New regs for Tuesday: Energy efficiency, military visas, endangered species

Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for commercial packaged boilers, composite wood products, military visas and endangered species.

Here's what is happening:

Boilers: The Department of Energy is reconsidering a rule that would establish new energy efficiency standards for commercial packaged boilers. Packaged boilers are versatile appliances that can be used in a building as water boilers to generate heat or as steam boilers to generate power.

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The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy originally issued a request for information on Feb. 20 in the Register, but the comment period closed on March 24. Due to a problem with the email address the agency used to receive comments, it is reopening the comment period through April 16 to give the public more time to consider such a rule.

The Energy Department already has standards in place to measure the efficiency of steam and hot water boilers while they are operating at full capacity, but they don't give an accurate reading for boilers that are operating at partial capacity, which is becoming more common in the commercial packaged boiler industry, the agency wrote.

So the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Energy Department is looking at how to best measure the efficiency of these boilers when they are operating at partial capacity. The agency wants to know what water temperatures and levels of steam pressure to recommend, as well as how many hours the burners can be expected to function.

"The current test procedure only measures the steady-state efficiency at maximum firing rate," the agency wrote. "It does not account for differences in efficiency when the boiler is operated at lower firing rates."

Wood products: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reconsidering a rule that would establish new emissions standards for composite wood products like plywood.

The EPA proposed the rule in June 2013, but is now reopening the comment period for an additional 30 days to hear from the public. The agency has also scheduled a public hearing for April 28.

The EPA is seeking public comment on how it should regulate formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, and in particular, laminated products. It is reopening the comment period, because it received a late comment from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) it wants to consider.

Some commenters have suggested that laminated products should be exempted from the emissions standards for composite wood, while CARB said they should not be required to conduct emissions testing.

Military visas: The State Department is considering a rule that to remove visa and passport requirements for certain members of foreign militaries that are visiting the United States.

The State Department announced Monday it is getting rid of a list of countries whose military officers are not eligible for visa and passport waivers upon entering the U.S.

"Such a list is considered unnecessary and requires regular and resource-intensive review," the agency wrote. 

But the change does not mean that the State Department must allow all foreign military officers to enter the country without a visa. Instead, the State Department, along with the Department of Homeland Security, has the option to do so, under this rule.

The visits still must be arranged through the Defense Department, which would then seek approval from the State Department and Homeland Security.

"The Department of State is of the opinion that waiver of visa and passport requirements for foreign armed forces and coast guards is a foreign affairs function of the United States government," it wrote.

The rule goes into effect immediately.

Bird hunting: The Interior Department is moving forward with regulations for migratory bird hunting in Alaska.

The Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that the regulations will allow local hunters to continue customary and traditional hunting for migratory birds in Alaska, but it establishes when and where they can hunt.

Endangered species: The Interior Department is reconsidering rules that would list two animals as endangered or threatened and establish critical habitats for them.

The Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday a rule that would classify the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse as endangered and designate a critical habitat for it.

The rule was originally announced last year, but the agency is now reopening the comment period for an additional 30 days so the public will have more time to comment.

The agency is also releasing a draft economic analysis and a draft environmental assessment, to help determine what the impact of the rule might be.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is also considering listing the bi-state distinct population segment of the greater sage-grouse as a threatened species. The agency is reopening on the comment period for 60 days on the rule that was proposed last year.