New regs for Friday: E-cigs in national parks, bats and food stamps

New regs for Friday: E-cigs in national parks, bats and food stamps
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In Friday’s edition of the Federal Register, the National Park Service is proposing to regulate the use of electronic cigarettes in national parks; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a rule to remove one of three nectar-eating bats in the U.S. from the list of endangered and threatened species; and the Department of Agriculture is making changes to its eligibility requirements for food stamps.

Here’s what to look for:

E-cigarettes: The National Park Service wants to include electronic cigarettes in its definition of smoking when regulating where visitors can smoke in national parks. 

The rules were last updated in 1983 to give park superintendents the power to deem a portion of a park, or all or a portion of a building, structure or facility, smoke-free when necessary to protect park resources, reduce the risk of fire or prevent conflicts among visitors.

Because e-cigarette vapor is potentially harmful and there have been reports of e-cigarette batteries exploding and catching fire, NPS said it wants to apply its smoking regulations to electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery devices.

“Acting out of an abundance of caution in light of the scientific findings and uncertainty to date, and in the interest of equity, the purpose of this proposed rule is to afford all NPS employees and park visitors the same protections from exposure to nicotine and other harmful substances that may be found in ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery system) vapor that are currently in place for exposure to tobacco smoke,” NPS said in its rulemaking.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule.

Lesser long-nosed bat: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to remove the lesser long-nosed bat from the federal list of endangered and threatened species.

FWS said it did a thorough review and found the threats to this species have been eliminated or reduced to the point that the subspecies has recovered and no longer meets the definition of endangered or threatened under the federal law.

One of three nectar-feeding bats in the Unites States, the lesser long-nosed bat is a migratory pollinator and seed disperser that provides important ecosystem services in arid forest, desert and grassland systems throughout its range in the U.S. and Mexico, FWS said. 

Though it's been listed as an endangered species since 1988, FWS said measures have been taken in the U.S. and Mexico over the years to protect the bats, which roost in groups ranging from a few hundred to over 100,000 in caves, mines and large crevices. These measures include gating or fencing off roosts, closing roads, implementing management plans and educating the public.

FWS is asking for the public to comment in the next 60 days on its proposal to remove the bat from the list.

Food stamps: The Agriculture Department is changing its requirements to apply or participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formally known as food stamps.

The final rules exclude military combat pay from the income of SNAP households, allows eligible households to deduct the full amount of their dependent care costs and excludes retirement and education savings accounts as a resource when determining a participant’s eligibility. 

The rule also allows states to provide transitional benefits to households leaving state-funded cash assistance programs and to use employment and training funds to provide job retention services.

The rule will take effect in 60 days.