New regs for Tuesday: Food packaging, hazardous materials, energy efficiency

Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for food packaging, transporting hazardous materials and energy efficiency. Here's what is happening.

Food packages: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is moving forward with a special supplemental nutritional program for women, infants and children.

The final rule from the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) revises certain food package standards for women, infants and children (WIC) who participate in the program.

The new standards align the food packages more closely with the latest nutrition science and infant-feeding guidelines. They promote long-term breastfeeding and provide participants with a wider variety of food by giving state agencies more flexibility to accommodate cultural food preferences.

This rule, which finalizes an interim rule the agency developed in 2007, goes into effect in two months. 

Hazardous materials permits: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is moving forward with changes to regulations governing the packaging and transportation of hazardous materials. 

Under current law, companies are required to apply for special permits in order to package or ship a hazardous material in a way that is not consistent with regulations. PHMSA allows this as long as the company maintains an equivalent level of safety.

But under the new rules, these companies will not have to apply for special permits to ship certain hazardous materials in a way that is not consistent with regulations, such as transporting solid coal tar pitch compounds, limited quantities of liquids and solids that contain ethyl alcohol, certain ammonia solutions, spent bleaching earth, and more.

"These revisions are intended to provide wider access to the regulatory flexibility offered in special permits and approvals, and eliminate the need for numerous renewal requests, reducing paperwork burdens and facilitating commerce while maintaining an appropriate level of safety," the agency wrote.

The rule goes into effect in one month. 

Energy efficiency: The Department of Energy is delaying new energy conservation standards for commercial and industrial air compressors that the agency proposed in February. 

Due to the winter storm that shuttered the federal government on March 3, the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy was forced to postpone a public meeting on the proposed conservation standards. 

The Energy Department announced Monday that it is rescheduling the public meeting for April 1 and will keep the public comment period open through April 22. The previous deadline to comment was March 24.

The rule was originally proposed on Feb. 5. 

Lamps: The Department of Energy has decided not to move forward with new energy conservation standards for five types of lamps at the current time.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced Monday that "no regulatory action is necessary" because not enough of these lamps have been sold to pose a significant danger of inefficiency to the public.

These lamps include rough service lamps, vibration service lamps, three-way incandescent lamps, certain general service incandescent lamps, and shatter-resistant lamps.

But the Energy Department still intends to track sale data for these exempted lamps in case their status changes. The agency is making this data available to the public.

Foreign language fellowships: The Department of Education is considering a new rule that would give preference for foreign language fellowships to college students demonstrate a need for financial assistance. 

The Education Department's Office of Postsecondary Education announced the proposed priority for both undergraduate and graduate students on Monday. 

"By providing ... fellowships to qualified scholars who lack the financial means to pursue this rigorous training without incurring significant debt, the ... program will contribute to lowering postsecondary education costs for worthy students seeking to become language and area studies experts in the United States," the agency wrote.