New regs for Tuesday: Nuclear exports, railroad accidents, endangered species

Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for the gainful employment of college graduates, nuclear materials exports, and railroad accidents.

Here's what is happening:

Gainful employment: The Obama administration is moving forward with a rule that would force private colleges and universities to better prepare students for jobs after they graduate.

The Education Department, which announced the rule earlier this month, will publish the new gainful employment regulations in Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register, moving the process forward.

The rules would require private colleges to better prepare students for their careers by comparing their student loan payments with how much money they make once they graduate. Colleges that fail the test would love federal student aid money.

The Obama administration argues this will pressure private colleges to provide better educations, or lower their prices. But critics warn it would give these colleges an incentive to reject lower income students, and particularly minorities, who apply to go to school.

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed rule.

Nuclear exports: The Obama administration is delaying a rule that would make changes to the policies governing the export of nuclear materials to other countries.

The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration proposed updating the Assistance to Foreign Atomic Energy Activities standards last August, but this is the second time the agency has delayed the rule. The agency announced Monday it is reopening the comment period through April 2 to allow more interested parties to comment on the rule.

The Obama administration said the rules need to be updated to keep up with current global trade practices. The federal government has not updated these rules since 1986.

The rule identifies countries to which nuclear materials exports would generally be authorized and those in which it wouldn't except under special circumstances.

The rules set in place controls to facilitate "peaceful nuclear trade," the agency wrote. 

"It enables peaceful nuclear trade by helping to assure that nuclear technologies exported from the United States will not be used for non-peaceful purposes," it said.

Railroad: The Federal Railroad Administration is moving forward with a rule that will require railroad companies to provide support to certain employees who respond to accidents.

The new rules would require railroad companies to develop so-called "stress plans" for employees who are affected by critical incidents, such as accidents. Those who are injured or contract post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would receive help under these plans.

The rules would apply to employees who were affected by responding to an accident that results in a death, loss of a limb, or other serious bodily injury. It would allow these employees to take time off work and give them a ride home on the train, as well as offer counseling and other support services. 

The agency proposed the rule last June. They go into effect in three months. Many railroad companies already have such stress plans, even though this is the first time the agency would regulate them, in an effort to streamline the plans.

Endangered species: The Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the status of 33 endangered species to determine whether they would be removed from the protected list.

The agency conducts this type of review every five years to make sure the species still belong on the list. It will review the most recent scientific and commercial data in making its decision.

"We conduct these reviews to ensure that the classification of species as threatened or endangered on the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants is accurate," the agency wrote.

Acquisitions: Three government agencies are looking to remove obsolete regulations from their books. The Department of Defense, General Services Administration, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced the joint proposed rulemaking Monday.

It would remove federal acquisition regulations that were established in 2000, but are no longer relevant.

"The year 2000 coverage is no longer needed because all of the issues addressing the transition to year 2000 compliance language have been resolved," the agency wrote.