to the public. The agency is seeking public comment to determine whether cellphone carriers have the technical ability to offer text-to-911 services by the end of the year.

"Americans are increasingly relying on text as an alternative to voice for every day communications," the agency wrote.

Scientists salary: The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is moving forward with pay changes for government scientists. The new rules would govern pay increases and reductions for senior-level scientists.

The agency plans to implement new performance-based pay standards in 30 days. 

"Consistent with this statutory emphasis on performance-based pay, these regulations provide for agencies to set and adjust pay for ... employees based on individual performance, contribution to the agency's performance, or both, as determined under a rigorous performance appraisal system," the agency wrote.

Jaguar: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is moving to protect jaguars and prevent them from becoming extinct.

Already listed as an endangered species, the agency announced Tuesday it is designating a critical habitat for jaguars that will provide further protections for the species.

The FWS, a branch of the Interior Department, designated 764,207 acres in Arizona and New Mexico as the critical habitat. 

Patent: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is simplifying the patent application process for inventors. 

The agency has been required to dismiss certain applications that were incomplete in order to speed up its ability to process applications. The applications are supposed to include an inventor's oath or declaration, all required fees and no more than four independent claims.

But now the agency will give inventors more time to correct incomplete applications. 

"The Office has determined that the time periods for meeting those requirements when filing a request for Track I prioritized examination could be expanded while maintaining the Office’s ability to timely examine the patent application,” the agency wrote. 

Nuclear: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is moving forward with a rule that would update standards for spent fuel storage. 

The NRC rule would amend spent fuel storage regulations by making changes to the Holtec International HI-STORM 100 Cask, which is included in the "List of Approved Spent Fuel Storage Casks."

The rule, which was published on Dec. 6 and corrected a few weeks later, will go into effect on March 11, the agency announced Tuesday.