New regs for Thursday: Coal miners, renewable energy, railroad safety

Thursday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for coal miners who suffer from black lung disease, renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf, railroad accident reporting requirements, and airplane takeoff and landing procedures.

Here's what is happening:

Black lung: The Department of Labor is moving forward with new rules for evaluating whether coal miners have black lung disease and whether they should be eligible for government-sponsored medical benefits. 

The Labor Department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) will allow coal miners to submit a new type of digital X-ray -- in addition to the traditional film X-rays -- as part of their claims. The agency said both forms of X-rays will be given "equal footing" in claim considerations. 

"This final rule fills the technological gap with regulatory quality standards for digital (X-rays)," the agency wrote.

However, the Labor Department will not accept X-rays that have been converted from digital to film, or film to digital, because it believes the quality may suffer while the changes are being made.

The Labor Department proposed the rule in June 2013. It will go into effect in 30 days.

Energy: The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is giving renewable energy companies more time to file reports about their plans for development on the Outer Continental Shelf.

These companies will now have one year to file a site assessment plan or general activities plan once they win a bid to develop renewable energy on the Outer Continental Shelf. 

Previously, they have six months to file one of these reports, if they were competing with other companies, and just 60 days if there is no competition for the contract. 

But the BOEM determined this was not enough time for these companies to file a fully-informed report, because many of their renewable energy projects are based on seasonal weather patterns.

The rule, which was proposed in February 2013, goes into effect in 30 days.

Accidents: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is correcting an error in a regulation it published last October as part of the agency's locomotive safety standards.

The regulation requires railroad officials to report immediately report accidents that the train is involved in to the Federal Railroad Administration, so the agency can investigate.

"The report shall state the nature of the accident, number of persons killed or seriously injured, the place at which it occurred, the location at which the locomotive or the affected parts may be inspected by the FRA, and the name, title and phone number of the person making the call," the agency wrote.

Acquisitions: The General Services Administration (GSA) is considering changes to the agency's acquisitions regulations. The new rules would provided more access to the agency's federal supply schedules. 

"The Federal Supply Schedules Program, which is operated by GSA, is designed to provide Federal agencies with a simplified process of acquiring commonly used commercial supplies and services at prices associated with volume buying," the agency wrote. "Ordering activities conduct streamlined competitions among a number of schedule contractors, issue orders directly to the selected contractor, and administer orders."

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

Planes: The Federal Aviation Administration is changing takeoff and landing procedures at dozens of airports around the country, the agency announced Wednesday. 

"These changes are designed to provide safe and efficient use of the navigable airspace and to promote safe flight operations under instrument flight rules at the affected airports," the agency wrote. 

The rule goes into effect immediately.