Federal Register Watch
by Charles Hueter 
September 12-16, 2005
What freedoms have you lost this week?
What has the federal government done in the name of responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? That question has a list of answers that grows with each week. I won't detail the dozens of meetings delayed or changed, though it does hint at the activity that the feds perform that never gets serious attention. Also, a return to the standard items the Federal Register Watch tracks.
September 12, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 175)
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE - Agricultural Marketing Service
Rejoice, Irish potato farmers of Washington State! The rules for shipping your products have been slightly relaxed. Now, U.S. No. 2 grade potatoes can be shipped in cartons! Previously, only U.S. No. 1 grade potatoes were allowed that option.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The NHTSA is proposing a requirement for 'straight trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating' between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds to have installed a 'a rear object detection system.' There are two ways to meet this Proposed Rule: 'installing a mirror system or rear video system that would make the area to the rear of the vehicle visible to the driver.' These kinds of trucks are the ubiquitous delivery-type and are targeted because
1. they are several times more likely to have backing fatalities
2. the technology exists to increase driver visibility in the rear
3. other states are doing it, so why can't we?
The NHTSA cites '21.89 per 100 billion vehicle miles traveled' as the kill rate for straight-truck backing fatalities, adding this translates into 'at least 79 fatalities' annually. Factor in the estimated $77 million annual cost of the mandated equipment and we get a price tag per life: $2.3 million.
Who knows if that's an accurate way to look at this. I do know that it shouldn't be up to the state to decide for us what the threshold for action on this matter should be.
September 13, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 176)
This was a big day for FEMA. It published several Notices stating Presidential declarations of disaster for the following states due to the "influx of evacuees":
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18098.htm  ] - Arkansas ("[a]ll 75 counties")
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18107.htm  ] - Colorado ("[a]ll 63 counties")
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18103.htm  ] - Florida ("[a]ll 67 counties")
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18101.htm  ] - Georgia ("[a]ll 159 counties")
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18105.htm  ] - North Carolina ("[a]ll 100 counties")
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18102.htm  ] - Oklahoma ("[a]ll 77 counties")
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18100.htm  ] - Tennessee ("[a]ll 95 counties")
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18099.htm  ] - Texas ("[a]ll 254 counties")
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18106.htm  ] - Utah ("[a]ll 29 counties")
[ http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-18104.htm  ] - West Virginia ("[a]ll 55 counties")
This comes to 974 counties eligible for 75% or 100% federal funding for "direct Federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program." In addition, FEMA also posted Notices expanding current disaster declarations to more counties in Alabama and Florida. The potential for graft, waste, misuse, and simple incompetence with your money continues to grow.
Executive Office of the President
In this Proclamation, Mr. Bush suspends a portion of the United States Code requiring contracts made with the feds to publish and enforce a minimum wage for the laborers involved. This was done to decrease the cost of rebuilding to the federal government and also to "permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."
Thanks for the confirmation that minimum wages lead to artificially higher levels of unemployment! If only we had known earlier . . .
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY - Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
As I noted in a previous column, FERC graciously allowed power station operators and transmitters to delay until 9/30/2005 their report of the possibly thousands of "each emergency that resulted in any deviation from the standards of conduct." In this Notice, FERC adds that it's also cool to wait a few more days on the actual "record of each deviation of the standards of conduct." Thanks, FERC! Maybe a few more productive days can be squeezed out before the federal paperword burden can take over.
September 14, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 177)
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION - Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
'PHMSA is investigating the unauthorized marking of high- and low-pressure compressed gas cylinders, including fire extinguishers, oxygen cylinders, and self-contained breathing apparatus, by All-Out Fire Equipment Co., Inc.'
Apparently, 'an undetermined number of cylinders' were not hydrostatically tested before being returned to service and there was a lack of company records indicating any hydrostatic testing before November, 2003. This company could be run by incompetents and morons. They may have introduced unsafe cylinders in the marketplace.
But has a crime been committed? More importantly, should Americans be taxed in order to finance the inspection of these facilities? If a cylinder goes and takes a worker down with it, that is the moment the answer to the first question could be yes. The answer to the second is always no.
September 15, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 178)
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE - Agricultural Marketing Service
Great news! The Prune Marketing Committee in California wants a Rule that 'decreases the assessment rate established for the committee for the 2005-06 and subsequent crop years from $6.00 to $0.65 per ton of salable dried prunes handled.' Now, to end the committee entirely and let prune producers take care of themselves.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY - Bureau of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Here's a nightmare: having to go through DHS to get your desktop scanner product certified as officially from the United States. Further: having some of your production details publicized to the rest of the world.
September 16, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 179)
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
Federal agencies are now allowed to 'purchase premium gasoline for government owned and leased vehicles when lower grade gasoline is not available' due to localized instances of regular gas unavailability from Hurricane Katrina. One wonders how many relief vehicles this particular regulation sidelined in the rush to get help to the needy.
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