Federal Register Vol. 80, No.43,

Federal Register Volume 80, Issue 43 (March 5, 2015)

Page Range11857-12070
FR Document

80_FR_43
Current View
Page and SubjectPDF
80 FR 12069 - Continuation of the National Emergency With Respect to ZimbabwePDF
80 FR 12065 - Continuation of the National Emergency With Respect to UkrainePDF
80 FR 12040 - Sunshine Act MeetingsPDF
80 FR 11988 - Sunshine Act; Regular MeetingPDF
80 FR 12063 - Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation; Notice of Meeting CancellationPDF
80 FR 12055 - Sunshine Act Meetings; Unified Carrier Registration Plan Board of DirectorsPDF
80 FR 12037 - Sunshine Act MeetingsPDF
80 FR 12045 - Excepted ServicePDF
80 FR 12044 - Submission for Review: Standard Form 1153: Claim for Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Civilian Employee 3206-0234PDF
80 FR 11918 - Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder Fishery; Quota TransferPDF
80 FR 12039 - Comment Request for Information Collection for Form ETA-9127, Foreign Labor Certification Quarterly Activity Report; RevisionPDF
80 FR 12047 - January 2015 Pay SchedulesPDF
80 FR 12057 - Meeting; RTCA Program Management CommitteePDF
80 FR 12062 - Proposed Collection; Comment for Electronic Filing of Employment Tax Family (94x) ReturnsPDF
80 FR 12057 - Greenkraft Inc.; Grant of Application for a Temporary Exemption From FMVSS No. 108PDF
80 FR 12043 - Combined License Application for Turkey Point Nuclear Plant, Unit Nos. 6 and 7PDF
80 FR 12042 - Impact of Variation in Environmental Conditions on the Thermal Performance of Dry Storage CasksPDF
80 FR 12041 - Considerations in Licensing High Burnup Spent Fuel in Dry Storage and TransportationPDF
80 FR 11975 - Proposed Flood Elevation Determinations for Humboldt County, California and Incorporated AreasPDF
80 FR 11893 - Suspension of Community EligibilityPDF
80 FR 12028 - National Infrastructure Advisory CouncilPDF
80 FR 11985 - Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Northern New MexicoPDF
80 FR 12017 - National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) Announcement of Requirements and Registration for the 2015 Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) ChallengePDF
80 FR 12031 - Proposed Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
80 FR 11984 - Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, NevadaPDF
80 FR 12016 - National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program; List of Petitions ReceivedPDF
80 FR 11985 - Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Savannah River SitePDF
80 FR 12024 - Changes in Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
80 FR 11976 - Notice of Proposed New Fee Site; Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, (Title VIII, Pub. L. 108-447)PDF
80 FR 11863 - Amendments to Existing Validated End-User Authorization in the People's Republic of China: Samsung China Semiconductor Co. Ltd.PDF
80 FR 11895 - Suspension of Community EligibilityPDF
80 FR 11983 - Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Modernization and Repair of Piers 2 and 3, Military Ocean Terminal Concord, CAPDF
80 FR 12044 - Sunshine Act MeetingsPDF
80 FR 11978 - Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC); Public MeetingsPDF
80 FR 12056 - Academy Bus LLC-Acquisition of the Properties of Evergreen Trails Inc. d/b/a Horizon Coach LinesPDF
80 FR 11981 - Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Essential Fish Habitat 5-Year ReviewPDF
80 FR 11988 - Information Collection Being Reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission Under Delegated AuthorityPDF
80 FR 11989 - Federal Advisory Committee Act; Downloadable Security Technology Advisory CommitteePDF
80 FR 12023 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; Standard Flood Hazard Determination FormPDF
80 FR 11890 - Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; Mississippi: New Source Review-Prevention of Significance DeteriorationPDF
80 FR 12022 - Changes in Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
80 FR 11986 - Human Studies Review Board; Notification of a Public MeetingPDF
80 FR 12020 - Changes in Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
80 FR 12029 - Final Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
80 FR 12048 - New Postal ProductPDF
80 FR 11918 - Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Cod by Vessels Using Jig Gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of AlaskaPDF
80 FR 11857 - Energy Conservation Program for Certain Industrial Equipment: Energy Conservation Standards and Test Procedures for Commercial Heating, Air-Conditioning, and Water-Heating Equipment; CorrectionPDF
80 FR 12032 - Final Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
80 FR 11946 - Importation of Tomato Plantlets in Approved Growing Media From MexicoPDF
80 FR 12061 - Proposed Data Collection; Comment RequestPDF
80 FR 12033 - Final Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
80 FR 12048 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; Bloomberg STP LLC; Notice of Filing of Application for Exemption From Registration as a Clearing AgencyPDF
80 FR 12054 - Joint Industry Plan; Notice of Designation of a Longer Period for Commission Action on the Proposed National Market System Plan To Implement a Tick Size Pilot Program on a One-Year Pilot Basis by BATS Exchange, Inc., BATS Y-Exchange, Inc., Chicago Stock Exchange, Inc., EDGA Exchange, Inc., EDGX Exchange, Inc., Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc., NASDAQ OMX BX, Inc., NASDAQ OMX PHLX LLC, The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC, New York Stock Exchange LLC, NYSE MKT LLC, and NYSE Arca, Inc.PDF
80 FR 11897 - Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska; Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Off AlaskaPDF
80 FR 11958 - Special Conditions: Bombardier Aerospace, Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11; Electronic Flight Control System: Lateral-Directional and Longitudinal Stability and Low-Energy AwarenessPDF
80 FR 11859 - Special Conditions: Bombardier Aerospace, Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 Series Airplanes; Alternate Fuel Tank Structural Lightning Protection RequirementsPDF
80 FR 11995 - Douglas M. Hargrave; Denial of Hearing; Final Debarment OrderPDF
80 FR 11991 - Jeffrey L. Rockmore; Denial of Hearing; Final Debarment OrderPDF
80 FR 12013 - Steven M. Lynch; Denial of Hearing; Final Debarment OrderPDF
80 FR 12011 - William F. DeLuca, Jr.; Denial of Hearing; Final Debarment OrderPDF
80 FR 12007 - John D. Noonan; Denial of Hearing; Final Debarment OrderPDF
80 FR 11919 - Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; 2015 and 2016 Harvest Specifications for GroundfishPDF
80 FR 11981 - Renewal of Department of Defense Federal Advisory CommitteesPDF
80 FR 12041 - National Council on the Arts 184th MeetingPDF
80 FR 11968 - Special Regulations; Areas of the National Park System, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Off-Road Motor VehiclesPDF
80 FR 11999 - Solicitation of Written Comments on the Draft National Adult Immunization Plan; Extension of Comment PeriodPDF
80 FR 11865 - Banned DevicesPDF
80 FR 12027 - Final Flood Hazard DeterminationsPDF
80 FR 11980 - New England Fishery Management Council; Public MeetingPDF
80 FR 11989 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request; Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff; Section 905(j) Reports: Demonstrating Substantial Equivalence for Tobacco Products and Demonstrating the Substantial Equivalence of a New Tobacco Product: Responses to Frequently Asked QuestionsPDF
80 FR 12011 - Demonstrating the Substantial Equivalence of a New Tobacco Product: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions; Guidance for Industry; AvailabilityPDF
80 FR 12034 - National Register of Historic Places; Notification of Pending Nominations and Related ActionsPDF
80 FR 12035 - National Register of Historic Places; Notification of Pending Nominations and Related ActionsPDF
80 FR 11978 - Privacy, Transparency, and Accountability Regarding Commercial and Private Use of Unmanned Aircraft SystemsPDF
80 FR 11976 - Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Economic Value of Non-Consumptive Recreation Use From Those Accessing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary via For Hire Operation BoatsPDF
80 FR 11966 - Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2012; Regulatory Science Initiatives; Public Hearing; Request for CommentsPDF
80 FR 12010 - Clinical Outcomes Assessment Development and Implementation: Opportunities and Challenges; Public WorkshopPDF
80 FR 11998 - Clinical Trial Imaging Endpoint Process Standards; Draft Guidance for Industry; AvailabilityPDF
80 FR 12039 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; Job Innovation and Accelerator Challenge Grants EvaluationPDF
80 FR 11983 - Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for United States Air Force F-35a Operational Basing-PacificPDF
80 FR 12035 - Certain Consumer Electronics With Display and Processing Capabilities; Notice of Commission Determination To Grant a Joint Motion To Terminate the Investigation on the Basis of a Settlement Agreement; Termination of InvestigationPDF
80 FR 12036 - Supercalendered Paper From Canada; Institution of a Countervailing Duty Investigation and Scheduling of a Preliminary Phase InvestigationPDF
80 FR 11984 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Comment Request; Roads to Success in North Dakota: A Randomized Study of a College and Career Preparation CurriculumPDF
80 FR 12000 - Funding Opportunity Announcement for Family Violence Prevention and Services/Grants for Domestic Violence Shelters/Grants to Native American Tribes (Including Alaska Native Villages) and Tribal OrganizationsPDF
80 FR 12037 - Lodging of Proposed Consent Decree Under CERCLAPDF
80 FR 11994 - Center for Scientific Review; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
80 FR 12019 - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
80 FR 11999 - Center for Scientific Review; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
80 FR 11991 - Center For Scientific Review; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
80 FR 11994 - National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; Notice of Closed MeetingPDF
80 FR 11977 - Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Economic Value of the Reduction in the Risk of Whale Strikes in the Channel Islands National Marine SanctuaryPDF
80 FR 12038 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; Furnishing Documents to the Secretary of Labor on Request Under ERISA Section 104(a)(6)PDF
80 FR 11865 - Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as AmendedPDF
80 FR 11960 - Airworthiness Directives; Airbus AirplanesPDF
80 FR 11887 - Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; Tennessee; Emissions Statement Requirement for the 2008 8-Hour Ozone StandardPDF
80 FR 11974 - Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; Tennessee; Emissions Statement Requirement for the 2008 8-Hour Ozone StandardPDF
80 FR 11954 - Promulgation of NCUA Rules and RegulationsPDF
80 FR 11950 - Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan ProgramPDF
80 FR 11885 - Safety Zones; Upper Mississippi River Between Mile 38.0 and 46.0, Thebes, IL; and Between Mile 78.0 and 81.0, Grand Tower, ILPDF
80 FR 11964 - Airworthiness Directives; Airbus AirplanesPDF

Issue

80 43 Thursday, March 5, 2015 Contents Agriculture Agriculture Department See

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

See

Forest Service

See

Rural Housing Service

Air Force Air Force NOTICES Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.: United States Air Force F-35a Operational Basing—Pacific, 11983-11984 2015-05014 Animal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service PROPOSED RULES Imports: Tomato Plantlets in Approved Growing Media from Mexico, 11946-11950 2015-05058 Army Army Department NOTICES Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.: Modernization and Repair of Piers 2 and 3, Military Ocean Terminal Concord, CA, 11983 2015-05083 Children Children and Families Adminstration NOTICES Funding Opportunities: Family Violence Prevention and Services/Grants for Domestic Violence Shelters/Grants to Native American Tribes, Iincluding Alaska Native Villages, and Tribal Organizations, 12000-12007 2015-05010 Coast Guard Coast Guard RULES Safety Zones: Upper Mississippi River Between Mile 38.0 and 46.0, Thebes, IL; and Between Mile 78.0 and 81.0, Grand Tower, IL, 11885-11887 2015-03331 Commerce Commerce Department See

Industry and Security Bureau

See

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

See

National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Community Development Community Development Financial Institutions Fund NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 12061-12062 2015-05057 Defense Department Defense Department See

Air Force Department

See

Army Department

NOTICES Charter Renewals: Federal Advisory Committees, 11981-11983 2015-05040
Education Department Education Department NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Roads to Success in North Dakota — A Randomized Study of a College and Career Preparation Curriculum, 11984 2015-05011 Employment and Training Employment and Training Administration NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Foreign Labor Certification Quarterly Activity Report, 12039 2015-05116 Energy Department Energy Department RULES Energy Conservation Programs: Certain Industrial Equipment -- Energy Conservation Standards and Test Procedures for Commercial Heating, Air-Conditioning, and Water-Heating Equipment; Correction, 11857-11859 2015-05061 NOTICES Meetings: Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Nevada, 11984-11985 2015-05090 Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Northern New Mexico, 11985-11986 2015-05093 Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Savannah River Site, 11985 2015-05088 Environmental Protection Environmental Protection Agency RULES Air Quality State Implementation Plans; Approvals and Promulgations: Mississippi; New Source Review - Prevention of Significance Deterioration, 11890-11893 2015-05072 Tennessee; Emissions Statement Requirement for the 8-Hour Ozone Standard, 11887-11890 2015-04489 PROPOSED RULES Air Quality State Implementation Plans; Approvals and Promulgations: Tennessee; Emissions Statement Requirement for the 8-Hour Ozone Standard, 11974-11975 2015-04488 NOTICES Meetings: Human Studies Review Board, 11986-11988 2015-05068 Farm Credit Farm Credit Administration NOTICES Meetings; Sunshine Act, 11988 2015-05221 Federal Aviation Federal Aviation Administration RULES Special Conditions: Bombardier Aerospace, Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 Series Airplanes; Alternate Fuel Tank Structural Lightning Protection Requirements, 11859-11863 2015-05047 PROPOSED RULES Airworthiness Directives: Airbus Airplanes, 11960-11966 2015-02923 2015-04504 Special Conditions: Bombardier Aerospace, Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11; Electronic Flight Control System --Lateral-Directional and Longitudinal Stability and Low-Energy Awareness, 11958-11960 2015-05048 NOTICES Meetings: RTCA Program Management Committee, 12057 2015-05108 Federal Communications Commission Federal Communications Commission Notices Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 11988-11989 2015-05078 Meetings: Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee, 11989 2015-05077 Federal Emergency Federal Emergency Management Agency RULES Suspensions of Community Eligibility, 11893-11897 2015-05084 2015-05095 PROPOSED RULES Flood Elevation Determinations: Humboldt County, CA and Incorporated Areas, 11975 2015-05096 NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form, 12023-12024 2015-05074 Flood Hazard Determinations, 12024-12034 2015-05026 2015-05055 2015-05059 2015-05065 2015-05087 2015-05091 Flood Hazard Determinations; Changes, 12020-12023 2015-05067 2015-05070 Federal Motor Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration NOTICES Meetings; Sunshine Act, 12055-12056 2015-05199 Food and Drug Food and Drug Administration RULES Banned Devices; CFR Correction, 11865 2015-05028 PROPOSED RULES Generic Drug User Fee Amendments; Regulatory Science Initiatives; Public Hearing, 11966-11968 2015-05018 NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Demonstrating Substantial Equivalence for Tobacco Products and Demonstrating the Substantial Equivalence of a New Tobacco Product—Responses to Frequently Asked Questions, 11989-11990 2015-05024 Debarment Orders: Douglas M. Hargrave, 11995-11998 2015-05046 Jeffrey L. Rockmore, 11991-11994 2015-05045 John D. Noonan, 12007-12010 2015-05042 Steven M. Lynch, 12013-12016 2015-05044 William F. DeLuca, Jr., 12011-12013 2015-05043 Guidance: Clinical Trial Imaging Endpoint Process Standards, 11998-11999 2015-05016 Demonstrating the Substantial Equivalence of a New Tobacco Product—Responses to Frequently Asked Questions, 12011 2015-05023 Meetings: Clinical Outcomes Assessment Development and Implementation—Opportunities and Challenges; Public Workshops, 12010-12011 2015-05017 Foreign Claims Foreign Claims Settlement Commission NOTICES Meetings; Sunshine Act, 12037-12038 2015-05193 Forest Forest Service NOTICES Proposed New Fee Sites: Copper Basin Guard Station, 11976 2015-05086 Health Resources Health Resources and Services Administration NOTICES National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program List of Petitions Received, 12016-12017 2015-05089 Health and Human Health and Human Services Department See

Food and Drug Administration

See

Health Resources and Services Administration

See

National Institutes of Health

NOTICES Draft National Adult Immunization Plan, 11999 2015-05030
Homeland Homeland Security Department See

Coast Guard

See

Federal Emergency Management Agency

NOTICES Meetings: National Infrastructure Advisory Council, 12028-12029 2015-05094
Industry Industry and Security Bureau RULES Existing Validated End-User Authorization in the People's Republic of China: Samsung China Semiconductor Co. Ltd., 11863-11865 2015-05085 Interior Interior Department See

National Park Service

Internal Revenue Internal Revenue Service NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 12062-12063 2015-05104 International Trade Com International Trade Commission NOTICES Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Investigations, Orders, or Reviews: Supercalendered Paper from Canada, 12036-12037 2015-05012 Investigations; Determinations, Modifications, and Rulings, etc.: Certain Consumer Electronics with Display and Processing Capabilities, 12035-12036 2015-05013 Justice Department Justice Department NOTICES Consent Decrees under CERCLA, 12037 2015-05009 Labor Department Labor Department See

Employment and Training Administration

See

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Furnishing Documents to the Secretary of Labor on Request under ERISA, 12038 2015-05002 Job Innovation and Accelerator Challenge Grants Evaluation, 12039-12040 2015-05015
Mississippi Mississippi River Commission NOTICES Meetings; Sunshine Act, 12040-12041 2015-05295 National Credit National Credit Union Administration PROPOSED RULES Promulgation of NCUA Rules and Regulations, 11954-11958 2015-03806 National Endowment for the Arts National Endowment for the Arts NOTICES Meetings: National Council on the Arts 184th Meeting, 12041 2015-05039 National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities See

National Endowment for the Arts

National Highway National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NOTICES Temporary Exemptions: Greenkraft Inc., 12057-12061 2015-05101 National Institute National Institutes of Health NOTICES Meetings: Center for Scientific Review, 11991, 11994-11995, 11999-12000 2015-05005 2015-05006 2015-05008 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 12019-12020 2015-05007 National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 11994 2015-05004 National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams Challenge; Requirements and Registration, 12017-12019 2015-05092 National Oceanic National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RULES Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska: Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; Harvest Specifications for Groundfish, 11919-11945 2015-05041 Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska; Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Off Alaska, 11897-11917 2015-05049 Pacific Cod by Vessels Using Jig Gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska, 11918-11919 2015-05063 Fisheries of the Northeastern U.S.: Summer Flounder Fishery; Quota Transfer, 11918 2015-05118 NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Economic Value of Non-Consumptive Recreation Use From Those Accessing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary via For Hire Operation Boats, 11976-11977 2015-05019 Economic Value of the Reduction in the Risk of Whale Strikes in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, 11977 2015-05003 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Essential Fish Habitat 5-Year Review, 11981 2015-05079 Meetings: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 2015-05076 11978 2015-05081 New England Fishery Management Council, 11980-11981 2015-05025 National Park National Park Service PROPOSED RULES Special Regulations: Areas of the National Park System, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Off-Road Motor Vehicles, 11968-11974 2015-05034 NOTICES National Register of Historic Places: Pending Nominations and Related Actions, 2015-05021 12034-12035 2015-05022 National Telecommunications National Telecommunications and Information Administration NOTICES Privacy, Transparency and Accountability Regarding Commercial and Private Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 11978-11980 2015-05020 Nuclear Regulatory Nuclear Regulatory Commission NOTICES Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.: Combined License Application for Turkey Point Nuclear Plant, Unit Nos. 6 and 7, 12043-12044 2015-05099 Guidance: Considerations in Licensing High Burnup Spent Fuel in Dry Storage and Transportation, 12041-12042 2015-05097 Impact of Variation in Environmental Conditions on the Thermal Performance of Dry Storage Casks, 12042-12043 2015-05098 Occupational Safety Health Adm Occupational Safety and Health Administration RULES Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 11865-11885 2015-05001 Overseas Overseas Private Investment Corporation NOTICES Meetings; Sunshine Act, 12044 2015-05082 Personnel Personnel Management Office NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Claim for Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Civilian Employee, 12044-12045 2015-05124 Excepted Service, 12045-12047 2015-05185 January 2015 Pay Schedules, 12047-12048 2015-05115 Postal Regulatory Postal Regulatory Commission NOTICES New Postal Products, 12048 2015-05064 Presidential Documents Presidential Documents ADMINISTRATIVE ORDERS Ukraine; Continuation of National Emergency (Notice of March 3, 2015), 12065-12068 2015-05337 Zimbabwe; Continuation of National Emergency (Notice of March 3, 2015), 12069-12070 2015-05338 Rural Housing Service Rural Housing Service PROPOSED RULES Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, 11950-11954 2015-03711 Securities and Exchange Commission Securities and Exchange Commission NOTICES Joint Industry Plans: BATS Exchange, Inc., BATS Y-Exchange, Inc., Chicago Stock Exchange, Inc., et al., 12054-12055 2015-05052 Self-Regulatory Organizations; Proposed Rule Changes: Bloomberg STP LLC, 12048-12054 2015-05053 Surface Transportation Board Surface Transportation Board NOTICES Acquisition of Properties: Academy Bus LLC from Evergreen Trails Inc. d/b/a Horizon Coach Lines, 12056-12057 2015-05080 Transportation Department Transportation Department See

Federal Aviation Administration

See

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

See

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

See

Surface Transportation Board

Treasury Treasury Department See

Community Development Financial Institutions Fund

See

Internal Revenue Service

Veterans Affairs Department Veterans Affairs Department NOTICES Meetings: Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation; Cancellation, 12063 2015-05213 Separate Parts In This Issue Part II Presidential Documents, 12065-12070 2015-05337 2015-05338 Reader Aids

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80 43 Thursday, March 5, 2015 Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY 10 CFR Part 431 [Docket No. EERE-2011-BT-STD-0029] RIN 1904-AC47 Energy Conservation Program for Certain Industrial Equipment: Energy Conservation Standards and Test Procedures for Commercial Heating, Air-Conditioning, and Water-Heating Equipment; Correction AGENCY:

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy.

ACTION:

Final rule; technical correction.

SUMMARY:

On May 16, 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published a final rule in the Federal Register that amended the energy conservation standards and test procedures for certain commercial heating, air-conditioning, and water-heating equipment. Due to a drafting error, there was a typographical error (i.e., an incorrect symbol) for one equipment class of computer room air conditioners in a table to the applicable test procedure provision. This final rule rectifies this error.

DATES:

Effective: March 5, 2015. The incorporation by reference of certain publications listed in the rule was approved by the Director of the Federal Register as of July 16, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Ms. Ashley Armstrong, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Office, Mailstop EE-5B, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585-0121. Telephone: (202) 586-6590. Email: [email protected]

Mr. Eric Stas, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of the General Counsel, GC-33, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585-0121. Telephone: (202) 586-9507. Email: [email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background

On May 16, 2012, DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy published an energy conservation standards and test procedure final rule in the Federal Register titled, “Energy Conservation Standards and Test Procedures for Commercial Heating, Air-Conditioning, and Water-Heating Equipment” (hereafter referred to as the “May 2012 final rule”). 77 FR 28928. Since the publication of that final rule, it has come to DOE's attention that, due to a technical oversight, the May 2012 final rule incorrectly included a typographical error regarding the symbol for one equipment class of the subject computer room air conditioners, which made it appear that there was more than one entry for that equipment class in the table showing the compliance date for use of the applicable test procedure. This final rule corrects this error, thereby eliminating the duplicative listing.

II. Need for Correction

As published, the May 2012 final rule mischaracterizes one computer room air conditioner equipment class in the table showing the compliance date for use of the applicable test procedure. In the May 2012 final rule, Table 2 on page 28990 contains a typographical error in the third column (“Cooling capacity”) for the equipment type, Computer Room Air Conditioners. The entry for the second line, “<65,000 Btu/h and <760,000 Btu/h,” should be corrected to read “≥65,000 Btu/h and <760,000 Btu/h.” At no place in the May 2012 final rule did DOE discuss any intention to have two separate entries for computer room air conditioners <65,000 Btu/h in the test procedure, and DOE notes that this was a typographical error in the final rule as published in the Federal Register. Thus, the table has been corrected to eliminate this error. Accordingly, DOE finds that there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to not issue a separate notice to solicit public comment on the changes contained in this document. Issuing a separate document to solicit public comment would be impractical, unnecessary, and contrary to the public interest.

III. Procedural Requirements

DOE has concluded that the determinations made pursuant to the various procedural requirements applicable to the May 16, 2012 energy conservation standards and test procedure final rule for certain commercial heating, air-conditioning, and water-heating equipment remain unchanged for this final rule technical correction. These determinations are set forth in the May 16, 2012 final rule. 77 FR 28928, 28983-86.

List of Subjects in 10 CFR Part 431

Administrative practice and procedure, Confidential business information, Incorporation by reference, Energy conservation, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

Issued in Washington, DC on February 26, 2015. Kathleen B. Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

For the reasons set forth in the preamble, DOE amends part 431 of Chapter II, Subchapter D, of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations as set forth below:

PART 431—ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM FOR CERTAIN COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT 1. The authority citation for part 431 continues to read as follows: Authority:

42 U.S.C. 6291-6317.

2. Revise Table 2 in § 431.96(b)(2) to read as follows:
§ 431.96 Uniform test method for the measurement of energy efficiency of commercial air conditioners and heat pumps.

(b) * * *

(2) * * *

Table 2 to § 431.96—Test Procedures for Commercial Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps Equipment type Category Cooling capacity Energy
  • efficiency
  • descriptor
  • Compliance with test procedure
  • required on or after
  • Use tests, conditions, and procedures 1 in
    Small Commercial Packaged Air-Conditioning and Heating Equipment Air-Cooled, 3-Phase, AC and HP <65,000 Btu/h SEER and HSPF May 13, 2013 AHRI 210/240-2008 (omit section 6.5). Air-Cooled AC and HP ≥65,000 Btu/h and <135,000 Btu/h EER and COP May 13, 2013 AHRI 340/360-2007 (omit section 6.3). Water-Cooled and Evaporatively-Cooled AC <65,000 Btu/h EER May 13, 2013 AHRI 210/240-2008 (omit section 6.5). ≥65,000 Btu/h and <135,000 Btu/h EER May 13, 2013 AHRI 340/360-2007 (omit section 6.3). Water-Source HP <135,000 Btu/h EER and COP May 13, 2013 ISO Standard 13256-1 (1998). Large Commercial Packaged Air-Conditioning and Heating Equipment Air-Cooled AC and HP ≥135,000 Btu/h and <240,000 Btu/h EER and COP May 13, 2013 AHRI 340/360-2007 (omit section 6.3). Water-Cooled and Evaporatively-Cooled AC ≥135,000 Btu/h and <240,000 Btu/h EER May 13, 2013 AHRI 340/360-2007 (omit section 6.3). Very Large Commercial Packaged Air-Conditioning and Heating Equipment Air-Cooled AC and HP ≥240,000 Btu/h and <760,000 Btu/h EER and COP May 13, 2013 AHRI 340/360-2007 (omit section 6.3). Water-Cooled and Evaporatively-Cooled AC ≥240,000 Btu/h and <760,000 Btu/h EER May 13, 2013 AHRI 340/360-2007 (omit section 6.3). Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps AC and HP <760,000 Btu/h EER and COP May 13, 2013 AHRI 310/380-2004 (omit section 5.6). Computer Room Air Conditioners AC <65,000 Btu/h SCOP October 29, 2012 ASHRAE 127-2007 (omit section 5.11). ≥65,000 Btu/h and <760,000 Btu/h SCOP May 13, 2013 ASHRAE 127-2007 (omit section 5.11). Variable Refrigerant Flow Multi-split Systems AC <760,000 Btu/h EER and COP May 13, 2013 AHRI 1230-2010 (omit sections 5.1.2 and 6.6). Variable Refrigerant Flow Multi-split Systems, Air-cooled HP <760,000 Btu/h EER and COP May 13, 2013 AHRI 1230-2010 (omit sections 5.1.2 and 6.6). Variable Refrigerant Flow Multi-split Systems, Water-source HP <17,000 Btu/h EER and COP October 29, 2012 AHRI 1230-2010 (omit sections 5.1.2 and 6.6). Variable Refrigerant Flow Multi-split Systems, Water-source HP ≥17,000 Btu/h and <760,000 Btu/h EER and COP May 13, 2013 AHRI 1230-2010 (omit sections 5.1.2 and 6.6). Single Package Vertical Air Conditioners and Single Package Vertical Heat Pumps AC and HP <760,000 Btu/h EER and COP July 16, 2012 AHRI 390-2003 (omit section 6.4). 1 Incorporated by reference, see § 431.95.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05061 Filed 3-4-15; 08:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 25 [Docket No. FAA-2014-0383; Special Conditions No. 25-578-SC] Special Conditions: Bombardier Aerospace, Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 Series Airplanes; Alternate Fuel Tank Structural Lightning Protection Requirements AGENCY:

    Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

    ACTION:

    Final special conditions.

    SUMMARY:

    These special conditions are issued for the Bombardier Aerospace Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 series airplanes. These airplanes will have a novel or unusual design feature when compared to the state of technology envisioned in the airworthiness standards for transport category airplanes. This design feature is a nitrogen generation system (NGS) for all fuel tanks that actively reduces flammability exposure within the fuel tanks significantly below that required by the fuel tank flammability regulations. Among other benefits, the NGS significantly reduces the potential for fuel vapor ignition caused by lightning strikes. The applicable airworthiness regulations do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for this design feature. These special conditions contain the additional safety standards that the Administrator considers necessary to establish a level of safety equivalent to that established by the existing airworthiness standards.

    DATES:

    This action is effective on Bombardier Aerospace on April 6, 2015.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Margaret Langsted, FAA, Propulsion and Mechanical Systems Branch, ANM-112, Transport Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, Washington, 98057-3356; telephone 425-227-2677; facsimile 425-227-1149.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background

    On December 10, 2009, Bombardier Aerospace applied for a type certificate for their new Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 series airplanes (hereafter collectively referred to as “CSeries”). The CSeries airplanes are swept-wing monoplanes with a composite wing fuel tank structure and an aluminum alloy fuselage that is sized for 5-abreast seating. Passenger capacity is designated as 110 for the Model BD-500-1A10 and 125 for the Model BD-500-1A11. Maximum takeoff weight is 131,000 pounds for the Model BD-500-1A10 and 144,000 pounds for the Model BD-500-1A11.

    Type Certification Basis

    Under the provisions of Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) 21.17, Bombardier Aerospace must show that the CSeries airplanes meet the applicable provisions of part 25 as amended by Amendments 25-1 through 25-129.

    If the Administrator finds that the applicable airworthiness regulations (i.e., 14 CFR part 25) do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for the CSeries airplanes because of a novel or unusual design feature, special conditions are prescribed under the provisions of § 21.16.

    Special conditions are initially applicable to the model for which they are issued. Should the type certificate for that model be amended later to include any other model that incorporates the same or similar novel or unusual design feature, the special conditions would also apply to the other model under § 21.101.

    In addition to the applicable airworthiness regulations and special conditions, the CSeries airplanes must comply with the fuel vent and exhaust emission requirements of 14 CFR part 34 and the noise certification requirements of 14 CFR part 36, and the FAA must issue a finding of regulatory adequacy under § 611 of Public Law 92-574, the “Noise Control Act of 1972.”

    The FAA issues special conditions, as defined in 14 CFR 11.19, in accordance with § 11.38, and they become part of the type certification basis under § 21.17.

    Novel or Unusual Design Features

    The CSeries airplanes will incorporate the following novel or unusual design feature: A fuel tank nitrogen generation system (NGS) that is intended to control fuel tank flammability for all fuel tanks. This NGS is designed to provide a level of performance to all fuel tanks of the CSeries airplanes that applies the more stringent standard for warm day flammability performance applicable to normally emptied tanks within the fuselage contour from § 25.981(b) and appendix M to part 25. An NGS actively reduces flammability exposure within the fuel tanks significantly below that required by the fuel tank flammability regulations. Among other benefits, the NGS significantly reduces the potential for fuel vapor ignition caused by lightning strikes. This high level of NGS performance for all fuel tanks is a novel or unusual design feature compared to the state of technology envisioned in the airworthiness standards for transport category airplanes.

    Discussion

    The certification basis of the CSeries airplanes includes § 25.981, as amended by Amendment 25-125, as required by 14 CFR 26.37. This amendment includes the ignition prevention requirements in § 25.981(a), as amended by Amendment 25-102, and it includes revised flammability limits for all fuel tanks and new specific limitations on flammability for all fuel tanks as defined in § 25.981(b), as amended by Amendment 25-125.

    Ignition Source Prevention

    Section 25.981(a)(3) requires applicants to show that an ignition source in the fuel tank system could not result from any single failure, from any single failure in combination with any latent failure condition not shown to be extremely remote, or from any combination of failures not shown to be extremely improbable. This requirement was originally adopted in Amendment 25-102, and it requires the assumption that the fuel tanks are always flammable when showing that the probability of an ignition source being present is extremely remote. (Amendment 25-102 included § 25.981(c) that required minimizing fuel tank flammability, and this was defined in the preamble as being equivalent to unheated aluminum fuel tanks located in the wing.) This requirement defines three types of scenarios that must be addressed in order to show compliance with § 25.981(a)(3). The first scenario is that any single failure, regardless of the probability of occurrence of the failure, must not cause an ignition source. The second scenario is that any single failure, regardless of the probability of occurrence, in combination with any latent failure condition not shown to be at least extremely remote, must not cause an ignition source. The third scenario is that any combination of failures not shown to be extremely improbable must not cause an ignition source. Demonstration of compliance with this requirement would typically require a structured, quantitative safety analysis. Design areas that have latent failure conditions typically would be driven by these requirements to have multiple fault tolerance, or “triple redundancy.” This means that ignition sources are still prevented even after two independent failures.

    Flammability Limits

    Section 25.981(b) states that no fuel tank fleet average flammability exposure may exceed 3 percent of the flammability exposure evaluation time calculated using the method in part 25, appendix N, or the fleet average flammability of a fuel tank within the wing of the airplane being evaluated, whichever is greater. If the wing is not a conventional unheated aluminum wing, the analysis must be based on an assumed equivalent conventional construction unheated aluminum wing. In addition, for fuel tanks that are normally emptied during operation and that have any part of the tank located within the fuselage contour, the fleet average flammability for warm days (above 80 °F) must be limited to 3 percent as calculated using the method in part 25, appendix M.

    Application of Existing Regulations Inappropriate Due to Impracticality

    Since the issuance of § 25.981(a)(3), as amended by Amendment 25-102, the FAA has conducted certification projects in which applicants found it impractical to meet the requirements of that regulation for some areas of lightning protection for fuel tank structure. Partial exemptions were issued for these projects. These same difficulties exist for the CSeries project.

    The difficulty of designing multiple-fault-tolerant structure, and the difficulty of detecting failures of hidden structural design features in general, makes compliance with § 25.981(a)(3) uniquely challenging and impractical for certain aspects of the electrical bonding of structural elements. Such bonding is needed to prevent occurrence of fuel tank ignition sources from lightning strikes. The effectiveness and fault tolerance of electrical bonding features for structural joints and fasteners is partially dependent on design features that cannot be effectively inspected or tested after assembly without damaging the structure, joint, or fastener. Examples of such features include a required interference fit between the shank of a fastener and the hole in which the fastener is installed, metal foil or mesh imbedded in composite material, a required clamping force provided by a fastener to pull two structural parts together, and a required faying surface bond between the flush surfaces of adjacent pieces of structural material such as in a wing skin joint or a mounting bracket installation. In addition, other features that can be physically inspected or tested may be located within the fuel tanks; therefore, it is not practical to inspect for failures of those features at short intervals. Examples of such failures include separation or loosening of cap seals over fastener ends and actual structural failures of internal fasteners. This inability to practically detect manufacturing errors and failures of structural design features critical to lightning protection results in degraded conditions that occur and remain in place for a very long time, possibly for the remaining life of the airplane.

    Accounting for such long failure latency periods in the system safety analysis required by § 25.981(a)(3) would require multiple fault tolerance in the structural lightning protection design. As part of the design development activity for the CSeries, Bombardier has examined possible design provisions to provide multiple fault tolerance in the structural design to prevent ignition sources from occurring in the event of lightning attachment to the airplane in critical locations. Bombardier has concluded from this examination that providing multiple fault tolerance for some structural elements is not practical. Bombardier has also identified some areas of the CSeries design where it is impractical to provide even single fault tolerance in the structural design to prevent ignition sources from occurring in the event of lightning attachment after a single failure. The FAA has reviewed this examination with Bombardier in detail and has agreed that providing fault tolerance beyond that in the proposed CSeries design for these areas would be impractical.

    As a result of the CSeries and other certifications projects, the FAA has now determined that compliance with § 25.981(a)(3) is impractical for some areas of lightning protection for fuel tank structure, and that application of § 25.981(a)(3) to those design areas is therefore inappropriate. The FAA plans further rulemaking to revise § 25.981(a)(3). As appropriate, the FAA plans to issue special conditions or exemptions, for certification projects progressing before the revision is complete. This is discussed in FAA Memorandum ANM-112-08-002, Policy on Issuance of Special Conditions and Exemptions Related to Lightning Protection of Fuel Tank Structure, dated May 26, 2009.

    Application of Existing Regulations Inappropriate Due to Compensating Feature That Provides Equivalent Level of Safety

    Section 25.981(b) sets specific standards for fuel tank flammability as discussed above under “Flammability Limits.” Under that regulation, the fleet average flammability exposure of all fuel tanks on the CSeries airplanes may not exceed 3 percent of the flammability exposure evaluation time calculated using the method in part 25, appendix N, or the fleet average flammability of a wing main tank within an equivalent construction conventional unheated aluminum wing fuel tank, whichever is greater. The typical fleet average fuel tank flammability of fuel tanks located in the wing ranges between 1 and 5 percent. If it is assumed that a CSeries equivalent conventional unheated aluminum wing fuel tank would not exceed a fleet average flammability time of 3 percent, the actual composite airplane wing fuel tank design would be required to comply with the 3 percent fleet average flammability standard, and therefore a means to reduce the flammability to 3 percent would be required. However, the proposed CSeries design includes NGS for all fuel tanks that will also be shown to meet the additional, more stringent warm day average flammability standard in part 25, appendix M, which is only required for normally emptied fuel tanks with some part of the tank within the fuselage contour. Fuel tanks that meet this requirement typically have average fuel tank flammability levels well below the required 3 percent.

    Since the proposed NGS for all fuel tanks on the CSeries provides performance that meets part 25, appendix M, the FAA has determined that the risk reduction provided by this additional performance will provide compensation for some relief from the ignition prevention requirements of § 25.981(a)(3) while still establishing a level of safety equivalent to that established in the regulations.

    In determining the appropriate amount of relief from the ignition prevention requirements of § 25.981(a), the FAA considered the original overall intent of Amendment 25-102, which was to ensure the prevention of catastrophic events due to fuel tank vapor explosion. These special conditions are intended to achieve that objective through a prescriptive requirement that fault tolerance (with respect to the creation of an ignition source) be provided for all structural lightning protection design features where providing such fault tolerance is practical, and through a performance-based standard for the risk due to any single failure vulnerability that exists in the design. In addition, for any structural lightning protection design features for which Bombardier shows that providing fault tolerance is impractical, these special conditions would require Bombardier to show that a fuel tank vapor ignition event due to the summed risk of all non-fault-tolerant design features is extremely improbable. Bombardier would be required to show that this safety objective is met by the proposed design using a structured system safety assessment similar to that currently used for demonstrating compliance with §§ 25.901 and 25.1309.

    Given these novel or unusual design features, and the compliance challenges noted earlier in this document, the FAA has determined that application of § 25.981(a)(3) is inappropriate in that it is neither practical nor necessary to apply the ignition source prevention provisions of § 25.981(a)(3) to the specific fuel tank structural lightning protection features of the Bombardier CSeries airplanes. However, without the § 25.981(a)(3) provisions, the remaining applicable regulations in the CSeries certification basis would be inadequate to set an appropriate standard for fuel tank ignition prevention. Therefore, in accordance with provisions of § 21.16, the FAA has determined that, instead of § 25.981(a)(3), alternative fuel tank structural lightning protection requirements be applied to fuel tank lightning protection features that are integral to the airframe structure of the CSeries airplanes. These alternative requirements are intended to provide the level of safety intended by § 25.981(a)(3), based on our recognition, as discussed above, that a highly effective NGS for the fuel tanks makes it unnecessary to assume that the fuel tank is always flammable. As discussed previously, the assumption that the fuel tanks are always flammable was required when demonstrating compliance to the ignition prevention requirements of § 25.981(a)(3).

    One resulting difference between these special conditions and the § 25.981(a)(3) provisions they are meant to replace is the outcome being prevented—fuel vapor ignition versus an ignition source. These special conditions acknowledge that the application of fuel tank flammability performance standards will reduce fuel tank flammability to an extent that it is appropriate to consider the beneficial effects of flammability reduction when considering design areas where it is impractical to comply with § 25.981(a)(3).

    One of the core requirements of these special conditions is a prescriptive requirement that structural lightning protection design features must be fault tolerant. (An exception wherein Bombardier can show that providing fault tolerance is impractical, and associated requirements, is discussed below.) The other core requirement is that Bombardier must show that the design, manufacturing processes, and Airworthiness Limitations section of the Instructions for Continued Airworthiness include all practical measures to prevent, and detect and correct, failures of structural lightning protection features due to manufacturing variability, aging, wear, corrosion, and likely damage. The FAA has determined that, if these core requirements are met, a fuel tank vapor ignition event due to lightning is not anticipated to occur in the life of the airplane fleet. This conclusion is based on the fact that a critical lightning strike to any given airplane is itself a remote event, and on the fact that fuel tanks must be shown to be flammable for only a relatively small portion of the fleet operational life.

    For any non-fault-tolerant features proposed in the design, Bombardier must show that eliminating these features or making them fault tolerant is impractical. The requirements and considerations for showing it is impractical to provide fault tolerance are described in FAA Memorandum ANM-112-08-002. This requirement is intended to minimize the number of non-fault tolerant features in the design.

    For areas of the design where Bombardier shows that providing fault tolerant structural lightning protection features is impractical, non-fault-tolerant features will be allowed provided Bombardier can show that a fuel tank vapor ignition event due to the non-fault-tolerant features is extremely improbable when the sum of probabilities of those events due to all non-fault-tolerant features is considered. Bombardier will be required to submit a structured, quantitative assessment of fleet average risk for a fuel tank vapor ignition event due to all non-fault-tolerant design features included in the design. This will require determination of the number of non-fault tolerant design features, estimates of the probability of the failure of each non-fault-tolerant design feature, and estimates of the exposure time for those failures. This analysis must include failures due to manufacturing variability, aging, wear, corrosion, and likely damage.

    It is acceptable to consider the probability of fuel tank flammability, the probability of a lightning strike to the airplane, the probability of a lightning strike to specific zones of the airplane (for example, Zone 2 behind the nacelle, but not a specific location or feature), and a distribution of lightning strike amplitude in performing the assessment provided the associated assumptions are acceptable to the FAA. The analysis must account for any dependencies among these factors, if they are used. The assessment must also account for operation with inoperative features and systems, including any proposed or anticipated dispatch relief. This risk assessment requirement is intended to ensure that an acceptable level of safety is provided given the non-fault-tolerant features in the proposed design.

    Part 25, appendix N, as adopted in Amendment 25-125, in conjunction with these special conditions, constitutes the standard for how to determine flammability probability. In performing the safety analysis required by these special conditions, relevant § 25.981(a)(3) compliance guidance is still applicable. Appropriate credit for the conditional probability of environmental or operational conditions occurring is normally limited to those provisions involving multiple failures, and this type of credit is not normally allowed in evaluation of single failures. However, these special conditions would allow consideration of the probability of occurrence of lightning attachment and flammable conditions when assessing the probability of structural failures resulting in a fuel tank vapor ignition event.

    The FAA understands that lightning protection safety for airplane structure is inherently different from lightning protection for systems. We intend to apply these special conditions only to structural lightning protection features of fuel systems. We do not intend to apply the alternative standards used under these special conditions to other areas of the airplane design evaluation.

    Requirements Provide Equivalent Level of Safety

    In recognition of the unusual design feature discussed above, and the impracticality of requiring multiple fault tolerance for lightning protection of certain aspects of fuel tank structure, the FAA has determined that a level of safety that is equivalent to direct compliance with § 25.981(a)(3) will be achieved for the CSeries by applying these requirements. The FAA considers that, instead of only concentrating on fault tolerance for ignition source prevention, significantly reducing fuel tank flammability exposure in addition to preventing ignition sources is a better approach to lightning protection for the fuel tanks. In addition, the level of average fuel tank flammability achieved by compliance with these special conditions is low enough that it is not appropriate or accurate to assume in a safety analysis that the fuel tanks may always be flammable.

    Section 25.981(b), as amended by Amendment 25-125, sets limits on the allowable fuel tank flammability for the CSeries airplanes. Paragraph 2(a) of these special conditions applies the more stringent standard for warm day flammability performance applicable to normally emptied tanks within the fuselage contour from § 25.981(b) and part 25, appendix M, to all of the fuel tanks of the CSeries airplanes.

    Because of the more stringent fuel tank flammability requirements in these special conditions, and because the flammability state of a fuel tank is independent of the various failures of structural elements that could lead to an ignition source in the event of lightning attachment, the FAA has agreed that it is appropriate in this case to allow treatment of flammability as an independent factor in the safety analysis. The positive control of flammability and the lower flammability that is required by these special conditions exceeds the minimum requirements of § 25.981(b). This offsets a reduction of the stringent standard for ignition source prevention in § 25.981(a)(3), which assumes that the fuel tank is flammable at all times.

    Given the stringent requirements for fuel tank flammability, the fuel vapor ignition prevention and the ignition source prevention requirements in these special conditions will prevent “. . . catastrophic failure . . . due to ignition of fuel or vapors” as stated in § 25.981(a). Thus, the overall level of safety achieved by these special conditions is considered equivalent to that which would be required by compliance with § 25.981(a)(3) and (b).

    Discussion of Comments

    Notice of proposed special conditions No. 25-14-05 for the Bombardier CSeries airplanes was published in the Federal Register on July 25, 2014 (79 FR 43318). No comments were received, and the special conditions are adopted as proposed.

    Applicability

    As discussed above, these special conditions are applicable to the Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 series airplanes. Should Bombardier Aerospace apply at a later date for a change to the type certificate to include another model incorporating the same novel or unusual design feature, the special conditions would apply to that model as well.

    Conclusion

    This action affects only certain novel or unusual design features on two model series of airplanes. It is not a rule of general applicability.

    List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 25

    Aircraft, Aviation safety, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    The authority citation for these special conditions is as follows:

    Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701, 44702, 44704.

    The Special Conditions Accordingly, pursuant to the authority delegated to me by the Administrator, the following special conditions are issued as part of the type certification basis for Bombardier Aerospace Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 series airplanes. Alternate Fuel Tank Structural Lightning Protection Requirements 1. Definitions

    Most of the terms used in these special conditions either have the common dictionary meaning or are defined in Advisory Circular 25.1309-1A, System Design and Analysis, dated June 21, 1988. The following definitions are the only terms intended to have a specialized meaning when used in these special conditions:

    (a) Basic Airframe Structure. Includes design elements such as structural members, structural joint features, and fastener systems including airplane skins, ribs, spars, stringers, etc., and associated fasteners, joints, coatings, and sealant. Basic airframe structure may also include those structural elements that are expected to be removed for maintenance, such as exterior fuel tank access panels and fairing attachment features, provided maintenance errors that could compromise associated lightning protection features would be evident upon an exterior preflight inspection of the airplane and would be corrected prior to flight.

    (b) Permanent Systems Supporting Structure. Includes static, permanently attached structural parts (such as brackets) that are used to support system elements. It does not include any part intended to be removed, or any joint intended to be separated, to maintain or replace system elements or other parts, unless that part removal or joint separation is accepted by the FAA as being extremely remote.

    (c) Manufacturing Variability. Includes tolerances and variability allowed by the design and production specifications as well as anticipated errors or escapes from the manufacturing and inspection processes.

    (d) Extremely Remote. Conditions that are not anticipated to occur to each airplane during its total life, but which may occur a few times when considering the total operational life of all airplanes of one type. Extremely remote conditions are those having an average probability per flight hour on the order of 1 × 10−7 or less, but greater than on the order of 1 × 10−9.

    (e) Extremely Improbable. Conditions that are so unlikely that they are not anticipated to occur during the entire operational life of all airplanes of one type. Extremely improbable conditions are those having an average probability per flight hour of the order of 1 × 10−9 or less.

    2. Alternative Fuel Tank Structural Lightning Protection Requirements

    For lightning protection features that are integral to fuel tank basic airframe structure or permanent systems supporting structure, as defined in Special Condition No. 1, “Definitions,” for which Bombardier shows and the FAA finds compliance with § 25.981(a)(3) to be impractical, the following requirements may be applied in lieu of the requirements of § 25.981(a)(3):

    (a) Bombardier must show that the airplane design meets the requirements of part 25, appendix M, as amended by Amendment 25-125, for all fuel tanks installed on the airplane.

    (b) Bombardier must show that the design includes at least two independent, effective, and reliable lightning protection features (or sets of features) such that fault tolerance to prevent lightning-related ignition sources is provided for each area of the structural design proposed to be shown compliant with these special conditions in lieu of compliance with the requirements of § 25.981(a)(3). Fault tolerance is not required for any specific design feature if:

    (1) For that feature, providing fault tolerance is shown to be impractical, and

    (2) Fuel tank vapor ignition due to that feature and all other non-fault-tolerant features, when their fuel tank vapor ignition event probabilities are summed, is shown to be extremely improbable.

    (c) Bombardier must perform an analysis to show that the design, manufacturing processes, and the airworthiness limitations section of the instructions for continued airworthiness include all practical measures to prevent, and detect and correct, failures of structural lightning protection features due to manufacturing variability, aging, wear, corrosion, and likely damage.

    Issued in Renton, Washington, on February 25, 2015. Jeffrey E. Duven, Manager, Transport Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05047 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Bureau of Industry and Security 15 CFR Part 748 [Docket No. 150206120-5120-01] RIN 0694-AG50 Amendments to Existing Validated End-User Authorization in the People's Republic of China: Samsung China Semiconductor Co. Ltd. AGENCY:

    Bureau of Industry and Security, Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    In this rule, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amends the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to revise the existing authorization for Validated End User Samsung China Semiconductor Co. Ltd. (Samsung China) in the People's Republic of China (PRC). Specifically, BIS amends Supplement No. 7 to Part 748 of the EAR to add two items to Samsung China's eligible items that may be exported, reexported or transferred (in country) to the company's eligible facilities (also known as “eligible destinations”) in the PRC.

    DATES:

    This rule is effective March 5, 2015.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Mi-Yong Kim, Chair, End-User Review Committee, Office of the Assistant Secretary, Export Administration, Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce, Phone: 202-482-5991; Fax: 202-482-3911; Email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Authorization Validated End-User

    Validated End-Users (VEUs) are designated entities located in eligible destinations to which eligible items may be exported, reexported, or transferred (in-country) under a general authorization instead of a license. The names of the VEUs, as well as the dates they were so designated, and their respective eligible destinations and items are identified in Supplement No. 7 to Part 748 of the EAR. Under the terms described in that supplement, VEUs may obtain eligible items without an export license from BIS, in conformity with Section 748.15 of the EAR. Eligible items vary between VEUs and may include commodities, software, and technology, except those controlled for missile technology or crime control reasons on the Commerce Control List (CCL) (part 774 of the EAR).

    VEUs are reviewed and approved by the U.S. Government in accordance with the provisions of Section 748.15 and Supplement Nos. 8 and 9 to Part 748 of the EAR. The End-User Review Committee (ERC), composed of representatives from the Departments of State, Defense, Energy, and Commerce, and other agencies, as appropriate, is responsible for administering the VEU program. BIS amended the EAR in a final rule published on June 19, 2007 (72 FR 33646) to create Authorization VEU.

    Amendment to Existing VEU Authorization for Samsung China Semiconductor Co. Ltd (Samsung China) in the People's Republic of China (PRC) Revision to the List of “Eligible Items (by ECCN)” for Samsung China

    In this final rule, BIS amends Supplement No. 7 to Part 748 to add two Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs), 2B006.a and 2B006.b.1.d, to the list of items that may be exported, reexported or transferred (in-country) to Samsung China's facility in the PRC under Authorization VEU. The revised list of eligible items for Samsung China is as follows:

    Eligible Items (by ECCN) That May Be Exported, Reexported or Transferred (In-Country) to the Eligible Destination Identified Under Samsung China Semiconductor Co. Ltd.'s Validated End-User Authorization

    1C350.c.3, 1C350.d.7, 2B006.a, 2B006.b.1.d, 2B230, 2B350.d.2, 2B350.g.3, 2B350.i.3, 3A233, 3B001.a.1, 3B001.b, 3B001.c, 3B001.e, 3B001.f, 3B001.h, 3C002, 3C004, 3D002, and 3E001 (limited to “technology” for items classified under 3C002 and 3C004 and “technology” for use consistent with the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors process for items classified under ECCNs 3B001 and 3B002).

    Export Administration Act

    Since August 21, 2001, the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended, has been in lapse. However, the President, through Executive Order 13222 of August 17, 2001, 3 CFR 2001 Comp., p. 783 (2002), as amended by Executive Order 13637 of March 8, 2013, 78 FR 16129 (March 13, 2013), and as extended by the Notice of August 7, 2014, 79 FR 46959 (August 11, 2014) has continued the EAR in effect under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.). BIS continues to carry out the provisions of the Export Administration Act, as appropriate and to the extent permitted by law, pursuant to Executive Order 13222, as amended by Executive Order 13637.

    Rulemaking Requirements

    1. Executive Orders 13563 and 12866 direct agencies to assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). Executive Order 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, reducing costs, harmonizing rules, and promoting flexibility. This rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866.

    2. This rule involves collections previously approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Control Number 0694-0088, “Multi- Purpose Application,” which carries a burden hour estimate of 43.8 minutes to prepare and submit form BIS-748; and for recordkeeping, reporting and review requirements in connection with Authorization VEU, which carries an estimated burden of 30 minutes per submission. This rule is expected to result in a decrease in license applications submitted to BIS. Total burden hours associated with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) (PRA) and OMB Control Number 0694-0088 are not expected to increase significantly as a result of this rule. Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, no person is required to respond to, nor be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with a collection of information subject to the requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB Control Number.

    3. This rule does not contain policies with Federalism implications as that term is defined under Executive Order 13132.

    4. Pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), BIS finds good cause to waive requirements that this rule be subject to notice and the opportunity for public comment because they are unnecessary. In determining whether to grant VEU designations, a committee of U.S. Government agencies evaluates information about and commitments made by candidate companies, the nature and terms of which are set forth in 15 CFR part 748, Supplement No. 8. The criteria for evaluation by the committee are set forth in 15 CFR 748.15(a)(2). The information, commitments, and criteria for this extensive review were all established through the notice of proposed rulemaking and public comment process (71 FR 38313 (July 6, 2006) (proposed rule), and 72 FR 33646 (June 19, 2007) (final rule)). Given the similarities between the authorizations provided under the VEU program and export licenses (as discussed further below), the publication of this information does not establish new policy. Publication of this rule in other than final form is unnecessary because the authorizations granted in the rule are consistent with the authorizations granted to exporters for individual licenses (and amendments or revisions thereof), which do not undergo public review. In addition, as with license applications, VEU authorization applications contain confidential business information, which is necessary for the extensive review conducted by the U.S. Government in assessing such applications. This information is extensively reviewed according to the criteria for VEU authorizations, as set out in 15 CFR 748.15(a)(2). Additionally, just as the interagency reviews license applications, the authorizations granted under the VEU program involve interagency deliberation and result from review of public and non-public sources, including licensing data, and the measurement of such information against the VEU authorization criteria. Given the nature of the review, and in light of the parallels between the VEU application review process and the review of license applications, public comment on this authorization and subsequent amendments prior to publication is unnecessary. Moreover, because, as noted above, the criteria and process for authorizing and administering VEUs were developed with public comments, allowing additional public comment on this amendment to individual VEU authorizations, which was determined according to those criteria, is unnecessary.

    Section 553(d) of the APA generally provides that rules may not take effect earlier than thirty (30) days after they are published in the Federal Register. BIS finds good cause to waive the 30- day delay in effectiveness under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) because the delay would be contrary to the public interest. BIS is simply amending the authorization of an existing VEU by adding two ECCNs to the list of eligible items that may be sent to that VEU, consistent with established objectives and parameters administered and enforced by the responsible designated departmental representatives to the End-User Review Committee. Delaying this action's effectiveness could cause confusion regarding which items are authorized by the U.S. Government and in turn stifle the purpose of the VEU Program. Accordingly, it is contrary to the public interest to delay this rule's effectiveness.

    No other law requires that a notice of proposed rulemaking and an opportunity for public comment be given for this final rule. Because a notice of proposed rulemaking and an opportunity for public comment are not required under the APA or by any other law, the analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) are not applicable. As a result, no final regulatory flexibility analysis is required and none has been prepared.

    List of Subjects in 15 CFR Part 748

    Administrative practice and procedure, Exports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Accordingly, part 748 of the EAR (15 CFR parts 730-774) is amended as follows:

    PART 748—[AMENDED] 1. The authority citation for 15 CFR part 748 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    50 U.S.C. app. 2401 et seq.; 50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.; E.O. 13026, 61 FR 58767, 3 CFR, 1996 Comp., p. 228; E.O. 13222, 66 FR 44025, 3 CFR, 2001 Comp., p. 783; Notice of August 7, 2014, 79 FR 46959 (August 11, 2014).

    2. Amend Supplement No. 7 to Part 748 by revising the entry for “Samsung China Semiconductor Co. Ltd.” in “China (People's Republic of)” to read as follows: Supplement No. 7 to Part 748—Authorization Validated End-User (VEU): List of Validated End-Users, Respective Items Eligible for Export, Reexport and Transfer, and Eligible Destinations Country Validated
  • end-user
  • Eligible items
  • (by ECCN)
  • Eligible destination Federal Register citation
    Nothing in this Supplement shall be deemed to supersede other provisions in the EAR, including but not limited to § 748.15(c). *         *         *         *         *         *         * Samsung China Semi conductor Co. Ltd 1C350.c.3, 1C350.d.7, 2B006.a, 2B006.b.1.d, 2B230, 2B350.d.2, 2B350.g.3, 2B350.i.3, 3A233, 3B001.a.1, 3B001.b, 3B001.c, 3B001.e, 3B001.f, 3B001.h, 3C002, 3C004, 3D002, and 3E001 (limited to “technology” for items classified under 3C002 and 3C004 and “technology” for use consistent with the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors process for items classified under ECCNs 3B001 and 3B002) Samsung China Semiconductor Co. Ltd. No. 1999, North Xiaohe Road Xi'an, China 710119 78 FR 41291, 7/10/13. 78 FR 69535, 11/20/13. 79 FR 30713, 5/29/14. 80 FR [INSERT PAGE NUMBER], March 5, 2015. *         *         *         *         *         *         *
    Dated: February 27, 2015. Kevin J. Wolf, Assistant Secretary for Export Administration.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05085 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-33-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 895 Banned Devices CFR Correction

    In Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 800 to 1299, revised as of April 1, 2014, on page 594, in § 895.21, remove the undesignated paragraph following paragraph (d)(8).

    [FR Doc. 2015-05028 Filed 3-4-15; 08:45 am] BILLING CODE 1505-01D
    DEPARTMENT OF LABOR Occupational Safety and Health Administration 29 CFR Part 1980 [Docket Number: OSHA-2011-0126] RIN 1218-AC53 Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as Amended AGENCY:

    Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Labor.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    This document provides the final text of regulations governing employee protection (retaliation or whistleblower) claims under section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, Title VIII of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Sarbanes-Oxley or Act), which was amended by sections 922 and 929A of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank), enacted on July 21, 2010. An interim final rule (IFR) governing these provisions and request for comment was published in the Federal Register on November 3, 2011. Five comments were received. This rule responds to those comments and establishes the final procedures and time frames for the handling of retaliation complaints under Sarbanes-Oxley, including procedures and time frames for employee complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), investigations by OSHA, appeals of OSHA determinations to an administrative law judge (ALJ) for a hearing de novo, hearings by ALJs, review of ALJ decisions by the Administrative Review Board (ARB) (acting on behalf of the Secretary of Labor), and judicial review of the Secretary of Labor's final decision. It also sets forth the Secretary of Labor's interpretations of the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provision on certain matters.

    DATES:

    This final rule is effective on March 5, 2015.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Brian Broecker, Directorate of Whistleblower Protection Programs, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-4624, 200 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20210; telephone (202) 693-2199; email: [email protected] This is not a toll-free number. This Federal Register publication is available in alternative formats. The alternative formats available are large print, electronic file on computer disk (Word Perfect, ASCII, Mates with Duxbury Braille System) and audiotape.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background

    Sarbanes-Oxley was first enacted on July 30, 2002. Title VIII is designated as the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002. Section 806, codified at 18 U.S.C. 1514A, is the “whistleblower provision,” which provides protection to employees against retaliation by certain persons covered under the Act for engaging in specified protected activity. The Act generally was designed to protect investors by ensuring corporate responsibility, enhancing public disclosure, and improving the quality and transparency of financial reporting and auditing. The whistleblower provision is intended to protect employees who report fraudulent activity and violations of Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) rules and regulations that can harm innocent investors in publicly traded companies.

    Dodd-Frank amended the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provision, 18 U.S.C. 1514A. The regulatory revisions described herein reflect these statutory amendments and also seek to clarify and improve OSHA's procedures for handling Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower claims, as well as to set forth OSHA's interpretations of the Act. To the extent possible within the bounds of applicable statutory language, these revised regulations are designed to be consistent with the procedures applied to claims under other whistleblower statutes administered by OSHA, including the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA), 29 CFR part 1978; the National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA) and the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), 29 CFR part 1982; the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), 29 CFR part 1983; the Employee Protection Provisions of Six Environmental Statutes and Section 211 of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, as amended, 29 CFR part 24; the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 29 CFR part 1984; the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), 29 CFR part 1985; the Seaman's Protection Act (SPA), 29 CFR part 1986; and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), 29 CFR part 1987.

    II. Summary of Statutory Procedures and Statutory Changes to the Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Provision

    Sarbanes-Oxley's whistleblower provision, as amended by Dodd-Frank, includes procedures that allow a covered employee to file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) 1 not later than 180 days after the alleged retaliation or after the employee learns of the alleged retaliation. Sarbanes-Oxley further provides that the rules and procedures set forth in the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21), 49 U.S.C. 42121(b), govern in Sarbanes-Oxley actions. 18 U.S.C. 1514A(b)(2)(A). Accordingly, upon receipt of the complaint, the Secretary must provide written notice to the person or persons named in the complaint alleged to have violated the Act (respondent) of the filing of the complaint, the allegations contained in the complaint, the substance of the evidence supporting the complaint, and the rights afforded the respondent throughout the investigation. The Secretary must then, within 60 days of receipt of the complaint, afford the respondent an opportunity to submit a response and meet with the investigator to present statements from witnesses, and conduct an investigation.

    1 The regulatory provisions in this part have been written and organized to be consistent with other whistleblower regulations promulgated by OSHA to the extent possible within the bounds of the statutory language of Sarbanes-Oxley. Responsibility for receiving and investigating complaints under Sarbanes-Oxley has been delegated to the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health. Secretary of Labor's Order No. 01-2012 (Jan. 18, 2012), 77 FR 3912 (Jan. 25, 2012). Hearings on determinations by the Assistant Secretary are conducted by the Office of Administrative Law Judges, and appeals from decisions by administrative law judges are decided by the ARB. Secretary of Labor's Order 2-2012 (Oct. 19, 2012), 77 FR 69378 (Nov. 16, 2012).

    The statute provides that the Secretary may conduct an investigation only if the complainant has made a prima facie showing that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action alleged in the complaint and the respondent has not demonstrated, through clear and convincing evidence, that the employer would have taken the same adverse action in the absence of that activity (see Section 1980.104 for a summary of the investigation process). OSHA interprets the prima facie case requirement as allowing the complainant to meet this burden through the complaint as supplemented by interviews of the complainant.

    After investigating a complaint, the Secretary will issue written findings. If, as a result of the investigation, the Secretary finds there is reasonable cause to believe that retaliation has occurred, the Secretary must notify the respondent of those findings, along with a preliminary order which includes all relief necessary to make the employee whole, including, where appropriate: Reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had but for the retaliation; back pay with interest; and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the retaliation, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.

    The complainant and the respondent then have 30 days after the date of the Secretary's notification in which to file objections to the findings and/or preliminary order and request a hearing before an ALJ. The filing of objections under Sarbanes-Oxley will stay any remedy in the preliminary order except for preliminary reinstatement. If a hearing before an ALJ is not requested within 30 days, the preliminary order becomes final and is not subject to judicial review.

    If a hearing is held, Sarbanes-Oxley requires the hearing to be conducted “expeditiously.” The Secretary then has 120 days after the conclusion of any hearing in which to issue a final order, which may provide appropriate relief or deny the complaint. Until the Secretary's final order is issued, the Secretary, the complainant, and the respondent may enter into a settlement agreement that terminates the proceeding. Where the Secretary has determined that a violation has occurred, the Secretary, will order all relief necessary to make the employee whole, including, where appropriate: reinstatement of the complainant to his or her former position together with the same seniority status the complainant would have had but for the retaliation; payment of back pay with interest; and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the retaliation, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.

    Within 60 days of the issuance of the final order, any person adversely affected or aggrieved by the Secretary's final order may file an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the violation occurred or the circuit where the complainant resided on the date of the violation.

    Sarbanes-Oxley permits the employee to seek de novo review of the complaint by a United States district court in the event that the Secretary has not issued a final decision within 180 days after the filing of the complaint and there is no showing that such delay is due to the bad faith of the complainant. The court will have jurisdiction over the action without regard to the amount in controversy, and the case will be tried before a jury at the request of either party.

    Dodd-Frank, enacted on July 21, 2010, amended the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provision to make several substantive changes. First, section 922(b) of Dodd-Frank added protection for employees from retaliation by nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (as defined in section 3(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78c)) or their officers, employees, contractors, subcontractors, and agents.2 Second, as noted above, section 922(c) of Dodd-Frank extended the statutory filing period for retaliation complaints under Sarbanes-Oxley from 90 days to 180 days after the date on which the violation occurs or after the date on which the employee became aware of the violation. Section 922(c) of Dodd-Frank also provided parties with a right to a jury trial in district court actions brought under Sarbanes-Oxley's “kick-out” provision, 18 U.S.C. 1514A(b)(1)(B), which provides that, if the Secretary has not issued a final decision within 180 days of the filing of the complaint and there is no showing that there has been delay due to the bad faith of the complainant, the complainant may bring an action at law or equity for de novo review in the appropriate district court of the United States, which will have jurisdiction over such action without regard to the amount in controversy. Third, section 922(c) amended Sarbanes-Oxley to state that the rights and remedies provided for in 18 U.S.C. 1514A may not be waived by any agreement, policy form, or condition of employment, including by a pre-dispute arbitration agreement, and to provide that no pre-dispute arbitration agreement shall be valid or enforceable if the agreement requires arbitration of a dispute arising under this section.

    2 Section 3(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 defines a nationally recognized statistical ratings organization as a credit rating agency that issues credit ratings certified by qualified institutional buyers, in accordance with 15 U.S.C. 78o-7(a)(1)(B)(ix), with respect to: financial institutions, brokers, or dealers; insurance companies; corporate issuers; issuers of asset-backed securities (as that term is defined in section 1101(c) of part 229 of title 17, Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on September 29, 2006); issuers of government securities, municipal securities, or securities issued by a foreign government; or a combination of one or more categories of obligors described in any of clauses (i) through (v); and is registered under 15 U.S.C. 78o-7 (15 U.S.C. 78c(a)(62)).

    In addition, section 929A of Dodd-Frank clarified that companies covered by the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provision include any company with a class of securities registered under section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78l), or that is required to file reports under section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78o(d)) including any subsidiary or affiliate whose financial information is included in the consolidated financial statements of such company. As explained in Johnson v. Siemens Building Technologies, Inc., ARB No. 08-032, 2011 WL 1247202, at *11 (Mar. 31, 2011), section 929A merely clarified that subsidiaries and affiliates are covered under the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provision. Section 929A applies to all cases currently pending before the Secretary.

    III. Summary of Regulations and Rulemaking Proceedings

    On November 3, 2011, OSHA published in the Federal Register an IFR revising rules governing the whistleblower provisions of Section 806 of Sarbanes-Oxley. 76 FR 68084. OSHA included a request for public comment on the interim rules by January 3, 2012.

    In response, four organizations and one individual filed comments with OSHA within the public comment period. Comments were received from Mr. Hunter Levi; the National Whistleblower Center (NWC); Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP (Marshall); the Equal Employment Advisory Council (EEAC); and the Society of Corporate Secretaries & Governance Professionals (SCSGP).

    OSHA has reviewed and considered the comments and now adopts this final rule with minor revisions. The following discussion addresses the comments, OSHA's responses, and any other changes to the provisions of the rule. The provisions in the IFR are adopted and continued in this final rule, unless otherwise noted below.

    General Comments

    Marshall commented that “in large part, the rules simply effectuate changes made by [Dodd-Frank] and are rather modest in scope,” and wrote in support of several changes made in the IFR. Marshall stated that Congress enacted Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provisions to ensure that employees could raise concerns about potentially harmful fraud on shareholders and others without fear of retaliation. In response to anticipated comments that the rules “will make pursuing a SOX whistleblower claim far less daunting,” Marshall noted, “why should OSHA procedures make pursuing a whistleblower complaint daunting for an employee in a procedural sense?” (emphasis in original). Marshall explained, “If the purpose of SOX whistleblower protections is to encourage and facilitate the timely reporting of financial fraud that can cause tremendous harm to the public good, the administrative process should be as accessible as possible.” Marshall also commented on specific provisions of the rule; those comments are addressed below.

    SCSGP noted that Section 806 of Sarbanes-Oxley provides whistleblowers with broad protection against retaliation, and its safeguards were enhanced by the enactment of Dodd-Frank. SCSGP also pointed to recent ARB case law and other provisions of Dodd-Frank that provide expanded whistleblower protections. SCSGP commented that these developments “underscore the need to ensure that employers are provided adequate due process in the context of DOL's administration of Section 806 complaints.” SCSGP comments then focused on four aspects of the IFR that SCSGP considers are “unauthorized by statute, imbalanced, and unduly prejudicial to employers' reasonable interests.” Those specific comments and provisions are discussed in detail below.

    Mr. Levi asserted his belief that the IFR contained “new provisions that violate the intent of Congress, ignore longstanding precedent concerning the authority of the Secretary, and seek to create a bogus legal exception to SOX Section 802, [18 U.S.C. 1519]; which deals with the criminal obstruction of SOX in government proceedings.” Mr. Levi also asserted his belief that the revisions to which he objects violate the rights of Sarbanes-Oxley complainants and increase the risk of employer securities fraud. Mr. Levi's comments additionally addressed two specific portions of the IFR Federal Register notice: Section 1980.112 and the preamble discussion of Section 1980.114. OSHA has addressed Mr. Levi's comments in the discussion of the specific provisions below.

    EEAC commented that the IFR accurately reflected the changes made by Dodd-Frank, and commended OSHA for this effort. EEAC further submitted that many of the additional changes incorporated in the IFR, for purposes of clarification and improvement of the procedures, were not directed by Dodd-Frank. EEAC respectfully submitted that many of these changes “seem intentionally designed to make it easier for claimants to file and prosecute, and more difficult for respondents to defend,” Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower complaints. EEAC then commented on several specific provisions of the rule, and those comments are addressed below.

    NWC, in support of its various suggested revisions, discussed the overall remedial purpose of the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provisions, as well as the employee protection provisions of various other statutes that OSHA enforces. NWC also commented specifically on several provisions of the IFR, which are discussed below.

    Subpart A—Complaints, Investigations, Findings and Preliminary Orders Section 1980.100 Purpose and Scope

    This section describes the purpose of the regulations implementing Sarbanes-Oxley and provides an overview of the procedures covered by these regulations. No comments were received on this section. However, OSHA has added a statement in subparagraph (b) noting that these rules reflect the Secretary's interpretations of the Act.

    Section 1980.101 Definitions

    This section includes general definitions applicable to Sarbanes-Oxley's whistleblower provision. The interim final rule updated and revised this section in light of Dodd-Frank's amendments to Sarbanes-Oxley. In March 2014, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Lawson v. FMR LLC, 134 S. Ct. 1158 (2014), in which it affirmed the Department's view that protected employees under Sarbanes-Oxley's whistleblower provision include employees of contractors to public companies. No changes have been made to the definition of “employee” in this rule, as the interim final rule's definition of “employee” is consistent with the Supreme Court's decision. No comments were received on this section of the interim final rule and no changes have been made to this section.

    Section 1980.102 Obligations and Prohibited Acts

    This section describes the activities that are protected under Sarbanes-Oxley and the conduct that is prohibited in response to any protected activities.

    The final rule, like the interim final rule, provides that an employee is protected against retaliation by a covered person for any lawful act done by the employee:

    (1) To provide information, cause information to be provided, or otherwise assist in an investigation regarding any conduct which the employee reasonably believes constitutes a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1341 (mail fraud), 1343 (wire fraud), 1344 (bank fraud), or 1348 (securities fraud), any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or any provision of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders, when the information or assistance is provided to or the investigation is conducted by—

    (i) A Federal regulatory or law enforcement agency;

    (ii) Any Member of Congress or any committee of Congress; or

    (iii) A person with supervisory authority over the employee (or such other person working for the employer who has the authority to investigate, discover, or terminate misconduct); or

    (2) To file, cause to be filed, testify, participate in, or otherwise assist in a proceeding filed or about to be filed (with any knowledge of the employer) relating to an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343, 1344, or 1348, any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or any provision of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

    In order to have a “reasonable belief” under Sarbanes-Oxley, a complainant must have both a subjective, good faith belief and an objectively reasonable belief that the complained-of conduct violates one of the enumerated categories of law. See Lockheed Martin Corp. v. ARB, 717 F.3d 1121, 1132 (10th Cir. 2013); Wiest v. Lynch, 710 F.3d 121, 131-32 (3d Cir. 2013); Sylvester v. Parexel Int'l LLC, ARB No. 07-123, 2011 WL 2165854, at *12 (ARB May 25, 2011). The requirement that the complainant have a subjective, good faith belief is satisfied so long as the complainant actually believed that the conduct complained of violated the relevant law. See Sylvester, 2011 WL 2165854, at *12 (citing Harp v. Charter Commc'ns, 558 F.3d 722, 723 (7th Cir. 2009)); Day v. Staples, Inc., 555 F.3d 42, 54 n.10 (1st Cir. 2009) (quoting Welch v. Chao, 536 F.3d 269, 277 n.4 (4th Cir. 2008) (“Subjective reasonableness requires that the employee `actually believed the conduct complained of constituted a violation of pertinent law.' ”)). “[T]he legislative history of Sarbanes-Oxley makes clear that its protections were `intended to include all good faith and reasonable reporting of fraud, and there should be no presumption that reporting is otherwise.' ” Sylvester, 2011 WL 2165854, at *11 (quoting Van Asdale v. Int'l Game Tech., 577 F.3d 989, 1002 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing 148 Cong. Rec. S7418-01, S7420 (daily ed. July 26, 2002))).

    The objective “reasonableness” of a complainant's belief is typically determined “based on the knowledge available to a reasonable person in the same factual circumstances with the same training and experience as the aggrieved employee.” Sylvester, 2011 WL 2165854, at *12 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Harp, 558 F.3d at 723. However, the complainant need not show that the conduct complained of constituted an actual violation of law. Pursuant to this standard, an employee's whistleblower activity is protected where it is based on a reasonable, but mistaken, belief that a violation of the relevant law has occurred or is likely to occur. See Sylvester, 2011 WL 2165854, at *13 (citing Welch, 536 F.3d at 277); Allen v. Admin. Rev. Bd., 514 F.3d 468, 476-77 (5th Cir. 2008); Melendez v. Exxon Chemicals Americas, ARB No. 96-051, slip op. at 21 (ARB July 14, 2000) (“It is also well established that the protection afforded whistleblowers who raise concerns regarding statutory violations is contingent on meeting the aforementioned `reasonable belief' standard rather than proving that actual violations have occurred.”).

    NWC commented on this section and suggested that an additional paragraph be added to this section, addressing the question of extraterritorial application of Section 806 of Sarbanes-Oxley. At the time of its comment, this question was before the ARB for consideration. NWC noted that because the issue of extraterritorial application was pending, the Department of Labor (Department) could “facilitate determination of these issues by making a few clarifications in the regulations.” NWC suggested OSHA add a paragraph 29 CFR 1980.102(c), that provides as follows: “(c) The employee protections of the Act shall have the same extraterritorial application as the Securities Exchange Act, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), 15 U.S.C. 78dd-1.” However, since the writing of the comment, the ARB has issued its decision on this question, holding that “Section 806(a)(1) does not allow for its extraterritorial application.” Villanueva v. Core Laboratories NV, No. 09-108, 2011 WL 7021145, at *9 (ARB Dec. 22, 2011), affirmed on other grounds, Villanueva v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, 743 F.3d 103 (5th Cir. 2014). The ARB's decision in Villanueva provides the Secretary's views on the extraterritorial application of the SOX whistleblower provision and OSHA therefore declines to include NWC's suggested paragraph on this issue. No other comments were received on this section and no changes have been made to it.

    Section 1980.103 Filing of Retaliation Complaints

    This section explains the requirements for filing a retaliation complaint under Sarbanes-Oxley. The Dodd-Frank 2010 statutory amendments changed the statute of limitations for filing a complaint from 90 to 180 days after the date on which the violation occurs, or after the date on which the employee became aware of the violation. This change was reflected in the IFR and is continued here. Therefore, to be timely, a complaint must be filed within 180 days of when the alleged violation occurs, or after the date on which the employee became aware of the violation. Under Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 258 (1980), the time of the alleged violation is considered to be when the retaliatory decision has been both made and communicated to the complainant. The time for filing a complaint under Sarbanes-Oxley may be tolled for reasons warranted by applicable case law. For example, OSHA may consider the time for filing a Sarbanes-Oxley complaint equitably tolled if the complainant mistakenly files a complaint with another agency instead of OSHA within 180 days after becoming aware of the alleged violation. EEAC expressed its support for this revision.

    The IFR also amended Section 1980.103(b) to change the requirement that whistleblower complaints to OSHA under Sarbanes-Oxley “must be in writing and should include a full statement of the acts and omissions, with pertinent dates, which are believed to constitute the violations.” Consistent with OSHA's procedural rules under other whistleblower statutes, complaints filed under Sarbanes-Oxley now need not be in any particular form. They may be either oral or in writing. When a complaint is made orally, OSHA will reduce the complaint to writing. If a complainant is not able to file the complaint in English, the complaint may be filed in any language. With the consent of the employee, complaints may be filed by any person on the employee's behalf. As noted below, several comments were received on this section of the interim final rule. No changes have been made in response to the comments. However, the term “email” in paragraph (d) has been changed to “electronic communication transmittal” because OSHA has published an on-line complaint form on its Web site, http://www.whistleblowers.gov/complaint_page.html.

    SCSGP commented that it is “very concerned that the proposed `oral complaint' provision will have unintended negative consequences, and [it] urge[s] OSHA not to enact it.” SCSGP further commented that the new rule is “unnecessary because SOX complaints most often are filed by sophisticated professionals,” and that the rule shifts the OSHA investigator's role from one of a neutral fact-finder to an advocate for the complainant. SCSGP also commented that the rule lacks any standard for the investigator's creation of the complaint. SCSGP also raised the concern that the new rule “presents the risk that the complainant will later treat the investigator as an adverse witness in the litigation.” SCSGP explained that in cases where a complainant who proceeds to further stages of the administrative proceeding, or a complainant who transfers their case to federal district court, may seek to modify or expand their original complaint by arguing that the OSHA investigator did not accurately record the complainant's allegations at the time of the initial complaint. SCSGP explained this could place the investigator in the role of an adverse witness and subject him or her to scrutiny for failing to capture the oral complaint in totality.

    Similarly, EEAC commented that it questioned the “rationale of eliminating the requirement that a written complaint contain the full details concerning the alleged violation.” EEAC commented that written complaints emphasize the gravity of invoking protection under Sarbanes-Oxley and discourage frivolous complaints. The EEAC also commented on the provision that complaints may be made in any language, stating that “[t]he agency offers no guidance on by whom, if at all, the complaint will be translated into English” nor how a respondent may submit its own proposed translation. EEAC respectfully recommended that this final rule make clear how these issues would be resolved. Conversely, Marshall wrote in support of these revisions.

    OSHA has considered these comments and adopts the changes made in the IFR. The statutory text of SOX does not require written complaints to OSHA. See 29 U.S.C. 1514A(b)(1)(A). Further, as Marshall noted in his comment, “[m]aking it clear that OSHA can accept oral complaints is better described as a clarification than as an amendment to existing procedures.” Indeed, the Department has long permitted oral complaints under the environmental statutes. See, e.g. , Roberts v. Rivas Environmental Consultants, Inc., ARB No. 97-026, 1997 WL 578330, at *3 n.6 (ARB Sept. 17, 1997) (complainant's oral statement to an OSHA investigator, and the subsequent preparation of an internal memorandum by that investigator summarizing the oral complaint, satisfies the “in writing” requirement of CERCLA, 42 U.S.C. 9610(b), and the Department's accompanying regulations in 29 CFR part 24); Dartey v. Zack Co. of Chicago, No. 1982-ERA-2, 1983 WL 189787, at *3 n.1 (Sec'y of Labor Apr. 25, 1983) (adopting administrative law judge's findings that complainant's filing of a complaint to the wrong DOL office did not render the filing invalid and that the agency's memorandum of the complaint satisfied the “in writing” requirement of the Energy Reorganization Act (“ERA”) and the Department's accompanying regulations in 29 CFR part 24). Moreover, accepting oral complaints under Sarbanes-Oxley is consistent with OSHA's longstanding practice of accepting oral complaints filed under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 29 U.S.C. 660(c); Section 211 of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986, 15 U.S.C. 2651; Section 7 of the International Safe Container Act of 1977, 46 U.S.C. 80507; and STAA, 49 U.S.C. 31105. This change also accords with the Supreme Court's decision in Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., in which the Court held that the anti-retaliation provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee because such employee has “filed any complaint,” protects employees' oral complaints of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 563 U.S. __, 131 S. Ct. 1325 (2011).

    Furthermore, OSHA believes that its acceptance of oral complaints under Sarbanes-Oxley is most consistent with the ARB's decisions in Sylvester and Evans v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ARB No. 08-059 (ARB Jul. 31, 2012). In Sylvester, noting that OSHA does not require complaints under Sarbanes-Oxley to be in any form and that under 29 CFR 1980.104(b) OSHA has a duty, if appropriate, to interview the complainant to supplement the complaint, the ARB held that the federal court pleading standards established in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) do not apply to Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower complaints filed with OSHA. 2011 WL 2165854, at *9-10. In Evans, the ARB articulated the legal standard for analyzing the sufficiency of a whistleblower complaint brought before an ALJ. The ARB held that the whistleblower complaint need only give “fair notice” of the protected activity and adverse action to withstand a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. ARB No. 08-059, slip op. at *9. Furthermore, the ARB instructed that an ALJ should not act on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim until it is clear that the complainant has filed a document that articulates the claims presented to the OALJ for hearing following OSHA's findings. Id., at *8. Complaints filed with OSHA under this section are simply “informal documents that initiate an investigation into allegations of unlawful retaliation in violation of the [Act].” Id., at *7. Permitting a complainant to file a complaint orally or in writing or in any language is consistent with the purpose of the complaint filed with OSHA, which is to trigger an investigation regarding whether there is reasonable cause to believe that retaliation occurred.

    Furthermore, upon receipt of a complaint, OSHA must provide the respondent notice of the filing of the complaint, the allegations contained in the complaint, and the substance of the evidence supporting the complaint. 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(2)(A); 29 CFR 1980.104(a). OSHA may not undertake an investigation of the complaint unless the complaint, supplemented as appropriate by interviews of the complainant, makes a prima facie allegation of retaliation. 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(2)(B); 29 CFR 1980.104(e). If OSHA commences an investigation, the respondent has the opportunity to submit a response to the complaint and meet with the investigator to present statements from witnesses. 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(2)(A); 29 CFR 1980.104(b). To fulfill these statutory responsibilities, when OSHA receives an oral complaint, OSHA gathers as much information as it can from the complainant about the complainant's allegations so that the respondent will be able to adequately respond to the complaint and so that OSHA may properly determine the scope of any investigation into the complaint. OSHA also generally provides the respondent with a copy of its memorandum memorializing the complaint, and the respondent has the opportunity to request that OSHA clarify the allegations in the complaint if necessary.

    Regarding SCSGP's comment that the investigator may be later called as an adverse witness in litigation, OSHA understands this comment to be implicating the issue of adding untimely claims or exhaustion of remedies. Under Section 806, an employee must file a complaint with OSHA alleging a violation of this provision and allow OSHA an opportunity to investigate before pursuing the claim before an ALJ or in federal court. 18 U.S.C. 1514A(b)(1)(A). Failure to raise a particular claim or allegation before OSHA can result in that claim being barred in subsequent administrative or federal court proceedings for failure to “exhaust administrative remedies.” See, e.g. , Willis v. Vie Financial Group, Inc., No. Civ. A. 04-435, 2004 WL 1774575 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 6, 2004) (barring a complainant's claim because he did not amend his OSHA complaint to assert post-complaint retaliation); Carter v. Champion Bus, Inc., ARB No. 05-076, slip op. at *9 (ARB Sept. 29, 2006) (the ARB generally will not consider arguments or evidence first raised on appeal); Saporito v. Central Locating Services, Ltd., ARB No. 05-004, slip op. at *9 (ARB Feb. 28, 2006) (the ARB was unwilling to entertain an argument from the complainant that he had engaged in certain activity where he had not presented that theory to the ALJ, and where the argument was supported by no “references to the record, legal authority or analysis.”). While a dispute could arise in a whistleblower complaint filed orally regarding whether OSHA properly recorded the allegations at issue in the complaint and whether the complainant properly exhausted his administrative remedies, this possibility is not new, as OSHA's historical practice has been to accept complaints orally and reduce them to writing and to supplement complaints with interviews of the complainant as necessary. In addition, the possibility that a dispute could arise regarding the claims raised to OSHA does not outweigh the benefits to whistleblowers and the public of allowing such complaints to be filed orally with OSHA.

    In response to EEAC's comment regarding OSHA's acceptance of complaints in any language, OSHA believes that its procedures are fair and ensure the accuracy of the complaint and evidence submitted to OSHA. Under current practices for receiving complaints, OSHA uses professional interpretive services to communicate with employees speaking a language other than English. The OSHA investigator will reduce the complaint to writing, in English, as communicated to him or her through the interpretive service. Translation services are also available to interview complainants throughout an investigation. Additionally, should the complainant wish to submit his or her complaint in another language in writing, or submit additional documents throughout the investigation in another language, OSHA will use document translation services. Should a respondent wish to see an original document, as well as any translation, this information may be exchanged in accordance with the procedures and privacy protections set forth in Section 1980.104 (discussed in detail below). A respondent then would be free to submit his or her own translation of any such document to the OSHA investigator in accordance with the investigation procedures set forth in Section 1980.104.

    Section 1980.104 Investigation

    This section describes the procedures that apply to the investigation of Sarbanes-Oxley complaints. Paragraph (a) of this section outlines the procedures for notifying the parties and the SEC of the complaint and notifying respondents of their rights under these regulations. Paragraph (b) describes the procedures for the respondent to submit its response to the complaint. Paragraph (c) of the IFR specified that OSHA will provide to the complainant (or the complainant's legal counsel if the complainant is represented by counsel) a copy of all of respondent's submissions to OSHA that are responsive to the complainant's whistleblower complaint at a time permitting the complainant an opportunity to respond to those submissions. Paragraph (c) further provided that before providing such materials to the complainant, OSHA will redact them in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, and other applicable confidentiality laws. Paragraph (d) of this section discusses confidentiality of information provided during investigations.

    Paragraph (e) of this section sets forth the applicable burdens of proof. Paragraph (f) describes the procedures OSHA will follow prior to the issuance of findings and a preliminary order when OSHA has reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred.

    The Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provision mandates that an action under the Act is governed by the burdens of proof set forth in AIR21, 49 U.S.C. 42121(b). The statute requires that a complainant make an initial prima facie showing that a protected activity was “a contributing factor” in the adverse action alleged in the complaint, i.e., that the protected activity, alone or in combination with other factors, affected in some way the outcome of the employer's decision. The complainant will be considered to have met the required burden if the complaint on its face, supplemented as appropriate through interviews of the complainant, alleges the existence of facts and either direct or circumstantial evidence to meet the required showing. Complainant's burden may be satisfied, for example, if he or she shows that the adverse action took place within a temporal proximity of the protected activity, or at the first opportunity available to the respondent, giving rise to the inference that it was a contributing factor in the adverse action. See, e.g. , Porter v. Cal. Dep't of Corr., 419 F.3d 885, 895 (9th Cir. 2005) (years between the protected activity and the retaliatory actions did not defeat a finding of a causal connection where the defendant did not have the opportunity to retaliate until he was given responsibility for making personnel decisions).

    If the complainant does not make the prima facie showing, the investigation must be discontinued and the complaint dismissed. See Trimmer v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, 174 F.3d 1098, 1101 (10th Cir. 1999) (noting that the burden-shifting framework of the ERA, which is the same as that under Sarbanes-Oxley, serves a “gatekeeping function” that “stem[s] frivolous complaints”). Even in cases where the complainant successfully makes a prima facie showing, the investigation must be discontinued if the employer “demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence,” that it would have taken the same adverse action in the absence of the protected activity. 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(2)(B)(ii). Thus, OSHA must dismiss a complaint under Sarbanes-Oxley and not investigate further if either: (1) The complainant fails to meet the prima facie showing that protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action; or (2) the employer rebuts that showing by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the same adverse action absent the protected activity.

    Assuming that an investigation proceeds beyond the gatekeeping phase, the statute requires OSHA to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that protected activity was a contributing factor in the alleged adverse action. A contributing factor is “any factor which, alone or in connection with other factors, tends to affect in any way the outcome of the decision.” Marano v. Dep't of Justice, 2 F.3d 1137, 1140 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (Whistleblower Protection Act, 5 U.S.C. 1221(e)(1)); see, e.g. , Lockheed Martin Corp., 717 F.3d at 1136. For protected activity to be a contributing factor in the adverse action, “a complainant need not necessarily prove that the respondent's articulated reason was a pretext in order to prevail,” because a complainant alternatively can prevail by showing that the respondent's “reason, while true, is only one of the reasons for its conduct” and that another reason was the complainant's protected activity. See Klopfenstein v. PCC Flow Techs. Holdings, Inc., No. 04-149, 2006 WL 3246904, at *13 (ARB May 31, 2006) (citing Rachid v. Jack in the Box, Inc., 376 F.3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2004)) (discussing contributing factor test under the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provision), aff'd sub nom. Klopfenstein v. Admin. Review Bd., U.S. Dep't of Labor, 402 F. App'x 936, 2010 WL 4746668 (5th Cir. 2010).

    If OSHA finds reasonable cause to believe that the alleged protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action, OSHA may not order relief if the employer demonstrates by “clear and convincing evidence” that it would have taken the same action in the absence of the protected activity. See 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(2)(B)(iv). The “clear and convincing evidence” standard is a higher burden of proof than a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Clear and convincing evidence is evidence indicating that the thing to be proved is highly probable or reasonably certain. Clarke v. Navajo Express, Inc., No. 09-114, 2011 WL 2614326, at *3 (ARB June 29, 2011) (discussing burdens of proof under analogous whistleblower provision in STAA).

    NWC and the EEAC commented on this section. NWC suggested clarification of what “other applicable confidentiality laws” might apply to redaction of respondent's submissions, before providing them to the complainant. NWC also suggested several additions and revisions to this section, as well as to Section 1980.107, to further protect the confidentiality of complainants. NWC pointed to the confidentiality provisions of Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act, creating a whistleblower program under section 21F of the Securities Exchange Act, 3 as well as recent developments in the United States Tax Court, and suggested that the Department bring its own confidentiality practices into conformity.

    3 Section 21F(h)(2)(A) prevents disclosure of identifying information by the Commission and its officers, except in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act, unless and until required to be disclosed to a defendant or respondent in connection with a public proceeding instituted by the Commission or any other specified entity. 15 U.S.C. 78u-6(h)(2).

    The EEAC commented that it was extremely concerned that the modifications made in this section in the IFR would increase the amount of information provided to the complainant during the investigation but reduce information provided to the respondent. As OSHA explained in the preamble to the IFR, those revisions were aimed at aiding OSHA's ability to conduct a “full and fair investigation.” EEAC submitted that the same logic supports providing respondents with all of the information that OSHA receives from the complainant during the investigation. Specifically, EEAC suggested that OSHA retain the former language in paragraph (a) regarding notice to the respondent upon receipt of a complaint, and revise paragraph (c) to provide that the same information will be provided to respondents as is provided to complainants during the investigation. EEAC also suggested paragraph (f) include language that if the complainant submits new information at this stage, the employer will be given a copy and the opportunity to respond before OSHA makes a final determination on the complaint.

    Regarding NWC's suggestion that OSHA provide more specific information about the confidentiality laws that may protect portions of the information submitted by a respondent, OSHA anticipates that the vast majority of respondent submissions will not be subject to any confidentiality laws. However, in addition to the Privacy Act, a variety of confidentiality provisions may protect information submitted during the course of an investigation. For example, a respondent may submit information that the respondent identifies as confidential commercial or financial information exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OSHA's procedures for handling information identified as confidential during an investigation are explained in OSHA's Whistleblower Investigations Manual available at: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=506.

    Additionally, OSHA has considered NWC's suggestions regarding complainants' confidentiality. OSHA agrees that protecting complainants' confidentiality and privacy to the extent possible under the law is essential. However, OSHA believes that existing procedures and the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, et seq., provide sufficient safeguards. The Whistleblower Investigations Manual instructs that while a case is an open investigation, information contained in the case file generally may not be disclosed to the public. Once a case is closed, complainants continue to be protected from third party public disclosure under the Privacy Act. 5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(2). However, if a case moves to the ALJ hearing process, it becomes a public proceeding and the public has a right of access to information under various laws and the Constitution. See Newport v. Calpine Corp., ALJ No. 2007-ERA-00007, slip op. at *6 (Feb. 12, 2008), available at http://www.oalj.dol.gov/PUBLIC/WHISTLEBLOWER/DECISIONS/ALJ_DECISIONS/ERA/2007ERA00007A.PDF (discussing hearings before the ALJ under the analogous statutory provisions of the ERA and the public right of access). Information submitted as evidence during these proceedings becomes the exclusive record for the Secretary's decision. Public disclosure of the record for the Secretary's decision is governed by the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. Id. A party may request that a record be sealed to prevent disclosure of such information. However, the Constitution and various federal laws cited in Newport govern the granting of such a motion; OSHA cannot circumvent these authorities by rulemaking. See also Thomas v. Pulte Homes, Inc., ALJ No. 2005-SOX-00009, slip op. at *2-3 (Aug. 9, 2005) (noting that in order to prevent disclosure of such information, a moving party must request a protective order pursuant to the OALJ rules of procedure; the standard for granting such a motion is high and the burden of making a showing of good cause rests with the moving party).

    In response to EEAC's comments and suggestions, OSHA agrees that respondents must be afforded fair notice of the allegations and substance of the evidence against them. OSHA also believes that the input of both parties in the investigation is important to ensuring that OSHA reaches the proper outcome during its investigation. Thus, in response to EEAC's comments, Section 1980.104(a) has been revised to more closely mirror AIR21's statutory requirement, incorporated by Sarbanes-Oxley, in 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(1) that after receiving a complaint, the Secretary shall notify the respondent of the filing of the complaint, of the allegations contained in the complaint, and of the substance of the evidence supporting the complaint. In response to EEAC's comment regarding paragraph (c), OSHA notes that its current policy is to request that each party provide the other parties with a copy of all submissions to OSHA that are responsive to the whistleblower complaint. Where the parties do not so provide, OSHA will ensure that each party is provided with such information, redacted as appropriate. OSHA will also ensure that each party is provided with an opportunity to respond to the other party's submissions. OSHA has revised paragraph (c) to clarify these policies regarding information sharing during the course of an investigation. Further information regarding OSHA's nonpublic disclosure and information sharing policies may also be found in the Whistleblower Investigations Manual. Regarding EEAC's suggestion for paragraph (f), it is already OSHA's policy to provide the respondent a chance to review any additional evidence on which OSHA intends to rely that is submitted by the complainant at this stage and to provide the respondent an opportunity to respond to any such additional evidence. This policy is necessary to achieve the purpose of paragraph (f), which is to afford respondent due process prior to ordering preliminary reinstatement as required by the Supreme Court's decision in Brock v. Roadway Express, Inc., 481 U.S. 252 (1987). OSHA also notes that the Whistleblower Investigations Manual provides guidance to investigators on sharing information with both parties throughout the investigation.

    OSHA has made additional minor edits throughout this section to clarify the applicable procedures and burdens of proof.

    Section 1980.105 Issuance of Findings and Preliminary Orders

    Throughout this section, minor changes were made as needed to clarify the provision without changing its meaning. This section provides that, on the basis of information obtained in the investigation, the Assistant Secretary will issue, within 60 days of the filing of a complaint, written findings regarding whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that the complaint has merit. If the findings are that there is reasonable cause to believe that the complaint has merit, in accordance with the statute, 18 U.S.C. 1514A(c), the Assistant Secretary will order “all relief necessary to make the employee whole,” including preliminary reinstatement, back pay with interest, and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the retaliation, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.

    Interest on back pay will be calculated using the interest rate applicable to underpayment of taxes under 26 U.S.C. 6621 and will be compounded daily. In the Secretary's view, 26 U.S.C. 6621 provides the appropriate rate of interest to ensure that victims of unlawful retaliation under Sarbanes-Oxley are made whole. The Secretary has long applied the interest rate in 26 U.S.C. 6621 to calculate interest on back pay in whistleblower cases. Doyle v. Hydro Nuclear Servs., Nos. 99-041, 99-042, 00-012, 2000 WL 694384, at *14-15, 17 (ARB May 17, 2000); see also Cefalu v. Roadway Express, Inc., ARB Case No. 09-070, 2011 WL 1247212, at *2 (ARB Mar. 17, 2011); Pollock v. Cont'l Express, ARB Case Nos. 07-073, 08-051, 2010 WL 1776974, at *8 (ARB Apr. 10, 2010); Murray v. Air Ride, Inc., ARB Case No. 00-045, slip op. at 9 (ARB Dec. 29, 2000). Section 6621 provides the appropriate measure of compensation under Sarbanes-Oxley and other DOL-administered whistleblower statutes because it ensures the complainant will be placed in the same position he or she would have been in if no unlawful retaliation occurred. See Ass't Sec'y v. Double R. Trucking, Inc., ARB Case No. 99-061, slip op. at 5 (ARB July 16, 1999) (interest awards pursuant to § 6621 are mandatory elements of complainant's make-whole remedy). Section 6621 provides a reasonably accurate prediction of market outcomes (which represents the loss of investment opportunity by the complainant and the employer's benefit from use of the withheld money) and thus provides the complainant with appropriate make-whole relief. See EEOC v. Erie Cnty., 751 F.2d 79, 82 (2d Cir. 1984) (“[s]ince the goal of a suit under the [Fair Labor Standards Act] and the Equal Pay Act is to make whole the victims of the unlawful underpayment of wages, and since [§ 6621] has been adopted as a good indicator of the value of the use of money, it was well within” the district court's discretion to calculate prejudgment interest under § 6621); New Horizons for the Retarded, 283 N.L.R.B. No. 181, 1173 (May 28, 1987) (observing that “the short-term Federal rate [used by § 6621] is based on average market yields on marketable Federal obligations and is influenced by private economic market forces”). Similarly, as explained in the interim final rule, daily compounding of the interest award ensures that complainants are made whole for unlawful retaliation in violation of Sarbanes-Oxley. 76 FR 68088.

    In ordering back pay, OSHA also will require the respondent to submit the appropriate documentation to the Social Security Administration (SSA) allocating the back pay to the appropriate calendar quarters. Requiring the reporting of back pay allocation to the SSA serves the remedial purposes of Sarbanes-Oxley by ensuring that employees subjected to retaliation are truly made whole. See Don Chavas, LLC d/b/a Tortillas Don Chavas, 361 NLRB No. 10 (NLRB Aug. 8, 2014). As the NLRB explained, when back pay is not properly allocated to the years covered by the award, a complainant may be disadvantaged in several ways. First, improper allocation may interfere with a complainant's ability to qualify for any old-age Social Security benefit. Id. at *3 (“Unless a [complainant's] multiyear backpay award is allocated to the appropriate years, she will not receive appropriate credit for the entire period covered by the award, and could therefore fail to qualify for any old-age social security benefit.”). Second, improper allocation may reduce the complainant's eventual monthly benefit. Id. As the NLRB explained, “if a backpay award covering a multi-year period is posted as income for 1 year, it may result in SSA treating the [complainant] as having received wages in that year in excess of the annual contribution and benefit base.” Id. Wages above this base are not subject to Social Security taxes, which reduces the amount paid on the employee's behalf. “As a result, the [complainant's] eventual monthly benefit will be reduced because participants receive a greater benefit when they have paid more into the system.” Id. Finally, “social security benefits are calculated using a progressive formula: although a participant receives more in benefits when she pays more into the system, the rate of return diminishes at higher annual incomes.” Therefore, a complainant may “receive a smaller monthly benefit when a multiyear award is posted to 1 year rather than being allocated to the appropriate periods, even if social security taxes were paid on the entire amount.” Id. The purpose of a make-whole remedy such as back pay is to put the complainant in the same position the complainant would have been absent the prohibited retaliation. That purpose is not achieved when the complainant suffers the disadvantages described above. The Secretary believes that requiring proper SSA allocation is necessary to achieve the make-whole purpose of a back pay award.

    The findings and, where appropriate, preliminary order, advise the parties of their right to file objections to the findings of the Assistant Secretary and to request a hearing. If no objections are filed within 30 days of receipt of the findings, the findings and any preliminary order of the Assistant Secretary become the final decision and order of the Secretary. If objections are timely filed, any order of preliminary reinstatement will take effect, but the remaining provisions of the order will not take effect until administrative proceedings are completed.

    The provision that reinstatement would not be appropriate where the respondent establishes that the complainant is a security risk was removed from 1980.105(a)(1) in the IFR. OSHA believes that the determination of whether reinstatement is inappropriate in a given case is best made on the basis of the facts of each case and the relevant case law, and thus it is not necessary in these procedural rules to define the circumstances in which reinstatement is not a proper remedy. This amendment also makes these procedural regulations consistent with the rules under STAA, NTSSA, FRSA, and CPSIA, which do not contain this statement.

    SCSGP, EEAC, and Marshall commented on this removal, as well as on the overall guidance provided when determining whether preliminary reinstatement is appropriate. SCSGP commented that the IFR lacked “any standards governing the issuance of preliminary reinstatement orders” and that the rule should contain appropriate safeguards that preliminary reinstatement is warranted under the circumstances, rather than presuming that reinstatement is proper. SCSGP suggested that OSHA include in the final rule a list of non-exhaustive factors to be considered by the courts to determine when reinstatement is appropriate, including whether hostility exists between the employee and the company, and whether the employee's position no longer exists. EEAC “urge[d] OSHA to reinstate this `security risk' exception” in the final rule. EEAC also submitted that OSHA's reasoning for removing the exception is flawed (that the determination of whether reinstatement is inappropriate in a given case should be based on the factual circumstances of that case). EEAC first pointed to Sarbanes-Oxley's incorporation of the AIR21 rules and procedures and that the security risk exception is consistent with OSHA's whistleblower regulations promulgated under AIR21. EEAC also noted that the security risk exception was predicated on the respondent establishing that the complainant is in fact a security risk prior to the exception taking effect and thus would be determined on a case-by-case basis in this manner. Marshall wrote in support of the removal of the security risk language and supported the explanation that determinations of whether reinstatement is appropriate should be based on the facts of the particular case. Marshall noted that the Act itself does not contain any statutory prohibition of reinstatement under certain circumstances.

    OSHA disagrees that the rule requires any further guidance on when preliminary reinstatement is appropriate. First, OSHA emphasizes that Congress intended that employees be preliminarily reinstated to their positions if OSHA finds reasonable cause to believe that they were discharged in violation of Sarbanes-Oxley, thus creating the presumption it is the appropriate remedy. Neither Sarbanes-Oxley nor AIR21 specify any statutorily predetermined circumstances under which preliminary reinstatement would be inappropriate. Furthermore, although the regulations governing proceedings under AIR21 reference a security risk exception, this exception is not in the statutory text incorporated by Sarbanes-Oxley. See 18 U.S.C. 1514(b)(1)(A) (. . . shall be governed “under the rules and procedures set forth in section 42121(b) of title 49, United States Code.”). This reference to AIR21's statutory procedures does not impose an obligation for OSHA to also incorporate any procedural regulations promulgated under AIR21 not mandated by the statute.

    OSHA agrees that there may be circumstances where preliminary reinstatement is inappropriate. However, OSHA believes that the rule as drafted provides sufficient safeguards for these situations, as well as sufficient guidance to OSHA, ALJs, and the ARB as to when those safeguards may be appropriate. First, the rule provides the ALJ and ARB discretion to grant a stay of an order of preliminary reinstatement (See Sections 1980.106(b) and 1980.110(b)). As discussed in detail in the discussion of Section 1980.106, ALJs and the ARB can refer to long-standing precedential case law in making this determination. Second, in appropriate circumstances, OSHA may order economic reinstatement in lieu of actual reinstatement, which is also discussed in detail below. In Hagman v. Washington Mutual Bank, Inc., the ALJ delineated several factors to consider when making this determination. ALJ No. 2005-SOX-73, 2006 WL 6105301, at *32 (Dec. 19, 2006) (noting that while reinstatement is the “preferred and presumptive remedy” under Sarbanes-Oxley, “[f]ront pay may be awarded as a substitute when reinstatement is inappropriate due to: (1) An employee's medical condition that is causally related to her employer's retaliatory action; (2) manifest hostility between the parties; (3) the fact that claimant's former position no longer exists; or (4) the fact that employer is no longer in business at the time of the decision”) (internal citations omitted). Many of these factors are similar to the factors SCSGP suggested be included in the rule. Thus, given the existing safeguards in place and sufficient guidance for when such safeguards are appropriate, OSHA declines to include the security risk exception in the final rule and declines to add additional guidance to the rule for when preliminary reinstatement is appropriate.

    As mentioned above, in appropriate circumstances, in lieu of preliminary reinstatement, OSHA may order that the complainant receive the same pay and benefits that he received prior to his termination, but not actually return to work. Such “economic reinstatement” is akin to an order of front pay and is frequently employed in cases arising under Section 105(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which protects miners from retaliation. 30 U.S.C. 815(c); see, e.g., Sec'y of Labor on behalf of York v. BR&D Enters., Inc., 23 FMSHRC 697, 2001 WL 1806020, at *1 (June 26, 2001). Front pay has been recognized as a possible remedy in cases under Sarbanes-Oxley and other whistleblower statutes enforced by OSHA in circumstances where reinstatement would not be appropriate. See, e.g. , Hagman, 2006 WL 6105301; Hobby v. Georgia Power Co., ARB Nos. 98-166, 98-169 (ARB Feb. 9, 2001), aff'd sub nom. Hobby v. U.S. Dept. of Labor, No. 01-10916 (11th Cir. Sept. 30, 2002) (unpublished) (noting circumstances where front pay may be available in lieu of reinstatement but ordering reinstatement); Brown v. Lockheed Martin Corp., ALJ No. 2008-SOX-00049, 2010 WL 2054426, at *55-56 (ALJ Jan. 15, 2010) (same). Congress intended that employees be preliminarily reinstated to their positions if OSHA finds reasonable cause to believe that they were discharged in violation of Sarbanes-Oxley. When a violation is found, the norm is for OSHA to order immediate preliminary reinstatement. Neither an employer nor an employee has a statutory right to choose economic reinstatement. Rather, economic reinstatement is designed to accommodate situations in which evidence establishes to OSHA's satisfaction that immediate reinstatement is inadvisable for some reason, notwithstanding the employer's retaliatory discharge of the employee. In such situations, actual reinstatement might be delayed until after the administrative adjudication is completed as long as the employee continues to receive his or her pay and benefits and is not otherwise disadvantaged by a delay in reinstatement. There is no statutory basis for allowing the employer to recover the costs of economically reinstating an employee should the employer ultimately prevail in the whistleblower adjudication.

    SCSGP and Marshall commented on the issue of economic reinstatement. Marshall commented that the inclusion of the above language in the preamble is of “crucial significance for whistleblowers,” but continued that OSHA's recognition that actual reinstatement remains the presumptive remedy is “essential as well.” Marshall explained that “[a]ctual reinstatement protects interests that economic reinstatement cannot. Nonetheless, economic reinstatement must be available as a remedy for situations where a whistleblower cannot return to the workplace.”

    SCSGP addressed the issue of allowing an employer to recover the costs of economically reinstating an employee should the employer ultimately prevail in the whistleblower adjudication. SCSGP believes OSHA's interpretation, that there is no statutory basis for allowing such reimbursement, “compromises an employer's due process rights” and raises other concerns. SCSGP commented that conversely there is “no statutory basis for allowing the employee to keep the value of economic reinstatement where his or her claim is unfounded.” SCSGP noted that in situations where economic reinstatement is awarded, an employer may have to pay both the labor cost of filling the position, and the cost of the economic reinstatement awarded to the complainant. Where the employer ultimately prevails, it would not recover the duplicative cost, an outcome which SCSGP believes is grossly unfair. SCSGP recommended that OSHA include an additional paragraph in this section, allowing that economic reinstatement be available only upon consent of all parties, or upon the condition that the complainant will reimburse the employer in the event the employer ultimately prevails.

    OSHA disagrees that economic reinstatement without a mechanism for reimbursement violates the employer's rights under the Due Process clause. The Supreme Court has addressed the issue of what is required to afford an employer procedural due process prior to ordering preliminary reinstatement in Brock v. Roadway Express, Inc., 481 U.S. 252 (1987). In Roadway Express, the Court held that “minimum due process for the employer in this context requires notice of the employee's allegations, notice of the substance of the relevant supporting evidence, an opportunity to submit a written response, and an opportunity to meet with the investigator and present statements from rebuttal witnesses.” Id. at 264. The Court did not require any mechanism for reimbursing the employer for wages paid during actual preliminary reinstatement should the employer ultimately prevail in the litigation. Because economic reinstatement is akin to actual reinstatement, OSHA believes the same requirements apply when ordering economic reinstatement.

    Furthermore, OSHA disagrees that there is no statutory basis for precluding reimbursement of economic reinstatement. As discussed above, Congress intended that employees be preliminarily reinstated to their positions if OSHA finds reasonable cause to believe that they were discharged in violation of Sarbanes-Oxley. However, the statutory procedural scheme does not allow for reimbursement to the employer if actual preliminary reinstatement was ordered and yet the employer ultimately prevailed. Thus, there is no statutory basis to reimburse an employer in that instance. Because economic reinstatement is a substitute for preliminary reinstatement, this same reasoning would apply for not awarding an employer reimbursement for any front pay the employee receives should the employer ultimately prevail. OSHA therefore declines to allow for such reimbursement where Congress has not so provided.

    Subpart B—Litigation Section 1980.106 Objections to the Findings and the Preliminary Order and Request for a Hearing

    To be effective, objections to the findings of the Assistant Secretary must be in writing and must be filed with the Chief Administrative Law Judge, U.S. Department of Labor, within 30 days of receipt of the findings. The date of the postmark, facsimile transmittal, or electronic communication transmittal is considered the date of the filing; if the objection is filed in person, by hand-delivery or other means, the objection is filed upon receipt. The filing of objections also is considered a request for a hearing before an ALJ. Although the parties are directed to serve a copy of their objections on the other parties of record, as well as the OSHA official who issued the findings and order, the Assistant Secretary, and the Department of Labor's Associate Solicitor for Fair Labor Standards, the failure to serve copies of the objections on the other parties of record does not affect the ALJ's jurisdiction to hear and decide the merits of the case. See Shirani v. Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, Inc., ARB No. 04-101, 2005 WL 2865915, at *7 (ARB Oct. 31, 2005). Throughout this section, minor changes were made as needed to clarify the provision without changing its meaning.

    The IFR revised paragraph (b) to note that a respondent's motion to stay the Assistant Secretary's preliminary order of reinstatement will be granted only based on exceptional circumstances. This revision clarified that a stay is only available in “exceptional circumstances,” because the Secretary believes that a stay of the Assistant Secretary's preliminary order of reinstatement under Sarbanes-Oxley would be appropriate only where the respondent can establish the necessary criteria for equitable injunctive relief, i.e., irreparable injury, likelihood of success on the merits, and a balancing of possible harms to the parties, and the public interest favors a stay.

    SCSGP, EEAC, and Marshall commented on this section. Marshall wrote in support of this revision, noting that “[p]reliminary reinstatement protects a number of important values; it should be ordered and enforced unless the respondent is able to make a credible and persuasive showing that these values are overwhelmed.” SCSGP and EEAC requested that OSHA provide additional guidance regarding when a stay of an order for preliminary reinstatement would be appropriate. SCSGP suggested that OSHA modify paragraph (b) to provide “meaningful standards governing when an ALJ should stay a preliminary order of reinstatement.” SCSGP's comment included concerns that the current standard, based on “exceptional circumstances,” may unduly constrain the ALJ's discretion and authority, as well as leave the ALJ without guidance as to when a stay is appropriate. EEAC commented that in its view, the term “`exceptional circumstances' implies a limitation far narrower than OSHA says that it intends.” EEAC recommended that the language in the preamble referring to the requirements to obtain equitable injunctive relief be added to the regulatory text. EEAC also suggested this addition to Section 1980.110(b), which covers appeals to the ARB.

    It is well established that the standard for a stay of preliminary reinstatement is the standard needed to obtain a preliminary injunction. A party must prove: Likely irreparable injury; likelihood of success on the merits; the balancing of hardships favors an injunction; and the public interest favors an injunction. Johnson v. U.S. Bancorp, ARB No. 13-014, 2013 WL 2902820, at *2 (ARB May 21, 2013); see also Evans v. T-Mobil USA, Inc., ALJ No. 2012-SOX-00036 (ALJ May 21, 2013) (granting stay of reinstatement). This traditional four-element test is applied in all federal courts. See Winter v. N.R.D.C., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). The Department's ALJs and ARB have also applied this standard in a number of cases prior to the issuance of the IFR. See, e.g. , Welch v. Cardinal Bankshares Corp., No. 06-062, 2006 WL 3246902 (ARB Mar. 31, 2006); Bechtel and Jacques v. Competitive Technologies, Inc., ALJ Nos. 2005-SOX-0033, 2005-SOX-0034, 2005 WL 4888999 (ALJ Mar. 29, 2005). The regulation and its preamble, existing ALJ and ARB decisions, and other federal case law clearly delineate the standard for a successful motion to stay a preliminary order of reinstatement. OSHA thus declines to provide further guidance on this issue.

    EEAC also commented that there may be situations in which the complainant does not desire reinstatement, preliminary or otherwise. EEAC suggested the final rule contain language addressing this situation, allowing for the parties to come to an agreement to not order reinstatement. OSHA declines to include such language in this rule. Under Sarbanes-Oxley, reinstatement of the complainant to his or her former position is the presumptive remedy in merit cases and is a critical component of making the complainant whole. As Marshall notes in his comment, actual reinstatement protects interests that economic reinstatement cannot so effectively address. For example, reinstatement serves to reassure other employees through the complainant's presence in the workplace that they too will be protected from retaliation for reporting violations of the law. By ordering preliminary reinstatement in cases involving discharge where OSHA has reasonable cause to believe that a statutory violation has occurred, OSHA properly places the burden upon the employer to make a bona fide offer of reinstatement. In doing so, OSHA also ensures that the employee is not forced to make a decision about whether he or she wants to return to the workplace until the employer actually makes such an offer.

    Section 1980.107 Hearings

    This section adopts the rules of practice and procedure for administrative hearings before the Office of Administrative Law Judges, as set forth in 29 CFR part 18 subpart A. Hearings are to commence expeditiously, except upon a showing of good cause or unless otherwise agreed to by the parties. Hearings will be conducted de novo, on the record. ALJs continue to have broad discretion to limit discovery where necessary to expedite the hearing. Formal rules of evidence will not apply, but rules or principles designed to assure production of the most probative evidence will be applied. The administrative law judge may exclude evidence that is immaterial, irrelevant, or unduly repetitious. Throughout this section, minor changes were made as needed to clarify the provision without changing its meaning.

    NWC commented in part on this section, requesting language be added to further protect the confidentiality of complainants. The discussion of the agency's consideration of this comment is included in the discussion of Section 1980.104, above.

    Section 1980.108 Role of Federal Agencies

    The Assistant Secretary, at his or her discretion, may participate as a party or amicus curiae at any time in the administrative proceedings under Sarbanes-Oxley. For example, the Assistant Secretary may exercise his or her discretion to prosecute the case in the administrative proceeding before an ALJ; petition for review of a decision of an ALJ, including a decision based on a settlement agreement between the complainant and the respondent, regardless of whether the Assistant Secretary participated before the ALJ; or participate as amicus curiae before the ALJ or in the ARB proceeding. Although OSHA anticipates that ordinarily the Assistant Secretary will not participate, the Assistant Secretary may choose to do so in appropriate cases, such as cases involving important or novel legal issues, multiple employees, alleged violations that appear egregious, or where the interests of justice might require participation by the Assistant Secretary. The Securities and Exchange Commission, if interested in a proceeding, also may participate as amicus curiae at any time in the proceedings.

    No comments were received on this section. However, paragraph (a)(2) has been revised to specify that parties must send copies of documents to OSHA and to the Associate Solicitor, Division of Fair Labor Standards, U.S. Department of Labor, only upon request of OSHA, or when OSHA is participating in the proceeding, or when service on OSHA and the Associate Solicitor is otherwise required by these rules. Other minor changes were made as needed to clarify the provision without changing its meaning.

    Section 1980.109 Decision and Orders of the Administrative Law Judge

    This section sets forth the requirements for the content of the decision and order of the ALJ, and includes the standard for finding a violation under Sarbanes-Oxley. Specifically, the complainant must demonstrate (i.e. prove by a preponderance of the evidence) that the protected activity was a “contributing factor” in the adverse action. See, e.g., Allen, 514 F.3d at 475 n.1 (“The term `demonstrates' means to prove by a preponderance of the evidence.”). If the employee demonstrates that the alleged protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action, the employer, to escape liability, must demonstrate by “clear and convincing evidence” that it would have taken the same action in the absence of the protected activity. See id.

    Paragraph (c) provides that OSHA's determination to dismiss the complaint without an investigation or without a complete investigation pursuant to Section 1980.104 is not subject to review. Thus, Section 1980.109(c) clarifies that OSHA's determinations on whether to proceed with an investigation under Sarbanes-Oxley and whether to make particular investigative findings are discretionary decisions not subject to review by the ALJ. The ALJ hears cases de novo and, therefore, as a general matter, may not remand cases to OSHA to conduct an investigation or make further factual findings. Paragraph (c) also clarifies that the ALJ can dispose of a matter without a hearing if the facts and circumstances warrant. In its comments, EEAC expressed support for this clarification.

    Paragraph (d) notes the remedies that the ALJ may order under the Act and provides that interest on back pay will be calculated using the interest rate applicable to underpayment of taxes under 26 U.S.C. 6621 and will be compounded daily. Paragraph (d) has been revised to note that when back pay is ordered, the order will also require the respondent to submit appropriate documentation to the Social Security Administration allocating any back pay award to the appropriate calendar quarters. Paragraph (e) requires that the ALJ's decision be served on all parties to the proceeding, the Assistant Secretary, and the U.S. Department of Labor's Associate Solicitor for Fair Labor Standards. Paragraph (e) also provides that any ALJ decision requiring reinstatement or lifting an order of reinstatement by the Assistant Secretary will be effective immediately upon receipt of the decision by the respondent. All other portions of the ALJ's order will be effective 14 days after the date of the decision unless a timely petition for review has been filed with the ARB.

    No comments were received on this section. However, the statement that the decision of the ALJ will become the final order of the Secretary unless a petition for review is timely filed with the ARB and the ARB accepts the petition for review was deleted from Section 1980.110(a) and moved to paragraph (e) of this section. Additionally, OSHA has revised the period for filing a timely petition for review with the ARB to 14 days rather than 10 business days. With this change, the final rule expresses the time for a petition for review in a way that is consistent with the other deadlines for filings before the ALJs and the ARB in the rule, which are also expressed in days rather than business days. This change also makes the final rule congruent with the 2009 amendments to Rule 6(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule 26(a) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which govern computation of time before the federal courts and express filing deadlines as days rather than business days. Accordingly, the ALJ's order will become the final order of the Secretary 14 days after the date of the decision, rather than after 10 business days, unless a timely petition for review is filed. As a practical matter, this revision does not substantively alter the window of time for filing a petition for review before the ALJ's order becomes final.

    Other minor changes were made as needed to clarify the provision without changing its meaning.

    Section 1980.110 Decision and Orders of the Administrative Review Board

    Upon the issuance of the ALJ's decision, the parties have 14 days within which to petition the ARB for review of that decision. If no timely petition for review is filed with the ARB, the decision of the ALJ becomes the final decision of the Secretary and is not subject to judicial review. The date of the postmark, facsimile transmittal, or electronic communication transmittal is considered the date of filing of the petition; if the petition is filed in person, by hand delivery or other means, the petition is considered filed upon receipt.

    The appeal provisions in this part provide that an appeal to the ARB is not a matter of right but is accepted at the discretion of the ARB. The parties should identify in their petitions for review the legal conclusions or orders to which they object, or the objections may be deemed waived. The ARB has 30 days to decide whether to grant the petition for review. If the ARB does not grant the petition, the decision of the ALJ becomes the final decision of the Secretary. If a timely petition for review is filed with the ARB, any relief ordered by the ALJ, except for that portion ordering reinstatement, is inoperative while the matter is pending before the ARB. When the ARB accepts a petition for review, the ALJ's factual determinations will be reviewed under the substantial evidence standard.

    This section also provides that, based on exceptional circumstances, the ARB may grant a motion to stay an ALJ's preliminary order of reinstatement under the Act, which otherwise would be effective, while review is conducted by the ARB. The Secretary believes that a stay of an ALJ's preliminary order of reinstatement under Sarbanes-Oxley would be appropriate only where the respondent can establish the necessary criteria for equitable injunctive relief, i.e., irreparable injury, likelihood of success on the merits, a balancing of possible harms to the parties, and the public interest favors a stay. The EEAC's comment regarding guidance on when a stay of preliminary reinstatement is appropriate addressed this provision of the rule, as well Section 1980.106(b). OSHA's response to this comment is explained in detail above, in the discussion of Section 1980.106.

    If the ARB concludes that the respondent has violated the law, it will order the remedies listed in paragraph (d). Interest on back pay will be calculated using the interest rate applicable to underpayment of taxes under 26 U.S.C. 6621 and will be compounded daily. Paragraph (d) has been revised to note that when back pay is ordered, the order will also require the respondent to submit appropriate documentation to the Social Security Administration allocating any back pay award to the appropriate calendar quarters. If the ARB determines that the respondent has not violated the law, an order will be issued denying the complaint.

    NWC requested that the agency make several revisions to this section that would “further the goal of deciding cases on their merits.” The requested revisions included: (1) Change the time limit for a petition for review from 10 days to 30 days; (2) require that a petition for review set forth legal issues showing good cause to allow full briefing; (3) change the provision that objections to legal conclusions not raised in petitions for review “will ordinarily” be deemed waived, to “may” be deemed waived; and (4) specify in the regulation that the ARB may extend the time to submit petitions for review upon good cause shown. NWC stated that these revisions would “advance the remedial purposes of the Act by lowering the procedural hurdles to a decision on the merits.”

    OSHA first notes that the IFR did use the phrase “may” be deemed waived regarding objections not specifically raised in a petition for review. This change was made as a result of comments submitted by NWC on other whistleblower rules published by OSHA. See, e.g. , Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under Section 219 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, 77 FR 40494, 40500-01 (July 10, 2012); Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under the Employee Protection Provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA), as Amended, 77 FR 44121, 44131-32 (July 27, 2012).

    However, OSHA declines to adopt NWC's additional suggestions relating to this section. First, OSHA declines to extend the time limit to petition for review because the shorter review period is consistent with the practices and procedures followed in OSHA's other whistleblower programs. Furthermore, parties may file a motion for extension of time to appeal an ALJ's decision, and the ARB has discretion to grant such extensions. However, as explained above, OSHA has revised the period to petition for review of an ALJ decision to 14 days rather than 10 business days. As a practical matter, this revision does not substantively alter the window of time for filing a petition for review before the ALJ's order becomes final. In addition, Section 1980.110(c), which provides that the ARB will issue a final decision within 120 days of the conclusion of the ALJ hearing, was similarly revised to state that the conclusion of the ALJ hearing will be deemed to be 14 days after the date of the decision of the ALJ, rather than after 10 business days, unless a motion for reconsideration has been filed with the ALJ in the interim. Like the revision to Section 1980.110(a), this revision does not substantively alter the length of time before the ALJ hearing will be deemed to have been concluded.

    Finally, OSHA believes that use of the word “may,” as discussed above, adequately addresses NWC's underlying concern that grounds not raised in a petition for review may be barred from consideration before the ARB.

    Non-substantive changes were made to paragraph (c) of this section to clarify when all hearings before an ALJ are considered concluded, and thus when the time for the ARB to issue a final decision begins to run.

    Subpart C—Miscellaneous Provisions Section 1980.111 Withdrawal of Complaints, Findings, Objections, and Petitions for Review; Settlement

    This section provides the procedures and time periods for withdrawal of complaints, the withdrawal of findings and/or preliminary orders by the Assistant Secretary, and the withdrawal of objections to findings and/or orders. It also provides for approval of settlements at the investigative and adjudicative stages of the case. No comments were received on this section. Minor changes were made as needed to this section and section title to clarify the provision without changing its meaning.

    Section 1980.112 Judicial Review

    This section describes the statutory provisions for judicial review of decisions of the Secretary and requires, in cases where judicial review is sought, that the ARB or the ALJ submit the record of proceedings to the appropriate court pursuant to the rules of such court.

    Mr. Levi commented on this section, stating that paragraph (b) created a new rule. Paragraph (b) provided, “A final order of the ARB is not subject to judicial review in any criminal or other civil proceeding.” As explained in the IFR, no new rules were added to this section; rather, the section was simply reorganized and renumbered. The 2004 version of the rule concluded paragraph (a) with the sentence, “A final order of the Board is not subject to judicial review in any criminal or other civil proceeding.” This sentence implemented the statutory provision found at 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(4)(B), “Limitation on Collateral Attack,” adopted by the Act, which provides, “[a]n order of the Secretary of Labor with respect to which review could have been obtained under subparagraph (A) shall not be subject to judicial review in any criminal or other civil proceeding.” This sentence was moved to be a stand-alone provision in paragraph (b) of the IFR. The word “Board” was changed to “ARB;” however, both designations refer to the same body (Administrative Review Board). The old paragraph (b) was then renumbered to paragraph (c) in the IFR. The text of this paragraph was also slightly revised, as discussed in the preamble to the IFR, to clarify that “rules of the court” refers to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and local rules of the relevant federal court of appeals. Most of these non-substantive revisions have been adopted in this final rule. Paragraph (c) of the final rule has been revised to provide that “If a timely petition for review is filed, the record of a case, including the record of proceedings before the ALJ, will be transmitted by the ARB or the ALJ, as the case may be, to the appropriate court pursuant to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the local rules of such court.” This revision simply reflects that in some instances the ALJ, and not the ARB, will have possession of the record to be reviewed in the U.S. court of appeals.

    However, upon further review of the statutory language, OSHA has revised paragraph (b) in the final rule to more accurately reflect the statutory provisions found in AIR21, adopted by Sarbanes-Oxley. The rule as written previously and in the IFR referred only to limitation on collateral attack of final orders of the ARB. AIR21's limitation on collateral attacks applies to all final orders of the Secretary. 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(4)(A)-(B). Thus, paragraph (b) has been revised accordingly.

    Section 1980.113 Judicial Enforcement

    This section describes the Secretary's power under Sarbanes-Oxley to obtain judicial enforcement of orders and the terms of a settlement agreement. While some courts have declined to enforce preliminary orders of reinstatement under Sarbanes-Oxley, the Secretary's consistent position has been that such orders are enforceable in federal district court. See Solis v. Tenn. Commerce Bancorp, Inc., No. 10-5602 (6th Cir. 2010) (order granting stay of preliminary injunction); Bechtel v. Competitive Technologies, Inc., 448 F.3d 469 (2d Cir. 2006); Welch v. Cardinal Bankshares Corp., 454 F. Supp. 2d 552 (W.D. Va. 2006) (decision vacated, appeal dismissed, No. 06-2295 (4th Cir. Feb. 20, 2008)). See also Brief for the Intervenor/Plaintiff-Appellee Secretary of Labor, Solis v. Tenn. Commerce Bancorp, Inc., No. 10-5602 (6th Cir. 2010); Brief for the Intervenor/Plaintiff-Appellant United States of America, Welch v. Cardinal Bankshares Corp., No. 06-2295 (4th Cir. Feb. 20, 2008); Brief for the Intervenor/Plaintiff-Appellee Secretary of Labor, Bechtel v. Competitive Technologies, Inc., 448 F.3d 469 (2d Cir. 2006) (No. 05-2402).

    In its comments, SCSGP asserted that “this position is directly at odds with the express language of the statute and the federal court decisions that have addressed this issue. . . .” In support of its position, SCSGP cited the above decisions in Solis, Bechtel, and Welch. However, as noted by Marshall in its comment, an inspection of these cases shows that none of these decisions held by a majority that federal courts lack jurisdiction to enforce preliminary orders of reinstatement. In Bechtel, the Second Circuit vacated the preliminary order of reinstatement but failed to agree on a basis for which to do so. 448 F.3d at 476. In the three-judge panel, one judge found that the court lacked jurisdiction to enforce the order, thus holding to vacate the order. Id. at 470-76. A second judge found that the order could not be enforced on separate, due process grounds, and concurred in the result on this basis. Id. at 476-81. The third judge dissented from the result and found that the court did have jurisdiction to enforce orders of preliminary reinstatement. Id. at 483-90. Additionally, in Solis, the Sixth Circuit applied traditional injunctive relief standards (“balancing of the harms”) to grant a stay of a preliminary order of reinstatement and thus did not reach the jurisdictional issue on the merits. No. 10-5602, slip op. at 2 (6th Cir. May 25, 2010). Finally, in Welch, the district court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the complainant's enforcement proceeding because the ALJ's opinion did not make clear whether he was ordering preliminary reinstatement, as opposed to simply recommending reinstatement. 407 F. Supp. 2d at 776-77. The court in Welch specifically noted that it was “unnecessary to consider whether it would have had the authority to enforce the preliminary order of reinstatement had such an order been properly entered.” Id. at 777 n.2. Therefore, the Secretary's position is not at odds with the federal courts that have addressed this issue, as none has reached the issue on the merits with a majority of the court.

    Additionally, the Secretary's position is consistent with the plain language of the statute. By incorporating the procedures of AIR21, Sarbanes-Oxley authorizes district courts to enforce orders, including preliminary orders of reinstatement, issued by the Secretary under the Act. See 18 U.S.C. 1514A(b)(2)(A) (adopting the rules and procedures set forth in AIR21, 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)). Under 49 U.S.C. 42121(b), which provides the procedures applicable to investigations of whistleblower complaints under Sarbanes-Oxley, the Secretary must investigate complaints under the Act and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred. “[I]f the Secretary of Labor concludes that there is a reasonable cause to believe that a violation . . . has occurred, the Secretary shall accompany the Secretary's findings with a preliminary order providing the relief prescribed by paragraph (3)(B),” which includes reinstatement of the complainant to his or her former position. 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(2)(A) and (b)(3)(B)(ii). The respondent may file objections to the Secretary's preliminary order and request a hearing. However, the filing of such objections “shall not operate to stay any reinstatement remedy contained in the preliminary order.” 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(2)(A).

    Paragraph (5) of 49 U.S.C. 42121(b) provides for judicial enforcement of the Secretary's orders, including preliminary orders of reinstatement. That paragraph states “[w]henever any person has failed to comply with an order issued under paragraph (3), the Secretary of Labor may file a civil action in the United States district court for the district in which the violation was found to occur to enforce such order. In actions brought under this paragraph, the district courts shall have jurisdiction to grant all appropriate relief including, but not limited to, injunctive relief and compensatory damages.” 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(5). Preliminary orders that contain the relief of reinstatement prescribed by paragraph (3)(B) are judicially enforceable orders, issued under paragraph (3). Brief for the Intervenor/Plaintiff-Appellee Secretary of Labor, Solis v. Tenn. Commerce Bancorp, Inc., No. 10-5602, at 23-25 (6th Cir. 2010).

    This analysis is not altered by the fact that paragraph (3) bears the heading “Final Order.” SCSGP asserted that this title and paragraph (5)'s reference to only paragraph (3) provides clear and unmistakable language that preliminary orders are not final orders enforceable under paragraph (3). However, sections of a statute should not be read in isolation, but rather in conjunction with the provisions of the entire Act, considering both the object and policy of the Act. See, e.g., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. FDA, 153 F.3d 155, 162 (4th Cir. 1998), aff'd, 529 U.S. 120 (2000). See also United States v. Buculei, 262 F.3d 322, 331 (4th Cir. 2001) (a statute's title cannot limit the plain meaning of its text), cert. denied, 535 U.S. 962 (2002). Focusing on the title to subsection (b)(3) instead of reading section 42121(b) as a coherent whole negates the congressional directives that preliminary reinstatement must be ordered upon a finding of reasonable cause and that such orders not be stayed pending appeal. 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(2)(A)'s clear statement that objections shall not stay any preliminary order of reinstatement demonstrates Congress's intent that the Secretary's preliminary orders of reinstatement be immediately effective. Reading 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(5) to allow enforcement of such orders is the only way to effectuate this intent.

    Furthermore, the Secretary's interpretation is buttressed by the legislative history of Sarbanes-Oxley and AIR21. Before Congress enacted Sarbanes-Oxley, the Department of Labor had interpreted this AIR21 provision to permit judicial enforcement of preliminary reinstatement orders. Accordingly, Congress is presumed to have been aware of the Department's interpretation of 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(5) and to have adopted that interpretation when it incorporated that provision by reference. See Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 580-81 (1978) (“[W]here . . . Congress adopts a new law incorporating sections of a prior law, Congress normally can be presumed to have had knowledge of the interpretation given to the incorporated law, at least insofar as it affects the new statute.”). The Secretary's interpretation is further supported by the legislative history of AIR21, which makes clear that Congress regarded preliminary reinstatement as crucial to the protections provided in the statute. Brief for the Intervenor/Plaintiff-Appellee Secretary of Labor, Solis v. Tenn. Commerce Bancorp, Inc., No. 10-5602, at 41-44 (6th Cir. 2010) (reviewing legislative history of AIR21). Interpreting 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(5) to permit judicial enforcement of the Secretary's preliminary orders of reinstatement is necessary to carry out Congress' clearly expressed intent that whistleblowers be immediately reinstated upon the Secretary's finding of reasonable cause to believe that retaliation has occurred. Sarbanes-Oxley also permits the person on whose behalf the order was issued under Sarbanes-Oxley to obtain judicial enforcement of orders and the terms of a settlement agreement. 18 U.S.C. 1514A(b)(2)(A) incorporating 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(6). Accordingly, OSHA declines to make the changes to this section suggested by SCSGP.

    OSHA has made two changes that are not intended to have substantive effects. First, OSHA has revised this section slightly to more closely parallel the provisions of the statute regarding the proper venue for an enforcement action. Second, the list of remedies that formerly appeared in this section has been moved to Section 1980.114. This revision does not reflect a change in the Secretary's views regarding the remedies that are available under Sarbanes-Oxley in an action to enforce an order of the Secretary. The revision has been made to better parallel the statutory structure of Sarbanes-Oxley and AIR21, which contemplate enforcement of a Secretary's order and specify the remedies that are available in an action for de novo review of a retaliation complaint in district court. Compare 49 U.S.C. 42121(b)(5) and (6) to 18 U.S.C. 1514A(c).

    Section 1980.114 District Court Jurisdiction Over Retaliation Complaints

    This section sets forth Sarbanes-Oxley's provisions allowing a complainant to bring an original de novo action in district court, alleging the same allegations contained in the complaint filed with OSHA, if there has been no final decision of the Secretary within 180 days of the filing of the complaint. It is the Secretary's position that complainants may not initiate an action in federal court after the Secretary issues a final decision, even if the date of the final decision is more than 180 days after the filing of the complaint. The purpose of the “kick-out” provision is to aid the complainant in receiving a prompt decision. That goal is not implicated in a situation where the complainant already has received a final decision from the Secretary. In addition, permitting the complainant to file a new case in district court in such circumstances could conflict with the parties' rights to seek judicial review of the Secretary's final decision in the court of appeals.

    OSHA received two comments on the inclusion of this statement of the Secretary's position in the preamble to the IFR. Mr. Levi wrote in opposition to this language, while the EEAC wrote in support of this language, and requested that it be inserted into the regulatory text. Mr. Levi noted his belief that this position is in conflict with the rule itself, which allows complainants to “kick-out” under the specified circumstances. To support his position, Mr. Levi quoted from the preamble to the 2004 version of the rules. In that preamble, the agency stated, and Mr. Levi quoted, “The Act might even be interpreted to allow a complainant to bring an action in Federal court after receiving a final decision from the Board, if that decision was issued more than 180 days after the filing of the complaint.” 69 FR 52111(Aug. 24, 2004). The 2004 preamble used the words “might even” to denote that this is a possible interpretation of the language. However, in that preamble, the agency went on to state, “The Secretary believes that it would be a waste of the resources of the parties, the Department, and the courts for complainants to pursue duplicative litigation.” Id. The language in the preamble to the 2011 IFR, continued and retained above, simply asserts the Secretary's longstanding position, which is consistent with the statute, the 2004 rule, the 2004 preamble language, and the 2011 rule, that once a complainant has received a final decision from the Secretary, the goal of the “kick-out” provision is no longer implicated.

    Mr. Levi also commented that this position creates an impediment to a complainant's right to access the federal district courts, and forces the complainant to give up one right or another: Access to the ARB or access to the district courts. However, as discussed above, the Secretary believes that access to district courts under this provision is intended to provide the complainant with a speedy adjudication of his complaint; it is not intended to create two simultaneous proceedings or a de novo review of an unfavorable determination by the Secretary. Congress provided a clear avenue for review in federal courts of a final order. As provided in Section 1980.112, either party aggrieved by a final order of the ALJ or ARB may still appeal to the federal courts of appeals. The Secretary's position does not adversely affect this right, but rather is intended to prevent interference with this right. Therefore, after considering Mr. Levi and EEAC's comments, the agency has decided to retain the language in the preamble to the rule, but refrain from adding it to the regulatory text.

    The IFR amended paragraph (b) of this section to require complainants to provide file-stamped copies of their complaint within seven days after filing a complaint in district court to the Assistant Secretary, the ALJ, or the ARB, depending on where the proceeding is pending, rather than requiring such notice fifteen days in advance of such filing. The IFR noted a copy of the complaint also must be provided to the Regional Administrator, the Assistant Secretary, and the Associate Solicitor, Division of Fair Labor Standards, U.S. Department of Labor. This provision is necessary to notify the agency that the complainant has opted to file a complaint in district court. This provision is not a substitute for the complainant's compliance with the requirements for service of process of the district court complaint contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the local rules of the district court where the complaint is filed. These revisions are continued in this final rule. However, OSHA has replaced the requirement of providing a copy of the complaint to the Regional Administrator with a requirement that a copy be provided to the “OSHA official who issued the findings and/or preliminary order.” This non-substantive change is intended to reflect that an official other than the Regional Administrator may be the official who issued the findings and/or preliminary order.

    The NWC noted its appreciation for this revision to the rule, and suggested that “[t]he Department's wise policy on notice . . . should now be replicated in the Department's regulations under other whistleblower protection laws.” OSHA is conducting several rulemakings for whistleblower proceedings at this time and intends to include this revised notice provision where applicable.

    In addition to the changes noted above, OSHA has revised this section to clarify the provision and more closely mirror the language used in the statute. For example, paragraph (b) now incorporates the provisions of the statute specifying the remedies and burdens of proof in a district court action.

    Section 1980.115 Special Circumstances; Waiver of Rules

    This section provides that in circumstances not contemplated by these rules or for good cause the ALJ or the ARB may, upon application and notice to the parties, waive any rule as justice or the administration of Sarbanes-Oxley requires. No comments were received on this section.

    IV. Paperwork Reduction Act.

    This rule contains a reporting provision (filing a retaliation complaint, Section 1980.103) which was previously reviewed and approved for use by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-13). The assigned OMB control number is 1218-0236.

    V. Administrative Procedure Act.

    The notice and comment rulemaking procedures of Section 553 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) do not apply to “interpretive rules, general statements of policy, or rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice.” 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(A). Part 1980 sets forth interpretive rules and rules of agency procedure and practice within the meaning of that section. Therefore, publication in the Federal Register of a notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comments was not required. Although Part 1980 was not subject to the notice and comment procedures of the APA, the Assistant Secretary sought and considered comments to enable the agency to improve the rules by taking into account the concerns of interested persons.

    Furthermore, because this rule is procedural and interpretive rather than substantive, the normal requirement of 5 U.S.C. 553(d) that a rule not be effective until at least 30 days after publication in the Federal Register is inapplicable. The Assistant Secretary also finds good cause to provide an immediate effective date for this rule. It is in the public interest that the rule be effective immediately so that parties may know what procedures are applicable to pending cases. Most of the provisions of this rule were in the IFR and have already been in effect since November 3, 2011, so a delayed effective date is unnecessary.

    VI. Executive Orders 12866 and 13563; Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995; Executive Order 13132

    The Department has concluded that this rule is not a “significant regulatory action” within the meaning of Executive Order 12866, reaffirmed by Executive Order 13563, because it is not likely to: (1) Have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or Tribal governments or communities; (2) create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency; (3) materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or (4) raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in Executive Order 12866. Therefore, no economic impact analysis under Section 6(a)(3)(C) of Executive Order 12866 has been prepared. For the same reason, and because no notice of proposed rulemaking was published, no statement is required under Section 202 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, 2 U.S.C. 1532. In any event, this rulemaking is procedural and interpretive in nature and is thus not expected to have a significant economic impact. Finally, this rule does not have “federalism implications.” The rule does not have “substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government” and therefore is not subject to Executive Order 13132 (Federalism).

    VII. Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    The notice and comment rulemaking procedures of Section 553 of the APA do not apply “to interpretative rules, general statements of policy, or rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice.” 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(A). Rules that are exempt from APA notice and comment requirements are also exempt from the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). See SBA Office of Advocacy, A Guide for Government Agencies: How to Comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act 9 (May 2012); also found at: http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/rfaguide_0512_0.pdf*. This is a rule of agency procedure, practice, and interpretation within the meaning of that section; and therefore the rule is exempt from both the notice and comment rulemaking procedures of the APA and the requirements under the RFA.

    List of Subjects in 29 CFR Part 1980

    Administrative practice and procedure, Corporate fraud, Employment, Investigations, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Whistleblower.

    Authority and Signature

    This document was prepared under the direction and control of David Michaels, Ph.D., MPH, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

    Signed at Washington, DC on February 25, 2015. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

    Accordingly, for the reasons set out in the preamble, 29 CFR part 1980 is revised to read as follows:

    PART 1980—PROCEDURES FOR THE HANDLING OF RETALIATION COMPLAINTS UNDER SECTION 806 OF THE SARBANES-OXLEY ACT OF 2002, AS AMENDED. Subpart A—Complaints, Investigations, Findings and Preliminary Orders Sec: 1980.100 Purpose and scope. 1980.101 Definitions. 1980.102 Obligations and prohibited acts. 1980.103 Filing of retaliation complaints. 1980.104 Investigation. 1980.105 Issuance of findings and preliminary orders. Subpart B—Litigation. 1980.106 Objections to the findings and the preliminary order and request for a hearing. 1980.107 Hearings. 1980.108 Role of Federal agencies. 1980.109 Decision and orders of the administrative law judge. 1980.110 Decision and orders of the Administrative Review Board. Subpart C—Miscellaneous Provisions 1980.111 Withdrawal of complaints, findings, objections, and petitions for review; settlement. 1980.112 Judicial review. 1980.113 Judicial enforcement. 1980.114 District court jurisdiction over retaliation complaints. 1980.115 Special circumstances; waiver of rules. Authority:

    18 U.S.C. 1514A, as amended by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, Pub. L. 111-203 (July 21, 2010); Secretary of Labor's Order No. 01-2012 (Jan. 18, 2012), 77 FR 3912 (Jan. 25, 2012); Secretary of Labor's Order No. 2-2012 (Oct. 19, 2012), 77 FR 69378 (Nov. 16, 2012).

    Subpart A—Complaints, Investigations, Findings and Preliminary Orders
    § 1980.100 Purpose and scope.

    (a) This part implements procedures under section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, Title VIII of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Sarbanes-Oxley or Act), enacted into law July 30, 2002, as amended by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, enacted into law July 21, 2010. Sarbanes-Oxley provides for employee protection from retaliation by companies, their subsidiaries and affiliates, officers, employees, contractors, subcontractors, and agents because the employee has engaged in protected activity pertaining to a violation or alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343, 1344, or 1348, or any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or any provision of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders. Sarbanes-Oxley also provides for employee protection from retaliation by nationally recognized statistical rating organizations, their officers, employees, contractors, subcontractors or agents because the employee has engaged in protected activity.

    (b) This part establishes procedures pursuant to Sarbanes-Oxley for the expeditious handling of retaliation complaints made by employees, or by persons acting on their behalf and sets forth the Secretary's interpretations of the Act on certain statutory issues. These rules, together with those codified at 29 CFR part 18, set forth the procedures for submission of complaints under Sarbanes-Oxley, investigations, issuance of findings and preliminary orders, objections to findings and orders, litigation before administrative law judges, post-hearing administrative review, withdrawals, and settlements.

    § 1980.101 Definitions.

    As used in this part:

    (a) Act means section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, Title VIII of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107-204, July 30, 2002, codified at 18 U.S.C. 1514A, as amended by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, Pub. L. 111-203, July 21, 2010.

    (b) Assistant Secretary means the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health or the person or persons to whom he or she delegates authority under the Act.

    (c) Business days means days other than Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal holidays.

    (d) Company means any company with a class of securities registered under section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78l) or any company required to file reports under section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78o(d)) including any subsidiary or affiliate whose financial information is included in the consolidated financial statements of such company.

    (e) Complainant means the employee who filed a complaint under the Act or on whose behalf a complaint was filed.

    (f) Covered person means any company, including any subsidiary or affiliate whose financial information is included in the consolidated financial statements of such company, or any nationally recognized statistical rating organization, or any officer, employee, contractor, subcontractor, or agent of such company or nationally recognized statistical rating organization.

    (g) Employee means an individual presently or formerly working for a covered person, an individual applying to work for a covered person, or an individual whose employment could be affected by a covered person.

    (h) Nationally recognized statistical rating organization means a credit rating agency under 15 U.S.C. 78c(61) that:

    (1) Issues credit ratings certified by qualified institutional buyers, in accordance with 15 U.S.C. 78o-7(a)(1)(B)(ix), with respect to:

    (i) Financial institutions, brokers, or dealers;

    (ii) Insurance companies;

    (iii) Corporate issuers;

    (iv) Issuers of asset-backed securities (as that term is defined in section 1101(c) of part 229 of title 17, Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on September 29, 2006);

    (v) Issuers of government securities, municipal securities, or securities issued by a foreign government; or

    (vi) A combination of one or more categories of obligors described in any of paragraphs (h)(1)(i) through (v) of this section; and

    (2) Is registered under 15 U.S.C. 78o-7.

    (i) OSHA means the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor.

    (j) Person means one or more individuals, partnerships, associations, companies, corporations, business trusts, legal representatives or any group of persons.

    (k) Respondent means the person named in the complaint who is alleged to have violated the Act.

    (l) Secretary means the Secretary of Labor or persons to whom authority under the Act has been delegated.

    (m) Any future statutory amendments that affect the definition of a term or terms listed in this section will apply in lieu of the definition stated herein.

    § 1980.102 Obligations and prohibited acts.

    (a) No covered person may discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass or in any other manner retaliate against, including, but not limited to, intimidating, threatening, restraining, coercing, blacklisting or disciplining, any employee with respect to the employee's compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because the employee, or any person acting pursuant to the employee's request, has engaged in any of the activities specified in paragraphs (b)(1) and (2) of this section.

    (b) An employee is protected against retaliation (as described in paragraph (a) of this section) by a covered person for any lawful act done by the employee:

    (1) To provide information, cause information to be provided, or otherwise assist in an investigation regarding any conduct which the employee reasonably believes constitutes a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343, 1344, or 1348, any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or any provision of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders, when the information or assistance is provided to or the investigation is conducted by—

    (i) A Federal regulatory or law enforcement agency;

    (ii) Any Member of Congress or any committee of Congress; or

    (iii) A person with supervisory authority over the employee (or such other person working for the employer who has the authority to investigate, discover, or terminate misconduct); or

    (2) To file, cause to be filed, testify, participate in, or otherwise assist in a proceeding filed or about to be filed (with any knowledge of the employer) relating to an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343, 1344, or 1348, any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or any provision of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

    § 1980.103 Filing of retaliation complaints.

    (a) Who may file. An employee who believes that he or she has been retaliated against by a covered person in violation of the Act may file, or have filed on the employee's behalf, a complaint alleging such retaliation.

    (b) Nature of filing. No particular form of complaint is required. A complaint may be filed orally or in writing. Oral complaints will be reduced to writing by OSHA. If the complainant is unable to file the complaint in English, OSHA will accept the complaint in any language.

    (c) Place of filing. The complaint should be filed with the OSHA office responsible for enforcement activities in the geographical area where the employee resides or was employed, but may be filed with any OSHA officer or employee. Addresses and telephone numbers for these officials are set forth in local directories and at the following Internet address: http://www.osha.gov.

    (d) Time for filing. Within 180 days after an alleged violation of the Act occurs or after the date on which the employee became aware of the alleged violation of the Act, any employee who believes that he or she has been retaliated against in violation of the Act may file, or have filed on the employee's behalf, a complaint alleging such retaliation. The date of the postmark, facsimile transmittal, electronic communication transmittal, telephone call, hand-delivery, delivery to a third-party commercial carrier, or in-person filing at an OSHA office will be considered the date of filing. The time for filing a complaint may be tolled for reasons warranted by applicable case law. For example, OSHA may consider the time for filing a complaint equitably tolled if a complainant mistakenly files a complaint with the another agency instead of OSHA within 180 days after becoming aware of the alleged violation.

    § 1980.104 Investigation.

    (a) Upon receipt of a complaint in the investigating office, OSHA will notify the respondent of the filing of the complaint, of the allegations contained in the complaint, and of the substance of the evidence supporting the complaint. Such materials will be redacted, if necessary, in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, et seq., and other applicable confidentiality laws. OSHA will also notify the respondent of its rights under paragraphs (b) and (f) of this section and § 1980.110(e). OSHA will provide an unredacted copy of these same materials to the complainant (or complainant's legal counsel, if complainant is represented by counsel) and to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    (b) Within 20 days of receipt of the notice of the filing of the complaint provided under paragraph (a) of this section, the respondent may submit to OSHA a written statement and any affidavits or documents substantiating its position. Within the same 20 days, the respondent may request a meeting with OSHA to present its position.

    (c) During the investigation, OSHA will request that each party provide the other parties to the whistleblower complaint with a copy of submissions to OSHA that are pertinent to the whistleblower complaint. Alternatively, if a party does not provide its submissions to OSHA to the other party, OSHA will provide them to the other party (or the party's legal counsel if the party is represented by counsel) at a time permitting the other party an opportunity to respond. Before providing such materials to the other party, OSHA will redact them, if necessary, consistent with the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, and other applicable confidentiality laws. OSHA will also provide each party with an opportunity to respond to the other party's submissions.

    (d) Investigations will be conducted in a manner that protects the confidentiality of any person who provides information on a confidential basis, other than the complainant, in accordance with part 70 of this title.

    (e)(1) A complaint will be dismissed unless the complainant has made a prima facie showing that a protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action alleged in the complaint.

    (2) The complaint, supplemented as appropriate by interviews of the complainant, must allege the existence of facts and evidence to make a prima facie showing as follows:

    (i) The employee engaged in a protected activity;

    (ii) The respondent knew or suspected that the employee engaged in the protected activity;

    (iii) The employee suffered an adverse action; and

    (iv) The circumstances were sufficient to raise the inference that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action.

    (3) For purposes of determining whether to investigate, the complainant will be considered to have met the required burden if the complaint on its face, supplemented as appropriate through interviews of the complainant, alleges the existence of facts and either direct or circumstantial evidence to meet the required showing, i.e., to give rise to an inference that the respondent knew or suspected that the employee engaged in protected activity and that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action. The burden may be satisfied, for example, if the complaint shows that the adverse personnel action took place within a temporal proximity after the protected activity, or at the first opportunity available to respondent, giving rise to the inference that it was a contributing factor in the adverse action. If the required showing has not been made, the complainant (or the complainant's legal counsel, if complainant is represented by counsel) will be so notified and the investigation will not commence.

    (4) Notwithstanding a finding that a complainant has made a prima facie showing, as required by this section, further investigation of the complaint will not be conducted if the respondent demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the same adverse action in the absence of the complainant's protected activity.

    (5) If the respondent fails to make a timely response or fails to satisfy the burden set forth in the prior paragraph, OSHA will proceed with the investigation. The investigation will proceed whenever it is necessary or appropriate to confirm or verify the information provided by the respondent.

    (f) Prior to the issuance of findings and a preliminary order as provided for in § 1980.105, if OSHA has reasonable cause, on the basis of information gathered under the procedures of this part, to believe that the respondent has violated the Act and that preliminary reinstatement is warranted, OSHA will contact the respondent (or the respondent's legal counsel, if respondent is represented by counsel) to give notice of the substance of the relevant evidence supporting the complainant's allegations as developed during the course of the investigation. This evidence includes any witness statements, which will be redacted to protect the identity of confidential informants where statements were given in confidence; if the statements cannot be redacted without revealing the identity of confidential informants, summaries of their contents will be provided. The complainant will also receive a copy of the materials that must be provided to the respondent under this paragraph. Before providing such materials to the complainant, OSHA will redact them, if necessary, in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, and other applicable confidentiality laws. The respondent will be given the opportunity to submit a written response, to meet with the investigator, to present statements from witnesses in support of its position, and to present legal and factual arguments. The respondent will present this evidence within 10 business days of OSHA's notification pursuant to this paragraph, or as soon afterwards as OSHA and the respondent can agree, if the interests of justice so require.

    § 1980.105 Issuance of findings and preliminary orders.

    (a) After considering all the relevant information collected during the investigation, the Assistant Secretary shall issue, within 60 days of the filing of the complaint, written findings as to whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that the respondent has retaliated against the complainant in violation of the Act.

    (1) If the Assistant Secretary concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, the Assistant Secretary will accompany the findings with a preliminary order providing relief to the complainant. The preliminary order will include all relief necessary to make the employee whole, including reinstatement with the same seniority status that the complainant would have had but for the retaliation; back pay with interest; and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the retaliation, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees. Interest on back pay will be calculated using the interest rate applicable to underpayment of taxes under 26 U.S.C. 6621 and will be compounded daily. The preliminary order will also require the respondent to submit appropriate documentation to the Social Security Administration allocating any back pay award to the appropriate calendar quarters.

    (2) If the Assistant Secretary concludes that a violation has not occurred, the Assistant Secretary will notify the parties of that finding.

    (b) The findings, and where appropriate, the preliminary order will be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested (or other means that allow OSHA to confirm receipt), to all parties of record (and each party's legal counsel if the party is represented by counsel). The findings, and where appropriate, the preliminary order will inform the parties of the right to object to the findings and/or order and to request a hearing, and of the right of the respondent to request an award of attorney fees not exceeding $1,000 from the administrative law judge (ALJ) regardless of whether the respondent has filed objections, if the complaint was frivolous or brought in bad faith. The findings, and where appropriate, the preliminary order, also will give the address of the Chief Administrative Law Judge, U.S. Department of Labor. At the same time, the Assistant Secretary will file with the Chief Administrative Law Judge a copy of the original complaint and a copy of the findings and/or order.

    (c) The findings and any preliminary order will be effective 30 days after receipt by the respondent (or the respondent's legal counsel if the respondent is represented by counsel), or on the compliance date set forth in the preliminary order, whichever is later, unless an objection and/or a request for hearing has been timely filed as provided at § 1980.106. However, the portion of any preliminary order requiring reinstatement will be effective immediately upon the respondent's receipt of the findings and the preliminary order, regardless of any objections to the findings and/or the order.

    Subpart B—Litigation
    § 1980.106 Objections to the findings and the preliminary order and request for a hearing.

    (a) Any party who desires review, including judicial review, of the findings and preliminary order, or a respondent alleging that the complaint was frivolous or brought in bad faith who seeks an award of attorney fees under the Act, must file any objections and/or a request for a hearing on the record within 30 days of receipt of the findings and preliminary order pursuant to § 1980.105(b). The objections and/or request for a hearing must be in writing and state whether the objections are to the findings and/or the preliminary order, and/or whether there should be an award of attorney fees. The date of the postmark, facsimile transmittal, or electronic communication transmittal is considered the date of filing; if the objection is filed in person, by hand-delivery or other means, the objection is filed upon receipt. Objections must be filed with the Chief Administrative Law Judge, U.S. Department of Labor, and copies of the objections must be mailed at the same time to the other parties of record, the OSHA official who issued the findings and order, the Assistant Secretary, and the Associate Solicitor, Division of Fair Labor Standards, U.S. Department of Labor.

    (b) If a timely objection is filed, all provisions of the preliminary order will be stayed, except for the portion requiring preliminary reinstatement, which will not be automatically stayed. The portion of the preliminary order requiring reinstatement will be effective immediately upon the respondent's receipt of the findings and preliminary order, regardless of any objections to the order. The respondent may file a motion with the Office of Administrative Law Judges for a stay of the Assistant Secretary's preliminary order of reinstatement, which shall be granted only based on exceptional circumstances. If no timely objection is filed with respect to either the findings or the preliminary order, the findings and/or preliminary order will become the final decision of the Secretary, not subject to judicial review.

    § 1980.107 Hearings.

    (a) Except as provided in this part, proceedings will be conducted in accordance with the rules of practice and procedure for administrative hearings before the Office of Administrative Law Judges, codified at subpart A of part 18 of this title.

    (b) Upon receipt of an objection and request for hearing, the Chief Administrative Law Judge will promptly assign the case to an ALJ who will notify the parties, by certified mail, of the day, time, and place of hearing. The hearing is to commence expeditiously, except upon a showing of good cause or unless otherwise agreed to by the parties. Hearings will be conducted de novo, on the record. ALJs have broad discretion to limit discovery in order to expedite the hearing.

    (c) If both the complainant and the respondent object to the findings and/or order, the objections will be consolidated and a single hearing will be conducted.

    (d) Formal rules of evidence will not apply, but rules or principles designed to assure production of the most probative evidence will be applied. The ALJ may exclude evidence that is immaterial, irrelevant, or unduly repetitious.

    § 1980.108 Role of Federal agencies.

    (a)(1) The complainant and the respondent will be parties in every proceeding and must be served with copies of all documents in the case. At the Assistant Secretary's discretion, the Assistant Secretary may participate as a party or as amicus curiae at any time at any stage of the proceeding. This right to participate includes, but is not limited to, the right to petition for review of a decision of an ALJ, including a decision approving or rejecting a settlement agreement between the complainant and the respondent.

    (2) Parties must send copies of documents to OSHA and to the Associate Solicitor, Division of Fair Labor Standards, U.S. Department of Labor, only upon request of OSHA, or when OSHA is participating in the proceeding, or when service on OSHA and the Associate Solicitor is otherwise required by these rules.

    (b) The Securities and Exchange Commission, if interested in a proceeding, may participate as amicus curiae at any time in the proceeding, at the Commission's discretion. At the request of the Securities and Exchange Commission, copies of all documents in a case must be sent to the Commission, whether or not the Commission is participating in the proceeding.

    § 1980.109 Decision and orders of the administrative law judge.

    (a) The decision of the ALJ will contain appropriate findings, conclusions, and an order pertaining to the remedies provided in paragraph (d) of this section, as appropriate. A determination that a violation has occurred may be made only if the complainant has demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action alleged in the complaint.

    (b) If the complainant has satisfied the burden set forth in the prior paragraph, relief may not be ordered if the respondent demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the same adverse action in the absence of any protected activity.

    (c) Neither OSHA's determination to dismiss a complaint without completing an investigation pursuant to § 1980.104(e) nor OSHA's determination to proceed with an investigation is subject to review by the ALJ, and a complaint may not be remanded for the completion of an investigation or for additional findings on the basis that a determination to dismiss was made in error. Rather, if there otherwise is jurisdiction, the ALJ will hear the case on the merits or dispose of the matter without a hearing if the facts and circumstances warrant.

    (d)(1) If the ALJ concludes that the respondent has violated the law, the order will provide all relief necessary to make the employee whole, including, reinstatement with the same seniority status that the complainant would have had but for the retaliation; back pay with interest; and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the retaliation, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees. Interest on back pay will be calculated using the interest rate applicable to underpayment of taxes under 26 U.S.C. 6621 and will be compounded daily. The order will also require the respondent to submit appropriate documentation to the Social Security Administration allocating any back pay award to the appropriate calendar quarters.

    (2) If the ALJ determines that the respondent has not violated the law, an order will be issued denying the complaint. If, upon the request of the respondent, the ALJ determines that a complaint was frivolous or was brought in bad faith, the judge may award to the respondent reasonable attorney fees, not exceeding $1,000.

    (e) The decision will be served upon all parties to the proceeding, the Assistant Secretary, and the Associate Solicitor, Division of Fair Labor Standards, U.S. Department of Labor. Any ALJ's decision requiring reinstatement or lifting an order of reinstatement by the Assistant Secretary will be effective immediately upon receipt of the decision by the respondent. All other portions of the ALJ's order will be effective 14 days after the date of the decision unless a timely petition for review has been filed with the Administrative Review Board (ARB). The decision of the ALJ will become the final order of the Secretary unless a petition for review is timely filed with the ARB, and the ARB accepts the petition for review.

    § 1980.110 Decision and orders of the Administrative Review Board.

    (a) Any party desiring to seek review, including judicial review, of a decision of the ALJ, or a respondent alleging that the complaint was frivolous or brought in bad faith who seeks an award of attorney fees, must file a written petition for review with the ARB, which has been delegated the authority to act for the Secretary and issue final decisions under this part. The parties should identify in their petitions for review the legal conclusions or orders to which they object, or the objections may be deemed waived. A petition must be filed within 14 days of the date of the decision of the ALJ. The date of the postmark, facsimile transmittal, or electronic communication transmittal will be considered to be the date of filing; if the petition is filed in person, by hand-delivery or other means, the petition is considered filed upon receipt. The petition must be served on all parties and on the Chief Administrative Law Judge at the time it is filed with the ARB. Copies of the petition for review must be served on the Assistant Secretary and on the Associate Solicitor, Division of Fair Labor Standards, U.S. Department of Labor.

    (b) If a timely petition for review is filed pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, the decision of the ALJ will become the final order of the Secretary unless the ARB, within 30 days of the filing of the petition, issues an order notifying the parties that the case has been accepted for review. If a case is accepted for review, the decision of the ALJ will be inoperative unless and until the ARB issues an order adopting the decision, except that any order of reinstatement will be effective while review is conducted by the ARB, unless the ARB grants a motion by the respondent to stay the order based on exceptional circumstances. The ARB will specify the terms under which any briefs are to be filed. The ARB will review the factual determinations of the ALJ under the substantial evidence standard. If no timely petition for review is filed, or the ARB denies review, the decision of the ALJ will become the final order of the Secretary. If no timely petition for review is filed, the resulting final order is not subject to judicial review.

    (c) The final decision of the ARB shall be issued within 120 days of the conclusion of the hearing, which will be deemed to be 14 days after the date of the decision of the ALJ unless a motion for reconsideration has been filed with the ALJ in the interim. In such case, the conclusion of the hearing is the date the motion for reconsideration is ruled upon or 14 days after a new decision is issued. The ARB's final decision will be served upon all parties and the Chief Administrative Law Judge by mail. The final decision will also be served on the Assistant Secretary and on the Associate Solicitor, Division of Fair Labor Standards, even if the Assistant Secretary is not a party.

    (d) If the ARB concludes that the respondent has violated the law, the ARB will issue a final order providing all relief necessary to make the complainant whole, including reinstatement with the same seniority status that the complainant would have had but for the retaliation; back pay with interest; and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the retaliation, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees. Interest on back pay will be calculated using the interest rate applicable to underpayment of taxes under 26 U.S.C. 6621 and will be compounded daily. The order will also require the respondent to submit appropriate documentation to the Social Security Administration allocating any back pay award to the appropriate calendar quarters.

    (e) If the ARB determines that the respondent has not violated the law, an order will be issued denying the complaint. If, upon the request of the respondent, the ARB determines that a complaint was frivolous or was brought in bad faith, the ARB may award to the respondent reasonable attorney fees, not exceeding $1,000.

    Subpart C—Miscellaneous Provisions
    § 1980.111 Withdrawal of complaints, findings, objections, and petitions for review; settlement.

    (a) At any time prior to the filing of objections to the Assistant Secretary's findings and/or preliminary order, a complainant may withdraw his or her complaint by notifying OSHA, orally or in writing, of his or her withdrawal. OSHA then will confirm in writing the complainant's desire to withdraw and determine whether to approve the withdrawal. OSHA will notify the parties (and each party's legal counsel if the party is represented by counsel) of the approval of any withdrawal. If the complaint is withdrawn because of settlement, the settlement must be submitted for approval in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section. A complainant may not withdraw his or her complaint after the filing of objections to the Assistant Secretary's findings and/or preliminary order.

    (b) The Assistant Secretary may withdraw the findings and/or preliminary order at any time before the expiration of the 30-day objection period described in § 1980.106, provided that no objection has been filed yet, and substitute new findings and/or a new preliminary order. The date of the receipt of the substituted findings and/or order will begin a new 30-day objection period.

    (c) At any time before the Assistant Secretary's findings and/or order become final, a party may withdraw objections to the Assistant Secretary's findings and/or order by filing a written withdrawal with the ALJ. If the case is on review with the ARB, a party may withdraw a petition for review of an ALJ's decision at any time before that decision becomes final by filing a written withdrawal with the ARB. The ALJ or the ARB, as the case may be, will determine whether to approve the withdrawal of the objections or the petition for review. If the ALJ approves a request to withdraw objections to the Assistant Secretary's findings and/or order, and there are no other pending objections, the Assistant Secretary's findings and/or order will become the final order of the Secretary. If the ARB approves a request to withdraw a petition for review of an ALJ decision, and there are no other pending petitions for review of that decision, the ALJ's decision will become the final order of the Secretary. If objections or a petition for review are withdrawn because of settlement, the settlement must be submitted for approval in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section.

    (d)(1) Investigative settlements. At any time after the filing of a complaint, and before the findings and/or order are objected to or become a final order by operation of law, the case may be settled if OSHA, the complainant and the respondent agree to a settlement. OSHA's approval of a settlement reached by the respondent and the complainant demonstrates OSHA's consent and achieves the consent of all three parties.

    (2) Adjudicatory settlements. At any time after the filing of objections to the Assistant Secretary's findings and/or order, the case may be settled if the participating parties agree to a settlement and the settlement is approved by the ALJ if the case is before the ALJ, or by the ARB if the ARB has accepted the case for review. A copy of the settlement will be filed with the ALJ or the ARB, as appropriate.

    (e) Any settlement approved by OSHA, the ALJ, or the ARB, will constitute the final order of the Secretary and may be enforced in United States district court pursuant to § 1980.113.

    § 1980.112 Judicial review.

    (a) Within 60 days after the issuance of a final order under §§ 1980.109 and 1980.110, any person adversely affected or aggrieved by the order may file a petition for review of the order in the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the violation allegedly occurred or the circuit in which the complainant resided on the date of the violation.

    (b) A final order is not subject to judicial review in any criminal or other civil proceeding.

    (c) If a timely petition for review is filed, the record of a case, including the record of proceedings before the ALJ, will be transmitted by the ARB or the ALJ, as the case may be, to the appropriate court pursuant to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the local rules of such court.

    § 1980.113 Judicial enforcement.

    Whenever any person has failed to comply with a preliminary order of reinstatement, or a final order, including one approving a settlement agreement, issued under the Act, the Secretary may file a civil action seeking enforcement of the order in the United States district court for the district in which the violation was found to have occurred. Whenever any person has failed to comply with a preliminary order of reinstatement, or a final order, including one approving a settlement agreement, issued under the Act, a person on whose behalf the order was issued may file a civil action seeking enforcement of the order in the appropriate United States district court.

    § 1980.114 District court jurisdiction over retaliation complaints.

    (a) If the Secretary has not issued a final decision within 180 days of the filing of the complaint, and there is no showing that there has been delay due to the bad faith of the complainant, the complainant may bring an action at law or equity for de novo review in the appropriate district court of the United States, which will have jurisdiction over such an action without regard to the amount in controversy. A party to an action brought under this paragraph shall be entitled to trial by jury.

    (b) A proceeding under paragraph (a) of this section shall be governed by the same legal burdens of proof specified in § 1980.109. An employee prevailing in any action under paragraph (a) of this section shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make the employee whole, including:

    (1) Reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had, but for the retaliation;

    (2) The amount of back pay, with interest;

    (3) Compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the retaliation; and

    (4) Litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.

    (c) Within seven days after filing a complaint in federal court, a complainant must file with OSHA, the ALJ, or the ARB, depending on where the proceeding is pending, a copy of the file-stamped complaint. A copy of the complaint also must be served on the OSHA official who issued the findings and/or preliminary order, the Assistant Secretary, and the Associate Solicitor, Division of Fair Labor Standards, U.S. Department of Labor.

    § 1980.115 Special circumstances; waiver of rules.

    In special circumstances not contemplated by the provisions of this part, or for good cause shown, the ALJ or the ARB on review may, upon application, after three days notice to all parties, waive any rule or issue any orders that justice or the administration of the Act requires.

    [FR Doc. 2015-05001 Filed 3-4-15; 08:45 am] BILLING CODE 4510-26-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Coast Guard 33 CFR Part 165 [Docket Number USCG-2013-0907] RIN 1625-AA00 Safety Zones; Upper Mississippi River Between Mile 38.0 and 46.0, Thebes, IL; and Between Mile 78.0 and 81.0, Grand Tower, IL AGENCY:

    Coast Guard, DHS.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Coast Guard is establishing safety zones for all waters of the Upper Mississippi River (UMR) from mile 38.0 to 46.0 and from mile 78.0 to 81.0. These safety zones are needed to protect persons, property, and infrastructure from potential damage and safety hazards associated with subsurface rock removal in the Upper Mississippi River. Any deviation from the conditions and requirements put into place are prohibited unless specifically authorized by the cognizant Captain of the Port (COTP) Ohio Valley or his designated representatives.

    DATES:

    This rule is effective on March 5, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Documents mentioned in this preamble are part of docket [USCG-2013-0907]. To view documents mentioned in this preamble as being available in the docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov, type the docket number in the “SEARCH” box and click “SEARCH.” Click on Open Docket Folder on the line associated with this rulemaking. You may also visit the Docket Management Facility in Room W12-140 on the ground floor of the Department of Transportation West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    If you have questions on this rule, call or email LT Dan McQuate, U.S. Coast Guard; telephone 270-442-1621, email [email protected] If you have questions on viewing or submitting material to the docket, call Cheryl F. Collins, Program Manager, Docket Operations, telephone (202) 366-9826.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Table of Acronyms AIS Automated Information System BNM Broadcast Notice to Mariners COTP Captain of the Port DHS Department of Homeland Security FR Federal Register LNM Local Notice to Mariners MM Mile Marker MSU Marine Safety Unit M/V Motor Vessel NPRM Notice of Proposed Rulemaking RIAC River Industry Action Committee UMR Upper Mississippi River USACE United States Army Corps of Engineers A. Regulatory History and Information

    Based on forecasted historical low water on the UMR in the fall of 2012, the USACE contracted subsurface rock removal operations in Thebes, IL to mitigate the effects of the forecasted low water event. In order to provide additional safety measures and regulate navigation during low water and the planned rock removal operations, the Coast Guard published a temporary final rule in the Federal Register for an RNA from mile 0.0 to 185.0 UMR (77 FR 75850). The RNA was in effect from December 1, 2012 until March 31, 2013, which is when river levels rebounded and the subsurface rock removal operation was delayed because of high water levels. During the effective period for this temporary RNA, restrictions were enforced for a total of approximately 45 days.

    In the fall of 2013, based on changing river conditions, low water was again forecasted and the USACE's contracted subsurface rock removal operations in Thebes, IL were scheduled to resume. The Coast Guard then published a second temporary final rule in the Federal Register re-establishing the RNA (78 FR 70222). Based on the forecasted water levels and the plans and needs for the resumed rock removal operations, the RNA covered a smaller river section extending from mile 0.0 to 109.9 on the UMR. The RNA was implemented to ensure the safety of the USACE contractors and marine traffic during the actual rock removal work, and to support the safe and timely clearing of vessel queues at the conclusion of the work each day. The RNA was in effect from November 4, 2013 until April 12, 2014, but was only enforced from December 10, 2013 until February 19, 2014 due to water levels increasing and forcing the USACE contractors to cease rock removal operations. During the times the RNA was enforced, the Coast Guard worked with the USACE, RIAC, and the USACE contractor to implement river closures and various restrictions to maximize the size of tows that could safely pass while keeping the USACE contractor crews safe. The Coast Guard also assisted in clearing vessel queues after each closure or restriction.

    On April 17, 2014, MSU Paducah contacted USACE St. Louis to determine if subsurface rock removal operations will be conducted in the Upper Mississippi River in the vicinity of Thebes, IL in future years. USACE St. Louis reported that such operations are anticipated to continue as river conditions permit, and that there are multiple phases of subsurface rock removal operations remaining. On August 28, 2014 USACE St. Louis notified the Coast Guard that based on recently acquired data, rock removal operations will also be required in the Upper Mississippi River between miles 78.0 and 81.0 at Grand Tower, IL in the future.

    USACE St. Louis also informed the Coast Guard that the environmental window for these operations each year moving forward is July 1 to April 12. However, river conditions likely will not permit work for the majority of that timeframe each year, and in some years river conditions may not permit any work on this project to be completed. This project is expected to go on indefinitely when river conditions permit during the allowable times within the environmental windows. For continuity and based on the necessary restrictions, USACE St. Louis requested continued involvement of the Coast Guard for navigation expertise and facilitating restrictions with users of the waterway and the contractor. According to USACE St. Louis, the majority of the rock removal operations will impact vessel traffic and requested that the Coast Guard establish restrictions under 33 CFR part 165, Regulated Navigation Areas and Limited Access Areas to maintain safety of navigation during the rock removal project. The Coast determined that safety zones, one type of Limited Access Area provided for under 33 CFR part 165, will provide the necessary additional safety measures to ensure commerce can continue to navigate safely while the contractors are working. These safety zones limit access to specific areas of the river during rock removal operations rather than creating a larger regulated area encompassing the entire stretch of river where the work may take place.

    On November 10, 2014, an interim rule was published in the Federal Register (79 FR 66622). This interim rule was effective upon publication without prior notice through publication in the Federal Register, but also invited comments regarding the creation of permanent safety zones before the rule was published in final form. The Coast Guard received no comments on the interim rule and no requests for public meeting. No public meetings were held. No changes were made to the rule as it was published in the interim rule.

    B. Basis and Purpose

    The legal basis and authorities for this rule are found in 33 U.S.C. 1231; 46 U.S.C. Chapter 701, 3306, 3703; 50 U.S.C. 191, 195; 33 CFR 1.05-1, 6.04-1, 6.04-6, and 160.5; Public Law 107-295, 116 Stat. 2064; and Department of Homeland Security Delegation No. 0170.1, which collectively authorize the Coast Guard to establish and define safety zones.

    The purpose of these safety zones are to protect persons and vessels while subsurface rock removal operations are ongoing on the UMR from mile 38.0 to mile 46.0 and from mile 78.0 to mile 81.0. The removal operations pose significant safety hazards to vessels and mariners operating on the UMR. At the previous request of RIAC and after reviewing best practices from the previous temporary RNAs in effect in 2012 and 2013, the Coast Guard plans to assist in facilitating the clearing of vessel queues in future years following restricted access on the UMR from mile 38.0 to mile 46.0 and from mile 78.0 to mile 81.0. For these reasons, the Coast Guard is to establishing these safety zones to limit vessel access between mile 38.0 and mile 46.0, and between mile 78.0 and mile 81.0 on the UMR.

    C. Discussion of Comments, Changes and the Final Rule

    No comments were received by the Coast Guard on this rule. No changes to the rule have been made from the interim rule and request for comments.

    D. Regulatory Analyses

    We developed this rule after considering numerous statutes and executive orders related to rulemaking. Below we summarize our analyses based on a number of these statutes or executive orders.

    1. Regulatory Planning and Review

    This rule is not a significant regulatory action under section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review, as supplemented by Executive Order 13563, Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, and does not require an assessment of potential costs and benefits under section 6(a)(3) of Executive Order 12866 or under section 1 of Executive Order 13563. The Office of Management and Budget has not reviewed it under those Orders.

    This rule establishes safety zones for vessels on all waters of the UMR from mile 38.0 to mile 46.0, and from mile 78.0 to mile 81.0. The safety zones listed in this final rule will only restrict vessel traffic from entering, transiting, or anchoring within specific sections of the UMR. Notifications of enforcement times and restrictions put into effect for these safety zones will be communicated to the marine community via BNM, through outreach with RIAC, and through LNMs. Such notices provide the opportunity for industry to plan transits accordingly and work around the schedule of rock removal operations as necessary. The impacts on navigation will be limited to ensuring the safety of mariners and vessels associated with hazards presented by USACE contractor operations involving subsurface rock removal, and the safe and timely resumption of vessel traffic following any river closures or restrictions associated with subsurface rock removal operations. Restrictions under these safety zones will be the minimum necessary to protect mariners, vessels, the public, and the environment from known or perceived risks.

    2. Impact on Small Entities

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 601-612, as amended, requires federal agencies to consider the potential impact of regulations on small entities during rulemaking. The term “small entities” comprises small businesses, not-for-profit organizations that are independently owned and operated and are not dominant in their fields, and governmental jurisdictions with populations of less than 50,000. The Coast Guard certifies under 5 U.S.C. 605(b) that this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

    This rule will affect the following entities, some of which may be small entities: The owners or operators of vessels intending to transit the UMR during USACE contracted subsurface rock removal operations. These safety zones will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities for the following reasons. While the safety zones listed in this final rule will restrict vessel traffic from entering, transiting, or anchoring within specific sections of the UMR, this rule does allow for the intermittent passing of vessels. Traffic in this area is limited to almost entirely recreational vessels and commercial towing vessels subject to noticed restrictions and requirements. Notifications to the marine community will be made through BNM, LNM, and communications with RIAC. Notices of changes to the safety zones and enforcement times will also be made. Additionally, deviation from the restrictions may be requested from the COTP Ohio Valley or designated representative and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    3. Assistance for Small Entities

    Under section 213(a) of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-121), we want to assist small entities in understanding this rule. If the rule would affect your small business, organization, or governmental jurisdiction and you have questions concerning its provisions or options for compliance, please contact the person listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, above.

    Small businesses may send comments on the actions of Federal employees who enforce, or otherwise determine compliance with, Federal regulations to the Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Enforcement Ombudsman and the Regional Small Business Regulatory Fairness Boards. The Ombudsman evaluates these actions annually and rates each agency's responsiveness to small business. If you wish to comment on actions by employees of the Coast Guard, call 1-888-REG-FAIR (1-888-734-3247). The Coast Guard will not retaliate against small entities that question or complain about this rule or any policy or action of the Coast Guard.

    4. Collection of Information

    This rule will not call for a new collection of information under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520).

    5. Federalism

    A rule has implications for federalism under Executive Order 13132, Federalism, if it has a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. We have analyzed this rule under that Order and determined that this rule does not have implications for federalism.

    6. Protest Activities

    The Coast Guard respects the First Amendment rights of protesters. Protesters are asked to contact the person listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section to coordinate protest activities so that your message can be received without jeopardizing the safety or security of people, places or vessels.

    7. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1531-1538) requires Federal agencies to assess the effects of their discretionary regulatory actions. In particular, the Act addresses actions that may result in the expenditure by a State, local, or tribal government, in the aggregate, or by the private sector of $100,000,000 (adjusted for inflation) or more in any one year. Though this rule will not result in such an expenditure, we do discuss the effects of this rule elsewhere in this preamble.

    8. Taking of Private Property

    This rule will not cause a taking of private property or otherwise have taking implications under Executive Order 12630, Governmental Actions and Interference with Constitutionally Protected Property Rights.

    9. Civil Justice Reform

    This rule meets applicable standards in sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform, to minimize litigation, eliminate ambiguity, and reduce burden.

    10. Protection of Children

    We have analyzed this rule under Executive Order 13045, Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks. This rule is not an economically significant rule and does not create an environmental risk to health or risk to safety that may disproportionately affect children.

    11. Indian Tribal Governments

    This rule does not have tribal implications under Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, because it does not have a substantial direct effect on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes.

    12. Energy Effects

    This action is not a “significant energy action” under Executive Order 13211, Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use.

    13. Technical Standards

    This rule does not use technical standards. Therefore, we did not consider the use of voluntary consensus standards.

    14. Environment

    We have analyzed this rule under Department of Homeland Security Management Directive 023-01 and Commandant Instruction M16475.lD, which guide the Coast Guard in complying with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321-4370f), and have determined that this action is one of a category of actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment. This rule involves creation of safety zones from mile 38.0 to mile 46.0, and from mile 78.0 to mile 81.0 UMR. This rule is categorically excluded from further review under paragraph 34(g) of Figure 2-1 of the Commandant Instruction. An environmental analysis checklist and a categorical exclusion determination are available in the docket where indicated under the ADDRESSES. We seek any comments or information that may lead to the discovery of a significant environmental impact from this rule.

    List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 165

    Harbors, Marine safety, Navigation (water), Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Security measures, Waterways.

    Accordingly, the interim rule amending 33 CFR part 165 that published at 77 FR 75850 on December 26, 2012, is adopted as a final rule without change.

    Dated: December 29, 2014. R.V. Timme, Captain, U.S. Coast Guard, Captain of the Port Ohio Valley.
    [FR Doc. 2015-03331 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110-04-P
    ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 52 [EPA-R04-OAR-2014-0810; FRL-9923-94-Region 4] Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; Tennessee; Emissions Statement Requirement for the 2008 8-Hour Ozone Standard AGENCY:

    Environmental Protection Agency.

    ACTION:

    Direct final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking direct final action to approve a revision to the Tennessee state implementation plan (SIP) submitted by the State of Tennessee, through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) on January 5, 2015, to address the emissions statement requirements for the 2008 8-hour ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The revision affects Davidson, Rutherford, Shelby, Sumner, Knox, Blount, Anderson, Williamson, and Wilson Counties. Annual emissions statements are required for certain sources in all ozone nonattainment areas. These changes address requirements for the Knoxville, Tennessee 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS nonattainment area (hereinafter referred to as the Knoxville Area) and the Tennessee portion of the Memphis, Tennessee-Arkansas-Mississippi 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS nonattainment area (hereinafter referred to as the Memphis Area). The Knoxville Area is comprised of Knox and Blount County, and a portion of Anderson County, Tennessee, and the Tennessee portion of the Memphis Area is comprised of Shelby County, Tennessee. Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, Wilson and the remaining portion of Anderson County are not part of an ozone nonattainment area.

    DATES:

    This direct final rule is effective May 4, 2015 without further notice, unless EPA receives adverse comment by April 6, 2015. If EPA receives such comments, it will publish a timely withdrawal of the direct final rule in the Federal Register informing the public that the rule will not take effect.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-R04-OAR-2014-0810, by one of the following methods:

    1. www.regulations.gov: Follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments.

    2. Email: [email protected]

    3. Fax: (404) 562-9019.

    4. Mail: “EPA-R04-OAR-2014-0810,” Air Regulatory Management Section (formerly the Regulatory Development Section), Air Planning and Implementation Branch (formerly the Air Planning Branch), Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960.

    5. Hand Delivery or Courier: Lynorae Benjamin, Chief, Air Regulatory Management Section, Air Planning and Implementation Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. Such deliveries are only accepted during the Regional Office's normal hours of operation. The Regional Office's official hours of business are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding Federal holidays.

    Instructions: Direct your comments to Docket ID No. EPA-R04-OAR-2014-0810. EPA's policy is that all comments received will be included in the public docket without change and may be made available online at www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided, unless the comment includes information claimed to be Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Do not submit through www.regulations.gov or email, information that you consider to be CBI or otherwise protected. The www.regulations.gov Web site is an “anonymous access” system, which means EPA will not know your identity or contact information unless you provide it in the body of your comment. If you send an email comment directly to EPA without going through www.regulations.gov, your email address will be automatically captured and included as part of the comment that is placed in the public docket and made available on the Internet. If you submit an electronic comment, EPA recommends that you include your name and other contact information in the body of your comment and with any disk or CD-ROM you submit. If EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA may not be able to consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid the use of special characters, any form of encryption, and be free of any defects or viruses. For additional information about EPA's public docket visit the EPA Docket Center homepage at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm.

    Docket: All documents in the electronic docket are listed in the www.regulations.gov index. Although listed in the index, some information is not publicly available, i.e., CBI or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other material, such as copyrighted material, is not placed on the Internet and will be publicly available only in hard copy form. Publicly available docket materials are available either electronically in www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the Air Regulatory Management Section, Air Planning and Implementation Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. EPA requests that if at all possible, you contact the person listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section to schedule your inspection. The Regional Office's official hours of business are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding Federal holidays.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Jane Spann, Air Regulatory Management Section, Air Planning and Implementation Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. Ms. Spann can be reached at (404) 562-9029 and via electronic mail at [email protected].

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background

    On March 12, 2008, EPA promulgated a revised 8-hour ozone NAAQS of 0.075 parts per million (ppm). See 73 FR 16436 (March 27, 2008). Under EPA's regulations at 40 CFR part 50, the 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS is attained when the 3-year average of the annual fourth highest daily maximum 8-hour average ambient air quality ozone concentrations is less than or equal to 0.075 ppm. 40 CFR 50.15. Ambient air quality monitoring data for the 3-year period must meet a data completeness requirement. The ambient air quality monitoring data completeness requirement is met when the average percent of days with valid ambient monitoring data is greater than 90 percent, and no single year has less than 75 percent data completeness as determined in Appendix I of part 50.

    Upon promulgation of a new or revised NAAQS, the Clean Air Act (CAA or Act) requires EPA to designate as nonattainment any area that is violating the NAAQS, based on the three most recent years of ambient air quality data at the conclusion of the designation process. The Knoxville Area was designated nonattainment for the 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS on April 30, 2012 (effective July 20, 2012) using 2009-2011 ambient air quality data. See 77 FR 30088 (April 30, 2012). At the time of designation, the Knoxville Area was classified as a Marginal nonattainment area for the 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS. The Memphis Area was designated nonattainment for the 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS on April 30, 2012 (effective July 20, 2012) using 2008-2010 ambient air quality data. See 77 FR 30088 (April 30, 2012). At the time of designation, the Memphis Area was classified as a Marginal nonattainment area for the 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS.

    Based on these nonattainment designations, Tennessee was required to develop SIP revisions addressing ozone nonattainment requirements of the CAA for the Knoxville and Memphis Areas. Specifically, pursuant to CAA section 182(a)(3)(B), Tennessee was required to submit a SIP revision addressing emissions statements for these two Areas.

    Ground level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of NOX and VOC. Section 182(a)(3)(B) of the CAA requires each state with ozone nonattainment areas to submit a SIP revision requiring annual emissions statements to be submitted to the state by the owner or operator of each NOX or VOC stationary source located within a nonattainment area, showing the actual emissions of NOX and VOC from that source.1 The first statement is due three years from the area's nonattainment designation, and subsequent statements are due at least annually thereafter.

    1 A state may waive the emission statement requirement for any class or category of stationary sources which emit less than 25 tons per year of VOCs or NOX if the state meets the requirements of section 182(a)(3)(B)(ii).

    On January 5, 2015, Tennessee submitted a SIP revision revising its existing Rule 1200-03-18-.02, “General Provisions and Applicability,” which amends its emissions statement requirements to address the Knoxville and Memphis Areas under CAA section 182(a)(3)(B). EPA is now taking action to approve this SIP revision as meeting the requirements of sections 110 and 182(a)(3)(B) of the CAA for those Areas. More information on EPA's analysis of Tennessee's SIP revision is provided below.

    II. Analysis of the State's Submittal

    Tennessee's January 5, 2015, submission seeks to modify its SIP to reflect recent changes to the emissions statement requirements in State Rule 1200-03-18-.02(8). EPA initially approved this state regulation into Tennessee's SIP in 1995. See 60 FR 10504 (February 27, 1995). At that time, the regulation applied to stationary sources within Davidson, Rutherford, Shelby, Sumner, Williamson, and Wilson Counties. Tennessee modified State Rule 1200-03-18-.02(8) in 2014 to include Anderson, Blount, and Knox counties; clarify that all owners or operators of stationary sources with actual emissions of 25 tons per year or more of VOC or NOX within these nine counties must generate emissions statements; and allow subject sources in counties that operate their own air pollution program to send these statements to the local permitting authority rather than to the Technical Secretary of the Tennessee Air Pollution Control Board. EPA has determined that this amended regulation meets all of the requirements of CAA section 182(a)(3)(B) for the Knoxville and Memphis Areas because it covers the counties within those nonattainment areas and satisfies the applicability, certification, and other emissions statement criteria contained therein.

    III. Final Action

    EPA is approving Tennessee's January 5, 2015, SIP revision addressing emissions statement requirements because the State's submission meets the requirements of sections 110 and 182 of the CAA. EPA is publishing this rule without prior proposal because the Agency views this as a noncontroversial submittal and anticipates no adverse comments. However, in the proposed rules section of this Federal Register publication, EPA is publishing a separate document that will serve as the proposal to approve the SIP revision should adverse comments be filed. This rule will be effective May 4, 2015 without further notice unless the Agency receives adverse comments by April 6, 2015.

    If EPA receives such comments, then EPA will publish a document withdrawing the final rule and informing the public that the rule will not take effect. All public comments received will then be addressed in a subsequent final rule based on the proposed rule. EPA will not institute a second comment period. Parties interested in commenting should do so at this time. If no such comments are received, the public is advised that this rule will be effective on May 4, 2015 and no further action will be taken on the proposed rule.

    IV. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews

    Under the CAA, the Administrator is required to approve a SIP submission that complies with the provisions of the Act and applicable Federal regulations. 42 U.S.C. 7410(k); 40 CFR 52.02(a). Thus, in reviewing SIP submissions, EPA's role is to approve state choices, provided that they meet the criteria of the CAA. Accordingly, this action merely approves state law as meeting Federal requirements and does not impose additional requirements beyond those imposed by state law. For that reason, this action:

    • Is not a significant regulatory action subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget under Executive Order 12866 (58 FR 51735, October 4, 1993) and 13563 (76 FR 3821, January 21, 2011);

    • Does not impose an information collection burden under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.);

    • Is certified as not having a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.);

    • Does not contain any unfunded mandate or significantly or uniquely affect small governments, as described in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-4);

    • Does not have Federalism implications as specified in Executive Order 13132 (64 FR 43255, August 10, 1999);

    • Is not an economically significant regulatory action based on health or safety risks subject to Executive Order 13045 (62 FR 19885, April 23, 1997);

    • Is not a significant regulatory action subject to Executive Order 13211 (66 FR 28355, May 22, 2001);

    • Is not subject to requirements of Section 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (15 U.S.C. 272 note) because application of those requirements would be inconsistent with the Clean Air Act; and

    • Does not provide EPA with the discretionary authority to address, as appropriate, disproportionate human health or environmental effects, using practicable and legally permissible methods, under Executive Order 12898 (59 FR 7629, February 16, 1994).

    In addition, the SIP is not approved to apply on any Indian reservation land or in any other area where EPA or an Indian tribe has demonstrated that a tribe has jurisdiction. In those areas of Indian country, the rule does not have tribal implications as specified by Executive Order 13175 (65 FR 67249, November 9, 2000), nor will it impose substantial direct costs on tribal governments or preempt tribal law.

    The Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. 801 et seq., as added by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, generally provides that before a rule may take effect, the agency promulgating the rule must submit a rule report, which includes a copy of the rule, to each House of the Congress and to the Comptroller General of the United States. EPA will submit a report containing this action and other required information to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Comptroller General of the United States prior to publication of the rule in the Federal Register. A major rule cannot take effect until 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. This action is not a “major rule” as defined by 5 U.S.C. 804(2).

    Under section 307(b)(1) of the CAA, petitions for judicial review of this action must be filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the appropriate circuit by May 4, 2015. Filing a petition for reconsideration by the Administrator of this final rule does not affect the finality of this action for the purposes of judicial review nor does it extend the time within which a petition for judicial review may be filed, and shall not postpone the effectiveness of such rule or action. Parties with objections to this direct final rule are encouraged to file a comment in response to the parallel notice of proposed rulemaking for this action published in the proposed rules section of today's Federal Register, rather than file an immediate petition for judicial review of this direct final rule, so that EPA can withdraw this direct final rule and address the comment in the proposed rulemaking. This action may not be challenged later in proceedings to enforce its requirements. See section 307(b)(2).

    List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 52

    Environmental protection, Air pollution control, Incorporation by reference, Intergovernmental relations, Nitrogen dioxide, Ozone, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Volatile organic compounds.

    Dated: February 13, 2015. V. Anne Heard, Acting Regional Administrator, Region 4.

    Therefore, 40 CFR part 52 is amended as follows:

    PART 52—APPROVAL AND PROMULGATION OF IMPLEMENTATION PLANS 1. The authority citation for part 52 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.

    Subpart RR—Tennessee 2. In § 52.2220, table 1 in paragraph (c) is amended by revising the entry “Section 1200-3-18-.02” to read as follows:
    § 52.2220 Identification of plan.

    (c) * * *

    Table 1—EPA Approved Tennessee Regulations State citation Title/subject State
  • effective
  • date
  • EPA approval date Explanation
    *         *         *         *         *         *         * Chapter 1200-3-18 Volatile Organic Compounds *         *         *         *         *         *         * Section 1200-3-18-.02 General Provisions and Applicability 12/18/2014 3/5/2015 [Insert Federal Register citation] Adds Knox, Blount, and Anderson County to Emissions Statement requirement applicability; clarifies that 25 tons or more NOX sources are required to submit in addition to VOC sources; and allows subject sources to send statements to the local permitting authority rather than to the Technical Secretary of the Tennessee Air Pollution Control Board. *         *         *         *         *         *         *
    [FR Doc. 2015-04489 Filed 3-4-15; 08:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560-50P
    ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 52 [EPA-R04-OAR-2012-0798; FRL 9923-92-Region 4] Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; Mississippi: New Source Review—Prevention of Significance Deterioration AGENCY:

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking final action to approve revisions to the Mississippi State Implementation Plan (SIP) submitted by the State of Mississippi, through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), on February 10, 2012. The SIP revision modifies Mississippi's New Source Review (NSR) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program to incorporate by reference (IBR) certain Federal PSD regulations. The revision also removes certain language from the SIP that is no longer relevant. EPA is approving Mississippi's February 10, 2012, revision to Mississippi's SIP because the Agency has determined that the changes are consistent with the Clean Air Act (CAA or Act) and EPA's PSD permitting regulations.

    DATES:

    This rule is effective April 6, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    EPA has established a docket for this action under Docket Identification No. EPA-R04-OAR-2012-0798. All documents in the docket are listed on the www.regulations.gov Web site. Although listed in the index, some information is not publicly available, i.e., Confidential Business Information or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other material, such as copyrighted material, is not placed on the Internet and will be publicly available only in hard copy form. Publicly available docket materials are available either electronically through www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the Air Regulatory Management Section (formerly the Regulatory Development Section), Air Planning and Implementation Branch (formerly the Air Planning Branch), Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. EPA requests that if at all possible, you contact the person listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section to schedule your inspection. The Regional Office's official hours of business are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding Federal holidays.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Tiereny Bell, Air Regulatory and Management Section, Air Planning and Implementation Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, Region 4, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 61 Forsyth Street SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. The telephone number is (404) 562-9088. Ms. Bell can also be reached via electronic mail at [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background

    EPA is taking final action to approve Mississippi's February 10, 2012, SIP revision to IBR 1 federal requirements for NSR permitting. Mississippi's February 10, 2012, SIP revision includes changes to the air quality regulations in Air Pollution Control, Section 5 (APC-S-5)—Regulations for the Prevention of Significant Deterioration of Air Quality. These rule changes were provided to comply with Federal NSR PSD permitting requirements. The February 10, 2012, SIP submission updates the IBR date at APC-S-5 to November 4, 2011, for the Federal PSD permitting regulations at 40 CFR 52.21 and portions of 51.166 to include PSD provisions promulgated in the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Biomass Deferral Rule,2 Particulate Matter (PM10), Surrogate and Grandfather Policy Repeal,3 and Reasonable Possibility Rule.4 However, EPA cannot act on the portion of Mississippi's SIP submission that IBR the July 20, 2011, CO2 Biomass Deferral Rule because the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) issued a decision on July 12, 2013, in Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, 722 F.3d 401 (D.C. Cir. 2013) vacating the rule. Accordingly, Mississippi has since submitted a letter to EPA dated October 22, 2014, requesting that the Biomass Deferral Rule provisions from the February 10, 2012, SIP submission be withdrawn from EPA's consideration; therefore these provisions are no longer before EPA for consideration. The letter can be found in Docket ID: EPA-R04-OAR-2012-0798.

    1 Throughout this rulemaking the acronym IBR means “incorporate by reference” or “incorporates by reference.”

    2 “Deferral for CO2 Emissions From Bioenergy and Other Biogenic Sources Under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V Programs,” Final Rule, 76 FR 43490, (July 20, 2011) (hereinafter referred to as the “CO2 Biomass Deferral Rule”).

    3 Implementation of the New Source Review (NSR) Program for Particulate Matter Less Than 2.5 Micrometers (PM2.5); Final Rule To Repeal Grandfather Provision, 76 FR 28646 (May 18, 2011) (hereafter referred to as the “PM10 Surrogate and Grandfather Policy Repeal”).

    4 “Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Nonattainment New Source Review: Reasonable Possibility in Recordkeeping” Final Rule, 72 FR 72607, (December 21, 2007) (hereinafter referred to as the “Reasonable Possibility Rule”).

    On August 6, 2014, EPA published a proposed rulemaking to approve the aforementioned changes to MDEQ's NSR program at APC-S-5. See 79 FR 45733. Comments on the proposed rulemaking were due on or before September 5, 2014. No comments, adverse or otherwise, were received on EPA's August 6, 2014, proposed rulemaking. Pursuant to section 110 of the CAA, EPA is now taking final action to approve the changes to Mississippi's NSR program as provided in EPA's August 6, 2014, proposed rulemaking. EPA's August 6, 2014, proposed rulemaking contains more detailed information regarding Mississippi's SIP revision being approved today, and the rationale for today's final action. Detailed information regarding the Reasonable Possibility Rule and PM10 Surrogate and Grandfather Policy Repeal can be found in EPA's August 6, 2014, proposed rulemaking as well as in the aforementioned final rulemakings. See 72 FR 72607 (December 21, 2007) and 76 FR 28646 (May 18, 2011), respectively. These rulemakings are summarized below. This final action approves a revision to the Mississippi SIP that (1) IBR the PSD provisions promulgated in the PM10 Surrogate and Grandfather Policy Repeal and the Reasonable Possibility Rule, and (2) removes language from the SIP relating to the PM10 Surrogate and Grandfather Policy and the Reasonable Possibility Rule that is no longer relevant.

    A. Reasonable Possibility Rule

    On December 14, 2007, EPA issued a final rule that provides additional explanation and more detailed criteria to clarify the “reasonable possibility” recordkeeping and reporting standard found in 40 CFR 52.21(r)(6) and 40 CFR 51.165(a)(6) and 51.166(r)(6) of the 2002 NSR reform rules.5 The “reasonable possibility” standard establishes for sources and reviewing authorities the criteria for determining when recordkeeping and reporting are required for a major stationary source undergoing a physical change or change in the method of operation that does not trigger major NSR permitting requirements. The standard also specifies the recordkeeping and reporting requirements for such sources. The December 14, 2007, final rule clarified and required recordkeeping and reporting when the projected increase in emissions to which the “reasonable possibility” test applies equals or exceeds 50 percent of the Act's NSR significance levels for any pollutant. See 72 FR 72607. NSR significance levels are pollutant-specific threshold emission rates (tons per year). If a project results in an emissions increase of a regulated NSR pollutant that equals or exceeds the significance level for that pollutant, the increase is a “significant emissions increase” and NSR permitting requirements would apply. EPA's December 14, 2007, rulemaking clarifying the reasonable possibility provision was in response to the June 24, 2005, remand from the D.C. Circuit Court requiring that EPA either provide an acceptable explanation for its “reasonable possibility” standard or devise an appropriately supported alternative.

    5 Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Nonattainment New Source Review: Reasonable Possibility in Recordkeeping, 72 FR 72607 (December 21, 2007) (hereafter referred to as the Reasonable Possibility Rule). For additional information on the 2002 NSR Reform Rules, see 67 FR 80186 (December 31, 2002) and http://www.epa.gov/nsr.

    MDEQ adopted the NSR Reform rules in the SIP on July 28, 2005, but did not incorporate the “reasonable possibility” provision into their SIP at APC-S-5 due to the remand. In its 2005 PSD regulations at APC-S-5(2.6), MDEQ excluded the following phrase from its IBR of 40 CFR 52.21: “In circumstances where there is a reasonable possibility, within the meaning of paragraph (r)(6)(vi) of 40 CFR 52.21, that a project that is not a part of a major modification may result in a significant emissions increase.” 6 MDEQ's February 10, 2012, SIP revision removes the “reasonable possibility” exclusion at APC-S-5(2.6) and IBR EPA's December 21, 2007, revised definition of “reasonable possibility” into its SIP.

    6 On July 10, 2006, EPA published the final rulemaking approving Mississippi's SIP revision adopting the NSR Reform Rule.1 See 71 FR 38773. In the approval, EPA acknowledged that Mississippi's rule did not contain the reasonable possibility language that was included in the remand and stated, “EPA continues to move forward with its evaluation of the portion of its NSR reform rules that were remanded by the D.C. Circuit and is preparing to respond to the D.C. Circuit's remand. EPA's final decision with regard to the remand may require EPA to take further action on this portion of Mississippi's rules.”

    B. PM10 Surrogate and Grandfather Policy Repeal

    In the NSR PM2.5 Rule,7 EPA finalized regulations to establish the framework for implementing preconstruction permit review for the PM2.5 NAAQS in both attainment and nonattainment areas. This rule included a grandfather provision that allowed PSD applicants that submitted their complete permit application prior to the July 15, 2008, effective date of the NSR PM2.5 Rule to continue to rely on the 1997 PM10 Surrogate Policy rather than amend their application to demonstrate compliance directly with the new PM2.5 requirements. See 73 FR 28321. On May 12, 2011, Mississippi submitted a SIP revision that excluded the PM10 surrogate grandfathering provision at 40 CFR 52.21(i)(1)(xi) from the state's PSD regulations. EPA approved portions of Mississippi's May 12, 2011, SIP revision on September 26, 2012 (77 FR 59095). On May 18, 2011, EPA took final action to repeal the PM2.5 grandfathering provision at 40 CFR 52.21(i)(1)(xi). See 76 FR 28646. Mississippi's February 10, 2012, SIP revision IBR the version of 40 CFR 52.21 that includes the PM10 Surrogate and Grandfathering Rule Repeal and removes the May 12, 2011, PM10 surrogate exclusion language from the PSD regulations at APC-S-5.

    7 This rulemaking established regulations to implement the NSR program for the PM2.5 NAAQS on May 16, 2008. See 73 FR 28321. As a result of EPA's final NSR PM2.5 Rule, states were required to submit SIP revisions to EPA no later than May 16, 2011, to address these requirements for both the PSD and NNSR programs. On May 12, 2011, Mississippi submitted a SIP revision to IBR the NSR PM2.5 Rule into the state's SIP at APC-S-5. EPA approved portions of the NSR PM2.5 rule into the Mississippi SIP PSD program on September 26, 2012. See 77 FR 59095.

    II. This Action

    EPA is taking final action to approve Mississippi's February 10, 2012, SIP submission that updates the IBR date in Mississippi's SIP (at APC-S-5) to November 4, 2011, for 40 CFR 52.21 and portions of 51.166, to include PSD provisions promulgated in the PM10 Surrogate and Grandfather Policy Repeal and Reasonable Possibility Rule. As stated above and in EPA's August 6, 2014, proposed rulemaking, EPA is not approving the CO2 Biomass Deferral Rule into the Mississippi SIP because of the D.C. Circuit court's July 12, 2013, decision to vacate the rule. Accordingly, on October 22, 2014, MDEQ submitted a letter to EPA requesting that the CO2 Biomass Deferral Rule provisions in the February 10, 2012, SIP submission be withdrawn from EPA consideration; therefore these provisions are no longer before EPA for consideration. Regarding the 2007 Reasonable Possibility Rule, Mississippi's February 10, 2012, SIP revision removes the “reasonable possibility” exclusion at APC-S-5(2.6) and IBR EPA's December 21, 2007, revised definition of “reasonable possibility.”

    Mississippi's February 10, 2012, SIP submittal also incorporates into the Mississippi SIP the version of 40 CFR 52.21 as of November 4, 2011, which includes the May 18, 2011, PM10 Surrogate and Grandfather Policy Repeal. Thus, the language previously approved into Mississippi SIP at APC-S-5(2.7) that excludes the grandfathering provision is no longer necessary. Mississippi's February 10, 2012, SIP submittal removes this unnecessary language.

    III. Final Action

    EPA is taking final action to approve Mississippi's February 10, 2012, SIP revision that (1) updates the IBR date in APC-S-5 to November 4, 2011, for the Federal PSD permitting regulations at 40 CFR 52.21 and portions of 51.166 to include the Reasonable Possibility Rule and the PM10 Surrogate and Grandfather Policy Repeal, and (2) removes language from the SIP at APC-S-5 pertaining to the PM10 Surrogate and Grandfather Policy and the Reasonable Possibility Rule that is no longer relevant. EPA has made the determination that these changes to Mississippi's SIP are approvable because they are consistent with section 110 of the CAA and EPA's PSD permitting regulations.

    IV. Statutory and Executive Order Reviews

    Under the CAA, the Administrator is required to approve a SIP submission that complies with the provisions of the Act and applicable Federal regulations. 42 U.S.C. 7410(k); 40 CFR 52.02(a). Thus, in reviewing SIP submissions, EPA's role is to approve state choices, provided that they meet the criteria of the CAA. Accordingly, this action merely approves state law as meeting Federal requirements and does not impose additional requirements beyond those imposed by state law. For that reason, this action:

    • Is not a significant regulatory action subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget under Executive Orders 12866 (58 FR 51735, October 4, 1993) and 13563 (76 FR 3821, January 21, 2011);

    • does not impose an information collection burden under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.);

    • is certified as not having a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.);

    • does not contain any unfunded mandate or significantly or uniquely affect small governments, as described in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-4);

    • does not have Federalism implications as specified in Executive Order 13132 (64 FR 43255, August 10, 1999);

    • is not an economically significant regulatory action based on health or safety risks subject to Executive Order 13045 (62 FR 19885, April 23, 1997);

    • is not a significant regulatory action subject to Executive Order 13211 (66 FR 28355, May 22, 2001);

    • is not subject to requirements of Section 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (15 U.S.C. 272 note) because application of those requirements would be inconsistent with the Clean Air Act; and

    • does not provide EPA with the discretionary authority to address, as appropriate, disproportionate human health or environmental effects, using practicable and legally permissible methods, under Executive Order 12898 (59 FR 7629, February 16, 1994).

    In addition, the SIP is not approved to apply on any Indian reservation land or in any other area where EPA or an Indian tribe has demonstrated that a tribe has jurisdiction. In those areas of Indian country, the rule does not have tribal implications as specified by Executive Order 13175 (65 FR 67249, November 9, 2000), nor will it impose substantial direct costs on tribal governments or preempt tribal law.

    The Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. 801 et seq., as added by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, generally provides that before a rule may take effect, the agency promulgating the rule must submit a rule report, which includes a copy of the rule, to each House of the Congress and to the Comptroller General of the United States. EPA will submit a report containing this action and other required information to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Comptroller General of the United States prior to publication of the rule in the Federal Register. A major rule cannot take effect until 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. This action is not a “major rule” as defined by 5 U.S.C. 804(2).

    Under section 307(b)(1) of the CAA, petitions for judicial review of this action must be filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the appropriate circuit by May 4, 2015. Filing a petition for reconsideration by the Administrator of this final rule does not affect the finality of this action for the purposes of judicial review nor does it extend the time within which a petition for judicial review may be filed, and shall not postpone the effectiveness of such rule or action. This action may not be challenged later in proceedings to enforce its requirements. See section 307(b)(2).

    List of Subjects in 40 CFR Part 52

    Environmental protection, Air pollution control, Incorporation by reference, Intergovernmental relations, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: February 13, 2015. V. Anne Heard, Acting Regional Administrator, Region 4.

    40 CFR part 52 is amended as follows:

    PART 52—APPROVAL AND PROMULGATION OF IMPLEMENTATION PLANS 1. The authority citation for part 52 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    42.U.S.C. 7401 et seq.

    Subpart Z—Mississippi 2. Section 52.1270(c), is amended by revising the entries under the heading “APC-S-5” to read as follows:
    § 52.1270 Identification of plan.

    (c) * * *

    EPA Approved Mississippi Regulations State citation Title/subject State effective date EPA approval date Explanation *         *         *         *         *         *         * APC-S-5 Regulations for Prevention of Significant Deterioration for Air Quality All 12/14/2011 3/5/2015 [Insert Federal Register citation] The approval does not include incorporation by reference of the CO2 Biomass Deferral which was withdrawn by the State on October 22, 2014. On 9-26-2012, EPA approved a revision to APC-S-5 which incorporated by reference the regulations found at 40 CFR 52.21 as of March 22, 2011. This approval did not include Mississippi's revision to IBR (at Rule APC-S-5) the term “particulate matter emissions” (as promulgated in the May 16, 2008 NSR PM2.5 Rule (at 40 CFR 51.166(b)(49)(vi)) and the PM2.5 SILs threshold and provisions (as promulgated in the October 20, 2010 PM2.5 PSD Increment-SILs-SMC Rule at 40 CFR 52.21(k)(2)). Note: On October 22, 2014, Mississippi withdrew the PM2.5 SILs provision from Mississippi's May 18, 2011 SIP Submission. On December 29, 2010, EPA approved a revision to APC-S-5 which incorporated by reference the regulations found at 40 CFR 52.21 as of September 13, 2010. See 75 FR 81858. That action approved the incorporation by reference with the exception of the phrase “except ethanol production facilities producing ethanol by natural fermentation under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes 325193 or 312140,” APC-S-5 incorporated by reference from 40 CFR 52.21(b)(1)(i)(a) and (b)(1(iii)(t). Additionally, that final EPA action did not incorporate by reference, into the Mississippi SIP, the administrative regulations that were amended in the Fugitive Emissions Rule (73 FR 77882) and are stayed through October 3, 2011. *         *         *         *         *         *         *
    [FR Doc. 2015-05072 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560-50-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Federal Emergency Management Agency 44 CFR Part 64 [Docket ID FEMA-2015-0001; Internal Agency Docket No. FEMA-8373] Suspension of Community Eligibility AGENCY:

    Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    This rule identifies communities where the sale of flood insurance has been authorized under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that are scheduled for suspension on the effective dates listed within this rule because of noncompliance with the floodplain management requirements of the program. If the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) receives documentation that the community has adopted the required floodplain management measures prior to the effective suspension date given in this rule, the suspension will not occur and a notice of this will be provided by publication in the Federal Register on a subsequent date. Also, information identifying the current participation status of a community can be obtained from FEMA's Community Status Book (CSB). The CSB is available at http://www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm.

    DATES:

    The effective date of each community's scheduled suspension is the third date (“Susp.”) listed in the third column of the following tables.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    If you want to determine whether a particular community was suspended on the suspension date or for further information, contact Bret Gates, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 500 C Street SW., Washington, DC 20472, (202) 646-4133.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The NFIP enables property owners to purchase Federal flood insurance that is not otherwise generally available from private insurers. In return, communities agree to adopt and administer local floodplain management measures aimed at protecting lives and new construction from future flooding. Section 1315 of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 4022, prohibits the sale of NFIP flood insurance unless an appropriate public body adopts adequate floodplain management measures with effective enforcement measures. The communities listed in this document no longer meet that statutory requirement for compliance with program regulations, 44 CFR part 59. Accordingly, the communities will be suspended on the effective date in the third column. As of that date, flood insurance will no longer be available in the community. We recognize that some of these communities may adopt and submit the required documentation of legally enforceable floodplain management measures after this rule is published but prior to the actual suspension date. These communities will not be suspended and will continue to be eligible for the sale of NFIP flood insurance. A notice withdrawing the suspension of such communities will be published in the Federal Register.

    In addition, FEMA publishes a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) that identifies the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) in these communities. The date of the FIRM, if one has been published, is indicated in the fourth column of the table. No direct Federal financial assistance (except assistance pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act not in connection with a flood) may be provided for construction or acquisition of buildings in identified SFHAs for communities not participating in the NFIP and identified for more than a year on FEMA's initial FIRM for the community as having flood-prone areas (section 202(a) of the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973, 42 U.S.C. 4106(a), as amended). This prohibition against certain types of Federal assistance becomes effective for the communities listed on the date shown in the last column. The Administrator finds that notice and public comment procedures under 5 U.S.C. 553(b), are impracticable and unnecessary because communities listed in this final rule have been adequately notified.

    Each community receives 6-month, 90-day, and 30-day notification letters addressed to the Chief Executive Officer stating that the community will be suspended unless the required floodplain management measures are met prior to the effective suspension date. Since these notifications were made, this final rule may take effect within less than 30 days.

    National Environmental Policy Act. This rule is categorically excluded from the requirements of 44 CFR part 10, Environmental Considerations. No environmental impact assessment has been prepared.

    Regulatory Flexibility Act. The Administrator has determined that this rule is exempt from the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act because the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, as amended, Section 1315, 42 U.S.C. 4022, prohibits flood insurance coverage unless an appropriate public body adopts adequate floodplain management measures with effective enforcement measures. The communities listed no longer comply with the statutory requirements, and after the effective date, flood insurance will no longer be available in the communities unless remedial action takes place.

    Regulatory Classification. This final rule is not a significant regulatory action under the criteria of section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866 of September 30, 1993, Regulatory Planning and Review, 58 FR 51735.

    Executive Order 13132, Federalism. This rule involves no policies that have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132.

    Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. This rule meets the applicable standards of Executive Order 12988.

    Paperwork Reduction Act. This rule does not involve any collection of information for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.

    List of Subjects in 44 CFR Part 64

    Flood insurance, Floodplains.

    Accordingly, 44 CFR part 64 is amended as follows:

    PART 64—[AMENDED] 1. The authority citation for part 64 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    42 U.S.C. 4001 et seq.; Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978, 3 CFR, 1978 Comp.; p. 329; E.O. 12127, 44 FR 19367, 3 CFR, 1979 Comp.; p. 376.

    § 64.6 [Amended]
    2. The tables published under the authority of § 64.6 are amended as follows: State and location Community No. Effective date authorization/cancellation of sale of flood insurance in community Current effective map date Date certain Federal assistance no longer available in SFHAs Region V Indiana: Brooksburg, Town of, Jefferson County 180105 September 18, 1975, Emerg; December 1, 1983, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp April 2, 2015 April 2, 2015 Cambridge City, Town of, Wayne County 180281 April 28, 1975, Emerg; October 15, 1981, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Centerville, Town of, Wayne County 180624 N/A, Emerg; April 16, 2014, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Dupont, Town of, Jefferson County 180106 April 19, 1993, Emerg; November 1, 1995, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Fountain City, Town of, Wayne County 180282 January 2, 1981, Emerg; November 4, 1981, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Greens Fork, Town of, Wayne County 180283 May 30, 1975, Emerg; November 4, 1981, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Hagerstown, Town of, Wayne County 180284 January 29, 1975, Emerg; October 15, 1981, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Hanover, Town of, Jefferson County 180326 April 24, 1975, Emerg; September 30, 1976, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Jefferson County, Unincorporated Areas 180104 October 5, 1973, Emerg; October 1, 1992, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Jennings County, Unincorporated Areas 180108 October 8, 1992, Emerg; November 1, 1995, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Madison, City of, Jefferson County 180107 November 12, 1971, Emerg; September 30, 1977, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Milton, Town of, Wayne County 180285 May 20, 1975, Emerg; October 15, 1981, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. North Vernon, City of, Jennings County 180109 August 4, 1975, Emerg; January 3, 1985, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Richmond, City of, Wayne County 180287 April 1, 1975, Emerg; August 16, 1982, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Spring Grove, Town of, Wayne County 180286 July 10, 1975, Emerg; September 2, 1982, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Vernon, Town of, Jennings County 180110 May 9, 1975, Emerg; October 18, 1983, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Wayne County, Unincorporated Areas 180280 March 24, 1975, Emerg; September 2, 1982, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Minnesota: Mahnomen, City of, Mahnomen County 270266 May 8, 1975, Emerg; September 2, 1988, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Mahnomen County, Unincorporated Areas 270671 November 15, 1974, Emerg; May 15, 1985, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Waubun, City of, Mahnomen County 270772 July 25, 1997, Emerg; N/A, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Ohio: Botkins, Village of, Shelby County 390504 August 22, 1975, Emerg; September 29, 1978, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Jackson Center, Village of, Shelby County 390505 November 13, 2008, Emerg; April 1, 2009, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Port Jefferson, Village of, Shelby County 390506 May 14, 1975, Emerg; September 2, 1988, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Russia, Village of, Shelby County 390880 June 3, 1981, Emerg; September 30, 1988, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Shelby County, Unincorporated Areas 390503 April 3, 1979, Emerg; September 2, 1982, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Sidney, City of, Shelby County 390507 December 3, 1974, Emerg; November 17, 1982, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Region VII Missouri: Dearborn, City of, Platte County 290504 August 9, 1974, Emerg; June 15, 1979, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Edgerton, City of, Platte County 290291 October 7, 1974, Emerg; June 4, 1980, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Ferrelview, Village of, Platte County 290895 N/A, Emerg; March 30, 2009, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Lake Waukomis, City of, Platte County 290700 March 20, 1979, Emerg; April 15, 1980, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Parkville, City of, Platte County 290294 July 3, 1975, Emerg; May 15, 1978, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Platte City, City of, Platte County 290295 May 22, 1975, Emerg; May 15, 1978, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Platte County, Unincorporated Areas 290475 March 25, 1974, Emerg; December 18, 1979, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Riverside, City of, Platte County 290296 May 29, 1973, Emerg; September 30, 1977, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. Tracy, City of, Platte County 290297 July 25, 1974, Emerg; June 15, 1979, Reg; April 2, 2015, Susp ......do   Do. *-do- = Ditto. Code for reading third column: Emerg.—Emergency; Reg.—Regular; Susp.—Suspension. Dated: February 27, 2015. Roy E. Wright, Deputy Associate Administrator for Mitigation, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05095 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110-12-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Federal Emergency Management Agency 44 CFR Part 64 [Docket ID FEMA-2015-0001; Internal Agency Docket No. FEMA-8375] Suspension of Community Eligibility AGENCY:

    Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    This rule identifies communities where the sale of flood insurance has been authorized under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that are scheduled for suspension on the effective dates listed within this rule because of noncompliance with the floodplain management requirements of the program. If the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) receives documentation that the community has adopted the required floodplain management measures prior to the effective suspension date given in this rule, the suspension will not occur and a notice of this will be provided by publication in the Federal Register on a subsequent date. Also, information identifying the current participation status of a community can be obtained from FEMA's Community Status Book (CSB). The CSB is available at http://www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm.

    DATES:

    The effective date of each community's scheduled suspension is the third date (“Susp.”) listed in the third column of the following tables.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    If you want to determine whether a particular community was suspended on the suspension date or for further information, contact Bret Gates, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 500 C Street SW., Washington, DC 20472, (202) 646-4133.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The NFIP enables property owners to purchase Federal flood insurance that is not otherwise generally available from private insurers. In return, communities agree to adopt and administer local floodplain management measures aimed at protecting lives and new construction from future flooding. Section 1315 of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 4022, prohibits the sale of NFIP flood insurance unless an appropriate public body adopts adequate floodplain management measures with effective enforcement measures. The communities listed in this document no longer meet that statutory requirement for compliance with program regulations, 44 CFR part 59. Accordingly, the communities will be suspended on the effective date in the third column. As of that date, flood insurance will no longer be available in the community. We recognize that some of these communities may adopt and submit the required documentation of legally enforceable floodplain management measures after this rule is published but prior to the actual suspension date. These communities will not be suspended and will continue to be eligible for the sale of NFIP flood insurance. A notice withdrawing the suspension of such communities will be published in the Federal Register.

    In addition, FEMA publishes a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) that identifies the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) in these communities. The date of the FIRM, if one has been published, is indicated in the fourth column of the table. No direct Federal financial assistance (except assistance pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act not in connection with a flood) may be provided for construction or acquisition of buildings in identified SFHAs for communities not participating in the NFIP and identified for more than a year on FEMA's initial FIRM for the community as having flood-prone areas (section 202(a) of the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973, 42 U.S.C. 4106(a), as amended). This prohibition against certain types of Federal assistance becomes effective for the communities listed on the date shown in the last column. The Administrator finds that notice and public comment procedures under 5 U.S.C. 553(b), are impracticable and unnecessary because communities listed in this final rule have been adequately notified.

    Each community receives 6-month, 90-day, and 30-day notification letters addressed to the Chief Executive Officer stating that the community will be suspended unless the required floodplain management measures are met prior to the effective suspension date. Since these notifications were made, this final rule may take effect within less than 30 days.

    National Environmental Policy Act. This rule is categorically excluded from the requirements of 44 CFR part 10, Environmental Considerations. No environmental impact assessment has been prepared.

    Regulatory Flexibility Act. The Administrator has determined that this rule is exempt from the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act because the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, as amended, Section 1315, 42 U.S.C. 4022, prohibits flood insurance coverage unless an appropriate public body adopts adequate floodplain management measures with effective enforcement measures. The communities listed no longer comply with the statutory requirements, and after the effective date, flood insurance will no longer be available in the communities unless remedial action takes place.

    Regulatory Classification. This final rule is not a significant regulatory action under the criteria of section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866 of September 30, 1993, Regulatory Planning and Review, 58 FR 51735.

    Executive Order 13132, Federalism. This rule involves no policies that have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132.

    Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. This rule meets the applicable standards of Executive Order 12988.

    Paperwork Reduction Act. This rule does not involve any collection of information for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.

    List of Subjects in 44 CFR Part 64

    Flood insurance, Floodplains.

    Accordingly, 44 CFR part 64 is amended as follows:

    PART 64—[AMENDED] 1. The authority citation for Part 64 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    42 U.S.C. 4001 et seq.; Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978, 3 CFR, 1978 Comp.; p. 329; E.O. 12127, 44 FR 19367, 3 CFR, 1979 Comp.; p. 376.

    § 64.6 [Amended]
    2. The tables published under the authority of § 64.6 are amended as follows: State and location Community No. Effective date authorization/cancellation of sale of flood insurance in community Current effective map date Date certain Federal assistance no longer available in SFHAs Region III Virginia: Richmond County, Unincorporated Areas 510310 January 20, 1975, Emerg; March 16, 1989, Reg; April 16, 2015, Susp April 16, 2015 April 16, 2015. *-do- = Ditto. Code for reading third column: Emerg.—Emergency; Reg.—Regular; Susp.—Suspension.
    Dated: February 27, 2015. Roy E. Wright, Deputy Associate Administrator for Mitigation, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05084 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110-12-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 140218151-5171-02] RIN 0648-BD98 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska; Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Off Alaska AGENCY:

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS issues regulations to implement Amendment 100 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI FMP) and Amendment 91 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA FMP). This final rule adds regulations to improve reporting of grenadiers, limit retention of grenadiers, and prevent direct fishing for grenadiers by federally permitted groundfish fishermen. This final rule is necessary to limit and monitor the incidental catch of grenadiers in the groundfish fisheries. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMPs, and other applicable law.

    DATES:

    Effective April 6, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Electronic copies of Amendment 100 to the BSAI FMP, Amendment 91 to the GOA FMP, and the Environmental Assessment, the Regulatory Impact Review, and the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) (collectively, Analysis) prepared for this action are available from www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The 2012 Assessment of the Grenadier Stock Complex in the Gulf of Alaska, Eastern Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands (2012 stock assessment) is available on the NMFS Web site at http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/REFM/Docs/2012/GOAgrenadier.pdf. The 2014 Assessment of the Grenadier Stock Complex in the Gulf of Alaska, Eastern Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands (2014 stock assessment) is available on the NMFS Web site at http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/REFM/Docs/2014/BSAIgrenadier.pdf.

    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this rule may be submitted by mail to NMFS, Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, Records Officer; in person at NMFS, Alaska Region, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK; by email to [email protected]; or fax to (202) 395-5806.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Gretchen Harrington, 907-586-7228.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    This final rule implements Amendment 100 to the BSAI FMP and Amendment 91 to the GOA FMP, collectively Amendments 100/91. NMFS published a notice of availability for Amendments 100/91 on May 5, 2014 (79 FR 25558). The comment period on Amendments 100/91 ended on July 7, 2014. NMFS published a proposed rule to implement Amendments 100/91 on May 14, 2014 (79 FR 27557). The comment period on the proposed rule ended on June 13, 2014. NMFS approved Amendments 100/91 on August 4, 2014. Additional detail on this action is provided in the notice of availability for Amendment 100/91 (79 FR 25558, May 5, 2014) and the proposed rule (79 FR 27557, May 14, 2014). NMFS received three comment letters on Amendments 100/91 and the proposed rule.

    NMFS manages groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone off Alaska under the BSAI FMP and GOA FMP. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) prepared the FMPs under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), 16 U.S.C. 1801, et seq. Regulations governing U.S. fisheries and implementing the FMPs appear at 50 CFR parts 600 and 679.

    Background

    The groundfish fisheries in the BSAI and GOA incidentally catch grenadiers (family Macrouridae) while harvesting other groundfish species. Grenadiers caught off Alaska are comprised of three species: Giant grenadiers (Albatrossia pectoralis), Pacific grenadiers (Coryphaenoides acrolepis), and popeye greandiers (Coryphaenoides cinereus). More than 90 percent of all grenadiers incidentally caught or obtained in surveys are giant grenadiers. Pacific grenadiers and popeye grenadiers typically occur at depths greater than most commercial fisheries or surveys and are rarely encountered (see Section 3.2 of the Analysis for additional detail).

    For many years, the Council has considered how best to classify grenadiers in the FMPs. As explained in Section 1.2 of the Analysis (see ADDRESSES), from 1980 to 2010, grenadiers were included in the FMPs in the nonspecified species category. Nonspecified species were defined as a residual category of species and species groups which had no current or foreseeable economic value or ecological importance, which were taken in the groundfish fishery as incidental catch and were in no apparent danger of depletion, and for which virtually no data existed that would allow population assessments.

    In 2010, the Council recommended and NMFS removed the nonspecified species category from the FMPs when the FMPs were revised to meet the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act as amended by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2007 (Pub. L. 109-479). The amended Magnuson-Stevens Act required NMFS and the Council to establish annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for fisheries in the FMP. The Council recommended and NMFS implemented Amendment 96 to the BSAI FMP and Amendment 87 to the GOA FMP to meet these requirements (Amendments 96/87, 75 FR 61639, October 6, 2010). The nonspecified species, including grenadiers, were removed from the FMPs because these species were too poorly understood to set ACLs and AMs or to develop a management regime.

    Amendments 96/87 also amended the FMPs to organize the species remaining in the FMPs according to the National Standard 1 guidelines (§ 600.310). In the National Standard 1 guidelines, NMFS recommends two categories for species in an FMP: “Stocks in the fishery” and “ecosystem component (EC) species.”

    “Stocks in the fishery” are defined in the National Standard 1 guidelines (§ 600.310(d)(2)). “Stocks in the fishery” include (1) stocks that are targeted, and retained for sale or personal use; (2) stocks that are not directly targeted but are taken incidentally in other directed fisheries, and are retained for sale or personal use; and (3) stocks not targeted or retained but are taken as incidental catch and for which overfishing or overfished status may be a concern.

    NMFS created the EC species category to encourage ecosystem approaches to management and to incorporate ecosystem considerations for species that are not “stocks in the fishery” (74 FR 3178, January 16, 2009). EC species are defined in the National Standard 1 guidelines (§ 600.310(d)(5)). In order to be designated an EC species, the species or species group should be: (1) A non-target species or species group; (2) not subject to overfishing, overfished, or approaching an overfished condition; (3) not likely to become subject to overfishing or overfished in the absence of conservation and management measures; and (4) not generally retained for sale or personal use.

    Amendments 96/87 established the EC category in the FMPs, and designated prohibited species (which include salmon, steelhead trout, crab, halibut, and herring) and forage fish (as defined in Table 2c to part 679 and § 679.20(i)) as EC species in the FMPs. For EC species, NMFS maintained conservation regulations applicable to the specific EC species. These include prohibiting the retention of prohibited species, prohibiting directed fishing for forage fish, and establishing a limit on the incidental harvest of forage fish while directed fishing for other groundfish species, known as a maximum retainable amount (MRA), of 2 percent. Regulations at § 679.2 define the term “directed fishing.” Regulations at § 679.20(e) describe the application and calculation of MRAs.

    When the Council recommended Amendments 96/87, it recognized that as information on a nonspecified species improves, it would consider moving that species back into the FMP, either as a “stock in the fishery” or as an EC species. In 2010, the Council initiated an analysis to consider moving grenadiers back into the FMPs. The Council determined that sufficient information exists for grenadiers to address them in the FMPs, as reflected in the Analysis prepared for this action (see ADDRESSES). The Analysis provides the best available information on grenadiers and considers two action alternatives: Include grenadiers in the FMP as an EC species, or include grenadiers in the FMP as “stocks in the fishery.”

    Amendments 100/91

    In February 2014, the Council voted unanimously to recommend Amendments 100/91 to the FMPs to add grenadiers to the EC category in the FMPs. The Council and NMFS recognized that adding grenadiers to the FMPs in the EC category acknowledges their role in the ecosystem and limits the groundfish fisheries' potential impact on grenadiers. Adding grenadiers to the EC category allows for improved data collection and catch monitoring appropriate for grenadiers given their abundance, distribution, and catch.

    The Council considered the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the National Standard 1 guidelines in making its recommendation. The preamble to the proposed rule (79 FR 27557, May 14, 2014) and the Analysis prepared for this action (see ADDRESSES) describe how grenadiers meet the four factors for inclusion into the EC category rather than as a “stock in the fishery.” That description is briefly summarized here.

    Grenadiers are not a targeted species group and are not generally retained for sale or personal use. Grenadiers have no current or foreseeable economic value. Section 3.4 of the Analysis explains that grenadiers are incidentally caught in deep water trawl and hook-and-line fisheries, but are not actively targeted or retained. Thus, there is no evidence that grenadiers are presently being targeted or purposely retained.

    Grenadiers are not generally retained for sale or personal consumption. As explained in Section 3.4.4 of the Analysis, attempts to create a marketable product from giant grenadiers caught off Alaska have been unsuccessful given the poor quality of the resulting product. No current market exists for grenadiers, and it is unlikely that one will be developed in the foreseeable future.

    Grenadiers are not generally retained for personal use. As explained in Section 3.4 of the Analysis, a small portion of the total catch of grenadiers is known to be retained for use as bait (e.g., 3 metric tons (mt) (6,614 lb.) in the GOA in 2013). Currently, reporting requirements on the retention of grenadiers for bait is not required, but is recorded voluntarily. This information is the best available, and it indicates that grenadiers are not generally retained for bait.

    Grenadiers are not subject to overfishing, overfished, or approaching an overfished condition, and are not likely to become subject to overfishing or overfished in the absence of conservation and management measures. As explained in Section 3.3 of the Analysis, NMFS has been conducting a stock assessment for grenadiers since 2006. Since 2010, the stock assessment has been used to estimate grenadier biomass, an overfishing level (OFL), and an acceptable biological catch (ABC). NMFS estimates the incidental catch of grenadiers in the groundfish fisheries using observer data collected under the North Pacific Groundfish and Halibut Observer Program (see regulations at § 679.50).

    According to the 2014 stock assessment (see ADDRESSES), NMFS estimates that grenadier biomass in the BSAI is 1,286,734 mt (2.8 billion lb.), the OFL is 100,365 mt (211 million lb.), the ABC is 75,274 mt (165 million lb.), and the estimated catch is 5,320 mt (11.7 million lb., mean catch for 2003 through 2013). Estimated catch of grenadiers in the BSAI represents approximately 0.4 percent of the estimated biomass, approximately 5 percent of the estimated OFL, and approximately 7 percent of the estimated ABC.

    According to the 2014 stock assessment (see ADDRESSES), NMFS estimates that grenadier biomass in the GOA is 524,624 mt (1.2 billion lb.), the OFL is 40,921 mt (90 million lb.), the ABC is 30,691 mt (68 million lb.), and the estimated catch is 8,769 mt (19 million lb., mean catch for 2003 through 2013). Estimated catch of grenadiers in the GOA represents approximately 1 percent of the estimated biomass, approximately 21 percent of the estimated OFL, and approximately 28 percent of the estimated ABC.

    Final Rule

    In addition to adding grenadiers to the EC category in the FMPs under Amendments 100/91, the Council recommended NMFS implement regulations for groundfish fishery participants to limit and monitor the catch of grenadiers. This final rule will:

    • Require recordkeeping and reporting of grenadiers in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries;

    • Add two grenadier species codes;

    • Add grenadier product recovery rates (PRRs);

    • Prohibit directed fishing for grenadiers; and

    • Establish a grenadier MRA of 8 percent.

    To require recordkeeping and reporting of grenadiers, this final rule adds a definition for grenadiers and revises the definition for non-allocated or nonspecified species at § 679.2. This final rule also modifies regulations at § 679.5 to require a vessel operator or manager in a BSAI or GOA groundfish fishery to record and report retained and discarded grenadier catch. NMFS notes that this regulation is expected to improve the collection of information on the catch and retention of grenadiers. Specifically, this regulation improves the ability for NMFS to monitor the retention of grenadiers for use as bait, or in the unlikely event that grenadiers are retained for sale.

    This final rule modifies regulations in Table 2c to part 679 to add two grenadier species codes so that NMFS can track the retention of giant grenadiers and other grenadier species. This final rule removes grenadiers from Table 2d to part 679. Section 2 of the Analysis notes that nearly all grenadiers encountered in the groundfish fisheries are giant grenadiers; therefore, it is not necessary to establish more than two species codes for grenadiers (one for giant grenadiers and one for all other grenadier species) to provide the information necessary to adequately monitor grenadier catch.

    This final rule modifies Table 3 to part 679 to include PRRs for grenadiers of 100 percent for whole fish, 50 percent for headed and gutted fish, and 24.3 percent for fillets. These PRRs are established based on food science studies of grenadiers that estimated product recovery rates (see Section 2.2 of the Analysis for additional detail). In this final rule, NMFS also adds the standard PRRs to Table 3 of 17 percent for meal, zero percent for infested or decomposed fish, and 100 percent for discards for grenadiers. NMFS uses a standard PRR of 17 percent for meal, zero percent for infested or decomposed fish, and 100 percent for discards for all groundfish species. The proposed rule inadvertently omitted a row in Table 3 to part 679 that assigns these standard PRRs to grenadiers. This final rule corrects that administrative error in the proposed rule.

    These regulatory changes enable NMFS to collect data on the harvest and use of grenadier catch retained in the groundfish fisheries. The changes in recordkeeping and reporting, definition of grenadier species codes, and grenadier PRRs aid NMFS in determining if grenadiers become generally retained for sale or personal use, and provide the information needed in any potential future consideration to modify the designation of grenadiers in the FMPs as a “stock in the fishery” should a fishery for grenadiers develop.

    This final rule revises regulations at § 679.20(i) and § 679.22(i) to prohibit directed fishing for grenadiers at all times in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries. NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing as a precautionary measure to prevent groundfish fishermen from directed fishing for grenadiers without a clear and conscious decision by the Council and NMFS to provide that opportunity. This prohibition is consistent with the regulations for other EC species. NMFS prohibits directed fishing for forage fish and prohibits retaining or possessing prohibited species, except as provided under the Prohibited Species Donation Program. Prohibiting directed fishing prevents the development of an uncontrolled fishery on grenadiers in the absence of management measures.

    This final rule adds a grenadier incidental catch species MRA of 8 percent to Table 10 to part 679 and Table 11 to part 679. The MRA is the percentage of the retained catch of a species closed for directed fishing (incidental catch species) to the retained catch of a species open for directed fishing (basis species). An 8 percent MRA would allow vessels fishing for groundfish to retain a quantity of grenadiers equal to but no more than 8 percent of the round weight or round weight equivalent of groundfish species open to directed fishing that are retained on board the vessel during a fishing trip. The requirement to not exceed MRA proportions at any time during a trip limits the vessel operators' ability to maximize incidental catch of grenadiers.

    Changes From the Proposed Rule

    NMFS made one change to Table 3 to part 679 to include standard PRRs for meal, infested or decomposed fish, and discarded fish. As explained above, these standard PRRs were inadvertently excluded from the proposed rule. NMFS made no changes to the final rule in response to comments.

    Response to Public Comments

    NMFS received three letters of public comment during the public comment periods for Amendments 100/91 and the proposed rule. NMFS received letters from environmental organizations and a member of the public. NMFS summarized these letters into 17 separate comments, and responds to them below.

    Comment 1: Disapprove Amendments 100/91 because they violate the statutory requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Magnuson-Stevens Act states that the agency must prepare an FMP for each fishery that requires conservation and management. The EC species classification for grenadiers is not consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act conservation and management requirements. Categorizing grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” would better minimize bycatch.

    Disapprove Amendments 100/91 because they do not contain measures to minimize grenadier bycatch in the groundfish fisheries. Include a prohibited species catch (PSC) limit for grenadiers to limit groundfish fishing once that PSC limit is reached.

    Response: In approving Amendments 100/91, NMFS determined that these amendments comply with the statutory requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As explained in the preamble to the proposed rule, the Council and NMFS reviewed the available information and determined that grenadiers should not be classified as “stocks in the fishery” and that they do not require conservation and management under section 303(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As noted in this preamble, and the preamble to the proposed rule, the Council and NMFS determined that grenadiers meet all of the criteria for classification as an EC species consistent with National Standard 1 guidelines (§ 600.310).

    NMFS notes that the Council can analyze and recommend, and NMFS can implement, any measures appropriate to address grenadier bycatch at any time and regardless of whether grenadiers are classified as “stocks in the fishery” or in the EC category. PSC limits are used to limit the total amount of incidental catch of BSAI crab, Chinook salmon, halibut, and herring in the groundfish fisheries. BSAI crab, Chinook salmon, halibut, and herring are in the EC category under the BSAI FMP and GOA FMP. PSC limits have been established for these species because they are economically and culturally valuable species that are harvested in other directed fisheries besides the groundfish fishery. PSC limits ensure that catch in the groundfish fisheries do not limit harvest opportunities in other fisheries, or risk conditions that could result in total catch exceeding established limits. These conditions do not apply to grenadiers. Grenadiers are not harvested in any directed fishery, and total catch is well below the estimated OFLs and ABCs, as noted earlier in this preamble. Amendments 100/91 and this final rule implement measures appropriate to limit the impact of groundfish fisheries on grenadiers and collect the fishery data necessary for the Council to assess whether additional measures to minimize bycatch are warranted.

    Comment 2: The Council and NMFS have not demonstrated and cannot demonstrate that the requisite factors for EC classification of grenadiers have been met.

    Response: Grenadiers meet the National Standard 1 guidelines factors that should be considered for EC classification (§ 600.310(d)(5)). This preamble, the preamble to the proposed rule (79 FR 27557, May 14, 2014), and Section 2 of the Analysis describe how grenadiers meet the specific criteria for EC classification in the National Standard 1 guidelines.

    In summary, even though there are no restrictions on the catch of grenadiers now, grenadiers are not a targeted species group and are not generally retained for sale. No current market exists for grenadiers, and it is unlikely that one will be developed in the foreseeable future. Grenadiers are not generally retained for personal use, although a small portion of the total catch of grenadiers is known to be retained for use as bait in hook-and-line fisheries. The best available information indicates that grenadiers are not subject to overfishing, overfished, or approaching an overfished condition, and are not likely to become subject to overfishing or overfished in the absence of conservation and management measures. See response to Comment 4 for a more detailed response to the concern that grenadiers may be overfished. See response to Comment 5 for a more detailed response to the concern that grenadiers are experiencing overfishing.

    Comment 3: The Council did not heed expert advice when deciding not to include grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery.” The grenadier stock assessment authors, the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), the BSAI and GOA Groundfish Plan Teams, and members of the public made clear and repeated appeals that the grenadier stocks in Alaska require conservation and management. Managing grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” is consistent with those requests.

    Response: The Council and NMFS considered the recommendations in the grenadier stock assessment, and from the BSAI and GOA Groundfish Plan Teams, the SSC, and the public in developing Amendments 100/91 and this final rule. These recommendations are summarized below.

    The 2012 stock assessment (see ADDRESSES) recommended that grenadiers be categorized as “stocks in the fishery” because (1) giant grenadier are taken in large amounts as bycatch in commercial fisheries; (2) the potential exists for the future development of a targeted fishery on giant grenadier; and (3) they are slow growing and late to mature and therefore vulnerable to overfishing. The 2012 stock assessment also explains that an EC classification for grenadiers in the BSAI may be acceptable from a biological and management standpoint because giant grenadiers are very abundant in this area and catches have been relatively small relative to biomass, OFL, and ABC limits calculated in the stock assessment. Thus, the 2012 stock assessment concluded that overfishing of grenadiers in the BSAI is unlikely in the foreseeable future. The 2012 stock assessment also notes that catches could increase without endangering the stocks, and the recommended OFLs and ABCs appear to be sufficiently conservative to protect the stocks.

    The Council addressed the management concerns expressed in the 2012 stock assessment in recommending Amendments 100/91 and this final rule. Importantly, the Council and NMFS recognize that the potential exists for the future development of a targeted fishery on grenadiers. Therefore, the Council recommended, and this final rule implements, a prohibition of directed fishing to prevent a target fishery on grenadiers. Prohibiting directed fishing on grenadiers also prevents overfishing because, under status quo, a directed fishery could occur at any time without any catch limits. The Council also addressed the analysis of grenadiers' vulnerability to overfishing. As shown in the 2012 stock assessment, the amount of grenadier bycatch was far below the estimated OFL. Overfishing could only occur if catch increased dramatically with a directed fishery. The final rule's prohibition on a directed fishery addresses the potential vulnerability of grenadiers to overfishing.

    Further, the 2012 stock assessment identifies problems with leaving grenadiers as a nonspecified species. The 2012 stock assessment notes that under current management “. . . there are no limitations on catch or retention, no reporting requirements, and no official tracking of grenadier catch by management.” This final rule limits grenadier catch and limits grenadier retention, implements reporting requirements for grenadiers, and officially tracks grenadier catch by requiring the reporting of grenadier catch and the use of any retained grenadiers.

    In September 2013, NMFS staff presented a summary of a preliminary analysis to include grenadiers in the groundfish FMPs to the BSAI and GOA Groundfish Plan Teams. The BSAI and GOA Groundfish Plan Teams discussed whether any action is needed because grenadiers appear to lack any conservation concerns presently and there is no directed fishery or market for grenadiers. Minutes from the BSAI and GOA Groundfish Plan Teams are available on the Council's Web site at http://www.npfmc.org/wp-content/PDFdocuments/membership/PlanTeam/Groundfish/JOINT913minutes.pdf.

    Amendments 100/91 and this final rule are consistent with the BSAI Groundfish Plan Team's recommendation. The BSAI Groundfish Plan Team recommended that the Council consider adding grenadiers to the EC category under the BSAI FMP. The BSAI Groundfish Team's recommendation was based on the lack of a clear justification for inclusion as a “stock in the fishery” (and subsequent inclusion under the 2 million mt optimal yield cap) given the economic costs to the BSAI groundfish fisheries (and the Nation) of foregone harvests in other, more valuable fisheries. The BSAI Groundfish Plan Team acknowledged that including grenadiers in the EC category and requiring the reporting of catch would be one way to improve data on retained catch and enhance fishery monitoring

    The GOA Groundfish Plan Team did recommend that the Council consider adding grenadiers to the GOA FMP as “stocks in the fishery.” The GOA Groundfish Plan Team's recommendation was based on the lack of required catch accounting and monitoring of the GOA grenadier catch under the status quo and lack of economic costs to the GOA groundfish fisheries by including grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery.” The GOA Groundfish Plan Team concluded that management as “stocks in the fishery” would allow grenadiers to be targeted if a market develops without the need for a further FMP amendment. Note that the lack of a potential economic cost to include grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” in the FMP is not one of the factors that the Council or NMFS uses to determine if a stock requires conservation and management.

    Catch information on grenadiers is currently collected under the North Pacific Groundfish and Halibut Observer Program. This final rule would improve the data collection on grenadiers by requiring the reporting of grenadier catch from vessels that are not observed and requiring the reporting on the use of any retained grenadiers (e.g., retained as bait, or used as fish meal). Section 3.4.1 of the Analysis provides more detail on grenadier catch estimation.

    Amendments 100/91 and this final rule establish more precautionary management in the GOA than would result from the GOA Groundfish Plan Team's recommendation to manage grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” in the GOA because this final rule prohibits directed fishing and the Council would need to amend the FMP before grenadiers could be targeted in a commercial fishery. If grenadiers were managed as “stocks in the fishery,” a directed fishery could occur, and total catch could be greater than that possible under this final rule. NMFS notes that grenadiers would need to be managed as “stocks in the fishery” if they were generally retained for sale. However, there is no indication that a market for grenadiers exists now, or will develop in the foreseeable future. Therefore, managing grenadiers in the GOA as “stocks in the fishery” is not required at this time (see Section 3.4.4 of the Analysis for additional detail).

    In December 2013, the SSC reviewed the Analysis and made many recommendations that analysts addressed before Council final action in February 2014. The SSC did not recommend that grenadiers in either the BSAI or GOA be managed as “stocks in the fishery.” Amendment 100/91 and this final rule are consistent with the SSC's expert advice. The SSC recommended that grenadiers not be added to the forage fish category because the life history of grenadiers (long life span, late maturation, slow growth rate) and their trophic position in the food web are not similar to species included in the forage fish category. Amendment 100/91 and this final rule do not add grenadiers to the forage fish category. The SSC minutes are available on the Council's Web site at http://www.npfmc.org/meeting-minutes/.

    Comment 4: NMFS cannot justify a conclusion, based on existing data, that grenadiers are not overfished or approaching an overfished condition. In the North Pacific groundfish fishery, overfished status for a specific stock is determined using that stock's minimum stock size threshold (MSST), which is defined as the level of biomass below which the stock or stock complex is considered to be overfished. In the Analysis, NMFS stated that it cannot establish an MSST for grenadiers, a Tier 5 stock. Without an estimate of MSST or reliable proxy measurement, it is impossible for NMFS to state with any confidence that the grenadier stock is not overfished or approaching an overfished status. Nonetheless, NMFS makes this claim and uses the claim to support the EC classification for grenadiers. Because this determination is not supported by sufficient data, this required factor for EC classification is not met.

    Response: National Standard 1 guidelines for status determination criteria, such as MSST, only apply to “stocks in the fishery.” Therefore, NMFS is not required to set an MSST for grenadiers as EC stocks. While NMFS does not have the information to define MSST for grenadiers, the conclusion that the stock is not overfished or approaching an overfished condition is supported by the available information.

    The Analysis uses the best available information to assess whether grenadiers are overfished or approaching an overfished condition. A stock is overfished when it is at low abundance. NMFS has abundance estimates for grenadiers using trawl survey data beginning in 1979 for the BSAI and beginning in 1984 for the GOA. NMFS also has abundance estimates from longline survey data beginning in 1996/1997 for the BSAI and beginning in 1992 for the GOA. Abundance estimates for grenadier are available in the 2014 stock assessment (see ADDRESSES). No evidence indicates that grenadiers in the BSAI or GOA are currently at low abundance compared to previous abundance estimates. In fact, in the BSAI, grenadier abundance estimates for 2015 are above the mean abundance estimated for the time series using the trawl and longline survey data. In the GOA, abundance estimates for 2015 are slightly below the mean abundance estimated for the time series.

    The SSC evaluates the amount of information available on each groundfish stock and assigns each stock to one of six fishery stock assessment tiers based on the quantity and quality of information available. Fisheries in the higher ranking tiers (e.g., Tiers 1, 2, and 3) have more reliable and more complete information. Stocks with less reliable and less complete information are assigned to lower ranking tiers (e.g., Tiers 4 and 5), and stocks with only catch estimates are assigned to lowest ranking tier (Tier 6). Additional detail on the stock assessment process is provided in the annual Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Reports prepared for the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries, available at: http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/refm/stocks/assessments.htm.

    The 2014 stock assessment suggests placing grenadiers in Tier 5 based on the information available (see ADDRESSES). According to the FMPs, for Tiers 4 through 6, neither direct estimates of BMSY (biomass level necessary to support the maximum sustainable yield) nor reliable estimates of BMSY proxies are available. A reliable estimate of BMSY or a reliable estimate of a BMSY proxy is required in order to determine the MSST for a stock. Therefore, the MSST of stocks and stock complexes managed under Tiers 4 through 6 is undefined. Under the FMPs, 23 “stocks in the fishery” are also in Tiers 4 through 6. Classifying grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” would not change the fact that neither direct estimates of BMSY nor reliable estimates of BMSY proxies are available and MSST would remain undefined.

    Comment 5: Conservation and management measures are required to prevent overfishing of grenadiers. Grenadier stocks are especially vulnerable to deleterious fishing effects due to their longevity and slow rate of reproduction. NMFS' determination that grenadiers are not currently subject to overfishing is unsupported by reliable information or data. The Council evaluates whether a stock in the groundfish fishery is subject to overfishing by evaluating whether catch exceeds the OFL.

    Grenadiers are a Tier 5 stock due to the lack of biological information. For Tier 5 stocks, the Council's SSC sets OFL using estimates of the current biomass based on the average of the last three trawl surveys conducted. A Center for Independent Experts (CIE) review evaluated the methods for assessing Tier 5 stocks and concluded that current methods of implementing a Tier 5 assessment for non-target species are poor (Cieri, M., et al., 2013 CIE Review of Non-Target Species Stock Assessments in the BSAI and GOA). This conclusion is based in large part on the use of trawl survey biomass to estimate absolute abundance: These surveys may not cover the entire distribution of a stock, and reviewers were particularly concerned with the extrapolation of trawl survey densities to untrawlable ground. With regard to grenadiers specifically, one reviewer stated that the grenadier biomass estimates are unreliable, as they assume that trawl-survey biomass indices are absolute biomass estimates (and the Aleutian Islands estimates are based on an unreliable extrapolation). Another reviewer found it was not realistic to estimate absolute biomass for grenadiers with reasonable accuracy.

    Because the current biomass estimates for grenadiers are not defensible, any OFL calculated based on these estimates is similarly unreliable. As a result, NMFS' determination that grenadiers are not subject to overfishing is not grounded in reliable information, and the agency's use of this determination to support the EC classification is inappropriate.

    Response: NMFS' conclusion that overfishing of grenadiers is not occurring is supported by the best scientific information available, as explained in Section 3.3 of the Analysis. NMFS has been conducting a stock assessment for grenadiers since 2006. At present, stock assessment information for giant grenadier is relatively good compared to many other non-target species in Federal waters off Alaska. Since 2010, the stock assessment has been used to estimate an ABC and an OFL, using the best available estimates of biomass and natural mortality. The stock assessment uses giant grenadier as a proxy for the other grenadier species, and the estimated ABC and estimated OFL are based on giant grenadier because relatively few other grenadier species are caught in the groundfish fisheries or are taken in NMFS surveys. NMFS estimates the incidental catch of grenadiers in the groundfish fisheries using observer data.

    Total catch of grenadiers is far below the estimated grenadier OFL in both the BSAI and the GOA and NMFS is confident that grenadiers are not subject to overfishing. Overfishing occurs when catch exceeds the OFL.

    According to the 2014 stock assessment (see ADDRESSES), NMFS estimates that the BSAI grenadier OFL is 100,365 mt (211 million lb.) and grenadier catch is 5,320 mt (11.7 million lb., mean catch for 2003 through 2013). Estimated catch of grenadiers in the BSAI represents approximately 5 percent of the estimated OFL.

    According to the 2014 stock assessment (see ADDRESSES), NMFS estimates that the GOA grenadier OFL is 40,921 mt (90 million lb.) and grenadier catch is 8,769 mt (19 million lb., mean catch for 2003 through 2013). Estimated catch of grenadiers in the GOA represents approximately 21 percent of the estimated OFL.

    The issues raised by the CIE review and noted by the comment are applicable to all Tier 5 stocks and are being addressed by stock assessment authors through the annual BSAI and GOA Groundfish Plan Teams and the annual groundfish harvest specifications process. While NMFS and the Council continually work to improve the quality of the stock assessments, NMFS and the Council use the best scientific available information to assess the status of stocks. Under the FMPs, 14 stocks are in Tier 5 and 9 stocks are in Tier 6 (Tier 6 is for stocks with less biological information than Tier 5). These Tier 5 and Tier 6 stocks are all “stocks in the fishery,” and the SSC uses the Tier 5 and Tier 6 stock assessment information to set OFLs and ABCs for these stocks. If grenadiers were placed as “stocks in the fishery,” the Tier 5 stock assessment would continue to be used to set a grenadier OFL until a Tier 4 stock assessment is approved by the SSC.

    The problems with estimating grenadier biomass cited in the comment indicate that the stock assessments for Tier 5 stocks could either overestimate the OFL or underestimate the OFL. The CIE review also concluded that NMFS was overly precautionary in determining model parameters in the face of uncertainty for all Tier 5 stocks. In other words, NMFS' estimates of model parameters are more conservative than necessary based on available data and likely result in an underestimate of abundance.

    Comment 6: NMFS stated in the notice of availability that grenadiers are not likely to become subject to overfishing or overfished in the absence of conservation and management. The Analysis, however, indicates that NMFS never evaluated the likelihood of grenadiers to be overfished or subject to overfishing but, instead, reserved that analysis for future studies. NMFS likely cannot justify a conclusion that grenadiers are not likely to become subject to overfishing or overfished in the absence of conservation and management. Various life history characteristics of grenadiers make the stock particularly vulnerable to existing fisheries. If conservation and management measures are not taken to reduce fishing pressure on grenadiers, it is likely the species will become overfished or subject to overfishing.

    Response: The best available scientific information does not suggest that grenadier catch levels are likely to cause grenadiers to become overfished or subject to overfishing. Section 3.5 of the Analysis uses the best available information to analyze whether grenadiers are likely to become subject to overfishing or overfished, in the absence of conservation and management measures.

    The comment seems to refer to a footnote in Section 2.2 of the Analysis that addressed a comment made by the SSC that requested analysts to better explain the term “likely” with respect to the future potential for an EC species to be found subject to overfishing or overfished. A more complete discussion of the SSC's comment and changes made to the Analysis to address the comment are in Section 2.4 of the Analysis. Section 2.4 of the Analysis explains that, in the future, the Council can assess whether to re-classify grenadiers and manage them as “stocks in the fishery.” The National Standard 1 guidelines explain that a fishery management council should monitor the catch on a regular basis to determine if the stock is appropriately classified in the FMP (50 CFR 600.310(d)(6)). This final rule implements the reporting requirements necessary to monitor the catch and retention of grenadiers. Section 2.4 of the Analysis explains that future analyses could compare the trend of grenadier catch with trends in biomass estimates to determine whether grenadier catch is increasing relative to biomass in a way that suggests that catch may be exceeding the OFL estimate. If overfishing appeared “likely,” based on these trends, then this criterion for listing grenadiers as an EC species in the FMPs may no longer be met and reclassification may be appropriate.

    Comment 7: Stock assessment scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center have analyzed the potential vulnerability of Alaska grenadiers to overfishing. The vulnerability scores for grenadiers based on productivity and susceptibility to fishery impacts are similar to species that are currently managed in the fishery, such as Pacific cod and pollock. As a result, the scientists recommended that grenadiers be included as a “stock in the fishery.”

    A more recent study found that grenadiers were susceptible to fishery impacts and may be even more vulnerable than previous results indicate. For example, if a species is not targeted by the fishery but taken as bycatch, the relevant susceptibility attribute is ranked lightly exploited. This ranking is obviously inappropriate for species like grenadiers that are not targeted but experience high bycatch and nearly 100 percent bycatch mortality. These analyses illustrate the potential of grenadiers to become overfished if current fishing practices continue.

    Response: Potential vulnerability to overfishing and scientific uncertainty is the primary reason the Council and NMFS considered adding grenadiers to the FMPs. Amendments 100/91 and this final rule include grenadiers in Federal groundfish management and provide management measures necessary to ameliorate the potential vulnerability of grenadiers to overfishing. The recordkeeping and reporting requirements established by this final rule will improve data collection on grenadiers. The prohibition on directed fishing and the MRA for grenadiers as an incidental catch species in this final rule will limit grenadier catch. Grenadiers will be less susceptible to overfishing because incidental catch will be restricted and directed catch will be prohibited. These measures are in sharp contrast to the status quo conditions that do not preclude a directed fishery and do not limit the amount of allowable retained incidental catch. In addition, this final rule will improve catch estimation by requiring the reporting of grenadier catch that is retained. This information can aid managers in determining whether grenadiers are being retained and if a market is being developed. The regulations implemented by this final rule will help improve information about grenadier harvests and prevent unmanaged directed fisheries for grenadiers.

    The vulnerability analysis cited in this comment was prepared by NMFS in 2009 for a number of Alaska stocks and stock complexes, including giant grenadier, and presented the results in Appendix 3 to the 2009 SAFE report (available at http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/refm/stocks/2009_assessments.htm). The vulnerability analysis does not indicate the potential of grenadiers to become overfished if current fishing practices continue. The vulnerability analysis compares two main features of a stock that influence its vulnerability to fishing: Productivity, which determines a population's natural capacity for growth and its resilience to fishery impacts; and susceptibility, which indicates how severe those fishery impacts are likely to be for the population. This analysis does not look at whether overfishing is occurring or likely to occur given the current harvest amounts relative to estimated biomass. When total catch of grenadiers is compared to total biomass, the estimated OFL, or the estimated ABC, it is clear that grenadiers are not currently subject to catch rates that require conservation and management.

    Nevertheless, with this action, the Council and NMFS have adopted a precautionary approach to management. The potential vulnerability to overfishing if an unregulated fishery for grenadiers develops was one of the reasons the Council recommended, and this final rule implements, a prohibition on directed fishing. A prohibition on directed fishing is designed to prevent unregulated harvest from increasing to the point that could result in overfishing.

    NMFS notes that the primary recommendation in the second study cited by the comment was to monitor and report bycatch and discard amounts because knowledge of bycatch and discard is essential for understanding the nature of the fishery impacts on grenadiers and for assessing populations in the future. This final rule meets the objective of that recommendation.

    Comment 8: Regular stock assessments for grenadiers are necessary and required in order to determine whether overfishing is occurring or the stock is overfished. The proposed rule provides no assurance that NMFS will assess the status of the grenadier stock to determine whether overfishing is occurring on the stock or whether the stock is overfished. While the Council recommendation provided encouragement to conduct informal stock assessments, there is nothing compelling NMFS to do so. NMFS' lack of investment in the data that would help define key stock assessment parameters relegates grenadiers to a Tier 5 stock. There appears to be little incentive for NMFS to improve stock assessments for grenadiers, or for that matter, any Tier 5 stocks in the FMPs. The proposed rule must also include a requirement and a timeline with which to regularly assess the risk of overfishing and overfished status of the grenadier stock.

    Response: The National Standard 1 guidelines explain that a fishery management council should monitor catch on a regular basis to determine if a stock is appropriately classified in the FMP (50 CFR 600.310(d)(6)). Section 2.2 of the Analysis explains that NMFS and the Council will monitor grenadiers as new, pertinent scientific information becomes available. If information indicates that grenadiers should be reclassified, an FMP amendment would be required to move grenadiers to “stocks in the fishery.”

    The Council and NMFS do not prioritize stock assessment work through regulations. This final rule implements regulations for participants in the groundfish fisheries. The Council and NMFS are continually assessing the data and scientific methods used for stock assessment. The SSC places stocks in tiers based on the best available scientific information using the tier system in Section 3.2.3.2 of the FMPs. Twenty three “stocks in the fishery” are in Tier 5 in the FMPs. Classifying grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” would not move the stocks out of Tier 5.

    Comment 9: A failure to classify grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” would be contrary to obligations under the United Nations Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (the Agreement). Inclusion of grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of grenadiers in the North Pacific, to maintain and restore the deep-sea ecosystem, to preserve future potential uses for those deep-sea resources, and to minimize waste from bycatch. Further, because of the important ecological role of grenadiers in the deep-sea ecosystem, conservation and management measures must be put in place to protect biodiversity in the marine environment. The EC classification is contrary to the precautionary approach required in the Agreement. NMFS must be more cautious with regard to management because there is so little reliable information regarding the status of grenadier stocks. Using the precautionary approach would mean implementing measures that could effectively conserve and maintain grenadier populations to ensure long-term sustainability.

    Response: Classifying grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” is not more precautionary than classifying grenadiers in the EC category. “Stocks in the fishery” are target stocks subject to directed fisheries that can harvest up to the total allowable catch (TAC) established for that stock. For stocks in the EC category, NMFS prohibits directed fishing. Prohibiting directed fishing is more precautionary than establishing a TAC and allowing directed fishing. Therefore, Amendments 100/91 and this final rule are necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of grenadiers in the North Pacific.

    Classifying grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery,” as suggested in the comment, would not, on its own, ensure the long-term sustainability of grenadiers in the North Pacific, maintain or restore the deep-sea ecosystem, preserve future potential uses for those deep-sea resources, or minimize waste from bycatch. Any specific management measures to address these concerns would be measures for the groundfish fisheries to reduce their impacts on grenadiers. The comment did not provide any specific measures that would be more precautionary than those implemented in this final rule.

    Additionally, the Council and NMFS considered grenadier's role in the ecosystem. Section 3.7 of the Analysis describes the current state of research and understanding about the ecological importance of grenadiers. For example, giant grenadiers have an important ecological role as apex predators. Apex predators reside at the top of their food chain and have few to no predators of their own. In bottom trawl surveys conducted by NMFS in the Bering Sea and the GOA, giant grenadiers are the most abundant fish, in terms of weight, in depths from 600 to 3,000 feet (183 to 914 meters). Giant grenadiers extend much deeper than 3,000 feet (914 meters). While grenadiers have been caught deeper than 6,000 feet (1,829 meters), little is known about their abundance in waters deeper than 3,000 feet, because neither the NMFS surveys nor fishing effort presently extend below this depth. However, the best scientific information available clearly indicates that catch of grenadiers represents only a small portion of the total estimated biomass, and a small proportion of the estimated ABCs and OFLs.

    Comment 10: While there is not currently a target market for grenadiers in the North Pacific, it is quite possible such a market could develop in the future. Grenadier meat is high in protein and lipids, which makes it desirable as a potential dietetic food. Further, grenadier livers have a large relative weight and contain many vitamins and fat, and their eggs are large, with a bright orange color and good gustatory quality. As a result of these qualities and the high amounts of grenadier catch, research to develop marketable products from this species is ongoing, and it is likely Alaskan fishermen will continue their efforts at utilizing this species. If a target market were to develop for grenadiers, the problems associated with overfishing would be greatly exacerbated.

    Response: NMFS agrees that a market for grenadiers in the North Pacific could develop in the future. Concern over the potential for an unregulated fishery for grenadiers was one of the main reasons the Council recommended and NMFS is implementing Amendments 100/91 and this final rule as a precautionary management measure. With this action, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for grenadiers and limiting the amount of grenadiers that can be retained as incidental catch in groundfish fisheries through implementation of an 8 percent MRA. Additionally, the recordkeeping and reporting requirements implemented with this final rule will provide the data necessary to determine if fishermen retain grenadiers for bait or processing for sale. Without this action, there would be no constraints on any potential future grenadier fishery.

    Comment 11: NMFS and the Council set PSC limits in the groundfish fishery for other species in the EC category, such as Chinook salmon and Pacific herring. At a minimum, the proposed rule must establish substantive measures, like PSC limits, that will minimize the current levels of grenadier bycatch occurring in the groundfish fishery.

    Response: Under the GOA FMP and BSAI FMP, PSC limits are a management tool for species in the EC category. PSC limits are not set for stocks classified as “stocks in the fishery” in the FMP. See response to Comment 1 for more detail on PSC limits.

    Additionally, the comment requests NMFS add new regulations that have not been analyzed or recommended by the Council. NMFS cannot add regulations to a final rule that will have substantive impacts on fisheries without following National Environmental Policy Act, Executive Order 12866, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. Nothing in the final rule conflicts with or precludes development and analysis of additional regulations in a subsequent future action. The increased recordkeeping and reporting requirements in this final rule will provide more information to decision makers on grenadier bycatch. If additional information indicates that additional management measures would be appropriate, the Council would assess PSC limits or other appropriate management measures.

    Comment 12: Amendments 100/91 and the proposed rule will do nothing to limit fishery impacts because they do not address or reduce the current bycatch levels to the extent practicable. Prohibiting directed fishing of a species for which, at present, there is no directed fishery in the waters off Alaska does nothing to address the current source of mortality, which is bycatch. Limiting the amount of grenadiers that may be retained after they are caught has no effect on bycatch, especially when the MRA exceeds the current rate of retention. In fact, the MRA under the proposed rule is set at 8 percent, which will allow groundfish fisheries to retain up to 440 million pounds of grenadier, an order of magnitude more than current annual bycatch levels of 34 million pounds.

    Response: Amendments 100/91 and this final rule are necessary to limit the impacts of the groundfish fisheries on grenadiers. Amendment 100/91 and this final rule accomplish the purpose and need for this action and additional measures are not necessary at this time to meet the purpose and need. The purpose and need for Amendment 100/91 and this final rule are as follows:

    Grenadiers are not included in the BSAI or GOA groundfish FMPs. There are no limits on their catch or retention, and no reporting requirements. However, grenadiers are taken as bycatch, especially in longline fisheries; no other Alaskan groundfish has similar levels of catches that is not included in the FMPs. Inclusion in the groundfish FMPs would provide for precautionary management of the groundfish fisheries by, at a minimum, recording the harvest of grenadiers and placing limits on their harvest.

    Currently, there are no restrictions on how many grenadiers can be retained in the groundfish fisheries. This final rule prohibits directed fishing to limit grenadier catch and implements an MRA of 8 percent for groundfish fishing vessels to constrain incidental harvests. NMFS has no indication that grenadier retention through incidental harvests is likely to increase beyond current levels, given the lack of any market for grenadiers, and therefore no economic incentive to retain grenadiers.

    NMFS disagrees with the comment's assertion that up to 440 million pounds of grenadiers could be retained under this final rule. It appears that the comment calculated that up to 440 million pounds of grenadiers could be retained by summing the TACs of all groundfish species in the BSAI and GOA and multiplying that amount by 8 percent. This is inaccurate for several reasons. First, grenadiers are not caught in all groundfish fisheries. Grenadiers occur in deep water and are not encountered in many fisheries. In the GOA, grenadiers are primarily caught in the deep-water trawl (i.e., arrowtooth flounder and rex sole trawl fisheries) and some hook-and-line groundfish fisheries (i.e., sablefish). In the Aleutian Islands, grenadiers are primarily caught in the sablefish fishery. In the Bering Sea, grenadiers are primarily caught in the Greenland turbot fishery. Calculating 8 percent of the total BSAI and GOA groundfish TACs and assuming that all vessels in all fisheries will harvest up to that amount of grenadiers is not realistic. See Sections 3.4.2 and 3.4.3 of the Analysis for a complete discussion of the bycatch of grenadiers in the different groundfish fisheries (see ADDRESSES).

    Second, MRAs apply at the vessel and fishing trip level. The 8 percent MRA allows a vessel operator fishing for groundfish to retain a quantity of grenadiers equal to but no more than 8 percent of the round weight or round weight equivalent of groundfish species open to directed fishing that are retained on board the vessel during a fishing trip. The requirement to not exceed MRA proportions at any time during a fishing trip limits the vessel operator's ability to maximize catch of grenadiers. The estimate provided in the comment assumes that all vessels, on each fishing trip, catch grenadiers and will retain up to the maximum amount of grenadier catch. For the reasons described, this will not occur.

    The Council considered a MRA range of 2 percent to 20 percent, ultimately choosing an 8 percent grenadier MRA. The 8 percent MRA is not likely to substantially increase the incentive for vessels to retain grenadiers relative to a lower MRA percentage (e.g., 2 percent), but would limit the amount of incidental catch more conservatively than a higher MRA percentage (e.g., 20 percent). The Council selected an 8 percent MRA to accommodate the current amount of grenadiers incidentally caught by individual vessels. Section 2.2 of the Analysis notes that a de minimus amount of grenadiers are retained in the BSAI, and only 0.1 percent of all groundfish fishing trips in the GOA would be expected to meet or exceed an MRA of 8 percent. Retention of grenadiers in the BSAI is less than 0.1 percent of all groundfish fishing trips. Therefore, an MRA of 8 percent would be expected to accommodate all current fishing practices and, if a market should develop, this MRA would limit the potential retention of grenadiers until the Council and NMFS could develop measures to manage a grenadier fishery.

    Finally, it is highly unlikely that vessels would catch the maximum MRA on more than 0.1 percent of all groundfish fishing trips. It is not economical for vessel operators to do so because it would take valuable time and effort for vessels to find grenadiers to “top off” their catch.

    This final rule also increases monitoring of grenadier catch, and NMFS will add grenadiers to weekly catch reports posted on the NMFS Alaska Region Web page at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/catchstats.htm. This information will provide the Council, NMFS, and the public the information needed to determine if increased retention of grenadiers is occurring. The Council and NMFS will review this information and consider additional management measures, if appropriate.

    Comment 13: Including grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” would necessitate the establishment of an OFL, ABC, and TAC each year in the annual harvest specifications process. If a grenadier TAC was set below the current bycatch level, bycatch would be reduced. The grenadier TAC would count in the calculation of total TAC under the optimum yield (OY) cap.

    The OY cap is a binding constraint on the BSAI groundfish fisheries that limits the total TACs of all groundfish fisheries in the BSAI managed as “stocks in the fishery” to no more than 2 million mt. In most years, the total TACs of all groundfish fisheries in the BSAI sum to 2 million mt. This means that the Council and NMFS would need to “fund” a grenadier TAC in the BSAI by reducing the TAC in one or more BSAI groundfish fisheries so that the 2 million mt limit is not exceeded. The potential reduction of a TAC for one or more BSAI groundfish fisheries will incentivize reduction of grenadier bycatch in the BSAI so that the grenadier TAC can be set as low as possible and not limit the TACs set for other fisheries.

    Response: NMFS agrees that the BSAI OY cap requires that the sum of the groundfish TACs in the BSAI cannot exceed 2 million mt (see 50 CFR 679.20(a)(1)). The response to Comment 2 explains that the Council and NMFS determined that grenadiers meet the criteria for the EC category, and assigning grenadiers to the EC category would preclude the development of a directed fishery that could increase catch of grenadiers. The comment's suggested approach would be less conservative and could result in an increase in grenadier catch in a directed fishery with a TAC.

    The comment seems to suggest that, in the BSAI, grenadiers should be classified as “stocks in the fishery” so that a grenadier TAC would be set at a level below the current grenadier catch as a way to constrain bycatch. This is inconsistent with the management of fisheries classified as “stocks in the fishery” and the TAC setting process for Tier 5 stocks. According to the BSAI FMP, a specific TAC is established annually for each target species or species assemblage. The FMP defines target species as those species that support either a single species or mixed species target fishery, are commercially important, and for which a sufficient data base exists that allows each to be managed on its own biological merits. Grenadiers are not a target fishery. As a Tier 5 stock, the grenadier TAC would be set following the harvest specifications process, and, given the stock's ABC, the TAC could be set much higher than current bycatch. Managing grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” and establishing a TAC for grenadiers would provide for a directed fishery. As long as the TAC has not been, or is not likely to be exceeded, NMFS would not constrain catch of grenadiers whether retained or discarded. This would not result in a reduction of grenadier catch as suggested in the comment.

    NMFS disagrees with the comment's assumption that managing grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” will “force” harvesters to minimize their catch of grenadiers so that a lower TAC for grenadiers may be established and provide more TAC for non-grenadier species within the 2 million mt OY cap. As stated in response to Comment 12, grenadiers are not encountered in many fisheries and are encountered in very limited amounts in some fisheries (e.g., Bering Sea pollock). Therefore, NMFS expects that limiting the TAC of most groundfish fisheries would not result in a reduction of grenadier catch or in the amount of grenadier catch that is discarded because there is no market. NMFS expects that constraining the TAC of other groundfish fisheries would not minimize grenadier bycatch to the extent practicable as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

    Comment 14: The Council's decision to classify grenadiers as an EC species appears to be motivated by a desire to avoid consequences for existing fisheries subject to the 2 million mt OY cap in the BSAI. Originally, the effort to evaluate grenadier stocks was motivated by a desire to address conservation concerns in the grenadier fishery. Beginning in 2008, the BSAI and GOA Groundfish Plan Teams and the SSC strongly encouraged the Council to manage grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery,” stressing the issue should be a priority, based largely on concerns over bycatch and vulnerability of the species. Initial preliminary assessments prepared by NMFS also emphasized the conservation and management concerns associated with grenadier stocks. However, after analyzing the potential consequences to the existing groundfish fisheries, the Council deemphasized conservation concerns, and instead focused on classifying grenadiers as an EC species. This conclusion is unlawful. National Standards 1 and 9 require that necessary and practicable bycatch measures must be implemented, even if that results in a downward adjustment of OY.

    When read together, National Standards 1 and 9 in the Magnuson-Stevens Act require that necessary and practicable bycatch measures must be implemented, even if that results in a downward adjustment of OY. As spelled out in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, yield is optimal when it takes into account protection of marine ecosystems and any relevant ecological factor. These same considerations require reducing grenadier bycatch because they have an important ecological role.

    Response: NMFS disagrees with the comment for the following reasons. First, there is no grenadier fishery. As noted in the preamble to this rule, markets for grenadiers have not developed and the available data do not indicate significant retention of grenadiers for personal use as bait.

    Second, comments made prior to 2009 did not consider the amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act establishing ACLs and AMs, or the National Standard 1 guidelines establishing the EC category published in 2009 (74 FR 3178, January 16, 2009). See the response to Comment 3 for a summary of the recommendations of the Groundfish Plan Teams and SSC for Amendments 100/91.

    Third, in 2010, the Council recommended and NMFS removed the nonspecified species category from the FMPs when the FMPs were revised to meet Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements for ACLs and AMs under Amendments 96/87 to the FMPs (75 FR 61639, October 6, 2010). The nonspecified species, including grenadiers, were removed from the FMPs because these species were too poorly understood to set ACLs and AMs or to develop a management regime. The Council also initiated an analysis to consider moving grenadiers back into the FMPs in 2010. In June 2012, the Council reviewed the first discussion paper that explored two alternatives for grenadiers, classifying them either as “stocks in the fishery” or as an “ecosystem component.” That discussion paper also identified the primary concerns that apply to grenadiers; grenadiers have no limits on their catch or retention, no reporting requirements, and no official record of their catch. These concerns were reiterated when the Analysis was revised and improved between 2012 and February 2014 when the Council took final action. The Analysis analyzes potential economic impacts to fishery participants in compliance with Executive Order 12866 and the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

    Fourth, when the Council recommended Amendments 100/91, the Council emphasized conservation concerns in classifying grenadiers as an EC species. Amendments 100/91 and this final rule directly address concerns of groundfish fishery impacts on grenadiers. Amendments 100/91 and this final rule limit grenadier catch and retention and require reporting for an official record of grenadier catch.

    Fifth, NMFS considered the potential vulnerability of grenadiers from the groundfish fisheries as it developed this action as described in response to Comment 7.

    Finally, Amendments 100/91 and this final rule comply with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including the 10 National Standards. The Council and NMFS considered the best available information on the total biomass of grenadiers as well as the total catch of grenadiers. As described in this preamble and the Analysis, total catch of grenadiers represents only a small proportion of the estimated biomass of grenadiers, OFLs, and ABCs in the BSAI and GOA. This final rule prohibits the directed fishing for grenadiers and improves the monitoring of grenadier catch to ensure that total catch of grenadiers will not adversely affect grenadiers. Additional measures to limit the total catch of grenadiers are not required at this time to comply with the requirements of National Standard 1 or National Standard 9.

    Comment 15: Conservation and management measures are needed in order to maintain the grenadier stock and the deep-sea environment. Grenadier bycatch threatens to cause irreversible or long-term adverse effects both on grenadier resources and the marine ecosystem. The environmental effects of this bycatch may change the ocean environment in ways that would decrease the options available with respect to future uses of deep-sea or other marine resources. Thus, grenadier stocks are in need of conservation and management and should be managed in the fishery, as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Grenadier bycatch constitutes a major input of dead organic material to the ecosystem that would not otherwise be there and could have unintended consequences for the environment.

    Response: As stated in previous responses to comments, including grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” would not be expected to result in less catch than the amount currently occurring, and could result in more catch than is permitted under this final rule because this final rule prohibits directed fishing for grenadiers. Section 3.7.2 of the Analysis discusses the impacts of the alternatives on the ecosystem and notes that total catch of grenadiers represents a small proportion of the total grenadier biomass and that most commercial fisheries do not occur at depths where grenadiers are known to occur. The comment does not provide any specific comments on how managing grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” would reduce potential impacts on the deep sea ecosystem more than the management measures implemented under this final rule. Section 3.7.2 of the Analysis also discusses the impacts of the input of dead organic material.

    Comment 16: By weight, bycatch of grenadiers is among the worst problems in Alaska. The average catch of grenadiers is nearly 20 percent of the total bycatch in Alaska. In 2010, out of a total of 573 fish stocks nation-wide with reported bycatch estimates, there were only three other species that suffered more bycatch than grenadiers: Arrowtooth flounder in Alaska, Atlantic croaker in the Southeast, and sea scallops in the Northeast. All of these species, except for grenadier, are actively managed in a fishery through a fishery management plan.

    Response: NMFS disagrees. Grenadier bycatch is not one of the worst problems in the fisheries off Alaska. As explained earlier in this preamble, catch of grenadiers, including the bycatch of grenadiers, represents a small proportion of the known biomass of grenadiers. Grenadiers are not subject to a directed fishery. A large proportion of the grenadier catch is discarded as bycatch because the flesh is unpalatable and no market for grenadiers exists.

    Bottom trawl surveys have shown giant grenadier to be the most abundant species at depths 200 m to 1,000 m on the continental slope of the GOA, eastern Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands (see Section 3.7.1 of the Analysis). The average biomass from the last three surveys is 553,557 mt in the eastern Bering Sea, 598,727 mt in the Aleutian Islands, and 597,884 mt in the GOA. And, as explained in Section 3.3.2 of the Analysis, NMFS likely underestimates grenadier biomass for a number of reasons, including that grenadiers are abundant in waters deeper than where NMFS surveys are conducted and grenadiers may be unavailable to bottom trawls during feeding because they move into the water column.

    Average catch of grenadiers from 2003 through 2013 in the BSAI constitutes only 0.4 percent of the estimated grenadier biomass. Average catch of grenadiers from 2003 through 2013 in the GOA constitutes only 1 percent of the estimated grenadier biomass. Although the total tonnage of grenadiers caught and discarded as bycatch is higher than other species, it represents only a small proportion of the total biomass of grenadiers. Managing grenadiers as “stocks in the fishery” would not address the primary reason that grenadiers are discarded as bycatch—the fish is unpalatable and no market exists.

    Comment 17: Grenadier bycatch in the sablefish fishery greatly exceeds 5 percent of the catch, and in some years, even exceeds the catch of sablefish. The Marine Stewardship Council certification of sablefish may be in jeopardy during the next annual audit. In order to retain Marine Stewardship Council certification, the sablefish fishery may have to develop and execute an action plan to address the bycatch problem in the fishery. Changing the definition of grenadier from bycatch to ecosystem component within the FMP does not change the obligation of the sablefish fishery to reduce bycatch under the Marine Stewardship Council.

    Response: Including grenadiers in the EC category in the FMPs does not change the fact that grenadiers are bycatch in the sablefish fishery. The process that the Marine Stewardship Council uses to certify the sablefish fishery is an activity undertaken by a private entity and is outside the scope of this action. Nothing in Amendments 100/91 or this final rule prevents participants in the sablefish fishery from developing operational guidelines or other voluntary measures that may result in reduced grenadier bycatch in that fishery.

    Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, has determined this final rule is necessary for the conservation and management of the groundfish fisheries and that it is consistent with Amendments 100/91, the FMPs, the National Standards, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws.

    NMFS prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for Amendments 100/91 and this final rule and the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS, concluded that there will be no significant impact on the human environment as a result of this rule. The impact of this action is to limit and monitor the incidental catch of grenadiers in the groundfish fisheries. A copy of the EA is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order 12866.

    Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    This final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) incorporates the IRFA, a summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the IRFA, and NMFS' responses to those comments, and a summary of the analyses completed to support the action.

    Section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires that, when an agency promulgates a final rule under section 553 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code, after being required by that section or any other law to publish a general notice of proposed rulemaking, the agency shall prepare an FRFA.

    Section 604 describes the required contents of a FRFA: (1) A statement of the need for, and objectives of, the rule; (2) a statement of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the initial regulatory flexibility analysis, a statement of the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a statement of any changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such comments; (3) the response of the agency to any comments filed by the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) in response to the proposed rule, and a detailed statement of any change made to the proposed rule in the final rule as a result of the comments; (4) a description of and an estimate of the number of small entities to which the rule will apply or an explanation of why no such estimate is available; (5) a description of the projected reporting, recordkeeping and other compliance requirements of the rule, including an estimate of the classes of small entities which will be subject to the requirement and the type of professional skills necessary for preparation of the report or record; and (6) a description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes, including a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the impact on small entities was rejected.

    Need for, and Objectives of, the Rule

    A statement of the need for, and objectives of, the rule is contained in the preamble to this final rule and is not repeated here.

    Public and Chief Counsel for Advocacy Comments on the Proposed Rule

    NMFS published a proposed rule to implement Amendments 100/91 on May 14, 2014 (79 FR 27557). An IRFA was prepared and summarized in the “Classification” section of the preamble to the proposed rule. The comment period closed on June 13, 2014. NMFS received 3 letters of public comment on Amendments 100/91 and the proposed rule. No comments were received on the IRFA or the small entity impacts of the rule. The Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA did not file any comments on the proposed rule.

    Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by the Action

    In the GOA, NMFS estimates that there are a total of 1,114 small catcher vessels and 5 small catcher/processors in the groundfish fisheries. The majority of these (581) are catcher vessels in the hook-and-line gear sector. In the BSAI, NMFS estimates that there are 118 small catcher vessels and 7 small catcher/processors in the groundfish fisheries. NMFS estimates that 72 small shoreside processors are directly regulated by this action. This number includes entities located in both the BSAI and GOA. Thus, NMFS estimates that this action directly regulates 1,316 small entities (1,232 catcher vessels, 12 catcher/processors, 72 shoreside processors) because the reporting requirements and MRAs apply to all participants in the groundfish fisheries.

    Description of Significant Alternatives to the Final Action That Minimize Adverse Impacts on Small Entities

    A FRFA must describe the steps the agency has taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small entities consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes, including a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered by the agency and that affect the impact on small entities was rejected. “Significant alternatives” are those that achieve the stated objectives for the action, consistent with prevailing law, with potentially lesser adverse economic impacts on small entities, as a whole.

    The two aspects of this final rule that directly regulate small entities are the requirement to report grenadier catch under regulations at § 679.5(a)(3) and the requirement that vessels not exceed an MRA of 8 percent, under regulations at Tables 10 and 11 to part 679. These requirements have a de minimus economic impact on small entities, as explained in Section 5.7 of the Analysis. The reporting requirements were the same under all of the action alternatives.

    The Council considered an MRA range of 2 percent to 20 percent, ultimately choosing an 8 percent MRA. The Council selected an 8 percent MRA to accommodate the current amount of grenadiers incidentally caught. The Council considered that there are very few instances when grenadier retention exceeds 8 percent; however, allowing a higher MRA of as much as 20 percent may not meet the objectives of providing precautionary management and placing limits on harvest, as identified in the purpose and need for the action.

    Thus, there are no significant alternatives that accomplish the objectives of accounting for grenadier catch or MRA management and minimize adverse economic impacts on small entities.

    Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

    The final rule modifies the recordkeeping and reporting requirements of the vessels and processors participating in the BSAI and GOA groundfish fisheries.

    Presently, NMFS requires catcher vessel operators, catcher/processor operators, buying station operators, mothership operators, shoreside processor managers, and stationary floating processor managers to record and report all FMP species in logbooks, forms, eLandings, and eLogbooks. Recording is optional for non-FMP species. Grenadiers are currently listed as non-FMP species.

    The final rule amends regulations to change the status of grenadiers (giant grenadiers and other grenadiers) from non-FMP species to FMP species and require operators to record and report grenadier species in logbooks, forms, eLandings, and eLogbooks. If operators retain and land grenadiers, then landings and the use of retained catch must be reported on fish tickets and production reports.

    Small Entity Compliance Guide

    Section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 states that, for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a FRFA, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule, and shall designate such publications as “small entity compliance guides.” The agency shall explain the actions a small entity is required to take to comply with a rule or group of rules. The preamble to the proposed rule and the preamble to this final rule serve as the small entity compliance guide. This rule does not require any additional compliance from small entities that is not described in the preambles to the proposed and final rules. Copies of this final rule are available on request from the NMFS Alaska Region Office (see ADDRESSES).

    Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This rule contains collection-of-information requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), and which have been approved by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB Control Number 0648-0213 (paper recordkeeping and reporting) and OMB Control Number 0648-0515 (electronic recordkeeping and reporting). However, this rule only mentions these collections and does not change either collection-of-information.

    Send comments regarding this burden estimate, or any other aspect of this data collection, including suggestions for reducing the burden, to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and by email to [email protected], or fax to (202) 395-5806.

    Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirements of the PRA, unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB control number. All currently approved NOAA collections of information may be viewed at: http://www.cio.noaa.gov/services_programs/prasubs.html.

    List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: February 26, 2015. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS amends 50 CFR part 679 as follows:

    PART 679—FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA 1. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 679 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 1801 et seq.; 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 108-447; Pub. L. 111-281.

    2. In § 679.2, add a definition for “Grenadiers” in alphabetical order and revise the definition for “Non-allocated or nonspecified species” to read as follows:
    § 679.2 Definitions.

    Grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part and § 679.20(i)).

    Non-allocated or nonspecified species means those fish species, other than prohibited species, for which TAC has not been specified (e.g., prowfish and lingcod).

    3. In § 679.5, revise paragraph (a)(3) introductory text, and paragraphs (c)(3)(vi)(F) and (c)(4)(vi)(E) to read as follows:
    § 679.5 Recordkeeping and reporting (R&R).

    (a) * * *

    (3) Fish to be recorded and reported. The operator or manager must record and report the following information (see paragraphs (a)(3)(i) through (iv) of this section) for all groundfish (see Table 2a to this part), prohibited species (see Table 2b to this part), forage fish (see Table 2c to this part), and grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part). The operator or manager may record and report the following information (see paragraphs (a)(3)(i) through (iv) of this section) for non-groundfish (see Table 2d to this part):

    (c) * * *

    (3) * * *

    (vi) * * *

    (F) Species codes. The operator must record and report required information for all groundfish (see Table 2a to this part), prohibited species (see Table 2b to this part), forage fish (see Table 2c to this part), and grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part). The operator may record and report information for non-groundfish (see Table 2d to this part).

    (4) * * *

    (vi) * * *

    (E) Species codes. The operator must record and report the required information for all groundfish (see Table 2a to this part), prohibited species (see Table 2b to this part), forage fish (see Table 2c to this part), and grenadiers (see Table 2c to this part). The operator may also record and report the required information for non-groundfish (see Table 2d to this part).

    4. In § 679.20, revise paragraph (i) to read as follows:
    § 679.20 General limitations.

    (i) Forage fish and grenadiers—(1) Definition. See Table 2c to this part.

    (2) Applicability. The provisions of § 679.20(i) apply to all vessels fishing for groundfish in the BSAI or GOA, and to all vessels processing groundfish harvested in the BSAI or GOA.

    (3) Closure to directed fishing. Directed fishing for forage fish and grenadiers is prohibited at all times in the BSAI and GOA.

    (4) Limits on sale, barter, trade, and processing. The sale, barter, trade, or processing of forage fish or grenadiers is prohibited, except as provided in paragraph (i)(5) of this section.

    (5) Allowable fishmeal production. Retained catch of forage fish or grenadiers not exceeding the maximum retainable amount may be processed into fishmeal for sale, barter, or trade.

    5. In § 679.22, add paragraph (i) to read as follows:
    § 679.22 Closures.

    (i) Forage fish and grenadiers closures. See § 679.20(i)(3).

    6. Revise Table 2c to part 679 to read as follows: Table 2c to Part 679—Species Codes: FMP Forage Fish Species (All Species of the Following Families) and Grenadier Species Species Identification Code FORAGE FISH Bristlemouths, lightfishes, and anglemouths (family Gonostomatidae) 209 Capelin smelt (family Osmeridae) 516 Deep-sea smelts (family Bathylagidae) 773 Eulachon smelt (family Osmeridae) 511 Gunnels (family Pholidae) 207 Krill (order Euphausiacea) 800 Lanternfishes (family Myctophidae) 772 Pacific Sand fish (family Trichodontidae) 206 Pacific Sand lance (family Ammodytidae) 774 Pricklebacks, war-bonnets, eelblennys, cockscombs and Shannys (family Stichaeidae) 208 Surf smelt (family Osmeridae) 515 GRENADIERS Giant Grenadiers (Albatrossia pectoralis) 214 Other Grenadiers 213 7. Revise Table 2d to part 679 to read as follows: Table 2d to Part 679—Species Codes: Non-FMP Species Species description Code GENERAL USE Arctic char, anadromous 521 Dolly varden, anadromous 531 Eels or eel-like fish 210 Eel, wolf 217 GREENLING: Kelp 194 Rock 191 Whitespot 192 Jellyfish (unspecified) 625 Lamprey, pacific 600 Lingcod 130 Lumpsucker 216 Pacific flatnose 260 Pacific hagfish 212 Pacific hake 112 Pacific lamprey 600 Pacific saury 220 Pacific tomcod 250 Poacher (Family Algonidae) 219 Prowfish 215 Ratfish 714 Rockfish, black (GOA) 142 Rockfish, blue (GOA) 167 Rockfish, dark 173 Sardine, Pacific (pilchard) 170 Sea cucumber, red 895 Shad 180 Skilfish 715 Snailfish, general (genus Liparis and genus Careproctus) 218 Sturgeon, general 680 Wrymouths 211 Shellfish: Abalone, northern (pinto) 860 Clams: Arctic surf 812 Cockle 820 Eastern softshell 842 Pacific geoduck 815 Pacific littleneck 840 Pacific razor 830 Washington butter 810 Coral 899 Mussel, blue 855 Oyster, Pacific 880 Scallop, weathervane 850 Scallop, pink (or calico) 851 SHRIMP: Coonstripe 864 Humpy 963 Northern (pink) 961 Sidestripe 962 Spot 965 Snails 890 Urchin, green sea 893 Urchin, red sea 892 8. Revise Table 3 to part 679 to read as follows: BILLING CODE 3510-22-P ER05MR15.000 ER05MR15.001 ER05MR15.002 9. Revise Table 10 to part 679 to read as follows: ER05MR15.003 ER05MR15.004 ER05MR15.005 10. Revise Table 11 to part 679 to read as follows: ER05MR15.006
    [FR Doc. 2015-05049 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-C
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 Docket No. 140117052-4402-02] RIN 0648-XD799 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Summer Flounder Fishery; Quota Transfer AGENCY:

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Temporary rule; quota transfer.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS announces that the State of North Carolina is transferring a portion of its 2015 commercial summer flounder quota to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. These quota adjustments are necessary to comply with the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan quota transfer provision. This announcement is intended to inform the public of the revised commercial quota for each state involved.

    DATES:

    Effective March 2, 2015, through December 31, 2015.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Reid Lichwell, Fishery Management Specialist, 978-281-9112.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Regulations governing the summer flounder fishery are in 50 CFR 648.100-110. These regulations require annual specification of a commercial quota that is apportioned among the coastal states from North Carolina through Maine. The process to set the annual commercial quota and the percent allocated to each state are described in § 648.10(c)(1)(i).

    The final rule implementing Amendment 5 to the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan provided a mechanism for summer flounder quota to be transferred from one state to another (December 17, 1993; 58 FR 65936). Two or more states, under mutual agreement and with the concurrence of the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Administrator, can transfer or combine summer flounder commercial quota under § 648.102(c)(2). The Regional Administrator is required to consider the criteria in § 648.102(c)(2)(i) when evaluating requests for quota transfers or combinations.

    North Carolina has agreed to transfer 10,860 lb (4,926 kg) of its 2015 commercial quota to Massachusetts. This transfer was prompted by landings of the F/V Poseidon, a North Carolina vessel that was granted safe harbor in Massachusetts due to a medical emergency, on February 8, 2015. As a result of these landings, a quota transfer is necessary to account for an increase in Massachusetts landings that would have otherwise accrued against the North Carolina quota.

    The Regional Administrator has determined that the criteria set forth in § 648.102(c)(2)(i) have been met. These transfers are consistent with the criteria because they will not preclude the overall annual quota from being fully harvested, the transfers address an unforeseen variation or contingency in the fishery, and the transfers are consistent with the objectives of the FMP and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The revised summer flounder commercial quotas for calendar year 2015 are: Massachusetts, 760,795 lb (345,091 kg); and North Carolina, 2,994,691 lb (1,358,368 kg).

    Classification

    This action is taken under 50 CFR part 648 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

    Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: March 2, 2015. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05118 Filed 3-2-15; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 140918791-4999-02] RIN 0648-XD800 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Cod by Vessels Using Jig Gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska AGENCY:

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Temporary rule; closure.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod by vessels using jig gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the A season allowance of the 2015 Pacific cod total allowable catch apportioned to vessels using jig gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA.

    DATES:

    Effective 1200 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), March 2, 2015, through 1200 hours, A.l.t., June 10, 2015.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Obren Davis, 907-586-7228.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the GOA exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP) prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679. Regulations governing sideboard protections for GOA groundfish fisheries appear at subpart B of 50 CFR part 680.

    The A season allowance of the 2015 Pacific cod total allowable catch (TAC) apportioned to vessels using jig gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA is 276 metric tons (mt), as established by the final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications for groundfish of the GOA (80 FR 10250, February 25, 2015).

    In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(i), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator) has determined that the A season allowance of the 2015 Pacific cod TAC apportioned to vessels using jig gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA will soon be reached. Therefore, the Regional Administrator is establishing a directed fishing allowance of 271 mt and is setting aside the remaining 5 mt as bycatch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries. In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), the Regional Administrator finds that this directed fishing allowance has been reached. Consequently, NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod by vessels using jig gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA. After the effective date of this closure the maximum retainable amounts at § 679.20(e) and (f) apply at any time during a trip.

    Classification

    This action responds to the best available information recently obtained from the fishery. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA (AA), finds good cause to waive the requirement to provide prior notice and opportunity for public comment pursuant to the authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) as such requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest. This requirement is impracticable and contrary to the public interest as it would prevent NMFS from responding to the most recent fisheries data in a timely fashion and would delay the directed fishing closure of Pacific cod for vessels using jig gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA. NMFS was unable to publish a notice providing time for public comment because the most recent, relevant data only became available as of February 27, 2015.

    The AA also finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in the effective date of this action under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). This finding is based upon the reasons provided above for waiver of prior notice and opportunity for public comment.

    This action is required by § 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

    Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: March 2, 2015. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05063 Filed 3-2-15; 04:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 141021887-5172-02] RIN 0648-XD587 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; 2015 and 2016 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish AGENCY:

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Final rule; closures.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS announces final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications and prohibited species catch allowances for the groundfish fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to establish harvest limits for groundfish during the 2015 and 2016 fishing years, and to accomplish the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the BSAI (FMP). The intended effect of this action is to conserve and manage the groundfish resources in the BSAI in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act).

    DATES:

    Effective from 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), March 5, 2015, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Electronic copies of the Alaska Groundfish Harvest Specifications Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Record of Decision (ROD), Supplementary Information Report (SIR) to the EIS, and the Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) prepared for this action are available from http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov. The final 2014 Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report for the groundfish resources of the BSAI, dated November 2014, as well as the SAFE reports for previous years, are available from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) at 605 West 4th Avenue, Suite 306, Anchorage, AK, 99510-2252, (phone) 907-271-2809, or from the Council's Web site at http://www.npfmc.org/.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Steve Whitney, 907-586-7228.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Federal regulations at 50 CFR part 679 implement the FMP and govern the groundfish fisheries in the BSAI. The Council prepared the FMP, and NMFS approved it under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. General regulations governing U.S. fisheries also appear at 50 CFR part 600.

    The FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS, after consultation with the Council, to specify the total allowable catch (TAC) for each target species category. The sum TAC for all groundfish species must be within the optimum yield (OY) range of 1.4 million to 2.0 million metric tons (mt) (see § 679.20(a)(1)(i)). This final rule specifies the TAC at 2.0 million mt for both 2015 and 2016. NMFS also must specify apportionments of TAC, prohibited species catch (PSC) allowances, and prohibited species quota (PSQ) reserves established by § 679.21; seasonal allowances of pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel TAC; Amendment 80 allocations; and Community Development Quota (CDQ) reserve amounts established by § 679.20(b)(1)(ii). The final harvest specifications set forth in Tables 1 through 22 of this action satisfy these requirements.

    Section 679.20(c)(3)(i) further requires NMFS to consider public comment on the proposed annual TACs (and apportionments thereof) and PSC allowances, and to publish final harvest specifications in the Federal Register. The proposed 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications and PSC allowances for the groundfish fishery of the BSAI were published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2014 (79 FR 72571). Comments were invited and accepted through January 7, 2015. NMFS received five letters with 13 comments on the proposed harvest specifications. These comments are summarized and responded to in the “Response to Comments” section of this rule. NMFS consulted with the Council on the final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications during the December 2014 Council meeting in Anchorage, AK. After considering public comments, as well as biological and economic data that were available at the Council's December meeting, NMFS is implementing the final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications as recommended by the Council.

    Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) and TAC Harvest Specifications

    The final ABC levels for Alaska groundfish are based on the best available biological and socioeconomic information, including projected biomass trends, information on assumed distribution of stock biomass, and revised technical methods used to calculate stock biomass. In general, the development of ABCs and overfishing levels (OFLs) involves sophisticated statistical analyses of fish populations. The FMP specifies a series of six tiers to define OFL and ABC amounts based on the level of reliable information available to fishery scientists. Tier 1 represents the highest level of information quality available while Tier 6 represents the lowest.

    In December 2014, the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), Advisory Panel (AP), and Council reviewed current biological and harvest information about the condition of the BSAI groundfish stocks. The Council's Plan Team compiled and presented this information in the final 2014 SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish fisheries, dated November 2014 (see ADDRESSES). The SAFE report contains a review of the latest scientific analyses and estimates of each species' biomass and other biological parameters, as well as summaries of the available information on the BSAI ecosystem and the economic condition of groundfish fisheries off Alaska. NMFS notified the public and asked for review of the SAFE report in the notice of proposed harvest specifications. From these data and analyses, the Plan Team recommended an OFL and ABC for each species or species category at the November 2014 Plan Team meeting.

    In December 2014, the SSC, AP, and Council reviewed the Plan Team's recommendations. The final TAC recommendations were based on the ABCs as adjusted for other biological and socioeconomic considerations, including maintaining the sum of the TACs within the required OY range of 1.4 million to 2.0 million mt. As required by annual catch limit rules for all fisheries (74 FR 3178, January 16, 2009), none of the Council's recommended TACs for 2015 or 2016 exceeds the final 2015 or 2016 ABCs for any species category. The Secretary of Commerce approves the final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications as recommended by the Council. NMFS finds that the Council's recommended OFLs, ABCs, and TACs are consistent with the preferred harvest strategy and the biological condition of groundfish stocks as described in the 2014 SAFE report that was approved by the Council.

    Other Actions Potentially Affecting the 2015 and 2016 Harvest Specifications

    A final rule implementing Steller sea lion protection measures in the BSAI became effective on December 26, 2014 (79 FR 70286, November 25, 2014). These regulations insure that the western distinct population segment of Steller sea lions' continued existence is not jeopardized or its critical habitat is not destroyed or adversely modified. These regulations alter areas open for directed fishing in the Aleutian Islands subarea of the BSAI. They also alter the harvest limitation in these harvest specifications for pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod primarily in the Aleutian Islands subarea of the BSAI. The proposed harvest specifications notified the public of possible changes to the harvest specification limits. Changes to the pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod harvest specifications that are required by the rule implementing the protection measures are described in the section for each of these target species.

    For 2015, the Board of Fisheries (BOF) for the State of Alaska (State) established a Pacific cod guideline harvest level (GHL) in State waters between 164 and 167 degrees west longitude in the Bering Sea (BS) subarea. The Pacific cod GHL in this area is equal to 3 percent of the sum of the Pacific cod ABCs for the Aleutian Islands (AI) and the BS. To account for the State GHL fishery in 2015 and 2016, the Council reduced the final BS subarea TAC by 3 percent of the combined BS and AI subarea ABCs. The combined BS subarea TAC and GHL (248,178 mt) are less than the final BS subarea ABC.

    For 2015, the BOF for the State established a Pacific cod GHL in State waters in the AI subarea. The Pacific cod GHL in this area is equal to 3 percent of the sum of the Pacific cod ABCs for the AI and the BS. To account for the State GHL fishery in 2015 and 2016, the Council reduced the final AI subarea TAC by 3 percent of the combined BS and AI subarea ABCs. The combined AI TAC and GHL (17,600 mt) equal the final AI subarea ABC.

    Changes From the Proposed 2015 and 2016 Harvest Specifications for the BSAI

    In October 2014, the Council proposed its recommendations for the 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications (which were proposed by NMFS, 79 FR 72571, December 8, 2014), based largely on information contained in the 2013 SAFE report for the BSAI groundfish fisheries. Through the proposed harvest specifications, NMFS notified the public that these harvest specifications could change, as the Council would consider information contained in the final 2014 SAFE report, recommendations from the Plan Team, SSC, and AP committees, and public testimony when making its recommendations for final harvest specifications at the December Council meeting. NMFS further notified the public that, as required by the FMP and its implementing regulations, the sum of the TACs must be within the OY range of 1.4 million and 2.0 million mt.

    Information contained in the 2014 SAFE reports indicates biomass changes for several groundfish species from the 2013 SAFE reports. At the December 2014 Council meeting, the SSC recommended the 2015 and 2016 ABCs for many species based on the best and most recent information contained in the 2014 SAFE reports. This recommendation resulted in an ABC sum total for all BSAI groundfish species in excess of 2 million mt for both 2015 and 2016. Based on the SSC ABC recommendations and the 2014 SAFE reports, the Council recommends increasing Bering Sea pollock by 52,000 mt. In terms of percentage, the largest increases in TACs were for Central Aleutian district (CAI) Atka mackerel and Western Aleutian district (WAI) Atka mackerel, octopuses, and Aleutian Island Pacific cod. The Atka mackerel fisheries are valuable and likely to be harvested to the full TAC available. The Council increased these TACs due to changes in Steller sea lion conservation measures. The octopuses increase was due to anticipated higher catches in 2015 and 2016, and the increase in Aleutian Islands Pacific cod was due to larger biomass estimates. Conversely, the largest decrease in TAC in terms of tonnage is 38,000 mt for yellowfin sole and 15,750 for rock sole. In terms of percentage change from the proposed TACs, Aleutian Island Greenland turbot and shortraker rockfish had the largest decreases in TAC. The Council decreased TACs for these species because they were not fully harvested in 2014. The changes to TAC between the proposed and final harvest specifications are based on the most recent scientific and economic information and are consistent with the FMP, regulatory obligations, and harvest strategy as described in the proposed harvest specifications. These changes are compared in Table 1A. Table 1 lists the Council's recommended final 2015 OFL, ABC, TAC, initial TAC (ITAC), and CDQ reserve amounts of the BSAI groundfish; and Table 2 lists the Council's recommended final 2016 OFL, ABC, TAC, initial TAC, and CDQ reserve amounts of the BSAI groundfish. NMFS concurs in these recommendations. The final 2015 and 2016 TAC recommendations for the BSAI are within the OY range established for the BSAI and do not exceed the ABC for any species or species group. The apportionment of TAC amounts among fisheries and seasons is discussed below.

    Table 1—Final 2015 Overfishing Level (OFL), Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), Total Allowable Catch (TAC), Initial Tac (ITAC), and CDQ Reserve Allocation of Groundfish in the BSAI 1 [Amounts are in metric tons] Species Area 2015 OFL ABC TAC ITAC 2 CDQ 3 Pollock 4 BS 3,330,000 1,637,000 1,310,000 1,179,000 131,000 AI 36,005 29,659 19,000 17,100 1,900 Bogoslof 21,200 15,900 100 100 0 Pacific cod 5 BS 346,000 255,000 240,000 214,320 25,680 AI 23,400 17,600 9,422 8,414 1,008 Sablefish BS 1,575 1,333 1,333 567 183 AI 2,128 1,802 1,802 383 304 Yellowfin sole BSAI 266,400 248,800 149,000 133,057 15,943 Greenland turbot BSAI 3,903 3,172 2,648 2,251 n/a BS n/a 2,448 2,448 2,081 262 AI n/a 724 200 170 0 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI 93,856 80,547 22,000 18,700 2,354 Kamchatka flounder BSAI 10,500 9,000 6,500 5,525 0 Rock sole BSAI 187,600 181,700 69,250 61,840 7,410 Flathead sole 6 BSAI 79,419 66,130 24,250 21,655 2,595 Alaska plaice BSAI 54,000 44,900 18,500 15,725 0 Other flatfish 7 BSAI 17,700 13,250 3,620 3,077 0 Pacific ocean perch BSAI 42,558 34,988 32,021 28,250 n/a BS n/a 8,771 8,021 6,818 0 EAI n/a 8,312 8,000 7,144 856 CAI n/a 7,723 7,000 6,251 749 WAI n/a 10,182 9,000 8,037 963 Northern rockfish BSAI 15,337 12,488 3,250 2,763 0 Rougheye rockfish 8 BSAI 560 453 349 297 0 BS/EAI n/a 149 149 127 0 CAI/WAI n/a 304 200 170 0 Shortraker rockfish BSAI 690 518 250 213 0 Other rockfish 9 BSAI 1,667 1,250 880 748 0 BS n/a 695 325 276 0 AI n/a 555 555 472 0 Atka mackerel BSAI 125,297 106,000 54,500 48,669 5,832 BS/EAI n/a 38,492 27,000 24,111 2,889 CAI n/a 33,108 17,000 15,181 1,819 WAI n/a 34,400 10,500 9,377 1,124 Skates BSAI 49,575 41,658 25,700 21,845 0 Sculpins BSAI 52,365 39,725 4,700 3,995 0 Sharks BSAI 1,363 1,022 125 106 0 Squids BSAI 2,624 1,970 400 340 0 Octopuses BSAI 3,452 2,589 400 340 0 Total 4,769,174 2,848,454 2,000,000 1,789,278 197,038 1 These amounts apply to the entire BSAI management area unless otherwise specified. With the exception of pollock, and for the purpose of these harvest specifications, the Bering Sea (BS) subarea includes the Bogoslof District. 2 Except for pollock, the portion of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line and pot gear, and Amendment 80 species, 15 percent of each TAC is put into a reserve. The ITAC for these species is the remainder of the TAC after the subtraction of these reserves. For pollock and Amendment 80 species, ITAC is the non-CDQ allocation of TAC (see footnotes 3 and 5). 3 For the Amendment 80 species (Atka mackerel, flathead sole, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Pacific cod, and Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch), 10.7 percent of the TAC is reserved for use by CDQ participants (see §§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31). Twenty percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line gear or pot gear, 7.5 percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to trawl gear, and 10.7 percent of the TACs for Bering Sea Greenland turbot and arrowtooth flounder are reserved for use by CDQ participants (see § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) and (D)). Aleutian Islands Greenland turbot, “other flatfish,” Alaska plaice, Bering Sea Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses are not allocated to the CDQ program. 4 Under § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(1), the annual BS subarea pollock TAC after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (4.0 percent), is further allocated by sector for a pollock directed fishery as follows: inshore—50 percent; catcher/processor—40 percent; and motherships—10 percent. Under § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and (ii), the annual Aleutian Islands subarea pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (2,400 mt) is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery. 5 The BS Pacific cod TAC is reduced by 3 percent from the combined BSAI ABC to account for the State of Alaska's (State) guideline harvest level in State waters of the Bering Sea subarea. The AI Pacific cod TAC is reduced by 3 percent from the combined BSAI ABC to account for the State guideline harvest level in State waters of the Aleutian Islands subarea. 6 “Flathead sole” includes Hippoglossoides elassodon (flathead sole) and Hippoglossoides robustus (Bering flounder). 7 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, and Alaska plaice. 8 “Rougheye rockfish” includes Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus (blackspotted). 9 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, dark rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and rougheye rockfish.Note: Regulatory areas and districts are defined at § 679.2 (BS=Bering Sea subarea, AI=Aleutian Islands subarea, EAI=Eastern Aleutian district, CAI=Central Aleutian district, WAI=Western Aleutian district.) Table 1A—Comparison of Final 2015 and 2016 With Proposed 2015 and 2016 Total Allowable Catch in the BSAI [Amounts are in metric tons] Species Area 1 2015 Final TAC 2015
  • Proposed TAC
  • 2015
  • Difference
  • from proposed
  • 2016 Final TAC 2016
  • Proposed TAC
  • 2016
  • Difference
  • from proposed
  • Pollock BS 1,310,000 1,258,000 52,000 1,310,000 1,258,000 52,000 AI 19,000 19,000 0 19,000 19,000 0 Bogoslof 100 75 25 100 75 25 Pacific cod BS 240,000 251,712 −11,712 240,000 251,712 −11,712 AI 9,422 6,487 2,935 9,422 6,487 2,935 Sablefish BS 1,333 1,210 123 1,211 1,210 1 AI 1,802 1,636 166 1,637 1,636 1 Yellowfin sole BSAI 149,000 187,000 −38,000 149,000 187,000 −38,000 Greenland turbot BS 2,448 2,478 −30 2,448 2,478 −30 AI 200 695 −495 200 695 −495 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI 22,000 25,000 −3,000 22,000 25,000 −3,000 Kamchatka flounder BSAI 6,500 7,300 −800 6,500 7,300 −800 Rock sole BSAI 69,250 85,000 −15,750 69,250 85,000 −15,750 Flathead sole BSAI 24,250 25,129 −879 24,250 25,129 −879 Alaska plaice BSAI 18,500 25,000 −6,500 18,500 25,000 −6,500 Other flatfish BSAI 3,620 3,000 620 3,620 3,000 620 Pacific ocean perch BS 8,021 7,340 681 8,021 7,340 681 EAI 8,000 8,833 −833 7,970 8,833 −863 CAI 7,000 6,299 701 7,000 6,299 701 WAI 9,000 9,169 −169 9,000 9,169 −169 Northern rockfish BSAI 3,250 3,000 250 3,250 3,000 250 Rougheye rockfish BS/EAI 149 201 −52 149 201 −52 CAI/WAI 200 277 −77 200 277 −77 Shortraker rockfish BSAI 250 370 −120 250 370 −120 Other rockfish BS 325 400 −75 325 400 −75 AI 555 473 82 555 473 82 Atka mackerel EAI/BS 27,000 21,769 5,231 27,317 21,769 5,548 CAI 17,000 9,722 7,278 17,000 9,722 7,278 WAI 10,500 1,000 9,500 10,500 1,000 9,500 Skates BSAI 25,700 26,000 −300 25,700 26,000 −300 Sculpins BSAI 4,700 5,750 −1,050 4,700 5,750 −1,050 Sharks BSAI 125 125 0 125 125 0 Squid BSAI 400 325 75 400 325 75 Octopuses BSAI 400 225 175 400 225 175 Total BSAI 2,000,000 2,000,000 0 2,000,000 2,000,000 0 1 Bering Sea subarea (BS), Aleutian Islands subarea (AI), Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI), Eastern Aleutian District (EAI), Central Aleutian District (CAI), and Western Aleutian District (WAI).
    Table 2—Final 2016 Overfishing Level (OFL), Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC), Total Allowable Catch (TAC), Initial Tac (ITAC), and CDQ Reserve Allocation of Groundfish in the BSAI 1 [Amounts are in metric tons] Species Area 2016 OFL ABC TAC ITAC 2 CDQ 3 Pollock 4 BS 3,490,000 1,554,000 1,310,000 1,179,000 131,000 AI 38,699 31,900 19,000 17,100 1,900 Bogoslof 21,200 15,900 100 100 0 Pacific cod 5 BS 389,000 255,000 240,000 214,320 25,680 AI 23,400 17,600 9,422 8,414 1,008 Sablefish BS 1,431 1,211 1,211 515 45 AI 1,934 1,637 1,637 348 31 Yellowfin sole BSAI 262,900 245,500 149,000 133,057 15,943 BSAI 6,453 5,248 2,648 2,251 n/a Greenland turbot BS n/a 4,050 2,448 2,081 262 AI n/a 1,198 200 170 0 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI 91,663 78,661 22,000 18,700 2,354 Kamchatka flounder BSAI 11,000 9,500 6,500 5,525 0 Rock sole BSAI 170,100 164,800 69,250 61,840 7,410 Flathead sole 6 BSAI 76,504 63,711 24,250 21,655 2,595 Alaska plaice BSAI 51,600 42,900 18,500 15,725 0 Other flatfish 7 BSAI 17,700 13,250 3,620 3,077 0 BSAI 40,809 33,550 31,991 28,223 n/a BS n/a 8,411 8,021 6,818 0 Pacific ocean perch EAI n/a 7,970 7,970 7,117 853 CAI n/a 7,406 7,000 6,251 749 WAI n/a 9,763 9,000 8,037 963 Northern rockfish BSAI 15,100 12,295 3,250 2,763 0 BSAI 688 555 349 297 0 Rougheye rockfish 8 EBS/EAI n/a 178 149 127 0 CAI/WAI n/a 377 200 170 0 Shortraker rockfish BSAI 690 518 250 213 0 BSAI 1,667 1,250 880 748 0 Other rockfish 9 BS n/a 695 325 276 0 AI n/a 555 555 472 0 BSAI 115,908 98,137 54,817 48,952 5,865 Atka mackerel EAI/BS n/a 35,637 27,317 24,394 2,923 CAI n/a 30,652 17,000 15,181 1,819 WAI n/a 31,848 10,500 9,377 1,124 Skates BSAI 47,035 39,468 25,700 21,845 0 Sculpins BSAI 52,365 39,725 4,700 3,995 0 Sharks BSAI 1,363 1,022 125 106 0 Squids BSAI 2,624 1,970 400 340 0 Octopuses BSAI 3,452 2,589 400 340 0 Total 4,935,285 2,731,897 2,000,000 1,789,447 196,658 1 These amounts apply to the entire BSAI management area unless otherwise specified. With the exception of pollock, and for the purpose of these harvest specifications, the Bering Sea (BS) subarea includes the Bogoslof District. 2 Except for pollock, the portion of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line and pot gear, and Amendment 80 species, 15 percent of each TAC is put into a reserve. The ITAC for these species is the remainder of the TAC after the subtraction of these reserves. For pollock and Amendment 80 species, ITAC is the non-CDQ allocation of TAC (see footnotes 3 and 5). 3 For the Amendment 80 species (Atka mackerel, flathead sole, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Pacific cod, and Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch), 10.7 percent of the TAC is reserved for use by CDQ participants (see §§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31). Twenty percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to hook-and-line gear or pot gear, 7.5 percent of the sablefish TAC allocated to trawl gear, and 10.7 percent of the TACs for Bering Sea Greenland turbot and arrowtooth flounder are reserved for use by CDQ participants (see § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) and (D)). Aleutian Islands Greenland turbot, “other flatfish,” Alaska plaice, Bering Sea Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses are not allocated to the CDQ program. 4 Under § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(1), the annual BS subarea pollock TAC after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (4.0 percent), is further allocated by sector for a pollock directed fishery as follows: Inshore—50 percent; catcher/processor—40 percent; and motherships—10 percent. Under § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and (ii), the annual Aleutian Islands subarea pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second for the incidental catch allowance (2,400 mt) is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery. 5 The BS Pacific cod TAC is reduced by 3 percent from the combined BSAI ABC to account for the State of Alaska's (State) guideline harvest level in State waters of the Bering Sea subarea. The AI Pacific cod TAC is reduced by 3 percent from the combined BSAI ABC to account for the State guideline harvest level in State waters of the Aleutian Islands subarea. 6 “Flathead sole” includes Hippoglossoides elassodon (flathead sole) and Hippoglossoides robustus (Bering flounder). 7 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder, and Alaska plaice. 8 “Rougheye rockfish” includes Sebastes aleutianus (rougheye) and Sebastes melanostictus (blackspotted). 9 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, dark rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and rougheye rockfish. Note: Regulatory areas and districts are defined at § 679.2 (BS=Bering Sea subarea, AI=Aleutian Islands subarea, EAI=Eastern Aleutian district, CAI=Central Aleutian district, WAI=Western Aleutian district.) Groundfish Reserves and the Incidental Catch Allowance (ICA) for Pollock, Atka Mackerel, Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, Yellowfin Sole, and Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean Perch

    Section 679.20(b)(1)(i) requires NMFS to reserve 15 percent of the TAC for each target species, except for pollock, hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish, and Amendment 80 species, in a non-specified reserve. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) requires that NMFS allocate 20 percent of the hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish for the fixed-gear sablefish CDQ reserve. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(D) requires that NMFS allocate 7.5 percent of the trawl gear allocations of sablefish and 10.7 percent of the Bering Sea Greenland turbot and arrowtooth flounder TACs to the respective CDQ reserves. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) requires that NMFS allocate 10.7 percent of the TAC for Atka mackerel, Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, yellowfin sole, rock sole, flathead sole, and Pacific cod to the CDQ reserves. Sections 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) and 679.31(a) also require that 10 percent of the BSAI pollock TACs be allocated to the pollock CDQ directed fishing allowance (DFA). The entire Bogoslof District pollock TAC is allocated as an ICA (see § 679.20(a)(5)(ii)). With the exception of the hook-and-line and pot gear sablefish CDQ reserve, the regulations do not further apportion the CDQ allocations by gear.

    Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(1), NMFS allocates a pollock ICA of 4.0 percent of the BS subarea pollock TAC after subtracting the 10 percent CDQ reserve. This allowance is based on NMFS' examination of the pollock incidental catch, including the incidental catch by CDQ vessels, in target fisheries other than pollock from 2000 through 2014. During this 15-year period, the pollock incidental catch ranged from a low of 2.4 percent in 2006 to a high of 4.8 percent in 2014, with a 15-year average of 3.2 percent. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and (ii), NMFS establishes a pollock ICA of 2,400 mt of the AI subarea TAC after subtracting the 10-percent CDQ DFA. This allowance is based on NMFS' examination of the pollock incidental catch, including the incidental catch by CDQ vessels, in target fisheries other than pollock from 2003 through 2014. During this 12-year period, the incidental catch of pollock ranged from a low of 5 percent in 2006 to a high of 17 percent in 2014, with an 11-year average of 8 percent.

    Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8) and (10), NMFS allocates ICAs of 5,000 mt of flathead sole, 8,000 mt of rock sole, 5,000 mt of yellowfin sole, 10 mt of WAI Pacific ocean perch, 75 mt of CAI Pacific ocean perch, 100 mt of EAI Pacific ocean perch, 40 mt of WAI Atka mackerel, 75 mt of CAI Atka mackerel, and 1,000 mt of EAI and BS subarea Atka mackerel TAC after subtracting the 10.7 percent CDQ reserve. These ICA allowances are based on NMFS' examination of the incidental catch in other target fisheries from 2003 through 2014.

    The regulations do not designate the remainder of the non-specified reserve by species or species group. Any amount of the reserve may be apportioned to a target species category that contributed to the non-specified reserves during the year, provided that such apportionments do not result in overfishing (see § 679.20(b)(1)(i)). The Regional Administrator has determined that the ITACs specified for the species listed in Table 1 need to be supplemented from the non-specified reserve because U.S. fishing vessels have demonstrated the capacity to catch the full TAC allocations. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(b)(3), NMFS is apportioning the amounts shown in Table 3 from the non-specified reserve to increase the ITAC for shortraker rockfish, rougheye rockfish, “other rockfish,” sharks, and octopuses by 15 percent of the TAC in 2015 and 2016.

    Table 3—Final 2015 and 2016 Apportionment of Reserves to ITAC Categories [Amounts are in metric tons] Species-area or subarea 2015 ITAC 2015 reserve amount 2015 final ITAC 2016 ITAC 2016 reserve amount 2016 final ITAC Shortraker rockfish-BSAI 213 37 250 213 37 250 Rougheye rockfish-BS/EAI 127 22 149 127 22 149 Rougheye rockfish-CAI/WAI 170 30 200 170 30 200 Other rockfish-Bering Sea subarea 276 49 325 276 49 325 Other rockfish-Aleutian Islands subarea 472 83 555 472 83 555 Sharks 106 19 125 106 19 125 Octopuses 340 60 400 340 60 400 Total 1,704 300 2,004 1,704 300 2,004 Allocation of Pollock TAC Under the American Fisheries Act (AFA)

    Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A) requires that the BS subarea pollock TAC be apportioned, after subtracting 10 percent for the CDQ program and 4.0 percent for the ICA, as a DFA as follows: 50 percent to the inshore sector, 40 percent to the catcher/processor (C/P) sector, and 10 percent to the mothership sector. In the BS subarea, 40 percent of the DFA is allocated to the A season (January 20-June 10), and 60 percent of the DFA is allocated to the B season (June 10-November 1) (§ 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)). The AI-directed pollock fishery allocation to the Aleut Corporation is the amount of pollock remaining in the AI subarea after subtracting 1,900 mt for the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and 2,400 mt for the ICA (§ 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(ii)). In the AI subarea, the total A season apportionment of the TAC is less than or equal to 40 percent of the ABC and the remainder of the TAC is allocated to the B season. Tables 4 and 5 list these 2015 and 2016 amounts.

    The Steller sea lion protection measure final rule (79 FR 70286, November 25, 2014), sets harvest limits for pollock in the A season (January 20 to June 10) in Areas 543, 542, and 541, see § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(6). In Area 543, the A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 5 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC. In Area 542, the A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 15 percent of the Aleutian Islands ABC. In Area 541, the A season pollock harvest limit is no more than 30 percent of the Aleutian Islands ABC.

    Section 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4) also includes several specific requirements regarding BS subarea pollock allocations. First, it requires that 8.5 percent of the pollock allocated to the C/P sector be available for harvest by AFA catcher vessels (CVs) with C/P sector endorsements, unless the Regional Administrator receives a cooperative contract that allows the distribution of harvest among AFA C/Ps and AFA CVs in a manner agreed to by all members. Second, AFA C/Ps not listed in the AFA are limited to harvesting not more than 0.5 percent of the pollock allocated to the C/P sector. Tables 4 and 5 list the 2015 and 2016 allocations of pollock TAC. Tables 21 through 26 list the AFA C/P and CV harvesting sideboard limits. The tables for the pollock allocations to the BS subarea inshore pollock cooperatives and open access sector will be posted on the Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

    Tables 4 and 5 also list seasonal apportionments of pollock and harvest limits within the Steller Sea Lion Conservation Area (SCA). The harvest within the SCA, as defined at § 679.22(a)(7)(vii), is limited to no more than 28 percent of the annual DFA before 12:00 noon, April 1, as provided in § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(C). The A season pollock SCA harvest limit will be apportioned to each sector in proportion to each sector's allocated percentage of the DFA. Tables 4 and 5 list these 2015 and 2016 amounts by sector.

    Table 4—Final 2015 Allocations of Pollock TACS to the Directed Pollock Fisheries and to the CDQ Directed Fishing Allowances (DFA) 1 [Amounts are in metric tons] Area and sector 2015
  • Allocations
  • 2015
  • A season 1
  • A season DFA SCA harvest limit 2 2015
  • B season 1
  • B season DFA
    Bering Sea subarea TAC 1 1,310,000 n/a n/a n/a CDQ DFA 131,000 52,400 36,680 78,600 ICA 1 47,160 n/a n/a n/a AFA Inshore 565,920 226,368 158,458 339,552 AFA Catcher/Processors 3 452,736 181,094 126,766 271,642 Catch by C/Ps 414,253 165,701 n/a 248,552 Catch by CVs 3 38,483 15,393 n/a 23,090 Unlisted C/P Limit 4 2,264 905 n/a 1,358 AFA Motherships 113,184 45,274 31,692 67,910 Excessive Harvesting Limit 5 198,072 n/a n/a n/a Excessive Processing Limit 6 339,552 n/a n/a n/a Total Bering Sea DFA 1,131,840 452,736 316,915 679,104 Aleutian Islands subarea ABC 29,659 n/a n/a n/a Aleutian Islands subarea TAC 1 19,000 n/a n/a n/a CDQ DFA 1,900 760 n/a 1,140 ICA 2,400 1,200 n/a 1,200 Aleut Corporation 14,700 9,904 n/a 4,796 Area harvest limit: 541 8,898 n/a n/a n/a 542 4,449 n/a n/a n/a 543 1,483 n/a n/a n/a Bogoslof District ICA 7 100 n/a n/a n/a 1 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), the BS subarea pollock, after subtracting the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and the ICA (4.0 percent), is allocated as a DFA as follows: Inshore sector—50 percent, catcher/processor sector (C/P)—40 percent, and mothership sector—10 percent. In the BS subarea, 40 percent of the DFA is allocated to the A season (January 20-June 10) and 60 percent of the DFA is allocated to the B season (June 10-November 1). Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and (ii), the annual AI pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second the ICA (2,400 mt), is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery. In the AI subarea, the A season is allocated 40 percent of the ABC and the B season is allocated the remainder of the pollock directed fishery. 2 In the BS subarea, no more than 28 percent of each sector's annual DFA may be taken from the SCA before April 1. 3 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4), not less than 8.5 percent of the DFA allocated to listed catcher/processors shall be available for harvest only by eligible catcher vessels delivering to listed catcher/processors. 4 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4)(iii), the AFA unlisted catcher/processors are limited to harvesting not more than 0.5 percent of the catcher/processors sector's allocation of pollock. 5 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(6), NMFS establishes an excessive harvesting share limit equal to 17.5 percent of the sum of the non-CDQ pollock DFAs. 6 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(7), NMFS establishes an excessive processing share limit equal to 30.0 percent of the sum of the non-CDQ pollock DFAs. 7 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(6), NMFS establishes harvest limits for pollock in the A season in Area 541 no more than 30 percent, in Area 542 no more than 15 percent, and in Area 543 no more than 5 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC. 8 The Bogoslof District is closed by the final harvest specifications to directed fishing for pollock. The amounts specified are for ICA only and are not apportioned by season or sector. Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Table 5—Final 2016 Allocations of Pollock TACS to the Directed Pollock Fisheries and to the CDQ Directed Fishing Allowances (DFA) 1 [Amounts are in metric tons] Area and sector 2016
  • Allocations
  • 2016
  • A season 1
  • A season DFA SCA harvest limit 2 2016
  • B season 1
  • B season DFA
    Bering Sea subarea TAC 1 1,310,000 n/a n/a n/a CDQ DFA 131,000 52,400 36,680 78,600 ICA 1 47,160 n/a n/a n/a AFA Inshore 565,920 226,368 158,458 339,552 AFA Catcher/Processors 3 452,736 181,094 126,766 271,642 Catch by C/Ps 414,253 165,701 n/a 248,552 Catch by CVs 3 38,483 15,393 n/a 23,090 Unlisted C/P Limit 4 2,264 905 n/a 1,358 AFA Motherships 113,184 45,274 31,692 67,910 Excessive Harvesting Limit 5 198,072 n/a n/a n/a Excessive Processing Limit 6 339,552 n/a n/a n/a Total Bering Sea DFA 1,131,840 452,736 316,915 679,104 Aleutian Islands subarea ABC 31,900 n/a n/a n/a Aleutian Islands subarea TAC 1 19,000 n/a n/a n/a CDQ DFA 1,900 760 n/a 1,140 ICA 2,400 1,200 n/a 1,200 Aleut Corporation 14,700 10,800 n/a 3,900 Area harvest limit: 7 541 9,570 n/a n/a n/a 542 4,785 n/a n/a n/a 543 1,595 n/a n/a n/a Bogoslof District ICA 8 100 n/a n/a n/a 1 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A), the BS subarea pollock, after subtracting the CDQ DFA (10 percent) and the ICA (4.0 percent), is allocated as a DFA as follows: Inshore sector—50 percent, catcher/processor sector (C/P)—40 percent, and mothership sector—10 percent. In the BS subarea, 40 percent of the DFA is allocated to the A season (January 20-June 10) and 60 percent of the DFA is allocated to the B season (June 10-November 1). Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(2)(i) and (ii), the annual AI pollock TAC, after subtracting first for the CDQ directed fishing allowance (10 percent) and second the ICA (2,400 mt), is allocated to the Aleut Corporation for a pollock directed fishery. In the AI subarea, the A season is allocated 40 percent of the ABC and the B season is allocated the remainder of the pollock directed fishery. 2 In the BS subarea, no more than 28 percent of each sector's annual DFA may be taken from the SCA before April 1. 4 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(4)(iii), the AFA unlisted catcher/processors are limited to harvesting not more than 0.5 percent of the catcher/processors sector's allocation of pollock. 5 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(6), NMFS establishes an excessive harvesting share limit equal to 17.5 percent of the sum of the non-CDQ pollock DFAs. 6 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(i)(A)(7), NMFS establishes an excessive processing share limit equal to 30.0 percent of the sum of the non-CDQ pollock DFAs. 7 Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(5)(iii)(B)(6), NMFS establishes harvest limits for pollock in the A season in Area 541 no more than 30 percent, in Area 542 no more than 15 percent, and in Area 543 no more than 5 percent of the Aleutian Islands pollock ABC. 8 The Bogoslof District is closed by the final harvest specifications to directed fishing for pollock. The amounts specified are for ICA only and are not apportioned by season or sector. Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Allocation of the Atka Mackerel TACs

    Section 679.20(a)(8) allocates the Atka mackerel TACs to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors, after subtracting the CDQ reserves, jig gear allocation, and ICAs for the BSAI trawl limited access sector and non-trawl gear sector (Tables 6 and 7). The percentage of the ITAC for Atka mackerel allocated to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors is listed in Table 33 to part 679 and in § 679.91. Pursuant to § 679.20(a)(8)(i), up to 2 percent of the EAI and the BS subarea Atka mackerel ITAC may be allocated to vessels using jig gear. The percent of this allocation is recommended annually by the Council based on several criteria, including the anticipated harvest capacity of the jig gear fleet. The Council recommended, and NMFS approves, a 0.5 percent allocation of the Atka mackerel ITAC in the EAI and BS subarea to the jig gear sector in 2015 and 2016. This percentage is applied to the Atka mackerel TAC after subtracting the CDQ reserve and the ICA.

    Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) apportions the Atka mackerel TAC into two equal seasonal allowances. Section 679.23(e)(3) sets the first seasonal allowance for directed fishing with trawl gear from January 20 through June 10 (A season), and the second seasonal allowance from June 10 through December 31 (B season). Section 679.23(e)(4)(iii) applies Atka mackerel seasons to CDQ Atka mackerel fishing. The ICA and jig gear allocations are not apportioned by season.

    Sections 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(1)(i) and (ii) limits Atka mackerel catch within waters 0 nm to 20 nm of Steller sea lion sites listed in Table 6 to this part and located west of 178° W longitude to no more than 60 percent of the annual TACs in Areas 542 and 543; and equally divides the annual TAC between the A and B seasons as defined at § 679.23(e)(3). Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(2) requires the annual TAC in Area 543 will be no more than 65 percent of the ABC in Area 543. Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(D) requires that any unharvested Atka mackerel A season allowance that is added to the B season be prohibited from being harvested within waters 0 nm to 20 nm of Steller sea lion sites listed in Table 6 to this part and located in Areas 541, 542, and 543.

    Tables 6 and 7 list these 2015 and 2016 Atka mackerel seasons, area allowances, and the sector allocations. The 2016 allocations for Atka mackerel between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2015.

    Table 6—Final 2015 Seasonal and Spatial Allowances, Gear Shares, CDQ Reserve, Incidental Catch Allowance, and Amendment 80 Allocations of the BSAI ATKA Mackerel TAC [Amounts are in metric tons] Sector 1 Season 2 3 4 2015 allocation by area Eastern
  • Aleutian
  • District/
  • Bering Sea
  • Central
  • Aleutian
  • District 5
  • Western
  • Aleutian
  • District
  • TAC n/a 27,000 17,000 10,500 CDQ reserve Total 2,889 1,819 1,124 A 1,445 910 562 Critical Habitat n/a 546 337 B 1,445 910 562 Critical Habitat n/a 546 337 ICA Total 1,000 75 40 Jig 6 Total 116 0 0 BSAI trawl limited access Total 2,300 1,511 0 A 1,150 755 0 Critical Habitat n/a 453 0 B 1,150 755 0 Critical Habitat n/a 453 0 Amendment 80 sectors Total 20,696 13,595 9,337 A 10,348 6,798 4,668 B 10,348 6,798 4,668 Alaska Groundfish Cooperative Total 6 11,616 8,116 5,742 A 5,808 4,058 2,871 Critical Habitat n/a 2,435 1,723 B 5,808 4,058 2,871 Critical Habitat n/a 2,435 1,723 Alaska Seafood Cooperative Total 6 9,080 5,479 3,594 A 4,540 2,740 1,797 Critical Habitat n/a 1,644 1,078 B 4,540 2,740 1,797 Critical Habitat n/a 1,644 1,078 1 Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii) allocates the Atka mackerel TACs, after subtracting the CDQ reserves, jig gear allocation, and ICAs to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors. The allocation of the ITAC for Atka mackerel to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors is established in Table 33 to part 679 and § 679.91. The CDQ reserve is 10.7 percent of the TAC for use by CDQ participants (see §§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31). 2 Regulations at §§ 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) and 679.22(a) establish temporal and spatial limitations for the Atka mackerel fishery. 3 The seasonal allowances of Atka mackerel are 50 percent in the A season and 50 percent in the B season. 4 Section 679.23(e)(3) authorizes directed fishing for Atka mackerel with trawl gear during the A season from January 20 to June 10 and the B season from June 10 to December 31. 5 Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(1)(i) limits no more than 60 percent of the annual TACs in Areas 542 and 543 to be caught inside of critical habitat; (a)(ii)(C)(1)(ii) equally divides the annual TACs between the A and B seasons as defined at § 679.23(e)(3); and (a)(8)(ii)(C)(2) requires the TAC in Area 543 shall be no more than 65 percent of ABC. 6 Section 679.20(a)(8)(i) requires that up to 2 percent of the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea TAC be allocated to jig gear after subtracting the CDQ reserve and ICA. The amount of this allocation is 0.5 percent. The jig gear allocation is not apportioned by season. Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Table 7—Final 2016 Seasonal and Spatial Allowances, Gear Shares, CDQ Reserve, Incidental Catch Allowance, and Amendment 80 Allocation of the BSAI ATKA Mackerel TAC [Amounts are in metric tons] Sector 1 Season 2 3 4 2016 allocation by area Eastern
  • Aleutian District/
  • Bering Sea 5
  • Central
  • Aleutian
  • District 5
  • Western
  • Aleutian
  • District 5
  • TAC n/a 27,317 17,000 10,500 CDQ reserve Total 2,923 1,819 1,124 A 1,461 910 562 Critical Habitat n/a 546 337 B 1,461 910 562 Critical Habitat n/a 546 337 ICA Total 1,000 75 40 Jig 6 Total 117 0 0 BSAI trawl limited access Total 2,328 1,511 0 A 1,164 755 0 Critical Habitat n/a 453 0 B 1,164 755 0 Critical Habitat n/a 453 0 Amendment 80 sectors Total 20,949 13,595 9,337 A 10,475 6,798 4,668 B 10,475 6,798 4,668 1 Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii) allocates the Atka mackerel TACs, after subtracting the CDQ reserves, jig gear allocation, and ICAs to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors. The allocation of the ITAC for Atka mackerel to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors is established in Table 33 to part 679 and § 679.91. The CDQ reserve is 10.7 percent of the TAC for use by CDQ participants (see §§ 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) and 679.31). 2 Regulations at §§ 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(A) and 679.22(a) establish temporal and spatial limitations for the Atka mackerel fishery. 3 The seasonal allowances of Atka mackerel are 50 percent in the A season and 50 percent in the B season. 4 Section 679.23(e)(3) authorizes directed fishing for Atka mackerel with trawl gear during the A season from January 20 to June 10 and the B season from June 10 to December 31. 5 Section 679.20(a)(8)(ii)(C)(1)(i) limits no more than 60 percent of the annual TACs in Areas 542 and 543 to be caught inside of critical habitat; (a)(8)(ii)(C)(1)(ii) equally divides the annual TACs between the A and B seasons as defined at § 679.23(e)(3); and (a)(8)(ii)(C)(2) requires the TAC in Area 543 shall be no more than 65 percent of ABC. 6 Section 679.20(a)(8)(i) requires that up to 2 percent of the Eastern Aleutian District and the Bering Sea subarea TAC be allocated to jig gear after subtracting the CDQ reserve and ICA. The amount of this allocation is 0.5 percent. The jig gear allocation is not apportioned by season. 7 The 2016 allocations for Atka mackerel between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2015. NMFS will post 2016 Amendment 80 allocations when they become available in December 2015. Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Allocation of the Pacific Cod TAC

    The Council separated BS and AI subarea OFLs, ABCs, and TACs for Pacific cod. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C) allocates 10.7 percent of the BS TAC and AI TAC to the CDQ program. After CDQ allocations have been deducted from the respective BS and AI Pacific cod TACs, the remaining BS and AI Pacific cod TACs are combined for calculating further BSAI Pacific cod sector allocations. However, if the non-CDQ Pacific cod TAC is or will be reached in either the BS or AI subareas, NMFS will prohibit non-CDQ directed fishing for Pacific cod in that subarea as provided in § 679.20(d)(1)(iii).

    Sections 679.20(a)(7)(i) and (ii) allocate the Pacific cod TAC in the combined BSAI TAC, after subtracting 10.7 percent for the CDQ program, as follows: 1.4 percent to vessels using jig gear; 2.0 percent to hook-and-line and pot CVs less than 60 ft (18.3 m) length overall (LOA); 0.2 percent to hook-and-line CVs greater than or equal to 60 ft (18.3 m) LOA; 48.7 percent to hook-and-line C/P; 8.4 percent to pot CVs greater than or equal to 60 ft (18.3 m) LOA; 1.5 percent to pot C/Ps; 2.3 percent to AFA trawl C/Ps; 13.4 percent to non-AFA trawl C/Ps; and 22.1 percent to trawl CVs. The ICA for the hook-and-line and pot sectors will be deducted from the aggregate portion of Pacific cod TAC allocated to the hook-and-line and pot sectors. For 2015 and 2016, the Regional Administrator establishes an ICA of 500 mt based on anticipated incidental catch by these sectors in other fisheries.

    The ITAC allocation of Pacific cod to the Amendment 80 sector is established in Table 33 to part 679 and § 679.91. The 2016 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2015.

    The Pacific cod ITAC is apportioned into seasonal allowances to disperse the Pacific cod fisheries over the fishing year (see §§ 679.20(a)(7) and 679.23(e)(5)). In accordance with § 679.20(a)(7)(iv)(B) and (C), any unused portion of a seasonal Pacific cod allowance will become available at the beginning of the next seasonal allowance.

    Section 679.20(a)(7)(vii) requires the Regional Administrator to establish an Area 543 Pacific cod harvest limit based on Pacific cod abundance in Area 543. Based on the 2014 stock assessment, the Regional Administrator determined the Area 543 Pacific cod harvest limit to be 26.3 percent of the AI Pacific cod TAC for 2015 and 2016. NMFS will first subtract the State GHL Pacific cod amount from the AI Pacific cod ABC. Then NMFS will determine the harvest limit in Area 543 by multiplying the percentage of Pacific cod estimated in Area 543 by the remaining ABC for AI Pacific cod. Based on these calculations, the Area 543 harvest limit is 2,478 mt.

    The CDQ and non-CDQ season allowances by gear based on the 2015 and 2016 Pacific cod TACs are listed in Tables 8 and 9, and are based on the sector allocation percentages of Pacific cod set forth at §§ 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B) and 679.20(a)(7)(iv)(A) and the seasonal allowances of Pacific cod set forth at § 679.23(e)(5).

    Table 8—Final 2015 Gear Shares and Seasonal Allowances of the BSAI Pacific Cod TAC [Amounts are in metric tons] Gear sector Percent 2015 Share of gear sector total 2015 Share of sector total 2015 Seasonal apportionment Seasons Amount BS TAC n/a 240,000 n/a n/a n/a BS CDQ n/a 25,680 n/a see § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B) n/a BS non-CDQ TAC n/a 214,320 n/a n/a n/a AI TAC n/a 9,422 n/a n/a n/a AI CDQ n/a 1,008 n/a see § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B) n/a AI non-CDQ TAC n/a 8,414 n/a n/a n/a Western Aleutian Island Limit n/a 2,478 n/a n/a n/a Total BSAI non-CDQ TAC 1 100 222,734 n/a n/a n/a Total hook-and-line/pot gear 60.8 135,422 n/a n/a n/a Hook-and-line/pot ICA 2 n/a 500 n/a see § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(B) n/a Hook-and-line/pot sub-total n/a 134,922 n/a n/a n/a Hook-and-line catcher/processor 48.7 n/a 108,071 Jan 1-Jun 10 55,116 Jun 10-Dec 31 52,955 Hook-and-line catcher vessel ≥ 60 ft LOA 0.2 n/a 444 Jan 1-Jun 10 226 Jun 10-Dec 31 217 Pot catcher/processor 1.5 n/a 3,329 Jan 1-Jun 10 1,698 Sept 1-Dec 31 1,631 Pot catcher vessel ≥ 60 ft LOA 8.4 n/a 18,641 Jan 1-Jun 10 9,507 Sept 1-Dec 31 9,134 Catcher vessel < 60 ft LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear 2 n/a 4,438 n/a n/a Trawl catcher vessel 22.1 49,224 n/a Jan 20-Apr 1 36,426 Apr 1-Jun 10 5,415 Jun 10-Nov 1 7,384 AFA trawl catcher/processor 2.3 5,123 n/a Jan 20-Apr 1 3,842 Apr 1-Jun 10 1,281 Jun 10-Nov 1 0 Amendment 80 13.4 29,846 n/a Jan 20-Apr 1 22,385 Apr 1-Jun 10 7,462 Jun 10-Nov 1 0 Alaska Groundfish Cooperative n/a n/a 4,711 Jan 20-Apr 1 3,533 Apr 1-Jun 10 1,178 Jun 10-Dec 31 0 Alaska Seafood Cooperative n/a n/a 25,135 Jan 20-Apr 1 18,851 Apr 1-Jun 10 6,284 Jun 10-Dec 31 0 Jig 1.4 3,118 n/a Jan 1-Apr 30 1,871 Apr 30-Aug 31 624 Aug 31-Dec 31 624 1 The gear shares and seasonal allowances for BSAI Pacific cod TAC are based on the sum of the BS and AI Pacific cod TACs, after the subtraction of CDQ. If the TAC for Pacific cod in either the AI or BS is reached, then directed fishing for Pacific cod in that subarea may be prohibited, even if a BSAI allowance remains. 2 The ICA for the hook-and-line and pot sectors will be deducted from the aggregate portion of Pacific cod TAC allocated to the hook-and-line and pot sectors. The Regional Administrator approves an ICA of 500 mt for 2015 based on anticipated incidental catch in these fisheries. Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding. Table 9—Final 2016 Gear Shares and Seasonal Allowances of the BSAI Pacific Cod TAC [Amounts are in metric tons] Gear sector Percent 2016 Share of gear sector total 2016 Share of sector total 2016 Seasonal apportionment Seasons Amount BS TAC n/a 240,000 n/a n/a n/a BS CDQ n/a 25,680 n/a see § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B) n/a BS non-CDQ TAC n/a 214,320 n/a n/a n/a AI TAC n/a 9,422 n/a n/a n/a AI CDQ n/a 1,008 n/a see § 679.20(a)(7)(i)(B) n/a AI non-CDQ TAC n/a 8,414 n/a n/a n/a Western Aleutian Island Limit n/a 2,478 n/a n/a n/a Total BSAI non-CDQ TAC 1 n/a 222,734 n/a n/a n/a Total hook-and-line/pot gear 60.8 135,422 n/a n/a n/a Hook-and-line/pot ICA 2 n/a 500 n/a see § 679.20(a)(7)(ii)(B) n/a Hook-and-line/pot sub-total n/a 134,922 n/a n/a n/a Hook-and-line catcher/processor 48.7 n/a 108,071 Jan 1-Jun 10 55,116 Jun 10-Dec 31 52,955 Hook-and-line catcher vessel ≥ 60 ft LOA 0.2 n/a 444 Jan 1-Jun 10 226 Jun 10-Dec 31 217 Pot catcher/processor 1.5 n/a 3,329 Jan 1-Jun 10 1,698 Sept 1-Dec 31 1,631 Pot catcher vessel ≥ 60 ft LOA 8.4 n/a 18,641 Jan 1-Jun 10 9,507 Sept 1-Dec 31 9,134 Catcher vessel < 60 ft LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear 2 n/a 4,438 n/a n/a Trawl catcher vessel 22.1 49,224 n/a Jan 20-Apr 1 36,426 Apr 1-Jun 10 5,415 Jun 10-Nov 1 7,384 AFA trawl catcher/processor 2.3 5,123 n/a Jan 20-Apr 1 3,842 Apr 1-Jun 10 1,281 Jun 10-Nov 1 0 Amendment 80 13.4 29,846 n/a Jan 20-Apr 1 22,385 Apr 1-Jun 10 7,462 Jun 10-Dec 31 0 Jig 1.4 3,118 n/a Jan 1-Apr 30 1,871 Apr 30-Aug 31 624 Aug 31-Dec 31 624 1 The gear shares and seasonal allowances for BSAI Pacific cod TAC are based on the sum of the BS and AI Pacific cod TACs, after the subtraction of CDQ. If the TAC for Pacific cod in either the AI or BS is reached, then directed fishing for Pacific cod in that subarea may be prohibited, even if a BSAI allowance remains. 2 The ICA for the hook-and-line and pot sectors will be deducted from the aggregate portion of Pacific cod TAC allocated to the hook-and-line and pot sectors. The Regional Administrator approves an ICA of 500 mt for 2016 based on anticipated incidental catch in these fisheries. Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding. Sablefish Gear Allocation

    Sections 679.20(a)(4)(iii) and (iv) require allocation of the sablefish TAC for the BS and AI subareas between trawl and hook-and-line or pot gear sectors. Gear allocations of the TAC for the BS subarea are 50 percent for trawl gear and 50 percent for hook-and-line or pot gear. Gear allocations of the TACs for the AI subarea are 25 percent for trawl gear and 75 percent for hook-and-line or pot gear. Section 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(B) requires NMFS to apportion 20 percent of the hook-and-line and pot gear allocation of sablefish to the CDQ reserve. Additionally, § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(D)(1) requires that 7.5 percent of the trawl gear allocation of sablefish from the non-specified reserves, established under § 679.20(b)(1)(i), be assigned to the CDQ reserve. The Council recommended that only trawl sablefish TAC be established biennially. The harvest specifications for the hook-and-line gear and pot gear sablefish Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) fisheries will be limited to the 2015 fishing year to ensure those fisheries are conducted concurrently with the halibut IFQ fishery. Concurrent sablefish and halibut IFQ fisheries will reduce the potential for discards of halibut and sablefish in those fisheries. The sablefish IFQ fisheries will remain closed at the beginning of each fishing year until the final harvest specifications for the sablefish IFQ fisheries are in effect. Table 10 lists the 2015 and 2016 gear allocations of the sablefish TAC and CDQ reserve amounts.

    Table 10—Final 2015 and 2016 Gear Shares and CDQ Reserve of BSAI Sablefish TACS [Amounts are in metric tons] Subarea and gear Percent of TAC 2015 Share of TAC 2015 ITAC 2015 CDQ
  • Reserve
  • 2016 Share of TAC 2016 ITAC 2016 CDQ
  • Reserve
  • Bering Sea: Trawl 1 50 667 567 50 606 515 45 Hook-and-line/pot gear 2 50 667 533 133 n/a n/a Total 100 1,333 1,100 183 606 515 45 Aleutian Islands: Trawl 1 25 451 383 34 410 349 31 Hook-and-line/pot gear 2 75 1,351 1,081 270 n/a n/a n/a Total 100 1,802 1,464 304 410 349 31 1 Except for the sablefish hook-and-line or pot gear allocation, 15 percent of TAC is apportioned to the reserve. The ITAC is the remainder of the TAC after the subtracting these reserves. 2 For the portion of the sablefish TAC allocated to vessels using hook-and-line or pot gear, 20 percent of the allocated TAC is reserved for use by CDQ participants. The Council recommended that specifications for the hook-and-line gear sablefish IFQ fisheries be limited to one year. Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Allocation of the AI Pacific Ocean Perch, and BSAI Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, and Yellowfin Sole TACs

    Sections 679.20(a)(10)(i) and (ii) require that NMFS allocate AI Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole TAC between the Amendment 80 sector and BSAI trawl limited access sector, after subtracting 10.7 percent for the CDQ reserve and an ICA for the BSAI trawl limited access sector and vessels using non-trawl gear. The allocation of the ITAC for AI Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole to the Amendment 80 sector is established in accordance with Tables 33 and 34 to part 679 and § 679.91.

    The 2016 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2015. Tables 11 and 12 list the 2015 and 2016 allocations of the AI Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole TACs.

    Table 11—Final 2015 Community Development Quota (CDQ) Reserves, Incidental Catch Amounts (ICAS), and Amendment 80 Allocations of the Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean Perch, and BSAI Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, and Yellowfin Sole TACS [Amounts are in metric tons] Sector Pacific ocean perch Eastern Aleutian District Central Aleutian District Western Aleutian District Flathead sole BSAI Rock sole BSAI Yellowfin sole BSAI TAC 8,000 7,000 9,000 24,250 69,250 149,000 CDQ 856 749 963 2,595 7,410 15,943 ICA 100 75 10 5,000 8,000 5,000 BSAI trawl limited access 704 618 161 0 0 16,165 Amendment 80 6,340 5,558 7,866 16,655 53,840 111,892 Alaska Groundfish Cooperative 3,362 2,947 4,171 1,708 13,318 44,455 Alaska Seafood Cooperative 2,978 2,611 3,695 14,947 40,522 67,437 Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding. Table 12—Final 2016 Community Development Quota (CDQ) Reserves, Incidental Catch Amounts (ICAS), and Amendment 80 Allocations of the Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean Perch, and BSAI Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, and Yellowfin Sole TACS [Amounts are in metric tons] Sector Pacific ocean perch Eastern Aleutian District Central Aleutian District Western Aleutian District Flathead sole BSAI Rock sole BSAI Yellowfin sole BSAI TAC 7,970 7,000 9,000 24,250 69,250 149,000 CDQ 853 749 963 2,595 7,410 15,943 ICA 100 75 10 5,000 8,000 5,000 BSAI trawl limited access 702 618 161 0 0 16,165 Amendment 80 1 6,315 5,558 7,866 16,655 53,840 111,892 1 The 2016 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2015. NMFS will publish 2016 Amendment 80 allocations when they become available in December 2015. Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.

    Section 679.2 defines the ABC surplus for flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole as the difference between the annual ABC and TAC for each species. Section 679.20(b)(1)(iii) establishes ABC reserves for flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole. The ABC surpluses and the ABC reserves are necessary to mitigate the operational variability, environmental conditions, and economic factors that may constrain the CDQ groups and the Amendment 80 cooperatives from achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield in the BSAI groundfish fisheries. NMFS, after consultation with the Council, may set the ABC reserve at or below the ABC surplus for each species thus maintaining the TAC below ABC limits. An amount equal to 10.7 percent of the ABC reserves will be allocated as CDQ reserves for flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole. The Amendment 80 ABC reserves shall be the ABC reserves minus the CDQ ABC reserves. Section 679.91(i)(2) establishes each Amendment 80 cooperative ABC reserve to be the ratio of each cooperatives' quota share (QS) units and the total Amendment 80 QS units, multiplied by the Amendment 80 ABC reserve for each respective species. Table 13 lists the 2015 and 2016 ABC surplus and ABC reserves for BSAI flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole.

    Table 13—Final 2015 and 2016 ABC Surplus, Community Development Quota (CDQ) ABC Reserves, and Amendment 80 ABC Reserves in the BSAI for Flathead Sole, Rock Sole, and Yellowfin Sole [Amounts are in metric tons] Sector 2015 Flathead sole 2015 Rock sole 2015 Yellowfin sole 2016 Flathead sole 2016 Rock sole 2016 Yellowfin sole ABC 66,130 181,700 248,800 63,711 164,800 245,500 TAC 24,250 69,250 149,000 24,250 69,250 149,000 ABC surplus 41,880 112,450 99,800 39,461 95,550 96,500 ABC reserve 41,880 112,450 99,800 39,461 95,550 96,500 CDQ ABC reserve 4,481 12,032 10,679 4,222 10,224 10,326 Amendment 80 ABC reserve 37,399 100,418 89,121 35,239 85,326 86,175 Alaska Groundfish Cooperative for 2015 1 3,836 24,840 35,408 n/a n/a n/a Alaska Seafood Cooperative for 2015 1 33,563 75,578 53,713 n/a n/a n/a 1 The 2016 allocations for Amendment 80 species between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2015. PSC Limits for Halibut, Salmon, Crab, and Herring

    Section 679.21(e) sets forth the BSAI PSC limits. Pursuant to § 679.21(e)(1)(iv) and (e)(2), the 2015 and 2016 BSAI halibut mortality limits are 3,675 mt for trawl fisheries and 900 mt for the non-trawl fisheries. Sections 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(2) and 679.21(e)(4)(i)(A) allocate 326 mt of the trawl halibut mortality limit and 7.5 percent, or 67 mt, of the non-trawl halibut mortality limit as the PSQ reserve for use by the groundfish CDQ program.

    Section 679.21(e)(4)(i) authorizes apportioning the non-trawl halibut PSC limit into PSC bycatch allowances among six fishery categories. Tables 15 and 16 list the fishery bycatch allowances for the trawl fisheries, and Table 17 lists the fishery bycatch allowances for the non-trawl fisheries.

    Pursuant to Section 3.6 of the FMP, the Council recommends, and NMFS agrees, that certain specified non-trawl fisheries be exempt from the halibut PSC limit. As in past years, after consulting with the Council, NMFS exempts pot gear, jig gear, and the sablefish IFQ hook-and-line gear fishery categories from halibut bycatch restrictions for the following reasons: (1) The pot gear fisheries have low halibut bycatch mortality; (2) NMFS estimates halibut mortality for the jig gear fleet to be negligible because of the small size of the fishery and the selectivity of the gear; and (3) the IFQ program requires legal-size halibut to be retained by vessels using hook-and-line gear if a halibut IFQ permit holder or a hired master is aboard and is holding unused halibut IFQ (subpart D of 50 CFR part 679). In 2014, total groundfish catch for the pot gear fishery in the BSAI was approximately 43,225 mt, with an associated halibut bycatch mortality of about 4 mt.

    The 2014 jig gear fishery harvested about 3 mt of groundfish. Most vessels in the jig gear fleet are exempt from observer coverage requirements. As a result, observer data are not available on halibut bycatch in the jig gear fishery. However, as mentioned above, NMFS estimates the jig gear sector will have a negligible amount of halibut bycatch mortality because of the selective nature of jig gear and the low mortality rate of halibut caught with jig gear and released.

    Section 679.21(f)(2) annually allocates portions of either 47,591 or 60,000 Chinook salmon PSC limits among the AFA sectors, depending on past catch performance and on whether Chinook salmon bycatch incentive plan agreements are formed. If an AFA sector participates in an approved Chinook salmon bycatch incentive plan agreement, then NMFS will allocate a portion of the 60,000 PSC limit to that sector as specified in § 679.21(f)(3)(iii)(A). If no Chinook salmon bycatch incentive plan agreement is approved, or if the sector has exceeded its performance standard under § 679.21(f)(6), then NMFS will allocate a portion of the 47,591 Chinook salmon PSC limit to that sector, as specified in § 679.21(f)(3)(iii)(B). In 2015, the Chinook salmon PSC limit is 60,000 and the AFA sector Chinook salmon allocations are seasonally allocated with 70 percent of the allocation for the A season pollock fishery, and 30 percent of the allocation for the B season pollock fishery as stated in § 679.21(f)(3)(iii)(A). The basis for these PSC limits is described in detail in the final rule implementing management measures for Amendment 91 (75 FR 53026, August 30, 2010). NMFS publishes the approved Chinook salmon bycatch incentive plan agreements, 2014 allocations, and reports at: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/bycatch/default.htm.

    Section 679.21(e)(1)(viii) specifies 700 fish as the 2015 and 2016 Chinook salmon PSC limit for the AI subarea pollock fishery. Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(3)(i) allocates 7.5 percent, or 53 Chinook salmon, to the AI subarea PSQ for the CDQ program, and allocates the remaining 647 Chinook salmon to the non-CDQ fisheries.

    Section 679.21(e)(1)(vii) specifies 42,000 fish as the 2015 and 2016 non-Chinook salmon PSC limit in the Catcher Vessel Operational Area (CVOA). Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(3)(ii) allocates 10.7 percent, or 4,494 non-Chinook salmon in the CVOA as the PSQ for the CDQ program, and allocates the remaining 37,506 non-Chinook salmon in the CVOA as the PSC limit for the non-CDQ fisheries.

    PSC limits for crab and herring are specified annually based on abundance and spawning biomass. Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(1) allocates 10.7 percent from each trawl gear PSC limit specified for crab as a PSQ reserve for use by the groundfish CDQ program.

    Based on the 2014 survey data, the red king crab mature female abundance is estimated to be at 38.6 million red king crabs, which is above the threshold of 8.4 million red king crabs, and the effective spawning biomass is estimated at 51.3 million lb (23,362 mt). Based on the criteria set out at § 679.21(e)(1)(i), the 2015 and 2016 PSC limit of red king crab in Zone 1 for trawl gear is 97,000 animals. This limit derives from the mature female abundance of more than 8.4 million king crab and the effective spawning biomass estimate of less than 55 million lb (24,948 mt).

    Section 679.21(e)(3)(ii)(B)(2) establishes criteria under which NMFS must specify an annual red king crab bycatch limit for the Red King Crab Savings Subarea (RKCSS). The regulations limit the RKCSS red king crab bycatch limit to 25 percent of the red king crab PSC limit, based on the need to optimize the groundfish harvest relative to red king crab bycatch. In December 2014, the Council recommended and NMFS concurs that the red king crab bycatch limit be equal to 25 percent of the red king crab PSC limit within the RKCSS (Table 15).

    Based on 2014 survey data, Tanner crab (Chionoecetes bairdi) abundance is estimated at 758 million animals. Pursuant to criteria set out at § 679.21(e)(1)(ii), the calculated 2015 and 2016 C. bairdi crab PSC limit for trawl gear is 980,000 animals in Zone 1 and 2,970,000 animals in Zone 2. These limits derive from the C. bairdi crab abundance estimate being in excess of the 400 million animals for both the Zone 1 and Zone 2 allocations.

    Pursuant to § 679.21(e)(1)(iii), the PSC limit for snow crab (C. opilio) is based on total abundance as indicated by the NMFS annual bottom trawl survey. The C. opilio crab PSC limit is set at 0.1133 percent of the BS abundance index minus 150,000 crab. Based on the 2014 survey estimate of 9.852 billion animals, the calculated C. opilio crab PSC limit is 11,011,976 animals.

    Pursuant to § 679.21(e)(1)(v), the PSC limit of Pacific herring caught while conducting any trawl operation for BSAI groundfish is 1 percent of the annual eastern BS herring biomass. The best estimate of 2015 and 2016 herring biomass is 274,236 mt. This amount was developed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game based on spawning location estimates. Therefore, the herring PSC limit for 2015 and 2016 is 2,742 mt for all trawl gear as listed in Tables 14 and 15.

    Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A) requires PSQ reserves to be subtracted from the total trawl PSC limits. The 2014 PSC limits assigned to the Amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access sectors are specified in Table 35 to part 679. The resulting allocations of PSC limit to CDQ PSQ, the Amendment 80 sector, and the BSAI trawl limited access fisheries are listed in Table 10. Pursuant to § 679.21(e)(1)(iv) and § 679.91(d) through (f), crab and halibut trawl PSC limits assigned to the Amendment 80 sector are then further allocated to Amendment 80 cooperatives as PSC cooperative quota as listed in Table 18. PSC cooperative quota assigned to Amendment 80 cooperatives is not allocated to specific fishery categories. In 2015, there are no vessels in the Amendment 80 limited access sector. The 2016 PSC allocations between Amendment 80 cooperatives and the Amendment 80 limited access sector will not be known until eligible participants apply for participation in the program by November 1, 2015. Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(B) requires NMFS to apportion each trawl PSC limit not assigned to Amendment 80 cooperatives into PSC bycatch allowances for seven specified fishery categories.

    Section 679.21(e)(5) authorizes NMFS, after consulting with the Council, to establish seasonal apportionments of PSC amounts for the BSAI trawl limited access and Amendment 80 limited access sectors in order to maximize the ability of the fleet to harvest the available groundfish TAC and to minimize bycatch. The factors to be considered are (1) seasonal distribution of prohibited species; (2) seasonal distribution of target groundfish species; (3) PSC bycatch needs on a seasonal basis relevant to prohibited species biomass; (4) expected variations in bycatch rates throughout the year; (5) expected start of fishing effort; and (6) economic effects of seasonal PSC apportionments on industry sectors. The Council recommended and NMFS approves the seasonal PSC apportionments in Tables 15 and 16 to maximize harvest among gear types, fisheries, and seasons while minimizing bycatch of PSC based on the above criteria.

    Table 14—Final 2015 and 2016 apportionment of Prohibited Species Catch Allowances to Non-Trawl Gear, the CDQ Program, Amendment 80, and the BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sectors PSC Species and area 1 Total non-trawl PSC Non-trawl PSC
  • remaining
  • after CDQ
  • PSQ 2
  • Total trawl PSC Trawl PSC remaining after CDQ PSQ 2 CDQ PSQ Reserve 2 Amendment 80 sector 3 BSAI Trawl limited
  • access fishery
  • Halibut mortality (mt) BSAI 900 832 3,675 3,349 393 2,325 875 Herring (mt) BSAI n/a n/a 2,742 n/a n/a n/a n/a Red king crab (animals) Zone 1 n/a n/a 97,000 86,621 10,379 43,293 26,489 C. opilio (animals) COBLZ n/a n/a 11,011,976 9,833,695 1,178,281 4,833,261 3,160,549 C. bairdi crab (animals) Zone 1 n/a n/a 980,000 875,140 104,860 368,521 411,228 C. bairdi crab (animals) Zone 2 n/a n/a 2,970,000 2,652,210 317,790 627,778 1,241,500 1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of zones. 2 Section 679.21(e)(3)(i)(A)(2) allocates 326 mt of the trawl halibut mortality limit and § 679.21(e)(4)(i)(A) allocates 7.5 percent, or 67 mt, of the non-trawl halibut mortality limit as the PSQ reserve for use by the groundfish CDQ program. The PSQ reserve for crab species is 10.7 percent of each crab PSC limit. 3 The Amendment 80 program reduced apportionment of the trawl PSC limits by 150 mt for halibut mortality and 20 percent for crab. These reductions are not apportioned to other gear types or sectors. Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Table 15—Final 2015 and 2016 Herring and Red King Crab Savings Subarea Prohibited Species Catch Allowances for all Trawl Sectors Fishery categories Herring (mt) BSAI Red king crab (animals)
  • Zone 1
  • Yellowfin sole 187 n/a Rock sole/flathead sole/other flatfish 1 30 n/a Turbot/arrowtooth/sablefish 2 20 n/a Rockfish 14 n/a Pacific cod 42 n/a Midwater trawl pollock 2,242 n/a Pollock/Atka mackerel/other species 34 207 n/a Red king crab savings subarea non-pelagic trawl gear 5 n/a 24,250 Total trawl PSC 2,742 97,000 1 “Other flatfish” for PSC monitoring includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole, Greenland turbot, Kamchatka flounder, rock sole, and yellowfin sole. 2 “Arrowtooth flounder” for PSC monitoring includes Kamchatka flounder. 3 Pollock other than pelagic trawl pollock, Atka mackerel, and “other species” fishery category. 4 “Other species” for PSC monitoring includes skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses. 5 In December 2014 the Council recommended that the red king crab bycatch limit for non-pelagic trawl fisheries within the RKCSS be limited to 25 percent of the red king crab PSC allowance (see § 679.21(e)(3)(ii)(B)(2)). Note: Species apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
     Table 16—Final 2015 And 2016 Prohibited Species Bycatch Allowances for the BSAI Trawl Limited Access Sector BSAI Trawl limited access fisheries Prohibited species and area 1 Halibut mortality (mt) BSAI Red king crab (animals) Zone 1 C. opilio (animals) COBLZ C. bairdi (animals) Zone 1 Zone 2 Yellowfin sole 167 23,338 2,979,410 346,228 1,185,500 Rock sole/flathead sole/other flatfish 2 0 0 0 0 0 Turbot/arrowtooth/sablefish 3 0 0 0 0 0 Rockfish April 15-December 31 5 0 4,922 0 1,000 Pacific cod 453 2,954 126,994 60,000 50,000 Pollock/Atka mackerel/other species 4 250 197 49,223 5,000 5,000 Total BSAI trawl limited access PSC 875 26,489 3,160,549 411,228 1,241,500 1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of areas. 2 “Other flatfish” for PSC monitoring includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder. 3 Arrowtooth flounder for PSC monitoring includes Kamchatka flounder. 4 “Other species” for PSC monitoring includes skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses. Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding. Table 17—Final 2015 and 2016 Halibut Prohibited Species Bycatch Allowances for Non-Trawl Fisheries Non-trawl fisheries Catcher/
  • Processor
  • Catcher
  • vessel
  • Pacific cod—Total: 760 15. January 1-June 10 455 10. June 10-August 15 190 3. August 15-December 31 115 2. Other non-trawl—Total: 58. May 1-December 31 58. Groundfish pot and jig Exempt. Sablefish hook-and-line Exempt. Total non-trawl PSC 833. Note: Seasonal or sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding.
    Table 18—Final 2015 Prohibited Species Bycatch Allowance for the BSAI Amendment 80 Cooperatives Cooperative Prohibited species and zones 1 Halibut mortality (mt) BSAI Red king crab (animals) Zone 1 C. opilio (animals) COBLZ C. bairdi (animals) Zone 1 Zone 2 Alaska Seafood Cooperative 1,693 30,834 3,311,730 271,542 465,879 Alaska Groundfish Cooperative 632 12,459 1,521,531 96,980 161,899 1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of zones. Note: Sector apportionments may not total precisely due to rounding. Halibut Discard Mortality Rates (DMR)

    To monitor halibut bycatch mortality allowances and apportionments, the Regional Administrator uses observed halibut bycatch rates, DMRs, and estimates of groundfish catch to project when a fishery's halibut bycatch mortality allowance or seasonal apportionment is reached. The DMRs are based on the best information available, including information contained in the annual SAFE report.

    NMFS approves the halibut DMRs developed and recommended by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) and the Council for the 2015 and 2016 BSAI groundfish fisheries for use in monitoring the 2015 and 2016 halibut bycatch allowances (see Tables 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18). The IPHC developed these DMRs for the 2015 and 2016 BSAI fisheries using the 10-year mean DMRs for those fisheries. The IPHC will analyze observer data annually and recommend changes to the DMRs when a fishery DMR shows large variation from the mean. A discussion of the DMRs is available from the Council (see ADDRESSES). Table 19 lists the 2015 and 2016 DMRs.

    Table 19—Final 2015 And 2016 Pacific Halibut Discard Mortality Rates for the BSAI Gear Fishery Halibut discard mortality rate (percent) Non-CDQ hook-and-line Greenland turbot 13 Other species 1 9 Pacific cod 9 Rockfish 4 Non-CDQ trawl Alaska plaice 71 Arrowtooth flounder 2 76 Atka mackerel 77 Flathead sole 73 Greenland turbot 64 Non-pelagic pollock 77 Pelagic pollock 88 Other flatfish 3 71 Other species 1 71 Pacific cod 71 Rockfish 79 Rock sole 85 Sablefish 75 Yellowfin sole 83 Non-CDQ Pot Other species 1 8 Pacific cod 8 CDQ trawl Atka mackerel 86 Greenland turbot 89 Flathead sole 79 Non-pelagic pollock 83 Pacific cod 90 Pelagic pollock 90 Rockfish 80 Rock sole 88 Yellowfin sole 86 CDQ hook-and-line Greenland turbot 4 Pacific cod 10 CDQ pot Pacific cod 8 Sablefish 34 1 “Other species” includes skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses. 2 Arrowtooth flounder includes Kamchatka flounder. 3 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), Alaska plaice, flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder. Directed Fishing Closures

    In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(i), the Regional Administrator may establish a DFA for a species or species group if the Regional Administrator determines that any allocation or apportionment of a target species has been or will be reached. If the Regional Administrator establishes a DFA, and that allowance is or will be reached before the end of the fishing year, NMFS will prohibit directed fishing for that species or species group in the specified subarea or district (see § 697.20(d)(1)(iii)). Similarly, pursuant to § 679.21(e), if the Regional Administrator determines that a fishery category's bycatch allowance of halibut, red king crab, C. bairdi crab, or C. opilio crab for a specified area has been reached, the Regional Administrator will prohibit directed fishing for each species in that category in the specified area.

    Based on historic catch patterns and anticipated fishing activity, the Regional Administrator has determined that the groundfish allocation amounts in Table 20 will be necessary as incidental catch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries for the 2015 and 2016 fishing years. Consequently, in accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(i), the Regional Administrator establishes the DFA for the species and species groups in Table 20 as zero. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for these sectors and species in the specified areas effective at 1200 hrs, A.l.t., March 5, 2015, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2016. Also, for the BSAI trawl limited access sector, bycatch allowances of halibut, red king crab, C. bairdi crab, and C. opilio crab listed in Table 20 are insufficient to support directed fisheries. Therefore, in accordance with § 679.21(e)(7), NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for these sectors and fishery categories in the specified areas effective at 1200 hrs, A.l.t., March 5, 2015, through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2016.

    Table 20—2015 and 2016 Directed Fishing Closures 1 [Groundfish and halibut amounts are in metric tons. Crab amounts are in number of animals] Area Sector Species 2015 Incidental catch allowance 2016 Incidental catch allowance Bogoslof District All Pollock 100 100 Aleutian Islands subarea All ICA pollock 2,400 2,400 “Other rockfish” 2 555 555 Eastern Aleutian District/Bering Sea Non-amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access ICA Atka mackerel 1,000 1,000 Eastern Aleutian District/Bering Sea All Rougheye rockfish 177 201 Eastern Aleutian District Non-amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access ICA Pacific ocean perch 100 100 Central Aleutian District Non-amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access ICA Atka mackerel 75 75 ICA Pacific ocean perch 75 75 Western Aleutian District Non-amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access ICA Atka mackerel
  • ICA Pacific ocean perch
  • 40
  • 10
  • 40
  • 10
  • Central and Western Aleutian Districts All Rougheye rockfish 239 277 Bering Sea subarea All Pacific ocean perch 6,818 6,818 “Other rockfish” 2 325 325 ICA pollock 47,160 47,160 Northern rockfish 2,763 2,763 Shortraker rockfish 250 250 Skates 21,845 21,845 All Sculpins 3,995 3,995 Sharks 125 125 Squids 340 340 Octopuses 400 400 Hook-and-line and pot gear ICA Pacific cod 500 500 Non-amendment 80 ICA flathead sole 5,000 5,000 ICA rock sole 8,000 8,000 Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Non-amendment 80 and BSAI trawl limited access ICA yellowfin sole 5,000 5,000 BSAI trawl limited access Rock sole/flathead sole/other flatfish—halibut mortality, red king crab Zone 1, C. opilio COBLZ, C. bairdi Zone 1 and 2 0 0 Turbot/arrowtooth/sablefish—halibut mortality, red king crab Zone 1, C. opilio COBLZ, C. bairdi Zone 1 and 2 0 0 Rockfish—red king crab Zone 1 0 0 1 Maximum retainable amounts may be found in Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679. 2 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, dark rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and rougheye rockfish.

    Closures implemented under the final 2014 and 2015 BSAI harvest specifications for groundfish (79 FR 12108, March 4, 2014) remain effective under authority of these final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications, and are posted at the following Web sites: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/cm/info_bulletins/ and http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries_reports/reports/. While these closures are in effect, the maximum retainable amounts at § 679.20(e) and (f) apply at any time during a fishing trip. These closures to directed fishing are in addition to closures and prohibitions found in regulations at 50 CFR part 679.

    Listed AFA Catcher/Processor Sideboard Limits

    Pursuant to § 679.64(a), the Regional Administrator is responsible for restricting the ability of listed AFA C/Ps to engage in directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock to protect participants in other groundfish fisheries from adverse effects resulting from the AFA and from fishery cooperatives in the pollock directed fishery. These restrictions are set out as “sideboard” limits on catch. The basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing the major provisions of the AFA (67 FR 79692, December 30, 2002) and Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Table 21 lists the 2015 and 2016 C/P sideboard limits.

    All harvest of groundfish sideboard species by listed AFA C/Ps, whether as targeted catch or incidental catch, will be deducted from the sideboard limits in Table 21. However, groundfish sideboard species that are delivered to listed AFA C/Ps by CVs will not be deducted from the 2015 and 2016 sideboard limits for the listed AFA C/Ps.

    Table 21—Final 2015 and 2016 Listed BSAI American Fisheries Act Catcher/Processor Groundfish Sideboard Limits [Amounts are in metric tons] 1995-1997 Target species Area/Season Retained catch Total catch Ratio of retained catch to total catch 2015 ITAC Available to trawl C/Ps1 2015 AFA C/P Side-board limit 2016 ITAC Available to trawl C/Ps1 2016 AFA C/P Side-board limit Sablefish trawl BS 8 497 0.016 567 9 515 8 AI 0 145 0 383 0 348 0 Atka mackerel Central AI A season 2 n/a n/a 0.115 7,591 873 7,591 873 Central AI B season 2 n/a n/a 0.115 7,591 873 7,591 873 Western AI A season 2 n/a n/a 0.2 4,689 938 4,689 938 Western AI B season 2 n/a n/a 0.2 4,689 938 4,689 938 Rock sole BSAI 6,317 169,362 0.037 61,840 2,288 61,840 2,288 Greenland turbot BS 121 17,305 0.007 2,081 15 2,081 15 AI 23 4,987 0.005 170 1 170 1 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI 76 33,987 0.002 18,700 37 18,700 37 Kamchatka flounder BSAI 76 33,987 0.002 5,525 11 5,525 11 Flathead sole BSAI 1,925 52,755 0.036 21,655 780 21,655 780 Alaska plaice BSAI 14 9,438 0.001 15,725 16 15,725 16 Other flatfish BSAI 3,058 52,298 0.058 3,077 178 3,077 178 Pacific ocean perch BS 12 4,879 0.002 6,818 14 6,818 14 Eastern AI 125 6,179 0.02 7,144 143 7,117 142 Central AI 3 5,698 0.001 6,251 6 6,251 6 Western AI 54 13,598 0.004 8,037 32 8,037 32 Northern rockfish BSAI 91 13,040 0.007 2,763 19 2,763 19 Shortraker rockfish BSAI 50 2,811 0.018 250 5 250 5 Rougheye rockfish EBS/EAI 50 2,811 0.018 149 3 149 3 CAI/WAI 50 2,811 0.018 200 4 200 4 Other rockfish BS 18 621 0.029 325 9 325 9 AI 22 806 0.027 555 15 555 15 Skates BSAI 553 68,672 0.008 21,845 175 21,845 175 Sculpins BSAI 553 68,672 0.008 3,995 32 3,995 32 Sharks BSAI 553 68,672 0.008 125 1 125 1 Squids BSAI 73 3,328 0.022 340 7 340 7 Octopuses BSAI 553 68,672 0.008 400 3 400 3 1 Aleutian Islands Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI Atka mackerel, flathead sole, rock sole, and yellowfin sole are multiplied by the remainder of the TAC after the subtraction of the CDQ reserve under § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C). 2 The seasonal apportionment of Atka mackerel in the open access fishery is 50 percent in the A season and 50 percent in the B season. Listed AFA catcher/processors are limited to harvesting no more than zero in the Eastern Aleutian District and Bering Sea subarea, 20 percent of the annual ITAC specified for the Western Aleutian District, and 11.5 percent of the annual ITAC specified for the Central Aleutian District.

    Section 679.64(a)(2) and Tables 40 and 41 of part 679 establish a formula for calculating PSC sideboard limits for listed AFA C/Ps. The basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing the major provisions of the AFA (67 FR 79692, December 30, 2002) and Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007).

    PSC species listed in Table 22 that are caught by listed AFA C/Ps participating in any groundfish fishery other than pollock will accrue against the 2015 and 2016 PSC sideboard limits for the listed AFA C/Ps. Section 679.21(e)(3)(v) authorizes NMFS to close directed fishing for groundfish other than pollock for listed AFA C/Ps once a 2015 or 2016 PSC sideboard limit listed in Table 22 is reached.

    Crab or halibut PSC caught by listed AFA C/Ps while fishing for pollock will accrue against the bycatch allowances annually specified for either the midwater pollock or the pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” fishery categories under regulations at § 679.21(e)(3)(iv).

    Table 22—Final 2015 and 2016 BSAI AFA Listed Catcher/Processor Prohibited Species Sideboard Limits PSC Species and area 1 Ratio of PSC catch to total PSC 2015 and 2016 PSC available to trawl vessels after subtraction of PSQ 2 2015 and 2016 catcher/processor sideboard limit 2 Halibut mortality BSAI n/a n/a 286 Red king crab zone 1 0.007 86,621 606 C. opilio (COBLZ) 0.153 9,833,695 1,504,555 C. bairdi Zone 1 0.14 875,140 122,520 C. bairdi Zone 2 0.05 2,652,210 132,611 1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of areas. 2 Halibut amounts are in metric tons of halibut mortality. Crab amounts are in numbers of animals. AFA Catcher Vessel Sideboard Limits

    Pursuant to § 679.64(a), the Regional Administrator is responsible for restricting the ability of AFA CVs to engage in directed fishing for groundfish species other than pollock to protect participants in other groundfish fisheries from adverse effects resulting from the AFA and from fishery cooperatives in the pollock directed fishery. Section 679.64(b) establishes a formula for setting AFA CV groundfish and PSC sideboard limits for the BSAI. The basis for these sideboard limits is described in detail in the final rules implementing the major provisions of the AFA (67 FR 79692, December 30, 2002) and Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007). Tables 23 and 24 list the 2015 and 2016 AFA CV sideboard limits.

    All catch of groundfish sideboard species made by non-exempt AFA CVs, whether as targeted catch or incidental catch, will be deducted from the 2015 and 2016 sideboard limits listed in Table 23.

    Table 23—Final 2015 and 2016 American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel BSAI Groundfish Sideboard Limits [Amounts are in metric tons] Species/Gear Fishery by area/season Ratio of 1995-1997 AFA CV catch to 1995-1997 TAC 2015 Initial TAC 1 2015 AFA Catcher vessel sideboard
  • limits
  • 2016 Initial TAC 1 2016 AFA catcher vessel sideboard
  • limits
  • Pacific cod/Jig gear BSAI 0 n/a 0 n/a 0 Pacific cod/Hook-and-line CV ≥60 feet LOA BSAI Jan 1-Jun 10 0.0006 226 0 226 0 BSAI Jun 10-Dec 31 0.0006 217 0 217 0 Pacific cod pot gear CV BSAI Jan 1-Jun 10 0.0006 9,507 6 9,507 6 BSAI Sept 1-Dec 31 0.0006 9,134 5 9,134 5 Pacific cod CV ≤60 feet LOA using hook-and-line or pot gear BSAI 0.0006 4,438 3 4,438 3 Pacific cod trawl gear CV BSAI Jan 20-Apr 1 0.8609 36,426 31,359 36,426 31,359 BSAI Apr 1-Jun 10 0.8609 5,415 4,662 5,415 4,662 BSAI Jun 10-Nov 1 0.8609 7,384 6,357 7,384 6,357 Sablefish trawl gear BS 0.0906 567 51 515 47 AI 0.0645 383 25 348 22 Atka mackerel Eastern AI/BS Jan 1-Jun 10 0.0032 12,056 39 12,197 39 Eastern AI/BS Jun 10-Nov 1 0.0032 12,056 39 12,197 39 Central AI Jan 1-Jun 10 0.0001 7,590 1 7,591 1 Central AI Jun 10-Nov 1 0.0001 7,590 1 7,591 1 Western AI Jan 1-Jun 10 0 4689 0 4689 0 Western AI Jun 10-Nov 1 0 4689 0 4689 0 Rock sole BSAI 0.0341 61,840 2,109 61,840 2,109 Greenland turbot BS 0.0645 2,081 134 2,081 134 AI 0.0205 170 3 170 3 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI 0.069 18,700 1,290 18,700 1,290 Kamchatka flounder BSAI 0.069 5,525 381 5,525 381 Alaska plaice BSAI 0.0441 15,725 693 15,725 693 Other flatfish BSAI 0.0441 3,077 136 3,077 136 Flathead sole BS 0.0505 21,655 1,094 21,655 1,094 Pacific ocean perch BS 0.1 6,818 682 6,818 682 Eastern AI 0.0077 7,144 55 7,117 55 Central AI 0.0025 6,251 16 6,251 16 Western AI 0 8,037 0 8,037 0 Northern rockfish BSAI 0.0084 2,763 23 2,763 23 Shortraker rockfish BSAI 0.0037 250 1 250 1 Rougheye rockfish EBS/EAI 0.0037 149 1 149 1 CAI/WAI 0.0037 200 1 200 1 Other rockfish BS 0.0048 325 2 325 2 AI 0.0095 555 5 555 5 Skates BSAI 0.0541 21,845 1,182 21,845 1,182 Sculpins BSAI 0.0541 3,995 216 3,995 216 Sharks BSAI 0.0541 125 7 125 7 Squids BSAI 0.3827 340 130 340 130 Octopuses BSAI 0.0541 400 22 400 22 1 Aleutians Islands Pacific ocean perch, and BSAI Atka mackerel, flathead sole, and rock sole are multiplied by the remainder of the TAC of that species after the subtraction of the CDQ reserve under § 679.20(b)(1)(ii)(C).

    Halibut and crab PSC limits listed in Table 24 that are caught by AFA CVs participating in any groundfish fishery for groundfish other than pollock will accrue against the 2015 and 2016 PSC sideboard limits for the AFA CVs. Sections 679.21(d)(7) and 679.21(e)(3)(v) authorize NMFS to close directed fishing for groundfish other than pollock for AFA CVs once a 2015 or 2016 PSC sideboard limit listed in Table 24 is reached. The PSC that is caught by AFA CVs while fishing for pollock in the BSAI will accrue against the bycatch allowances annually specified for either the midwater pollock or the pollock/Atka mackerel/“other species” fishery categories under regulations at § 679.21(e)(3)(iv).

    Table 24—Final 2015 and 2016 American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel Prohibited Species Catch Sideboard Limits for the BSAI 1 PSC Species and area 1 Target fishery category 2 AFA Catcher vessel PSC sideboard limit ratio 2015 and 2016 PSC limit after
  • subtraction of
  • PSQ
  • reserves 3
  • 2015 and 2016 AFA catcher vessel PSC sideboard limit 3
    Halibut Pacific cod trawl n/a n/a 887 Pacific cod hook-and-line or pot n/a n/a 2 Yellowfin sole total n/a n/a 101 Rock sole/flathead sole/other flatfish 4 n/a n/a 228 Greenland turbot/arrowtooth/sablefish 5 n/a n/a 0 Rockfish n/a n/a 2 Pollock/Atka mackerel/other species 6 n/a n/a 5 Red king crab Zone 1 n/a 0.299 86,621 25,900 C. opilio COBLZ n/a 0.168 9,833,695 1,652,061 C. bairdi Zone 1 n/a 0.33 875,140 288,796 C. bairdi Zone 2 n/a 0.186 2,652,210 493,311 1 Refer to § 679.2 for definitions of areas. 2 Target fishery categories are defined in regulation at § 679.21(e)(3)(iv). 3 Halibut amounts are in metric tons of halibut mortality. Crab amounts are in numbers of animals. 4 “Other flatfish” for PSC monitoring includes all flatfish species, except for halibut (a prohibited species), flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder. 5 Arrowtooth for PSC monitoring includes Kamchatka flounder. 6 “Other species” for PSC monitoring includes skates, sculpins, sharks, squids, and octopuses.
    AFA Catcher/Processor and Catcher Vessel Sideboard Directed Fishing Closures

    Based on historical catch patterns, the Regional Administrator has determined that many of the AFA C/P and CV sideboard limits listed in Tables 25 and 26 are necessary as incidental catch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries for the 2015 and 2016 fishing years. In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iv), the Regional Administrator establishes the sideboard limits listed in Tables 25 and 26 as DFAs. Because many of these DFAs will be reached before the end of 2015, the Regional Administrator has determined, in accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(iii), that NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing by listed AFA C/Ps for the species in the specified areas set out in Table 25, and directed fishing by non-exempt AFA CVs for the species in the specified areas set out in Table 26.

    Table 25—Final 2015 and 2016 American Fisheries Act Listed Catcher/Processor Sideboard Directed Fishing Closures 1 [Amounts are in metric tons] Species Area Gear types 2015 Sideboard limit 2016 Sideboard limit Sablefish trawl BS trawl 9 8 AI trawl 0 0 Rock sole BSAI all 2,288 2,288 Greenland turbot BS all 15 15 AI all 1 1 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI all 37 37 Kamchatka flounder BSAI all 11 11 Alaska plaice BSAI all 16 16 Other flatfish 2 BSAI all 178 178 Flathead sole BSAI all 780 780 Pacific ocean perch BS all 14 14 Eastern AI all 143 142 Central AI all 6 6 Western AI all 32 32 Northern rockfish BSAI all 19 19 Shortraker rockfish BSAI all 5 5 Rougheye rockfish EBS/EAI all 3 3 CAI/WAI all 4 4 Other rockfish 3 BS all 9 9 AI all 15 15 Skates BSAI all 175 175 Sculpins BSAI all 32 32 Sharks BSAI all 1 1 Squids BSAI all 7 7 Octopuses BSAI all 3 3 1 Maximum retainable amounts may be found in Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679. 2 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut, Alaska plaice, flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder. 3 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, dark rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and rougheye rockfish. Table 26—Final 2015 and 2016 American Fisheries Act Catcher Vessel Sideboard Directed Fishing Closures 1 [Amounts are in metric tons] Species Area Gear types 2015 Sideboard limit 2016 Sideboard limit Pacific cod BSAI hook-and-line CV ≥60 feet LOA 0 0 BSAI pot CV ≥60 feet LOA 11 11 BSAI hook-and-line or pot CV ≤60 feet LOA 3 3 BSAI jig 0 0 Sablefish BS trawl 51 47 AI trawl 25 22 Atka mackerel Eastern AI/BS all 78 78 Central AI all 2 2 Western AI all 0 0 Greenland turbot BS all 134 134 AI all 3 3 Arrowtooth flounder BSAI all 1,290 1,290 Kamchatka flounder BSAI all 381 381 Alaska plaice BSAI all 693 693 Other flatfish 2 BSAI all 136 136 Flathead sole BSAI all 1,094 1,094 Rock sole BSAI all 2,109 2,109 Pacific ocean perch BS all 682 682 Eastern AI all 55 55 Central AI all 16 16 Western AI all 0 0 Northern rockfish BSAI all 23 23 Shortraker rockfish BSAI all 1 1 Rougheye rockfish BS/EAI all 1 1 CAI/WAI all 1 1 Other rockfish 3 BS all 2 2 AI all 5 5 Skates BSAI all 1,182 1,182 Sculpins BSAI all 216 216 Sharks BSAI all 7 7 Squids BSAI all 130 130 Octopuses BSAI all 22 22 1 Maximum retainable amounts may be found in Table 11 to 50 CFR part 679. 2 “Other flatfish” includes all flatfish species, except for halibut, Alaska plaice, flathead sole, Greenland turbot, rock sole, yellowfin sole, Kamchatka flounder, and arrowtooth flounder. 3 “Other rockfish” includes all Sebastes and Sebastolobus species except for Pacific ocean perch, northern rockfish, dark rockfish, shortraker rockfish, and rougheye rockfish. Response to Comments

    NMFS received five letters with 13 comments.

    Comment 1: The Pacific halibut population is in steep decline yet NMFS is proposing to authorize the removal of millions of pounds of halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea groundfish fishery.

    Response: The final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications for the BSAI publishes regulatory halibut PSC limits that are imposed on the federal groundfish fisheries in the BSAI. The halibut PSC limits for the BSAI groundfish fisheries are described in the FMP for Groundfish of the BSAI management area and the regulations at 50 CFR 679.21(e) implement the BSAI PSC limits. The Council and NMFS establish halibut PSC limits to constrain the amount of bycatch taken in the groundfish fisheries. The halibut PSC limits are not allowances for halibut bycatch in the groundfish fishery; rather, halibut PSC limits impose maximum limits on the amount of halibut bycatch mortality that may be taken by the groundfish fisheries. When a halibut PSC limit is reached, further groundfish fishing with specific types of gear and modes of operation is prohibited in that area. The Council and NMFS have initiated a separate action to reduce halibut PSC limits in the BSAI to minimize halibut bycatch in the groundfish fishery to the extent practicable. See response to Comment 2.

    Comment 2: The Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that NMFS, to the extent practicable: (A) Minimize bycatch; and (B), minimize the mortality of bycatch which cannot be avoided. Before finalizing the 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications for the BSAI, NMFS must minimize bycatch of halibut in the groundfish fisheries consistent with its statutory obligations.

    Response: The Council and NMFS are committed to minimizing halibut bycatch in the BSAI to the extent practicable. Section 3.6.2.1.4 of the FMP states that annual BSAI-wide Pacific halibut bycatch mortality limits for trawl and non-trawl gear fisheries will be established in regulations and may be amended by regulatory amendment. Pursuant to § 679.21(e)(1)(iv), (e)(3), and (e)(2), the 2015 and 2016 BSAI halibut PSC limits are 3,525 mt for trawl fisheries and 900 mt for the non-trawl fisheries. The Council has initiated action to consider revising regulations to reduce halibut PSC limits in the BSAI groundfish fisheries consistent with Magnuson-Stevens Act obligations to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable and to achieve, on a continuing basis, optimum yield from the groundfish fisheries. Pursuant to section 3.6.2.1.4 of the FMP, the Secretary, after consultation with the Council, will consider the following information when evaluating measures to minimize halibut bycatch in the BSAI fisheries:

    1. Estimated change in halibut biomass and stock condition;

    2. potential impacts on halibut stocks and fisheries;

    3. potential impacts on groundfish fisheries;

    4. estimated bycatch mortality during prior years;

    5. expected halibut bycatch mortality;

    6. methods available to reduce halibut bycatch mortality;

    7. the cost of reducing halibut bycatch mortality; and

    8. other biological and socioeconomic factors that affect the appropriateness of a specific bycatch mortality limit in terms of FMP objectives.

    The Council is scheduled to consider final action to reduce halibut PSC limits later in 2015.

    Comment 3: In the BSAI, millions of pounds of Pacific halibut are killed and are not utilized.

    Response: Consistent with National Standards 1 and 9, the Council and NMFS use halibut PSC mortality limits to minimize halibut bycatch in the groundfish fisheries to the extent practicable, while achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from the fisheries. The Council has designated Pacific halibut as “prohibited species” in the groundfish fisheries, which fishermen are required by regulation to discard.

    NMFS acknowledges that recent declines in the exploitable biomass of halibut and recent decreases in the Pacific halibut catch limits set by the IPHC for the directed BSAI halibut fisheries have raised concerns about the levels of halibut PSC by the commercial groundfish trawl and hook-and-line sectors. The Council has initiated action to consider revising halibut PSC limits in the BSAI groundfish fisheries consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act obligations to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable while achieving, on a continuing basis, optimum yield from the groundfish fisheries. The Council will review a draft Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Impact Review at its February 2015 meeting and is scheduled to take final action on halibut PSC limit reductions later in 2015.

    Comment 4: The catch limits of Pacific halibut in the North Pacific Ocean and the BSAI have been reduced in recent years by the IPHC due to low stock abundance. The IPHC 2015 preliminary directed halibut fishery catch limits are much less than the anticipated 2015 halibut PSC in the BSAI. Bycatch mortality will almost entirely preclude all directed fisheries in some areas.

    Response: During the 2015 annual IPHC meeting, the IPHC adopted catch limits in area 4A that are increased from the 2014 catch limits in that area. The IPHC adopted catch limits in areas 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E that are unchanged from 2014. Consistent with National Standards 1 and 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS established halibut PSC limits in regulation to minimize halibut bycatch to the extent practicable while also permitting optimum yield from the groundfish fisheries. As described in response to Comments 2 and 3, the Council has initiated action to consider revising regulations to reduce halibut PSC limits in the BSAI groundfish fisheries consistent with Magnuson-Stevens Act obligations to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable and to achieve, on a continuing basis, optimum yield from the groundfish fisheries.

    Comment 5: Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS must conserve and manage the Pacific halibut stock and prevent the overfishing of Pacific halibut. This must be addressed in the FMP and in the final groundfish harvest specifications.

    Response: NMFS and the Council manage Pacific halibut under the Halibut Act. Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS and the Council manage the groundfish fisheries to minimize halibut bycatch to the extent practicable using the PSC limits established in Federal regulations. Pacific halibut are classified as a prohibited species in the FMP and not as a “stock in the fishery.” Therefore, Section 303(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act does not apply to Pacific halibut.

    Comment 6: NMFS has not provided NEPA documents to address the environmental impacts of halibut bycatch on the marine environment or the environmental impact of reduced Pacific halibut stocks. NEPA compels Federal agencies to evaluate prospectively the environmental impacts of proposed actions that they carry out, fund, or authorize. NMFS has relied on an EIS it prepared in 2007. Since that time, the halibut stock has lost 50 percent of its spawning biomass and the commercial harvest of halibut has declined more than 60 percent. NMFS did not contemplate such circumstances in the 2007 EIS.

    Response: NMFS agrees that there have been changes in halibut abundance and the halibut fisheries, as well as advancements in scientific understanding since the Harvest Specifications EIS. NMFS has provided NEPA documents to address the impacts of halibut bycatch on the marine environment. As explained in this preamble, section 679.21(e) sets forth the BSAI halibut PSC limits. NMFS set this halibut PSC limit under a separate action with a supporting Environmental Assessments that analyzed the impacts of halibut bycatch on halibut stocks and the human environment. The Council has initiated action to consider revising regulations to reduce halibut PSC limits in the BSAI for groundfish fisheries. The Council will review a draft Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Impact Review at its February 2015 meeting and is scheduled to take final action on halibut PSC reductions later in 2015. This EA will analyze the impacts of the halibut bycatch in the BSAI groundfish fishery on Pacific halibut stocks.

    NMFS prepared a supplementary information report to evaluate the need to prepare a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) for the 2015/2016 groundfish harvest specifications. An SEIS should be prepared if—

    1. the agency makes substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns, or

    2. significant new circumstances or information exist relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)).

    The 2007 Harvest Specifications EIS concluded that halibut mortality in the groundfish fisheries is taken into account when the IPHC sets commercial halibut quotas to prevent adverse impacts on the halibut stock. The 2015 supplementary information report further explains that the IPHC comprehensively assesses the impacts of fishing mortality on stock abundance on an annual basis in its stock assessment process. Each year, the IPHC assesses the status of the halibut stocks and sets the constant exploitation yield (CEY), which is the amount of halibut harvest that is determined to be sustainable in a year. The total CEY is calculated by multiplying a target harvest rate by the total exploitable biomass and represents the sum of all halibut removals. After deducting non-directed fishery removals (e.g., halibut PSC in the groundfish fisheries, wastage in halibut fisheries, recreational harvest, and subsistence use), the remainder is allocated to the directed commercial hook-and-line fishery. The CEY therefore takes into account the change in halibut abundance. Therefore, the impacts of halibut PSC in the BSAI groundfish fisheries are unlikely to have effects on the halibut resource in a manner not previously considered in the 2007 Harvest Specifications EIS.

    After reviewing the information in the supplementary information report (see ADDRESSES) and presented in the SAFE reports (see ADDRESSES; SAFE reports, and the information they contain that is used in the harvest specifications, is explained above in this preamble under the heading “Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) and TAC Harvest Specifications”), NMFS determined that (1) the 2015/2016 harvest specifications, which were set according to the preferred harvest strategy described in the 2007 EIS, do not constitute a change in the action; and (2) the information presented does not indicate that there are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts. Additionally, the 2015/2016 harvest specifications will result in environmental impacts within the scope of those analyzed and disclosed in the EIS. Therefore, supplemental NEPA documentation is not necessary to implement the 2015/2016 harvest specifications.

    Comment 7: The BSAI halibut PSC limit has remained almost the same since the late 1980s.

    Response: With the implementation of Amendment 57 (65 FR 31105, May 16, 2000) and Amendment 80 (72 FR 52668, September 14, 2007), the Pacific halibut PSC limit was reduced by 250 mt from the halibut PSC limits set in regulations. However, NMFS agrees that the Pacific halibut PSC limits have largely been unchanged in recent decades. The halibut PSC limits are for bycatch in groundfish fisheries, which have largely remained stable in recent decades. As described in response to Comment 2, the halibut PSC limits are established in regulation and may be changed through regulatory amendment. The Council has initiated action to consider revising halibut PSC limits in the BSAI, consistent with the National Standard 9 obligations to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable.

    Comment 8: The 2015 groundfish harvest specifications do not address cultural, fisheries, ecological, and subsistence impacts of discarded halibut PSC.

    Response: These harvest specifications specify halibut PSC limits among fisheries and by season. However, as described in response to Comment 2, the halibut PSC limits are established in regulation and may be changed through regulatory amendment. The Council has initiated action to consider revising halibut PSC limits in the BSAI, consistent with the National Standard 9 obligations to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable. NMFS expects the Council will address cultural, fisheries, ecological, and subsistence impacts through that action.

    Comment 9: NMFS and fishery participants must work more diligently to reduce bycatch, prevent waste of fish, and protect fish stocks.

    Response: As noted in response to Comment 2, NMFS and the Council are committed to minimizing halibut bycatch in the BSAI to the extent practicable. Current halibut PSC limits are established in regulation and may be changed by a regulatory amendment. The Council has initiated action to consider revising halibut PSC limits in the BSAI, consistent with the National Standard 9 obligation to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable.

    Comment 10: NMFS has allowed almost every groundfish species in the BSAI to be overfished.

    Response: NMFS disagrees. In the most recent fishing year, no species or species complex of groundfish in the BSAI reached an OFL, and no species or species complex of groundfish is in overfishing status; see SAFE reports.

    Comment 11: Temporary closures should be put in place to prevent sea lions from being shot by commercial fishermen. A one million dollar fine should be imposed for every sea lion shot by commercial fishermen.

    Response: Fishery closures and fines to protect sea lions are outside the scope of this action. NOAA has a Penalty Policy and Summary Settlement Schedules for the assessment of civil administrative penalties and permit sanctions under the statutes and regulations enforced by NOAA, including violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. See http://www.gc.noaa.gov/enforce-office3.html.

    Comment 12: The BOF must produce downward quota adjustments for fisheries.

    Response: The State and the BOF has jurisdiction to manage fisheries within Alaska state waters. In recommending harvest limits for the Federal commercial groundfish fisheries, the Council considers state GHL harvest limits when distribution and range of federally fished groundfish stocks extend between Federal and state waters. The Council recommends federal TACs for such stocks so that the sum of state and Federal harvest limits does not exceed ABC limits for such stocks. However, management measures implemented by the BOF in state waters are not within the jurisdiction of the Council.

    Comment 13: The ICAs for several species should be reduced to prevent overfishing. Specifically, the Bering Sea pollock ICA should be reduced to 23,288 mt, the flathead sole ICA to 1,000 mt, the Pacific ocean perch ICA to ten mt, and the yellowfin sole ICA to one mt.

    Response: NMFS disagrees. The Regional Administrator establishes incidental catch allowances to account for projected incidental catch of species and species complexes by vessels engaged in directed fishing in other groundfish fisheries. Sufficient ICAs are needed to prevent exceeding TACs, ABCs, and OFLs of groundfish species and species complexes. Reducing the ICAs would leave these stocks more vulnerable to overfishing.

    Classification

    NMFS has determined that these final harvest specifications are consistent with the FMP and with the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable laws.

    This action is authorized under 50 CFR 679.20 and is exempt from review under Executive Orders 12866 and 13563.

    NMFS prepared an EIS that covers this action (see ADDRESSES) and made it available to the public on January 12, 2007 (72 FR 1512). On February 13, 2007, NMFS issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for the EIS. In January 2015, NMFS prepared a Supplemental Information Report (SIR) for this action. Copies of the EIS, ROD, and SIR for this action are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). The EIS analyzes the environmental consequences of the groundfish harvest specifications and alternative harvest strategies on resources in the action area. The EIS found no significant environmental consequences of this action and its alternatives. The SIR evaluates the need to prepare a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) for the 2015 and 2016 groundfish harvest specifications.

    An SEIS should be prepared if (1) the agency makes substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns; or (2) significant new circumstances or information exist relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts (40 CFR 1502.9(c)(1)). After reviewing the information contained in the SIR and SAFE reports, the Regional Administrator has determined that (1) approval of the 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications, which were set according to the preferred harvest strategy in the EIS, do not constitute a change in the action; and (2) there are no significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the action or its impacts. Additionally, the 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications will result in environmental impacts within the scope of those analyzed and disclosed in the EIS. Therefore, supplemental NEPA documentation is not necessary to implement the 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications.

    Pursuant to section 604 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 601, et seq., a FRFA was prepared for this action. The FRFA incorporates the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA), and includes a summary of the significant issues raised by public comments in response to the IRFA, as well as NMFS' responses to those comments. A summary of the analyses completed to support the action is also included in the FRFA.

    A copy of the FRFA prepared for this final rule is available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). A description of this action, its purpose, and its legal basis are contained at the beginning of the preamble to this final rule and are not repeated here.

    NMFS published the proposed rule on December 8, 2014 (79 FR 72571). The rule was accompanied by an IRFA, which was summarized in the proposed rule. The comment period closed on January 7, 2015. No comments were received on the IRFA.

    The entities directly regulated by this action are those that receive allocations of groundfish in the exclusive economic zone of the BSAI, and in parallel fisheries within State of Alaska waters, during the annual harvest specifications process. These directly regulated entities include the groundfish CVs and C/Ps active in these areas. Direct allocations of groundfish are also made to certain organizations, including the CDQ groups, AFA C/P and inshore CV sectors, Aleut Corporation, and Amendment 80 cooperatives. These entities are, therefore, also considered directly regulated.

    On June 12, 2014, the Small Business Administration issued an interim final rule revising the small business size standards for several industries effective July 14, 2014 (79 FR 33647, June 12, 2014). The rule increased the size standard for Finfish Fishing from $19.0 million to $20.5 million, Shellfish Fishing from $5.0 million to $5.5 million, and Other Marine Fishing from $7.0 million to $7.5 million. Fishing vessels are considered small entities if their total annual gross receipts, from all their activities combined, are less than $25.0 million. In 2013, there were 353 individual C/Vs with total gross revenues less than or equal to $20.5 million. Some of these vessels are members of AFA inshore pollock cooperatives, GOA rockfish cooperatives, or crab rationalization cooperatives, and, since under the RFA it is the aggregate gross receipts of all participating members of the cooperative that must meet the “under $20.5 million” threshold, they are considered to be large entities within the meaning of the RFA. Thus, the estimate of 353 C/Vs may be an overstatement of the number of small entities. Average gross revenues were $320,000 for small hook-and-line vessels, $1.25 million for small pot vessels, and $3.56 million for small trawl vessels. Revenue data for catcher/processors is confidential; however, in 2013, NMFS estimates that there were four catcher/processor small entities with gross receipts less than $20.5.

    Through the CDQ program, the Council and NMFS allocate a portion of the BSAI groundfish TACs, and halibut and crab PSC limits to 65 eligible Western Alaska communities. These communities work through six non-profit CDQ groups, and are required to use the proceeds from the CDQ allocations to start or support activities that will result in ongoing, regionally based, commercial fishery or related businesses. The CDQ groups receive allocations through the harvest specifications process, and are directly regulated by this action, but the 65 communities are not directly regulated. Because they are nonprofit entities that are independently owned and operated, and are not dominant in their field, the CDQ groups are considered small entities for RFA purposes.

    The AFA and Amendment 80 fisheries cooperatives are directly regulated because they receive allocations of TAC through the harvest specifications process. However, the Freezer Longliner Conservation Cooperative (FLCC), a voluntary private cooperative that became fully effective in 2010, is not considered to be directly regulated. The FLCC manages a catch share program among its members, but it does not receive an allocation under the harvest specifications. NMFS allocates TAC to the freezer longline sector, and the cooperative members voluntarily allocate this TAC among themselves via the FLCC. The AFA and Amendment 80 cooperatives are large entities, since they are affiliated with firms with joint revenues of more than $25 million.

    The Aleut Corporation is an Alaska Native Corporation that receives an allocation of pollock in the Aleutian Islands. The Aleut Corporation is a holding company and evaluated according to the Small Business Administration criteria for Office or Other Holding Companies, at 13 CFR 121.201, which uses a threshold of $7.5 million gross annual receipts threshold for small entities. The Aleut Corporation revenues exceed this threshold, and the Aleut Corporation is considered to be a large entity. This determination follows the analysis in the RFA certification for BSAI FMP.

    This action does not modify recordkeeping or reporting requirements.

    The significant alternatives were those considered as alternative harvest strategies when the Council selected its preferred harvest strategy (Alternative 2) in December 2006. These included the following:

    • Alternative 1: Set TAC to produce fishing mortality rates, F, that are equal to maxFABC, unless the sum of the TAC is constrained by the OY established in the FMPs. This is equivalent to setting TAC to produce harvest levels equal to the maximum permissible ABC, as constrained by OY. The term “maxFABC” refers to the maximum permissible value of FABC under Amendment 56 to the groundfish FMPs. Historically, the TAC has been set at or below the ABC; therefore, this alternative represents a likely upper limit for setting the TAC within the OY and ABC limits.

    • Alternative 3: For species in Tiers 1, 2, and 3, set TAC to produce F equal to the most recent 5-year average actual F. For species in Tiers 4, 5, and 6, set TAC equal to the most recent 5-year average actual catch. For stocks with a high level of scientific information, TAC would be set to produce harvest levels equal to the most recent 5-year average actual fishing mortality rates. For stocks with insufficient scientific information, TAC would be set equal to the most recent 5-year average actual catch. This alternative recognizes that for some stocks, catches may fall well below ABC, and recent average F may provide a better indicator of actual F than FABC does.

    • Alternative 4: (1) Set TAC for rockfish species in Tier 3 at F75%. Set TAC for rockfish species in Tier 5 at F = 0.5M. Set spatially explicit TAC for shortraker and rougheye rockfish in the BSAI. (2) Taking the rockfish TAC as calculated above, reduce all other TAC by a proportion that does not vary across species, so that the sum of all TAC, including rockfish TAC, is equal to the lower bound of the area OY (1,400,000 mt in the BSAI). This alternative sets conservative and spatially explicit TAC for rockfish species that are long-lived and late to mature, and sets conservative TAC for the other groundfish species.

    • Alternative 5: Set TAC at zero.

    Alternative 2 is the preferred alternative chosen by the Council: Set TAC that fall within the range of ABC recommended through the Council harvest specifications process and TACs recommended by the Council. Under this scenario, F is set equal to a constant fraction of maxFABC. The recommended fractions of maxFABC may vary among species or stocks, based on other considerations unique to each. This is the method for determining TAC that has been used in the past.

    Alternatives 1, 3, 4, and 5 do not meet the objectives of this action, although they have a smaller adverse economic impact on small entities than the preferred alternative. The Council rejected these alternatives as harvest strategies in 2006, and the Secretary of Commerce did so in 2007. Alternative 1 would lead to TAC limits whose sum exceeds the fishery OY, which is set out in statute and the FMP. As shown in Table 1 and Table 2, the sum of ABCs in 2015 and 2016 would be 2,848,454 and 2,731,897 million mt, respectively. Both of these are substantially in excess of the fishery OY for the BSAI. This result would be inconsistent with the objectives of this action, in that it would violate the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004, Pub. L. 108-199, Sec. 803(c), and the FMP for the BSAI groundfish fishery, which both set a 2 million mt maximum harvest for BSAI groundfish.

    Alternative 3 selects harvest rates based on the most recent 5 years' worth of harvest rates (for species in Tiers 1 through 3) or for the most recent 5 years' worth of harvests (for species in Tiers 4 through 6). This alternative is also inconsistent with the objectives of this action, because it does not take into account the most recent biological information for this fishery.

    Alternative 4 would lead to significantly lower harvests of all species to reduce TAC from the upper end of the OY range in the BSAI, to its lower end. This result would lead to significant reductions in harvests of species by small entities. While reductions of this size could be associated with offsetting price increases, the size of these increases is very uncertain, and NMFS has no confidence that they would be sufficient to offset the volume decreases and leave revenues unchanged. Thus, this action would have an adverse economic impact on small entities, compared to the preferred alternative.

    Alternative 5, which sets all harvests equal to zero, may also address conservation issues, but would have a significant adverse economic impact on small entities.

    Impacts on marine mammals resulting from fishing activities conducted under this rule are discussed in the EIS (see ADDRESSES).

    In December 2014, the Council adopted separate Pacific cod harvest specifications for the Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea in the 2015 and 2016 fishing years. While separate OFLs, ABCs, and TACs, have been created for the Aleutian Islands and for the Bering Sea, the actual sector allocations (except CDQ allocations) remain BSAI-wide allocations. Sector allocations are calculated as a percent of the summed Aleutian Island and Bering Sea TACs, after adjustments are made to account for CDQ allocations. Because sector allocations (except CDQ allocations) continue to be defined BSAI-wide, sectors remain free to redeploy between the two areas. However, if the non-CDQ portion of the TAC in either sub-area is reached, NMFS will close directed fishing for Pacific cod in that subarea. Thus if the resources in one of the areas is fully utilized, one sector will not be able to increase its harvest, unless at the expense of another sector's harvest.

    It is possible that in some years an Aleutian Island-specific Pacific cod TAC, in combination with a deduction from the ABC for a GHL fishery, and a deduction for an ICA, may leave the Aleutian Islands TAC too small to permit a directed fishery. The ultimate impact of the Pacific cod split will depend on policy decisions made by the Council and the Secretary of Commerce. In the 10 years since the first year of the baseline period for this analysis (2004), the BSAI Pacific cod TAC was only set equal to the ABC in 2 years. There may be flexibility for the Council to offset anticipated Aleutian Island production limits by setting the Aleutian Islands TAC less than the ABC, and the Bering Sea TAC equal to the ABC. The 2 million metric ton groundfish optimum yield is the sum of the BSAI TACs, so a decrease in the Aleutian Islands TAC, coupled with an equal increase in the Bering sea TAC, would leave the aggregate BSAI Pacific cod TAC unchanged, and would not require reductions in TACs for other species so as to comply with the 2 million metric ton optimum yield limit.

    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness for this rule, because delaying this rule is contrary to the public interest. Plan Team review occurred in November 2014, and Council consideration and recommendations occurred in December 2014. Accordingly, NMFS' review could not begin until after the December 2014 Council meeting, and after the public had time to comment on the proposed action. If this rule's effectiveness is delayed, fisheries that might otherwise remain open under these rules may prematurely close based on the lower TACs established in the final 2014 and 2015 harvest specifications (79 FR 12108, March 4, 2014). If implemented immediately, this rule would allow these fisheries to continue fishing without worrying about a potential closure because the new TAC limits are higher than the ones under which they are currently fishing. Certain fisheries, such as those for pollock and Pacific cod are intensive, fast-paced fisheries. Other fisheries, such as those for flatfish, rockfish, skates, sculpins, sharks, and octopuses, are critical as directed fisheries and as incidental catch in other fisheries. U.S. fishing vessels have demonstrated the capacity to catch the TAC allocations in these fisheries. Any delay in allocating the final TAC limits in these fisheries would cause confusion in the industry and potential economic harm through unnecessary discards. Determining which fisheries may close is impossible because these fisheries are affected by several factors that cannot be predicted in advance, including fishing effort, weather, movement of fishery stocks, and market price. Furthermore, the closure of one fishery has a cascading effect on other fisheries by freeing up fishing vessels, allowing them to move from closed fisheries to open ones, increasing the fishing capacity in those open fisheries and causing them to close at an accelerated pace.

    Additionally, in fisheries subject to declining sideboards, delaying this rule's effectiveness could allow some vessels to inadvertently reach or exceed their new sideboard levels. Because sideboards are intended to protect traditional fisheries in other sectors, allowing one sector to exceed its new sideboards by delaying this rule's effectiveness would effectively reduce the available catch for sectors without sideboard limits. Moreover, the new TAC and sideboard limits protect the fisheries from being overfished. Thus, the delay is contrary to the public interest in protecting traditional fisheries and fish stocks.

    If the final harvest specifications are not effective by March 14, 2015, which is the start of the 2015 Pacific halibut season as specified by the IPHC, the hook-and-line sablefish fishery will not begin concurrently with the Pacific halibut IFQ season. Delayed effectiveness of this action would result in confusion for sablefish harvesters and economic harm from unnecessary discard of sablefish that are caught along with Pacific halibut, as both hook-and-line sablefish and Pacific halibut are managed under the same IFQ program. Immediate effectiveness of the final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications will allow the sablefish IFQ fishery to begin concurrently with the Pacific halibut IFQ season. Also, immediate effectiveness of this action is required to provide consistent management and conservation of fishery resources based on the best available scientific information. This is particularly true of those species that have lower 2015 ABC and TAC limits than those established in the 2014 and 2015 harvest specifications (79 FR 12108, March 4, 2014). Immediate effectiveness also would give the fishing industry the earliest possible opportunity to plan and conduct its fishing operations with respect to new information about TAC limits. Therefore, NMFS finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay in effectiveness under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3).

    Small Entity Compliance Guide

    This final rule is a plain language guide to assist small entities in complying with this final rule as required by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. This final rule's primary purpose is to announce the final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications and prohibited species bycatch allowances for the groundfish fisheries of the BSAI. This action is necessary to establish harvest limits and associated management measures for groundfish during the 2015 and 2016 fishing years and to accomplish the goals and objectives of the FMP. This action directly affects all fishermen who participate in the BSAI fisheries. The specific amounts of OFL, ABC, TAC, and PSC are provided in tables to assist the reader. NMFS will announce closures of directed fishing in the Federal Register and information bulletins released by the Alaska Region. Affected fishermen should keep themselves informed of such closures.

    Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 773 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1540(f); 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 3631 et seq.; Pub. L. 105-277; Pub. L. 106-31; Pub. L. 106-554; Pub. L. 108-199; Pub. L. 108-447; Pub. L. 109-241; Pub. L. 109-479.

    Dated: February 27, 2015. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05041 Filed 3-4-15; 08:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    80 43 Thursday, March 5, 2015 Proposed Rules DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 7 CFR Part 319 [Docket No. APHIS-2014-0099] RIN 0579-AE06 Importation of Tomato Plantlets in Approved Growing Media From Mexico AGENCY:

    Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    We are proposing to amend the regulations governing the importation of plants for planting to authorize the importation of tomato plantlets from Mexico in approved growing media, subject to a systems approach. The systems approach would consist of measures currently specified for tomato plants for planting not imported in growing media, as well as measures specific to all plants for planting imported into the United States in approved growing media. Additionally, the plantlets would have to be imported into greenhouses in the continental United States and the importers of the plantlets from Mexico or the owners of the greenhouses in the continental United States would have to enter into compliance agreements regarding the conditions under which the plants from Mexico must enter and be maintained within the greenhouses. This proposed rule would allow for the importation into the continental United States of tomato plantlets from Mexico in approved growing media, while providing protection against the introduction of plant pests. The proposed rule would also allow the imported greenhouse plantlets to produce tomato fruit for commercial sale within the United States.

    DATES:

    We will consider all comments that we receive on or before May 4, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments by either of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2014-0099.

    Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2014-0099, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

    Supporting documents and any comments we receive on this docket may be viewed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2014-0099 or in our reading room, which is located in room 1141 of the USDA South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC. Normal reading room hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. To be sure someone is there to help you, please call (202) 799-7039 before coming.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Ms. Lydia E. Colón, PPQ, APHIS, 4700 River Road, Unit 133, Riverdale, MD 20737-1236; (301) 851-2302.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Current Restrictions

    The regulations in 7 CFR part 319 prohibit or restrict the importation of certain plants and plant products into the United States to prevent the introduction of quarantine plant pests. The regulations contained in “Subpart—Plants for Planting,” §§ 319.37 through 319.37-14 (referred to below as the regulations), prohibit or restrict, among other things, the importation of living plants, plant parts, and seeds for propagation or planting.

    The regulations differentiate between prohibited articles and restricted articles. Prohibited articles are plants for planting whose importation into the United States is not authorized due to the risk the articles present of introducing or disseminating plant pests. Restricted articles are articles authorized for importation into the United States, provided that the articles are subject to measures to address such risk.

    Section 319.37-5 of the regulations lists restricted articles that may be imported into the United States only if they are accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate that contains an additional declaration either that the restricted articles are free of specified quarantine pests or that the restricted articles have been produced in accordance with certain mitigation requirements. Within the section, paragraph (r) contains requirements for the importation of restricted articles (except seeds) of Pelargonium or Solanum spp. into the United States. Solanum spp. restricted articles include tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plantlets, in addition to other species and cultivars within the genus.

    Paragraph (r)(1) of § 319.37-5 authorizes the importation into the United States of Pelargonium or Solanum spp. restricted articles from Canada under the provisions of a greenhouse-grown restricted plant program. Paragraph (r)(3) contains conditions for the importation into the United States of Pelargonium or Solanum spp. restricted articles that do not meet the conditions in paragraph (r)(1), and are from a country in which R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 is known to occur.

    Paragraph (r)(3) specifies that the articles must be produced in accordance with a systems approach consisting of the following requirements:

    • The national plant protection organization (NPPO) of the country in which the articles are produced must enter into a bilateral workplan with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that specifies, among other things, the manner in which the NPPO will monitor and enforce the requirements of the systems approach.

    • The production site where the articles intended for export are produced must be registered with and certified by both APHIS and the NPPO.

    • The production site must conduct ongoing testing for R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 according to a testing procedure approved by APHIS, must only offer for export articles that have had negative test results for the disease, and must maintain records of the testing for at least 2 growing seasons.

    • Each greenhouse on the production site must be constructed in a manner that ensures that runoff water from areas surrounding the production site cannot enter the production site, and must be surrounded by a 1-meter sloped buffer.

    • Dicotylendonous weeds must be controlled within each greenhouse on the production site and around it.

    • All equipment that comes in contact with articles of Pelargonium or Solanum spp. at the production site must be adequately sanitized so that the equipment cannot transmit R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2.

    • Personnel must adequately sanitize their clothing and shoes and wash their hands before entering the production site.

    • Growing media for articles of Pelargonium or Solanum spp. at the production site must be free of R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2, and growing media and containers used for the articles must not come in contact in contact with growing media that could transmit R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2.

    • Water used in maintenance of the production site must be free of R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2.

    • Growing media used at the production site must not come in direct contact with a water source, and, if a drip irrigation system is used, backflow devices must be installed to prevent spread of R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 through the irrigation system.

    • Production site personnel must be educated regarding the various pathways through which R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 could enter the production site, and must be trained to recognize symptoms of the disease.

    Pelargonium or Solanum spp. restricted articles produced for export to the United States must be handled and packed in a manner which precludes introduction of R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 to the articles and must be labeled with information indicating the production site from which the articles originated.

    • If R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 is discovered in the production site or in consignments from the production site, the production site is ineligible to export articles of Pelargonium or Solanum spp. to the United States, and may only be reinstated if all problems at the production site have been addressed and corrected to the satisfaction of APHIS.

    • A phytosanitary certificate must accompany the articles, and must contain an additional declaration that the articles were produced in accordance with the regulations.

    • The government of the country in which the articles are produced must enter into a trust fund agreement with APHIS before each growing season, and must pay in advance for all costs incurred by APHIS in overseeing execution of the systems approach.

    Section 319.37-5 authorizes the importation of certain restricted articles into the United States. However, it does not authorize the importation of restricted articles in growing media. Conditions for the importation into the United States of restricted articles in growing media are specifically found in § 319.37-8. Within that section, the introductory text of paragraph (e) lists taxa of restricted articles that may be imported into the United States in approved growing media, subject to the mandatory provisions of a systems approach. In § 319.37-8, paragraph (e)(1) lists the approved growing media, and paragraph (e)(2) contains the provisions of the systems approach. Within paragraph (e)(2), paragraphs (i) through (viii) contain provisions that are generally applicable to all the taxa listed in the introductory text of paragraph (e), and paragraphs (ix) through (xi) contain additional taxon-specific conditions.

    Mexico is a country in which R. solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 is known to exist. Accordingly, the importation of Pelargonium and Solanum spp. restricted articles from Mexico into the United States is subject to the conditions in paragraph (r)(3) of § 319.37-5.1 Additionally, under § 319.37-8, neither Pelargonium nor Solanum spp. restricted articles from Mexico are currently authorized for importation in growing media.

    1 Notwithstanding the provisions in § 319.37-5(r)(3), a notice published in the Federal Register on April 18, 2013 (78 FR 23209-23219, Docket No. APHIS-2011-0072) added Solanum spp. plants for planting from all countries other than Canada to a list of taxa of plants for planting that are not authorized importation into the United States unless a pest risk analysis is prepared that identifies measures that will mitigate the plant pest risk associated with such importation. Solanum spp. plants for planting from countries other than Canada were added to this list in order to prevent the plants for planting from disseminating tomato torrado virus and tomato severe leaf curl virus within the United States. Accordingly, the pest risk assessment and risk management document prepared for this proposal examined the risk that plantlets from Mexico grown under the conditions specified by the NPPO could become infected with these viruses, and determined the risk to be negligible based on those growing conditions.

    Request From the National Plant Protection Organization of Mexico

    APHIS received a request from the NPPO of Mexico to authorize the importation of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plantlets in growing media into the continental United States for propagation in greenhouses within the continental United States. The request came at the behest of potential importers of the greenhouse plantlets, who wish to use such greenhouse plantlets to produce tomato fruit for commercial sale within the United States.

    In its request, the NPPO of Mexico specified that the plantlets would be produced from certified seed, would be produced in greenhouses constructed and maintained to be pest-exclusionary, would be shipped in growing media maintained under similar conditions, and would be safeguarded during movement to the continental United States to prevent plant pests from being introduced to the plantlets. Finally, the request pertained only to tomato plantlets that would be imported into greenhouses in the continental United States and maintained within these greenhouses to aid in the commercial production of tomatoes within the United States. The NPPO did not request that we allow the imported plantlets to be commercially sold in the United States. Accordingly, as we discuss later in this document, we would prohibit the selling of the imported tomato plantlets grown in greenhouses in the United States. However, the NPPO did ask that we authorize the fruit from the plantlets grown in greenhouses in the United States to be sold commercially within the United States.

    In evaluating Mexico's request, we prepared a pest risk assessment (PRA) and a risk management document (RMD). Copies of the PRA and the RMD may be obtained from the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT or viewed on the Regulations.gov Web site (see ADDRESSES above for instructions for accessing Regulations.gov).

    The PRA, titled “Importation of Live Greenhouse-Grown Tomato Plantlets on Approved Growing Media from Mexico into the Continental United States; A Qualitative, Pathway-Initiated Pest Risk Assessment” (USDA 2014), analyzed the potential pest risk associated with the importation of tomato plantlets in approved growing media into the continental United States from Mexico. The PRA finds that, if the plantlets are produced in accordance with the conditions specified by the NPPO, there is a negligible risk of quarantine pests being introduced into the continental United States through their importation in approved growing media.

    Accordingly, the RMD recommends that APHIS require the plantlets to be produced in accordance with the conditions in paragraph (r)(3) of § 319.37-5 and (e)(2)(i) through (e)(2)(viii) of § 319.37-8, which jointly would cover the growing conditions specified by the NPPO in their request. Since the PRA assumed that the greenhouse plantlets would not be commercially distributed, however, the RMD also recommends that the owner or owners of the greenhouses into which the plantlets would be imported enter into a compliance agreement with APHIS that will prohibit the plantlets from leaving the greenhouses for commercial sale. The compliance agreement would specify the conditions under which the imported plantlets could enter the greenhouses in the continental United States, and would specify the conditions under which they must be maintained within those greenhouses. The compliance agreement would also prohibit the imported plantlets from being shipped or otherwise removed from the greenhouses following importation, except for the authorized removal of dead plantlets. The RMD notes that these conditions, jointly, will also help ensure that the imported greenhouse plantlets will produce tomato fruit that presents a negligible risk of disseminating plants pests and that the movement of tomato fruit derived from the greenhouse plantlets for commercial distribution will not result in the dissemination of plant pests.

    Proposed Rule

    Based on the findings of the PRA and the recommendations of the RMD, we are proposing to amend the regulations to authorize the importation of tomato plantlets in approved growing media from Mexico into the continental United States. Specifically, we are proposing to amend the introductory text of paragraph (e) of § 319.37-8 to add Solanum lycopersicum from Mexico as a restricted article that may be imported into the continental United States in approved growing media.

    We are also proposing to add a new paragraph (e)(2)(xii) to § 319.37-8. This paragraph would authorize the importation of tomato plantlets in approved growing media from Mexico into the continental United States, if the plantlets meet all of the requirements in paragraphs (r)(3) of § 319.37-5 and paragraphs (e)(2)(i) through (e)(2)(viii) of § 319.37-8; and if the plantlets from Mexico are imported directly into a greenhouse in the continental United States, the owner or owners of which must have entered into a compliance agreement with APHIS. The required compliance agreement would specify the conditions under which the plantlets must enter and be maintained within the greenhouse and would prohibit the plantlets from being moved from the greenhouse following importation, other than for the appropriate disposal of dead plantlets.

    We are also proposing that if all of the above requirements are correctly complied with, tomato fruit produced from the imported greenhouse plantlets may be shipped from the greenhouses for commercial sale within the United States. This proposed rule, through the conditions in paragraphs (r)(3) of § 319.37-5, paragraphs (e)(2)(i) through (e)(2)(viii) of § 319.37-8, and proposed (e)(2)(xii) of § 319.37-8, would thereby include the conditions specified by the NPPO of Mexico for the production of the plantlets in Mexico and allow for the importation of the plantlets in accordance with Mexico's request.

    Finally, to clarify the intent and force of the compliance agreement, we are also proposing to add a definition of compliance agreement to the regulations. We would define compliance agreement to mean a written agreement between APHIS and a person (individual or corporate) engaged in the production, processing, handling, or moving of restricted articles imported pursuant to the regulations, in which the person agrees to comply with the regulations and the terms and conditions specified within the agreement itself.

    Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 and Regulatory Flexibility Act

    This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for the purposes of Executive Order 12866 and, therefore, has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.

    In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 603, we have performed an initial regulatory flexibility analysis, which is summarized below, regarding the economic effects of this proposed rule on small entities. Copies of the full analysis are available by contacting the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT or on the Regulations.gov Web site (see ADDRESSES above for instructions for accessing Regulations.gov).

    Based on the information currently available to us, we have no reason to conclude that adoption of this proposed rule would result in any significant economic effect on a substantial number of small entities. However, we do not currently have all of the data necessary for a comprehensive analysis of the effects of this proposed rule on small entities. Therefore, we are inviting comments on potential effects. In particular, we are interested in determining the number and kind of small entities that may incur benefits or costs from the implementation of this proposed rule.

    The proposed rule would allow the importation of tomato plantlets in approved growing media from Mexico into the continental United States. Currently, only tomato plantlets in growing media from Canada can be imported into the United States. The tomato plantlets from Mexico would be allowed to be imported only to APHIS-approved greenhouse facilities under compliance agreement, and would be used only for fruit production, not for the selling of the imported plantlets themselves.

    Data are not available on the production or trade for tomato plantlets. However, U.S. greenhouse (protected-culture) tomato production and import levels provide evidence of the expanding derived demand for tomato plantlets. In 2011, protected-culture tomatoes made up 40 percent of the U.S. tomato supply, up from less than 10 percent in 2004; they now dominate the retail industry. The value of protected-culture tomato imports by the United States grew by two-thirds between 2009 and 2013, in response to expanding consumer demand, from $795 million to $1.33 billion.

    Protected-culture tomato producers are classified in the North American Industry Classification System within Other Vegetable (except Potato) and Melon Farming (NAICS 111219), for which the Small Business Administration small-entity standard is annual receipts of not more than $750,000. The average market value of agricultural products sold by operations in this industry in 2012 was about $314,000. While we are unable to determine the number of businesses that would be affected by the proposed rule, we can assume that most of them are small entities.

    The proposed rule would enable U.S. producers of protected-culture tomatoes to draw upon Mexican plantlet suppliers in addition to Canadian and domestic suppliers. The NPPO of Mexico has stated that, if this rule were finalized, they would expect the exportation of approximately 4 million plantlets annually to the United States. It is unknown to what extent these tomato plantlets imported from Mexico will displace tomato plantlet imports from Canada and we therefore cannot project the net increase in imports. If there were no import displacement, we think that the tomato plantlet imports from Mexico could result in an increase in U.S. protected-culture tomato production of between 5 and 10 percent. However, we understand that the U.S. protected-culture tomato industry is in favor of having an additional source of tomato plantlets imports besides those from Canada.

    Executive Order 12988

    This proposed rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. If this proposed rule is adopted: (1) All State and local laws and regulations that are inconsistent with this rule will be preempted; (2) no retroactive effect will be given to this rule; and (3) administrative proceedings will not be required before parties may file suit in court challenging this rule.

    National Environmental Policy Act

    To provide the public with documentation of APHIS' review and analysis of any potential environmental impacts associated with the importation of greenhouse tomato plantlets in approved growing media from Mexico into the continental United States, we have prepared an environmental assessment. The environmental assessment was prepared in accordance with: (1) The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), (2) regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality for implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), (3) USDA regulations implementing NEPA (7 CFR part 1b), and (4) APHIS' NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 372).

    The environmental assessment may be viewed on the Regulations.gov Web site or in our reading room. (A link to Regulations.gov and information on the location and hours of the reading room are provided under the heading ADDRESSES at the beginning of this proposed rule.) In addition, copies may be obtained by calling or writing to the individual listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

    Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with section 3507(d) of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), the information collection or recordkeeping requirements included in this proposed rule have been submitted for approval to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Please send written comments to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OMB, Attention: Desk Officer for APHIS, Washington, DC 20503. Please state that your comments refer to Docket No. APHIS-2014-0099. Please send a copy of your comments to: (1) Docket No. APHIS-2014-0099, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238, and (2) Clearance Officer, OCIO, USDA, Room 404-W, 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250. A comment to OMB is best assured of having its full effect if OMB receives it within 30 days of publication of this proposed rule.

    APHIS is proposing to amend the plants for planting regulations to allow the importation of greenhouse tomato plantlets in approved growing media from Mexico into the continental United States. As a condition of entry, the plantlets would have to be produced in accordance with the regulatory requirements of specific APHIS regulations which include a specific systems approach. This action would allow for the importation of tomato plantlets from Mexico into the continental United States while providing protection against the introduction of plant pests.

    Allowing tomato plantlets from Mexico to be imported into the continental United States will require information collection activities, including phytosanitary certificates, greenhouse registration, commodity labeling, an operational workplan, and compliance agreements.

    We are soliciting comments from the public (as well as affected agencies) concerning our proposed information collection and recordkeeping requirements. These comments will help us:

    (1) Evaluate whether the proposed information collection is necessary for the proper performance of our agency's functions, including whether the information will have practical utility;

    (2) Evaluate the accuracy of our estimate of the burden of the proposed information collection, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;

    (3) Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and

    (4) Minimize the burden of the information collection on those who are to respond (such as through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology; e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses).

    Estimate of burden: Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 0.02564 hours per response.

    Respondents: The NPPO of Mexico, producers, and importers of tomato plantlets from Mexico in approved growing media.

    Estimated annual number of respondents: 3.

    Estimated annual number of responses per respondent: 4,181.

    Estimated annual number of responses: 12,543.

    Estimated total annual burden on respondents: 319 hours. (Due to averaging, the total annual burden hours may not equal the product of the annual number of responses multiplied by the reporting burden per response.)

    Copies of this information collection can be obtained from Ms. Kimberly Hardy, APHIS' Information Collection Coordinator, at (301) 851-2727.

    E-Government Act Compliance

    The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is committed to compliance with the E-Government Act to promote the use of the Internet and other information technologies, to provide increased opportunities for citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes. For information pertinent to E-Government Act compliance related to this proposed rule, please contact Ms. Kimberly Hardy, APHIS' Information Collection Coordinator, at (301) 851-2727.

    List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 319

    Coffee, Cotton, Fruits, Imports, Logs, Nursery stock, Plant diseases and pests, Quarantine, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Rice, Vegetables.

    Accordingly, we propose to amend 7 CFR part 319 as follows:

    PART 319—FOREIGN QUARANTINE NOTICES 1. The authority citation for part 319 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    7 U.S.C. 450, 7701-7772, and 7781-7786; 21 U.S.C. 136 and 136a; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, and 371.3.

    2. Section 319.37-1 is amended by adding, in alphabetical order, a definition for compliance agreement to read as follows:
    § 319.37-1 Definitions.

    Compliance agreement. A written agreement between APHIS and a person (individual or corporate) engaged in the production, processing, handling, or moving of restricted articles imported pursuant to this subpart, in which the person agrees to comply with the subpart and the terms and conditions specified within the agreement itself.

    3. Section 319.37-8 is amended as follows: a. In paragraph (e), introductory text, by removing the period after the entry for “Schlumberga spp. from the Netherlands and Denmark” and adding, in alphabetical order, an entry for “Solanum lycopersicum from Mexico.”. b. By adding paragraph (e)(2)(xii).

    The addition reads as follows:

    § 319.37-8 Growing media.

    (e) * * *

    (2) * * *

    (xii) Plantlets of Solanum lycopersicum from Mexico must also meet the following conditions:

    (A) The plantlets must be produced in accordance with § 319.37-5(r)(3);

    (B) The plantlets can only be imported into the continental United States, and may not be imported into Hawaii or the territories of the United States; and

    (C) The plantlets must be imported from Mexico directly into a greenhouse in the continental United States, the owner or owners of which have entered into a compliance agreement with APHIS. The required compliance agreement will specify the conditions under which the plants must enter and be maintained within the greenhouse, and will prohibit the plantlets from being moved from the greenhouse following importation, other than for the appropriate disposal of dead plantlets.

    (D) If all of the above requirements are correctly complied with, then the tomato fruit produced from the imported greenhouse plantlets may be shipped from the greenhouses for commercial sale within the United States.

    Done in Washington, DC, this 2nd day of March 2015. Kevin Shea, Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05058 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-34-P
    DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Rural Housing Service 7 CFR Part 3555 RIN 0575-AD00 Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program AGENCY:

    Rural Housing Service, USDA.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Rural Housing Service (RHS or Agency) proposes to amend the current regulation for the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP) on the subjects of lender indemnification, principal reduction, refinancing, and qualified mortgage requirements.

    DATES:

    Written or email comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before May 4, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments on this proposed rule by any one of the following methods:

    • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments electronically.

    • Mail: Submit written comments via the U.S. Postal Service to the Branch Chief, Regulations and Paperwork Management Branch, U.S. Department of Agriculture, STOP 0742, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20250-0742.

    • Hand Delivery/Courier: Submit written comments via Federal Express mail, or other courier service requiring a street address to the Branch Chief, Regulations and Paperwork Management Branch, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 300 7th Street SW., 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20024.

    All written comments will be available for public inspection during regular work hours at the 300 7th Street SW., 7th Floor address listed above.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Lilian Lipton, Loan Specialist, Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Division, STOP 0784, Room 2250, USDA Rural Development, South Agriculture Building, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-0784, telephone: (202) 260-8012, email is [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    RHS proposes to amend the current regulation for the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP) on the subjects of lender indemnification, principal reduction, refinancing, and qualified mortgage requirements.

    Indemnification: The Agency seeks to expand its lender indemnification authority for loss claims in the case of fraud, misrepresentation, or noncompliance with applicable loan origination requirements. This action is taken to continue the Agency's efforts to improve and expand the risk management of the SFHGLP. The proposed change is in accordance with the recommendations in the Office of Inspector General Report 04703-003-HY, from October 2012.

    Principal Reduction: The Agency is proposing to amend its regulations at 7 CFR 3555.10 and 3555.304 to add a new special loan servicing option to the SFHGLP that lenders may utilize while still maintaining the SFHGLP loan guarantee. The Agency will allow lenders to reduce the principal balance on behalf of borrowers in amounts up to 30 percent of the unpaid principal balance of the loan as of the date of default, inclusive of any Mortgage Recovery Advance (MRA), after the lender has exhausted all other traditional loss mitigation options such as a loan modification or forbearance.

    Refinance: The Agency is proposing to amend its refinancing provisions at 3555.101(d)(3) to remove the requirement that the new interest rate be at least 100 basis points below the original loan rate. The interest rate reduction requirement of 3555.101(d)(3)(i) is being revised to simply require that the new interest rate not exceed the interest rate on the original loan.

    The Agency is also proposing to amend its regulations at 7 CFR 3555.101 to add a new refinance option, “streamlined-assist,” which was formerly the Rural Refinance Pilot (pilot), to the SFHGLP. The streamlined-assist refinance differs from the traditional refinance options in that there is no appraisal or credit report requirement in most instances, as long as the borrower has not defaulted on their first mortgage during the previous 12 months. Appraisals are still required for refinancing direct loans where the borrower has received a subsidy, for purposes of calculating subsidy recapture.

    Qualified Mortgage: The agency intends to amend its regulation to indicate that a loan guaranteed by RHS is a Qualified Mortgage if it meets certain requirements set forth by the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB published a Qualified Mortgage rule (12 CFR 1026) which implements in part the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-203). The CFPB rule includes a sunset provision that presumes RHS guaranteed loans are Qualified Mortgages until January 10, 2021, or until USDA publishes its own Qualified Mortgage rule, whichever comes first.

    Classification

    This proposed rule has been determined to be non-significant by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Executive Order 12866.

    Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform

    This rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. Except where specified, all State and local laws and regulations that are in direct conflict with this rule will be preempted. Federal funds carry Federal requirements. No person is required to apply for funding under this program, but if they do apply and are selected for funding, they must comply with the requirements applicable to the Federal program funds. This rule is not retroactive. It will not affect agreements entered into prior to the effective date of the rule. Before any judicial action may be brought regarding the provisions of this rule, the administrative appeal provisions of 7 CFR part 11 must be exhausted.

    Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA), Public Law 104-4, establishes requirements for Federal agencies to assess the effect of their regulatory actions on State, local, and tribal governments and the private sector. Under section 202 of the UMRA, the Agency generally must prepare a written statement, including a cost-benefit analysis, for proposed and final rules with “Federal mandates” that may result in expenditures to State, local, or tribal governments, in the aggregate, or to the private sector, of $100 million, or more, in any one year. When such a statement is needed for a rule, section 205 of the UMRA generally requires the Agency to identify and consider a reasonable number of regulatory alternatives and adopt the least costly, most cost-effective, or least burdensome alternative that achieves the objectives of the rule.

    This proposed rule contains no Federal mandates (under the regulatory provisions of Title II of the UMRA) for State, local, and tribal governments or the private sector. Therefore, this rule is not subject to the requirements of sections 202 and 205 of the UMRA.

    Environmental Impact Statement

    This document has been reviewed in accordance with 7 CFR part 1940, subpart G, “Environmental Program.” It is the determination of the Agency that this action does not constitute a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, and, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, Public Law 91-190, neither an Environmental Assessment nor an Environmental Impact Statement is required.

    Executive Order 13132, Federalism

    The policies contained in this rule do not have any substantial direct effect on States, on the relationship between the national government and States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. Nor does this rule impose substantial direct compliance costs on State and local governments. Therefore, consultation with the States is not required.

    Regulatory Flexibility Act

    In compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) the undersigned has determined and certified by signature of this document that this rule change will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. This rule does not impose any significant new requirements on Agency applicants and borrowers, and the regulatory changes affect only Agency determination of program benefits for guarantees of loans made to individuals.

    Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments

    This executive order imposes requirements on RD in the development of regulatory policies that have Tribal implications or preempt tribal laws. RD has determined that the proposed rule does not have a substantial direct effect on one or more Indian Tribe(s) or on either the relationship or the distribution of powers and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian Tribes. Thus, this rule is not subject to the requirements of Executive Order 13175. If a Tribe determines that this rule has implications of which RD is not aware and would like to engage with RD on this rule, please contact RD's Native American Coordinator at (720) 544-2911 or [email protected]

    Executive Order 12372, Intergovernmental Consultation

    This program/activity is not subject to the provisions of Executive Order 12372, which require intergovernmental consultation with State and local officials. (See the Notice related to 7 CFR part 3015, subpart V, at 48 FR 29112, June 24, 1983; 49 FR 22675, May 31, 1984; 50 FR 14088, April 10, 1985).

    Programs Affected

    This program is listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance under Number 10.410, Very Low to Moderate Income Housing Loans (Section 502 Rural Housing Loans).

    Paperwork Reduction Act

    The information collection and record keeping requirements contained in this regulation have been approved by OMB in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). The assigned OMB control number is XXXX-XXXX.

    E-Government Act Compliance

    The Rural Housing Service is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote the use of the Internet and other information technologies to provide increased opportunities for citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes.

    Non-Discrimination Policy

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.)

    If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form (PDF), found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-9410, by fax (202) 690-7442 or email at [email protected]

    Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities and you wish to file either an EEO or program complaint please contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339 or (800) 845-6136 (in Spanish).

    Persons with disabilities who wish to file a program complaint, please see information above on how to contact us by mail directly or by email. If you require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) please contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).

    Background Information

    Indemnification: In the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report 04703-003-HY, SFH GL Loss Claims, the Agency was requested to re-evaluate the timeframe in which the Government can seek indemnification for noncompliance with regulations in loan origination. Present language in 7 CFR 3555.108(d)(1) limits the indemnification to losses if the payment under the guarantee was made within 24 months of loan closing. Origination defects which depart from Agency requirements, however, may cause defaults beyond 24 months from loan closing. Similarly, claims arising from defective originations may occur several years after loan closing. The proposed change will trigger indemnification if the default occurs within 5 years from origination, the Agency concludes the default arose because the originator did not underwrite the loan according to Agency standards and guidelines, and regardless of when the claim is paid. This is similar to how HUD and other federal agencies operate.

    The Agency may also seek indemnification if the Agency determines that fraud or misrepresentation occurred in connection with the origination of the loan, regardless of when the loan closed. 7 CFR 3555.108(d)(2). This provision is being clarified to state that the Agency may seek indemnification in cases of fraud or misrepresentation regardless of when the loan closed or when the default occurred.

    In addition, the definition of “default” has been added to section 3555.10 to clarify that default is when an account is more than 30 days overdue. This is consistent with how the term is used in the mortgage industry.

    Principal Reduction Advance (PRA): The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 was signed into law on May 20, 2009. Section 101 of this law amended section 502(h) of the Housing Act of 1949 (42 U.S.C. 1472(h)), which authorizes the SFHGLP. The amendments gave RHS the authority to establish a program for the payment of partial claims to approved guaranteed lenders who agree to apply the claim amount to the payment of a loan in default or facing imminent default under Section 502(h)(14) of the Housing Act. RHS published a final rule under this authority on August 26, 2010 (see 75 FR 52429).

    Under this authority, the Agency proposes to add paragraph 7 CFR 3555.304(e) to reimburse lenders for PRAs made on behalf of borrowers in default or facing imminent default. The lender must consider all other traditional loan servicing options, including forbearances and loan modifications, prior to requesting a PRA. The Agency proposes that the MRA will continue to include the sum of arrearages not exceeding 12 months of PITI, annual fees, legal fees, and foreclosure costs related to a cancelled foreclosure action, but will no longer include any principal deferments or reductions. A PRA will follow an MRA if necessary to bring the borrower's total monthly mortgage payment to 31 percent of gross monthly income. The PRA cannot be issued without an MRA; the MRA may be issued independently of a PRA. The purpose of the PRA is to ensure the modified loan is affordable to the borrower with the potential of also addressing housing market pricing imbalances that impact borrowers in default or in imminent danger of default. The PRA cannot be extended more than once to provide borrower relief. Lenders must receive written approval from RHS prior to servicing a borrower's account with a PRA. As with other special servicing options, the Lender must submit a servicing plan to RHS pursuant to 7 CFR 3555.301(h) when a borrower's account is 90 days delinquent and a method other than foreclosure is recommended to resolve the delinquency. Use of special loan servicing does not change the terms of the loan note guarantee.

    Section 502(h)(14) of the Housing Act of 1949 limits the amount of the partial claim to no more than 30 percent of the unpaid principal balance of the mortgage plus any costs that are approved by the Secretary. The maximum principal reduction amount that can be achieved through a combination of both the MRA and PRA can therefore not exceed 30 percent of the unpaid principal balance as of the date of default. The PRA is only permitted in cases when all special servicing requirements are met, notably, that the mortgage payment-to-income ratio after special servicing is reduced to 31 percent or a proximate value extremely close to, but not less than, 31 percent, and the total debt-to-income ratio after special servicing is not more than 55 percent. The trial payment plan described in paragraph 3555.304(b) is also applicable when PRAs take place. In order to provide principal reductions for borrowers who purchased properties at unrealistically inflated values during the period from 2001 to 2009, PRAs will be limited to loans originated and closed on or after January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2010.

    Section 3555.304(e)(2) discusses how the amount of a PRA must be subject to an unsecured promissory note which is interest and payment free, due three years from the date of the principal reduction advance, and may be forgiven at the end of three years if the borrower and loan account are in good standing. To be in good standing, the account may not have been more than 60 days delinquent at any time after the date of the PRA. If the debt is forgiven, RHS must report this amount to the Internal Revenue Service as income for the borrower.

    Section 3555.304(e)(3) discusses how a Lender files a claim with RHS for reimbursement of a principal reduction advance. First, a claim for reimbursement must be submitted to RHS within 60 days of the advance being executed by the borrower through his or her signature on the promissory note. When filing the claim for reimbursement with RHS, the Lender must submit the original promissory note with the other supporting documentation for the claim.

    In order to avoid confusion between the MRA and PRA, the Agency proposes to remove references to principal reduction or deferment in the MRA regulations. Revisions to the definition of MRA in 7 CFR 3555.10 and the MRA provisions in 7 CFR 3555.304(d)(1) and (3) reflect that proposed change. This rule also amends 7 CFR 3555.10, “Definitions and Abbreviations,” to include the terms introduced in 7 CFR 3555.304(e).

    Refinance: There are currently two refinance options available to Section 502 borrowers, and the Agency wishes to add a third option which has been successfully tested in a pilot. The Agency is proposing to amend section 3555.101(d)(3)(i) to remove the requirement that the interest rate of a refinanced loan be at least 100 basis points below the original rate, and instead to require that the new interest rate not exceed the original interest loan's interest rate. The interest rate reduction requirement has proven problematic in rising rate environments. For example, in the case of divorce, the borrower may not be able to refinance as required by their divorce decree or judgment because they cannot secure an interest rate at least 1 percent lower than the first one. The definition of “streamlined-assist refinance” is being added to 7 CFR 3555.10. On February 1, 2012 RHS created a refinancing pilot known as the “Rural Refinance Pilot.” The pilot was published in Administrative Notice numbers 4634, 4704, 4720, and 4749. The streamlined-assist refinance differs from the traditional refinance options in that there is no appraisal or credit report requirement in most instances, as long as the borrower has been current on their first mortgage for the previous 12 months and their new interest rate is at least 1 percent lower than their first one. A new appraisal is required for direct loan borrowers who received a subsidy for the purposes of calculating subsidy recapture.

    The pilot was designed to assist existing Section 502 direct or guaranteed loan borrowers in refinancing their homes with greater ease in thirty-five eligible states where steep home price declines, unemployment and persistent poverty rates made refinancing a current mortgage into more affordable terms difficult or impossible. Due to the success of the pilot program, RHS will implement the pilot as a refinance option for existing Section 502 direct or guaranteed loan borrowers nationwide in addition to the two traditional refinance loan options of streamlined and non-streamlined. The special refinance loan option will be called “streamlined-assist.”

    This rule proposes to amend 7 CFR 3555.101(d)(vi) to include “streamlined-assist” as one of three available refinance loan options in addition to the traditional “streamlined” and “non-streamlined” refinance loans. Section 3555.101(d)(vi) discusses eligibility requirements for each streamlined and non-streamlined refinance loan. The streamlined-assist refinance will have the same features as the Rural Refinance Pilot described above. Additional eligibility criteria for refinance loans is discussed in Section 3555.101(d)(3).

    Qualified Mortgage: The agency proposes a rule change to Section 3555.109, to indicate that a loan guaranteed by RHS meeting certain CFPB requirements is a “Qualified Mortgage.”

    The CFPB published a “Qualified Mortgage” rule (12 CFR part 1026) which became effective January 10, 2014 and implemented in part the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-203). This rule requires creditors to make a reasonable, good faith determination of a consumer's repayment ability for any consumer credit transaction secured by a dwelling, and establishes a safe harbor from liability for transactions that meet the requirements for “qualified mortgages.” Currently, SFHGLP loans are considered to be qualified mortgages if they meet the requirements in 12 CFR 1026.43(e)(2)(i)-(iii) and the points and fees limits in 12 CFR 1026.43(e)(3) until RHS promulgates its own rules regarding qualified mortgages, or January 10, 2021, whichever is earlier. (See 12 CFR 1026.43(e)(4)).

    RHS guaranteed loans currently meet these requirements. Therefore, section 3555.109 will clarify that RHS guaranteed loans which meet the CFPB requirements in 12 CFR 1026.43(e)(2)(i)-(iii) and 12 CFR 1026.43(e)(3) are considered qualified mortgages. Also, the definition of “qualified mortgage” will be added to 7 CFR 3555.10.

    List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 3555

    Home improvement, Loan programs—Housing and community development, Mortgage insurance, Mortgages, Rural areas.

    For the reason stated in the preamble, Chapter XVIII, Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations is proposed to be amended as follows:

    PART 3555—GUARANTEED RURAL HOUSING PROGRAM 1. The authority citation for part 3555 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 301, 7 U.S.C. 1989, 42 U.S.C. 1480, and Subpart E of 7 U.S.C. 1932(a).

    Subpart C—Loan Requirements 2. Amend § 3555.10 by adding in alphabetical order the definition for “Default,” revising the definition of “Mortgage recovery advance,” and adding in alphabetical order definitions for “Principal reduction advance,” “Qualified mortgage,” and “Streamlined-assist refinance” to read as follows:
    § 3555.10 Definitions and abbreviations.

    Default. A loan is considered in default when a payment has not been paid after 30 days from the date it was due.

    Principal reduction advance. A principal reduction advance is funds advanced by the Lender on behalf of a borrower to reduce the principal balance of the loan.

    Mortgage recovery advance. A mortgage recovery advance is funds advanced by the lender on behalf of a borrower to satisfy the borrower's arrearage, and pay legal fees and foreclosure costs related to a cancelled foreclosure action.

    Qualified mortgage. A qualified mortgage is a guaranteed loan under this part which meets all Agency requirements as well as the restrictions in 12 CFR 1026.43(e)(2)(i) through (iii) and the points and fees limits in 12 CFR 1026.43(e)(3).

    Streamlined-assist refinance. A streamlined-assist refinance is an abbreviated method of refinancing which does not require a credit report, or the calculation of loan-to-value or debt-to-income ratios. Lenders must verify that the borrower has been current on their existing loan for the preceding 12 month period.

    3. Section 3555.101 is amended by: a. Revising paragraphs (d)(3)(i) and (ii). b. Removing paragraph (d)(3)(iv). c. Re-designating paragraphs (d)(3)(v) through (x) as (d)(3)(iv) through (ix) respectively.

    The revisions read as follows:

    § 3555.101 Loan Purposes.

    (d) * * *

    (3) * * *

    (i) Three options for refinancing may be offered: Streamlined, non-streamlined, and streamlined-assist. Other than provided in this paragraph, no cash out is permitted for any refinance. Documentation costs and underwriting requirements of subparts D, E, and F of this part apply to streamlined and non-streamlined refinances.

    (A) Lenders may offer a streamlined refinance for existing Section 502 Guaranteed loans, which does not require a new appraisal. The lender will pay off the balance of the existing Section 502 Guaranteed loan. The new loan amount cannot include any closing costs or lender fees.

    (B) Lenders may offer non-streamlined refinancing for existing Section 502 Guaranteed or Direct loans, which requires a new and current market value appraisal. The amount of the new loan must be supported by sufficient equity in the property as determined by an appraisal. The appraised value may be exceeded by the amount of up-front guarantee fee financed, if any, when using the non-streamlined option.

    (C) A streamlined-assist refinance loan is a special refinance option available to existing Section 502 direct and guaranteed loan borrowers. Applicants must meet the income eligibility requirements of § 3555.151(a), and must not have had any defaults during the 12 month period prior to the refinance loan application. There are no debt-to-income calculation requirements, no credit report requirements, no property inspection requirements, and no loan-to-value requirements. There is no appraisal requirement except for Section 502 direct loan borrowers who have received a subsidy.

    (ii) The interest rate of the new loan must be fixed and must not exceed the interest rate of the original loan being refinanced.

    4. Amend § 3555.108 by revising paragraph (d) to read as follows:
    § 3555.108 Full faith and credit.

    (d) Indemnification. If the Agency determines that a Lender did not originate a loan in accordance with the requirements in this part, and the Agency pays a claim under the loan guarantee, the Agency may revoke the lender's eligibility status in accordance with subpart B of this part and may also require the lender:

    (1) To indemnify the Agency for the loss, if the default leading to the payment of loss claim occurred within five (5) years of loan closing, and the default arose from failure to originate the loan in accordance with agency requirements; or:

    (2) To indemnify the Agency for the loss regardless of how long ago the loan closed or the default occurred, if the Agency determines that fraud or misrepresentation was involved with the origination of the loan.

    (3) In addition, the Agency may use any other legal remedies it has against the Lender.

    5. Add § 3555.109 to read as follows:
    § 3555.109 Qualified mortgage.

    A qualified mortgage is a guaranteed loan meeting the requirements of this part and applicable Agency guidance, as well as the requirements in 12 CFR 1026.43(e)(i) through (iii) and 12 CFR 1026.43(e)(3).

    6. Section 3555.304 is amended by: a. Revising paragraph (d)(1). b. Removing paragraph (d)(3). c. Re-designating paragraphs (d)(4) through (8) as (d)(3) through (7) respectively. d. Adding paragraph (e).

    The revisions read as follows:

    § 3555.304 Special servicing options.

    (d) * * *

    (1) The maximum amount of a mortgage recovery advance is the sum of arrearages not to exceed 12 months of PITI, annual fees, legal fees and foreclosure costs related to a cancelled foreclosure action.

    (e) Principal reduction advance. A principal reduction advance cannot be issued independently of a mortgage recovery advance, and the amount of the principal reduction advance, when combined with the mortgage recovery advance, cannot exceed 30 percent of the unpaid principal balance as of the date of default. Principal reduction advances can be considered only for loans originated and closed on or after January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2010.

    (1) After a mortgage recovery advance has been calculated, the principal reduction amount for the modified mortgage is determined by calculating how much principal reduction advance is needed to achieve a mortgage payment-to-income ratio that is 31 percent or a proximate value extremely close to, but not less than, 31 percent, while ensuring that the total debt-to-income ratio does not exceed 55 percent and that the combined mortgage recovery advance and principal reduction advance does not exceed 30 percent of the unpaid principal balance.

    (2) The Lender must have the borrower execute an unsecured promissory note payable to RHS for the amount of the principal reduction advance.

    (3) The following terms apply to the repayment of principal reduction advances:

    (i) The principal reduction advance debt under the promissory note shall be interest-free.

    (ii) Borrowers are not required to make any monthly or periodic payments on the principal reduction advance note; however, borrowers may voluntarily submit partial payments without incurring any prepayment penalty.

    (iii) The due date for the principal reduction advance note shall be three years from the date of the note. Prior to the due date on the principal reduction note, payment in full under the note is due should the borrower transfer title to the property by voluntary or involuntary means within three years of the principal reduction advance.

    (iv) At the conclusion of three years, RHS will review the account and determine if it is in good standing. An account will be deemed in good standing if it has not been 60 days or more delinquent over the past three years. If the debt is forgiven, RHS must report this amount to the Internal Revenue Service in accordance with applicable law and regulations.

    (v) If the account is in good standing at the conclusion of the three year period, RHS will forgive the principal reduction advance note and the borrower will be released of all liability from the principal reduction advance promissory note.

    (vi) If the account is not in good standing, the principal reduction advance note will be payable and due in full. The Agency will collect this Federal debt from the borrower by any available means if the principal reduction advance is not repaid based on the terms outlined in the promissory note.

    (4) The lender may request reimbursement from the Agency for a principal reduction advance. A fully supported and documented claim for reimbursement must be submitted to the Agency within 60 days of the advance being completed. To be complete, the lender must provide the original promissory note to the Agency.

    (5) The loss claim filed by the lender will be adjusted by any amount of principal recovery advance reimbursed to the lender by the Agency.

    Dated: January 20, 2015. Tony Hernandez, Administrator, Rural Housing Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-03711 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-XV-P
    NATIONAL CREDIT UNION ADMINISTRATION 12 CFR Part 791 RIN 3133-AE45 Promulgation of NCUA Rules and Regulations AGENCY:

    National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule and interpretive ruling and Policy Statement 15-1 with request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    The NCUA Board (Board) proposes to amend Interpretive Ruling and Policy Statement (IRPS) 87-2, as amended by IRPS 03-2 and 13-1. The amended IRPS would increase the asset threshold used to define small entity under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) from $50 million to $100 million and, thereby, provide transparent consideration of regulatory relief for a greater number of credit unions in future rulemakings. The proposed rule and IRPS also make a technical change to NCUA's regulations in connection with NCUA's procedures for developing regulations.

    DATES:

    Comments must be received on or before May 4, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments by any of the following methods (Please send comments by one method only):

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    NCUA Web site: http://www.ncua.gov/Legal/Regs/Pages/PropRegs.aspx. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Email: Address to [email protected]. Include “[Your name]—Comments on Proposed Rule 791 and IRPS 15-1” in the email subject line.

    Fax: (703) 518-6319. Use the subject line described above for email.

    Mail: Address to Gerard Poliquin, Secretary of the Board, National Credit Union Administration, 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3428.

    Hand Delivery/Courier: Same as mail address.

    Public Inspection: You can view all public comments on NCUA's Web site at http://www.ncua.gov/Legal/Regs/Pages/PropRegs.aspx as submitted, except for those we cannot post for technical reasons. NCUA will not edit or remove any identifying or contact information from the public comments submitted. You may inspect paper copies of comments in NCUA's law library at 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314, by appointment weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. To make an appointment, call (703) 518-6546 or send an email to [email protected].

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Kevin Tuininga, Lead Liquidations Counsel, Office of General Counsel, National Credit Union Administration, 1775 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3428 or telephone: (703) 518-6543.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background II. The Proposed Rule and IRPS III. Regulatory Procedures I. Background A. What changes does this proposed rule make?

    The RFA,1 as amended, generally requires federal agencies to determine and consider the impact of proposed and final rules on small entities. Since adopting IRPS 13-1 in 2013, the Board has defined “small entity” in this context as a federally insured credit union (FICU) with less than $50 million in assets.2 This proposed rule and IRPS 15-1 redefines “small entity” as a FICU with less than $100 million in assets. In addition, the proposed rule amends § 791.8(a) of NCUA's regulations to cross reference proposed IRPS 15-1. Section 791.8(a) governs NCUA's procedures for developing regulations and incorporates IRPS 87-2 and each of its amendments.

    1 Public Law 96-354.

    2 IRPS 13-1, 78 FR 4032 (Jan. 18, 2013).

    B. Why is the board proposing this rule and IRPS?

    The Board is proposing this rulemaking and IRPS to increase the number of FICUs that receive special consideration of regulatory relief under the RFA. Congress enacted the RFA in 1980 and amended it with the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.3 A principal purpose of the 1996 amendment was to provide an opportunity for judicial review of agency compliance with the RFA.4

    3 Public Law 104-121.

    4 Id.

    The RFA, in part, requires federal agencies to determine whether a proposed or final rule would have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.5 If so, the RFA requires agencies to engage in a small entity impact analysis, known as an initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) for proposed rules and a final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) for final rules.6 The IRFA and FRFA each must be published in the Federal Register.7 If an agency determines that a proposed or final rule will not have a “significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities,” the agency may certify as much in the Federal Register and forego the IRFA and FRFA.8

    5 5 U.S.C. 603, 604, 605(b). The term “small entity” as used in the RFA includes small businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions. 5 U.S.C. 601(6). Credit unions fall within the definition of organization. 5 U.S.C. 601(4).

    6 5 U.S.C. 603, 604.

    7 Id.

    8 5 U.S.C. 605(b).

    For an IRFA, the procedural requirements include, among other things, “a description of and, where feasible, an estimate of the number of small entities to which the proposed rule will apply,” a description of reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance burden, and an identification of any overlapping or conflicting federal rules.9 In addition, the IRFA must “contain a description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule which accomplish the stated objectives . . . and which minimize any significant economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities.” 10 This discussion must include alternatives such as allowing “differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables,” “the clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance and reporting requirements,” “the use of performance rather than design standards,” and a full or partial exemption for small entities.11

    9 5 U.S.C. 603(b). The IRFA must also include a description of why the agency is considering action and “a succinct statement of the objectives of, and legal basis for, the proposed rule . . . .” Id.

    10 5 U.S.C. 603(c).

    11 Id.

    The FRFA must meet requirements similar to that of the IRFA, but must also discuss and respond to public comments and describe “the steps the agency has taken to minimize the significant economic impact on small entities . . ., including a statement of factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule . . . was rejected.” 12 These processes encourage federal agencies to give special consideration to the ability of smaller entities to absorb compliance burdens imposed by new rules.

    12 5 U.S.C. 604(a).

    The RFA establishes terms for various subgroups that fall within the meaning of “small entity,” including “small business,” “small organization,” and “small governmental jurisdiction.” 13 FICUs, as not-for-profit enterprises, are “small organizations,” within the broader meaning of “small entity.” The RFA permits a regulator, including NCUA, to establish one or more definitions of “small organization,” as appropriate to the activities of the agency.14 An agency's definition must be subjected to public comment and published in the Federal Register.15 The RFA provides a default definition of “small organization” as “a not-for-profit enterprise which is independently owned and operated and is not dominant in its field. . . .” 16

    13 5 U.S.C. 601.

    14 5 U.S.C. 601(4).

    15 Id.

    16 Id.

    In 1981, the Board initially defined “small entity” in the credit union context as any FICU with less than $1 million in assets.17 IRPS 87-2 superseded IRPS 81-4, but retained the definition of “small entity” as a FICU with less than $1 million in assets.18 The Board updated the definition in 2003 to include FICUs with less than $10 million in assets with IRPS 03-2.19 The last update occurred in 2013, when the Board increased the defining threshold to include FICUs with less than $50 million in assets in IRPS 13-1.20 In addition, in IRPS 13-1, the Board pledged to review the RFA threshold after two years and thereafter on a three-year cycle, similar to its regulatory review process.21

    17 IRPS 81-4, 46 FR 29248 (June 1, 1981).

    18 52 FR 35231 (Sept. 8, 1987).

    19 68 FR 31949 (May 29, 2003).

    20 78 FR 4032 (Jan. 18, 2013).

    21 Id. IRPSs 87-2, 03-2, and 13-1 are incorporated by reference into NCUA's rule governing the promulgation of regulations. 12 CFR 791.8(a).

    As a result of conducting its review two years following the issuance IRPS 13-1, the Board believes it should increase the asset threshold used to define “small entity” from $50 million to $100 million. In its last two adjustments to the RFA threshold, the Board primarily referenced inflation, asset growth, and the percentage of FICUs covered by certain 1998 amendments to the Federal Credit Union Act to justify increasing the threshold.22 In light of the persistent economic trends in the industry that are discussed below, the Board has decided to bypass the extrapolation approach it has used in the past, which would justify only an incremental increase to the RFA threshold at this time. Instead, the Board believes it should weigh competitive disadvantages within the credit union industry, relative threats to the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (Insurance Fund), and the need for broader regulatory relief to adopt a larger increase.

    22 68 FR 31949, 31950 (May 29, 2003); 78 FR 4032, 4034 (Jan. 18, 2013).

    Increasing the RFA threshold to $100 million will account for FICUs that generally face significant challenges from their relatively small asset base, membership, and economies of scale. The Board believes competitive disadvantages, rather than industry percentages, better delineate which FICUs should receive special consideration during future rulemakings. This new approach would result in a more inclusive threshold with respect to RFA coverage, reflecting the Board's intent to reduce regulatory burdens for FICUs under $100 million in assets.

    II. The Proposed Rule and IRPS

    This proposed rule and IRPS 15-1 would amend IRPS 87-2 (as amended by IRPS 03-2 and IRPS 13-1) by changing the definition of “small entity” to include FICUs with less than $100 million in assets. The increased threshold would cause NCUA to give special consideration to the economic impact of proposed and final regulations on an additional 745 small FICUs, bringing the total number of FICUs covered by the RFA to approximately 4,869. The proposed rule and IRPS 15-1 retains the three-year review cycle that the Board adopted in 2013. IRPS 15-1 would be incorporated by reference into § 791.8(a) of NCUA's regulations governing regulatory procedures, and it would replace the reference to IRPS 13-1.

    In IRPS 13-1, the Board combined adjustments to existing regulatory asset thresholds with an increase to the RFA threshold.23 Specifically, asset thresholds addressed in IRPS 13-1 included the threshold governing the definition of “complex” in § 702.103(a) of NCUA's regulations, which determines the application of risk-based net worth requirements, and the threshold providing an exemption to NCUA's interest rate risk (IRR) rule in § 741.3(b)(5). Rather than replicate this approach in this proposal, the Board will separately establish the asset threshold used to define which FICUs are “complex” in § 702.103(a) in the risk-based capital rule itself. Further, other regulatory asset thresholds, including those applying to IRR and liquidity requirements, will be separately considered in the Board's general three-year regulatory review cycle. Individual review will facilitate consideration of unique risks and compliance burdens that are specific to those rules, rather than encouraging a one-size-fits-all approach.

    23 78 FR 4032 (Jan. 18, 2013).

    A. How did the Board identify $100 million as an appropriate asset threshold for the RFA?

    The Board believes that the RFA threshold proposed in this rulemaking and IRPS will result in thorough consideration of regulatory relief for a larger number of FICUs in future rulemakings. Thus, to determine an appropriate asset threshold for the RFA and support a significant increase, the Board considered which FICUs are most disadvantaged in comparison to their peers, as well as risk to the Insurance Fund. The concept of competitive disadvantage aligns well with Congress's default description of RFA-covered entities as those that are “not dominant” in their field.24 In an effort to determine which institutions fall within that concept in this proposed rule and IRPS, the Board examined the following industry metrics for the period between 2001 and 2013:

    24 5 U.S.C. 601(4).

    • Deposit growth rates;

    • asset growth rates; membership growth rates;

    • loan origination growth rates;

    • inflation-adjusted average loan amounts;

    • ratio of operating costs to assets;

    • merger and liquidation trends;

    • average year-to-date loan amounts;

    • non-interest expenses per dollar loaned;

    • average assets per full-time employee; and

    • average non-interest expense per annual loan originations.

    As discussed below, rates of deposit growth, rates of membership growth, rates of loan origination growth, and the ratio of operating costs to assets exemplified the results of the Board's examination.25

    25 The data used to calculate each of the metrics is adjusted to prevent outliers from skewing the average results.

    (i) Slower Deposit Growth Rates

    Smaller FICUs have consistently demonstrated an inability to grow their deposit base at a rate that keeps pace with larger FICUs. This slower growth rate makes it difficult for smaller FICUs to cover fixed costs, which are increasing over time. FICUs with growing deposits and loans are able to spread out fixed costs and incrementally reduce operating costs.

    In general, deposit growth rates drop off significantly for FICUs with less than $100 million in assets. FICUs with less than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000 grew their deposits by an average of 4.0 percent annually over the next 13 years. In comparison, FICUs with greater than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000 grew deposits at 7.3 percent annually, on average, over the same period. On an asset-weighted basis, the industry's average deposit growth rate from 2001 to 2013 was 7.0 percent per year.

    (ii) Slower Membership Growth Rates

    FICUs with less than $100 million in assets also had significantly slower membership growth rates than larger FICUs. On average, FICUs with less than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000 had their membership shrink by 0.5 percent annually over the next 13 years. In contrast, FICUs with more than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000 grew their membership by 2.3 percent annually over the same period. On an asset-weighted basis, the industry's membership growth rate was 1.7 percent per year from 2001 to 2013.

    (iii) Slower Growth in Loan Originations

    FICUs with less than $100 million in assets also had significantly slower growth in loan originations than larger FICUs. On average, FICUs with less than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000 grew loan originations by 2.3 percent annually over the next 13 years. In contrast, FICUs with more than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000 grew their loan originations by 8.5 percent annually over the same period. On an asset-weighted basis, the industry's loan origination growth was 6.9 percent per year from 2001 to 2013.

    (iv) Higher Operating Expenses

    FICUs with less than $100 million in assets also had higher annual operating expenses per unit of assets and per dollar of loan originations compared to other asset groups. On average, FICUs with less than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000 had annual operating expenses equal to 4.0 percent of assets over the next 13 years. FICUs with more than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000 had annual operating expenses of 3.5 percent of assets over the same period.

    The impact of these differences in operating expenses can be dramatic. Between 2001 and 2013, FICUs with less than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000, had operating expenses, on average, equal to 18 cents for every dollar in loan originations. This expense ratio was a third higher than at FICUs with more than $100 million in assets as of the end of the year 2000, which averaged annual operating expenses equal to 13 cents for every dollar in loan originations over the same period.

    The 50-basis-point difference in operating expenses (as a share of assets) between FICUs above and below the $100 million asset threshold resulted in large and persistent differences in earnings between these FICUs. The earnings gap between FICUs above and below the $100 million threshold averaged 40 basis points from 2001 to 2013. To put this in perspective, during that period, 25 percent of FICUs below the $100 million asset threshold had negative earnings. Only 3.3 percent of FICUs with more than $100 million in assets had negative earnings over the same period. FICUs with persistently weak or negative earnings are more likely to go out of business via failure or merger.

    The Board believes that if smaller FICUs are going to be successful and meet their mission in the long term, they should have every feasible opportunity to lower costs. Challenges related to lagging deposit growth, stagnant membership, and high operating costs have caused FICUs with less than $100 million in assets to merge and/or fail at higher rates. Despite representing 83 percent of all FICUs, FICUs with less than $100 million in assets experienced 96 percent of mergers and liquidations since 2004 (through the second quarter of 2014).

    Although the number of mergers and failures for FICUs below $100 million is disproportionately high, losses suffered by FICUs with assets between $50 million and $100 million have historically been relatively small. Seven FICUs between $50 million and $100 million in inflation-adjusted assets failed between the first quarter of 2002 and second quarter of 2014. Resulting losses totaled less than $52 million. In contrast, losses for FICUs between $100 million and $200 million were more than triple that amount over the same period. Moreover, FICUs with between $50 million and $100 million in assets represent a small additional share of the system's assets (4.8 percent). Thus, to the extent the increase to $100 million results in more FICU exemptions from rules governing safety and soundness, the Board does not believe it will present material risk to the Insurance Fund.

    By increasing the RFA threshold to $100 million in assets, the Board recognizes its role in ensuring additional scrutiny of the regulatory costs of FICUs under that threshold. The increase to $100 million in assets will require the Board to engage in the public analytical process the RFA requires for the benefit of significantly more FICUs whenever a regulation would impose significant economic burdens on a substantial number of FICUs under $100 million. Further, it will encourage the consideration of alternatives for more FICUs and subject that consideration to the benefit of public comments.

    B. How will the proposed rule and IRPS affect FICUs?

    The change to the RFA threshold will ensure that regulatory relief will be consistently and robustly considered for an additional 745 FICUs. Future rules are more likely to invoke an RFA analysis because of the significantly increased threshold. When an IRFA or FRFA is triggered, these additional FICUs will have the benefit of an opportunity to comment on a transparent and published analysis of impacts and alternatives.

    In all, approximately 4,869 FICUs with less than $100 million in assets would come within the RFA's mandates as of the adoption of this proposed rule and IRPS. This represents 76.7 percent of FICUs. For all of these FICUs, future regulations will be thoroughly evaluated to determine whether an exemption or other separate consideration should apply.

    III. Regulatory Procedures A. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The RFA requires NCUA to prepare an analysis to describe any significant economic impact a proposed rule may have on a substantial number of small entities (currently defined by NCUA as FICUs with under $50 million in assets). In this case, the proposed rule and IRPS expands the number of FICUs defined as small entities under the RFA. The proposed rule and IRPS therefore will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of FICUs under $50 million in assets that are already covered by the RFA.

    With respect to additional FICUs that would be covered by the RFA, a significant component of the proposed rule and IRPS will provide prospective relief in the form of special and more robust consideration of their ability to handle compliance burden. This prospective relief is not yet quantifiable. Further, the proposed rule and IRPS can only reduce, rather than increase, compliance burden for these FICUs and, therefore, will not raise costs in a manner that requires an IRFA or FRFA or a discussion of alternatives for minimizing the proposed rule's compliance burden. Accordingly, NCUA has determined and certifies that the proposed rule and IRPS will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. No regulatory flexibility analysis is required.

    B. Paperwork Reduction Act

    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) applies to rulemakings in which an agency creates a new paperwork burden on regulated entities or modifies an existing burden.26 For purposes of the PRA, a paperwork burden may take the form of either a reporting or a recordkeeping requirement, both referred to as information collections. The proposed changes to IRPS 87-2, as amended by IRPSs 03-2 and 13-1, will not create any new paperwork burden for FICUs. Thus, NCUA has determined that the terms of this proposed rule and IRPS do not increase the paperwork requirements under the PRA and regulations of the Office of Management and Budget.

    26 44 U.S.C. 3507(d).

    C. Executive Order 13132

    Executive Order 13132 encourages independent regulatory agencies to consider the impact of their actions on state and local interests. NCUA, an independent regulatory agency as defined in 44 U.S.C. 3502(5), voluntarily complies with the executive order to adhere to fundamental federalism principles. This proposed rule and IRPS would not have a substantial direct effect on the states, on the relationship between the national government and the states, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. NCUA has determined that this proposed rule does not constitute a policy that has federalism implications for purposes of the executive order.

    D. Assessment of Federal Regulations and Policies on Families

    NCUA has determined that this proposed rule and IRPS will not affect family well-being within the meaning of Section 654 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 1999, Public Law 105-277, 112 Stat. 2681 (1998).

    List of Subjects in 12 CFR Part 791

    Administrative practice and procedure, Credit unions, Sunshine Act.

    By the National Credit Union Administration Board on February 19, 2015. Gerard Poliquin, Secretary of the Board. For the reasons discussed above, the Board proposes to amend IRPS 87-2 (as amended by IRPS 03-2 and IRPS 13-1) by revising the second sentence of paragraph 2 of Section II and replacing the last two sentences of paragraph 2 of Section II to read as follows: Interpretive Ruling and Policy Statement 87-2 II. Procedures for the Development of Regulations

    2. * * * NCUA will designate federally insured credit unions with less than $100 million in assets as small entities. * * * Every three years, the NCUA Board will review and consider adjusting the asset threshold it uses to define small entities for purposes of analyzing whether a regulation will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

    For the reasons discussed above, the Board proposes to amend 12 CFR part 791 as follows:

    PART 791—RULES OF NCUA BOARD PROCEDURES; PROMULGATION OF NCUA RULES AND REGULATIONS; PUBLIC OBSERVATION OF NCUA BOARD MEETINGS 1. The authority citation for part 791 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    12 U.S.C. 1766, 1789 and 5 U.S.C 552b.

    2. Amend § 791.8(a) to read as follows:
    § 791.8 Promulgation of NCUA rules and regulations.

    (a) NCUA's procedures for developing regulations are governed by the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.), the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), and NCUA's policies for the promulgation of rules and regulations as set forth in its Interpretive Ruling and Policy Statement 87-2, as amended by Interpretive Ruling and Policy Statements 03-2, 13-1, and 15-1.

    [FR Doc. 2015-03806 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 7535-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 25 [Docket No. FAA-2015-0455; Notice No. 25-15-04-SC] Special Conditions: Bombardier Aerospace, Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11; Electronic Flight Control System: Lateral-Directional and Longitudinal Stability and Low-Energy Awareness AGENCY:

    Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

    ACTION:

    Notice of proposed special conditions.

    SUMMARY:

    This action proposes special conditions for the Bombardier Aerospace Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 series airplanes. These airplanes will have a novel or unusual design feature when compared to the state of technology envisioned in the airworthiness standards for transport category airplanes. This design feature is a fly-by-wire electronic flight control system that provides an electronic interface between the pilot's flight controls and the flight control surfaces for both normal and failure states. The system generates the actual surface commands that provide for stability augmentation and control about all three airplane axes. The applicable airworthiness regulations do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for this design feature. These proposed special conditions contain the additional safety standards that the Administrator considers necessary to establish a level of safety equivalent to that established by the existing airworthiness standards.

    DATES:

    Send your comments on or before April 20, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Send comments identified by docket number FAA-2015-0455 using any of the following methods:

    Federal eRegulations Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/ and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.

    Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC, 20590-0001.

    Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.

    Privacy: The FAA will post all comments it receives, without change, to http://www.regulations.gov/, including any personal information the commenter provides. Using the search function of the docket Web site, anyone can find and read the electronic form of all comments received into any FAA docket, including the name of the individual sending the comment (or signing the comment for an association, business, labor union, etc.). DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement can be found in the Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (65 FR 19477-19478), as well as at http://DocketsInfo.dot.gov/.

    Docket: Background documents or comments received may be read at http://www.regulations.gov/ at any time. Follow the online instructions for accessing the docket or go to the Docket Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Joe Jacobsen, FAA, Airplane and Flight Crew Interface, ANM-111, Transport Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, Washington, 98057-3356; telephone 425-227-2011; facsimile 425-227-1320.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Comments Invited

    We invite interested people to take part in this rulemaking by sending written comments, data, or views. The most helpful comments reference a specific portion of the special conditions, explain the reason for any recommended change, and include supporting data.

    We will consider all comments we receive by the closing date for comments. We may change these special conditions based on the comments we receive.

    Background

    On December 10, 2009, Bombardier Aerospace applied for a type certificate for their new Models BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 series airplanes (hereafter collectively referred to as “CSeries”). The CSeries airplanes are swept-wing monoplanes with an aluminum alloy fuselage, sized for 5-abreast seating. Passenger capacity is designated as 110 for the Model BD-500-1A10 and 125 for the Model BD-500-1A11. Maximum takeoff weight is 131,000 pounds for the Model BD-500-1A10 and 144,000 pounds for the Model BD-500-1A11.

    The CSeries flight control system design incorporates normal load factor limiting on a full time basis that will prevent the pilot from inadvertently or intentionally exceeding the positive or negative airplane limit load factor. The FAA considers this feature to be novel and unusual in that the current regulations do not provide standards for maneuverability and controllability evaluations for such systems. Special conditions are needed to ensure adequate maneuverability and controllability when using this design feature.

    Type Certification Basis

    Under the provisions of Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) 21.17, Bombardier Aerospace must show that the CSeries airplanes meet the applicable provisions of 14 CFR part 25 as amended by Amendments 25-1 through 25-129.

    If the Administrator finds that the applicable airworthiness regulations (i.e., 14 CFR part 25) do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for the CSeries airplanes because of a novel or unusual design feature, special conditions are prescribed under the provisions of § 21.16.

    Special conditions are initially applicable to the model for which they are issued. Should the type certificate for that model be amended later to include any other model that incorporates the same novel or unusual design feature, these special conditions would also apply to the other model under § 21.101.

    In addition to the applicable airworthiness regulations and special conditions, the CSeries airplanes must comply with the fuel vent and exhaust emission requirements of 14 CFR part 34 and the noise certification requirements of 14 CFR part 36, and the FAA must issue a finding of regulatory adequacy under § 611 of Public Law 92-574, the “Noise Control Act of 1972.”

    The FAA issues special conditions, as defined in 14 CFR 11.19, in accordance with § 11.38, and they become part of the type-certification basis under § 21.17(a)(2).

    Novel or Unusual Design Features

    The CSeries airplanes will incorporate the following novel or unusual design feature: Fly-by-wire electronic flight control system that provides an electronic interface between the pilot's flight controls and the flight control surfaces for both normal and failure states. The system generates the actual surface commands that provide for stability augmentation and control about all three airplane axes.

    Discussion

    In the absence of positive lateral stability, the curve of lateral control surface deflections against sideslip angle should be in a conventional sense and reasonably in harmony with rudder deflection during steady heading sideslip maneuvers.

    Since conventional relationships between stick forces and control surface displacements do not apply to the “load factor command” flight control system on the CSeries airplanes, longitudinal stability characteristics should be evaluated by assessing the airplane handling qualities during simulator and flight test maneuvers appropriate to the operation of the airplane. This may be accomplished by using the Handling Qualities Rating Method presented in appendix 5 of Advisory Circular (AC) 25-7C, Flight Test Guide for Certification of Transport Category Airplanes, dated October 16, 2012, or an acceptable alternative method proposed by Bombardier Aerospace. Important considerations are as follows:

    (a) Adequate speed control without creating excessive pilot workload;

    (b) Acceptable high and low speed protection; and

    (c) Provision of adequate cues to the pilot of significant speed excursions beyond VMO/MMO and low speed awareness flight conditions.

    The airplane should provide adequate awareness cues to the pilot of a low energy (i.e., a low speed, low thrust, or low height) state to ensure that the airplane retains sufficient energy to recover when flight control laws provide neutral longitudinal stability significantly below the normal operating speeds. This may be accomplished as follows:

    (a) Adequate low speed/low thrust cues at low altitude may be provided by a strong positive static stability force gradient (1 pound per 6 knots applied through the sidestick); or

    (b) The low energy awareness may be provided by an appropriate warning with the following characteristics:

    i. It should be unique, unambiguous, and unmistakable.

    ii. It should be active at appropriate altitudes and in appropriate configurations (i.e., at low altitude, in the approach and landing configurations).

    iii. It should be sufficiently timely to allow recovery to a stabilized flight condition inside the normal flight envelope while maintaining the desired flight path and without entering the flight controls angle-of-attack protection mode.

    iv. It should not be triggered during normal operation, including operation in moderate turbulence, for recommended maneuvers at recommended speeds.

    v. It should not be cancelable by the pilot other than by achieving a higher energy state.

    vi. There should be an adequate hierarchy among the warnings so that the pilot is not confused and led to take inappropriate recovery action if multiple warnings occur.

    Global energy awareness and non-nuisance of low energy cues should be evaluated by simulator and flight tests in the whole take-off and landing altitude range for which certification is requested. This would include all relevant combinations of weight, center-of-gravity position, configuration, airbrakes position, and available thrust, including reduced and de-rated take-off thrust operations and engine failure cases. A sufficient number of tests should be conducted, allowing the level of energy awareness and the effects of energy management errors to be assessed.

    These proposed special conditions contain the additional safety standards that the Administrator considers necessary to establish a level of safety equivalent to that established by the existing airworthiness standards.

    Applicability

    As discussed above, these special conditions are applicable to the Bombardier BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11. Should Bombardier Aerospace apply at a later date for a change to the type certificate to include another model incorporating the same novel or unusual design feature, these special conditions would apply to that model as well.

    Conclusion

    This action affects only certain novel or unusual design features on two model series of airplanes. It is not a rule of general applicability.

    List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 25

    Aircraft, Aviation safety, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    The authority citation for these special conditions is as follows:

    Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701, 44702, 44704.

    The Proposed Special Conditions Accordingly, the Federal Aviation Administration proposes the following special conditions as part of the type certification basis for Bombardier Aerospace BD-500-1A10 and BD-500-1A11 series airplanes.

    1. Electronic Flight Control System: Lateral-Directional and Longitudinal Stability and Low-Energy Awareness. In lieu of the requirements of §§ 25.171, 25.173, 25.175, and 25.177:

    (a) The airplane must be shown to have suitable static lateral, directional, and longitudinal stability in any condition normally encountered in service, including the effects of atmospheric disturbance. The showing of suitable static lateral, directional, and longitudinal stability must be based on the airplane handling qualities, including pilot workload and pilot compensation, for specific test procedures during the flight test evaluations.

    (b) The airplane must provide adequate awareness to the pilot of a low energy (low speed/low thrust/low height) state when fitted with flight control laws presenting neutral longitudinal stability significantly below the normal operating speeds. “Adequate awareness” means warning information must be provided to alert the crew of unsafe operating conditions and to enable them to take appropriate corrective action.

    (c) The static directional stability (as shown by the tendency to recover from a skid with the rudder free) must be positive for any landing gear and flap position and symmetrical power condition, at speeds from 1.13 VSR1, up to VFE, VLE, or VFC/MFC (as appropriate).

    (d) The static lateral stability (as shown by the tendency to raise the low wing in a sideslip with the aileron controls free), for any landing-gear and wing-flap position and symmetric-power condition, may not be negative at any airspeed (except that speeds higher than VFE need not be considered for wing-flaps-extended configurations nor speeds higher than VLE for landing-gear-extended configurations) in the following airspeed ranges:

    i. From 1.13 VSR1 to VMO/MMO.

    ii. From VMO/MMO to VFC/MFC, unless the divergence is—

    (1) Gradual;

    (2) Easily recognizable by the pilot; and

    (3) Easily controllable by the pilot.

    (e) In straight, steady sideslips over the range of sideslip angles appropriate to the operation of the airplane, but not less than those obtained with one half of the available rudder control movement (but not exceeding a rudder control force of 180 pounds), rudder control movements and forces must be substantially proportional to the angle of sideslip in a stable sense; and the factor of proportionality must lie between limits found necessary for safe operation. This requirement must be met for the configurations and speeds specified in paragraph (c) of this section.

    (f) For sideslip angles greater than those prescribed by paragraph (e) of this section, up to the angle at which full rudder control is used or a rudder control force of 180 pounds is obtained, the rudder control forces may not reverse, and increased rudder deflection must be needed for increased angles of sideslip. Compliance with this requirement must be shown using straight, steady sideslips, unless full lateral control input is achieved before reaching either full rudder control input or a rudder control force of 180 pounds; a straight, steady sideslip need not be maintained after achieving full lateral control input. This requirement must be met at all approved landing gear and wing-flap positions for the range of operating speeds and power conditions appropriate to each landing gear and wing-flap position with all engines operating.

    Issued in Renton, Washington, on February 24, 2015. Jeffrey E. Duven, Manager, Transport Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05048 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
    DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 39 [Docket No. FAA-2015-0251; Directorate Identifier 2014-NM-200-AD] RIN 2120-AA64 Airworthiness Directives; Airbus Airplanes AGENCY:

    Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

    ACTION:

    Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

    SUMMARY:

    We propose to adopt a new airworthiness directive (AD) for all Airbus Model A318, A319, A320, and A321 series airplanes. This proposed AD was prompted by a determination that, in specific flight conditions, the allowable load limits on the vertical tail plane could be reached and possibly exceeded. Exceeding allowable load could result in detachment of the vertical tail plane. This proposed AD would require modification of the pin programming flight warning computer (FWC) to activate the stop rudder input warning (SRIW) logic; and an inspection to determine the part numbers of the FWC and the flight augmentation computer (FAC), and replacement of the FWC and FAC if necessary. We are proposing this AD to prevent detachment of the vertical tail plane and consequent loss of control of the airplane.

    DATES:

    We must receive comments on this proposed AD by April 20, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may send comments, using the procedures found in 14 CFR 11.43 and 11.45, by any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Fax: 202-493-2251.

    Mail: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590.

    Hand Delivery: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    For service information identified in this proposed AD, contact Airbus, Airworthiness Office—EIAS, 1 Rond Point Maurice Bellonte, 31707 Blagnac Cedex, France; telephone +33 5 61 93 36 96; fax +33 5 61 93 44 51; email [email protected]; Internet http://www.airbus.com. You may view this referenced service information at the FAA, Transport Airplane Directorate, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 425-227-1221.

    Examining the AD Docket

    You may examine the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-0251; or in person at the Docket Management Facility between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The AD docket contains this proposed AD, the regulatory evaluation, any comments received, and other information. The street address for the Docket Operations office (telephone 800-647-5527) is in the ADDRESSES section. Comments will be available in the AD docket shortly after receipt.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Sanjay Ralhan, Aerospace Engineer, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA 98057-3356; telephone 425-227-1405; fax 425-227-1149.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Comments Invited

    We invite you to send any written relevant data, views, or arguments about this proposed AD. Send your comments to an address listed under the ADDRESSES section. Include “Docket No. FAA-2015-0251; Directorate Identifier 2014-NM-200-AD” at the beginning of your comments. We specifically invite comments on the overall regulatory, economic, environmental, and energy aspects of this proposed AD. We will consider all comments received by the closing date and may amend this proposed AD based on those comments.

    We will post all comments we receive, without change, to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information you provide. We will also post a report summarizing each substantive verbal contact we receive about this proposed AD.

    Discussion

    The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is the Technical Agent for the Member States of the European Community, has issued EASA Airworthiness Directive 2014-0217, dated September 26, 2014 (referred to after this as the Mandatory Continuing Airworthiness Information, or “the MCAI”), to correct an unsafe condition for all Model A318, A319, A320, and Model A321 series airplanes. The MCAI states:

    During design reviews that were conducted following safety recommendations related to in-service incidents and one accident on another aircraft type, it has been determined that, in specific flight conditions, the allowable load limits on the vertical tail plane could be reached and possibly exceeded.

    This condition, if not corrected, could lead, in the worst case, to detachment of the vertical tail plane in flight and consequent loss of the aeroplane.

    To prevent such a possibility, Airbus has developed modifications within the flight augmentation computer (FAC) to reduce the vertical tail plane stress and to activate a conditional aural warning within the flight warning computer (FWC) to further protect against pilot induced rudder doublets.

    For the reasons described above, this [EASA] AD requires installation and activation of the stop rudder input warning (SRIW) logic.

    In addition, this [EASA] AD requires, prior to or concurrent with modification of an aeroplane with the activation of the SRIW, upgrades of the FAC and FWC, to introduce the SRIW logic and SRIW aural capability, respectively. After modification, this [EASA] AD prohibits installation of certain Part Number (P/N) FWC and FAC.

    You may examine the MCAI in the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-0251. Related Service Information Under 1 CFR Part 51

    Airbus has issued Service Bulletin A320-22-1480, dated July 9, 2014. The service information describes procedures for modifying the pin programming to activate the SRIW logic.

    Airbus has also issued the following service bulletins. The service information describes procedures for replacing FWCs and FACs.

    • Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1375, dated January 15, 2014.

    • Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1427, Revision 04, dated February 11, 2014.

    • Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1447, Revision 01, dated September 18, 2014.

    • Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1461, Revision 04, dated September 15, 2014.

    • Airbus Service Bulletin A320-31-1414, Revision 03, dated September 15, 2014.

    The actions described in this service information are intended to correct the unsafe condition identified in the MCAI. This service information is reasonably available; see ADDRESSES for ways to access this service information.

    FAA's Determination and Requirements of This Proposed AD

    This product has been approved by the aviation authority of another country, and is approved for operation in the United States. Pursuant to our bilateral agreement with the State of Design Authority, we have been notified of the unsafe condition described in the MCAI and service information referenced above. We are proposing this AD because we evaluated all pertinent information and determined an unsafe condition exists and is likely to exist or develop on other products of these same type designs.

    Explanation of “RC” Procedures and Tests in Service Information

    The FAA worked in conjunction with industry, under the Airworthiness Directives Implementation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (AD ARC), to enhance the AD system. One enhancement was a new process for annotating which procedures and tests in the service information are required for compliance with an AD. Differentiating these procedures and tests from other tasks in the service information is expected to improve an owner's/operator's understanding of crucial AD requirements and help provide consistent judgment in AD compliance. The actions specified in the service information identified previously include procedures and tests that are identified as RC (required for compliance) because these procedures have a direct effect on detecting, preventing, resolving, or eliminating an identified unsafe condition.

    As specified in a NOTE under the Accomplishment Instructions of the specified service information, procedures and tests identified as RC must be done to comply with the proposed AD. However, procedures and tests that are not identified as RC are recommended. Those procedures and tests that are not identified as RC may be deviated from using accepted methods in accordance with the operator's maintenance or inspection program without obtaining approval of an alternative method of compliance (AMOC), provided the procedures and tests identified as RC can be done and the airplane can be put back in a serviceable condition. Any substitutions or changes to procedures or tests identified as RC will require approval of an AMOC.

    Costs of Compliance

    We estimate that this proposed AD affects 953 airplanes of U.S. registry.

    We also estimate that it would take about 3 work-hours per product to comply with the basic requirements of this proposed AD. The average labor rate is $85 per work-hour. Based on these figures, we estimate the cost of this proposed AD on U.S. operators to be $243,015, or $255 per product.

    In addition, we estimate that any necessary follow-on actions would take about 6 work-hours (3 work-hours for an FWC and 3 work-hours for an FAC), for a cost of up to $510 per product. We have received no definitive data that would enable us to provide part cost estimates for the on-condition actions specified in this proposed AD. We have no way of determining the number of aircraft that might need these actions.

    Authority for This Rulemaking

    Title 49 of the United States Code specifies the FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety. Subtitle I, section 106, describes the authority of the FAA Administrator. “Subtitle VII: Aviation Programs,” describes in more detail the scope of the Agency's authority.

    We are issuing this rulemaking under the authority described in “Subtitle VII, Part A, Subpart III, Section 44701: General requirements.” Under that section, Congress charges the FAA with promoting safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing regulations for practices, methods, and procedures the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce. This regulation is within the scope of that authority because it addresses an unsafe condition that is likely to exist or develop on products identified in this rulemaking action.

    Regulatory Findings

    We determined that this proposed AD would not have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132. This proposed AD would not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.

    For the reasons discussed above, I certify this proposed regulation:

    1. Is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866;

    2. Is not a “significant rule” under the DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures (44 FR 11034, February 26, 1979);

    3. Will not affect intrastate aviation in Alaska; and

    4. Will not have a significant economic impact, positive or negative, on a substantial number of small entities under the criteria of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

    List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 39

    Air transportation, Aircraft, Aviation safety, Incorporation by reference, Safety.

    The Proposed Amendment

    Accordingly, under the authority delegated to me by the Administrator, the FAA proposes to amend 14 CFR part 39 as follows:

    PART 39—AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVES 1. The authority citation for part 39 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701.

    § 39.13 [Amended]
    2. The FAA amends § 39.13 by adding the following new airworthiness directive (AD): Airbus: Docket No. FAA-2015-0251; Directorate Identifier 2014-NM-200-AD. (a) Comments Due Date

    We must receive comments by April 20, 2015.

    (b) Affected ADs

    None.

    (c) Applicability

    This AD applies to the airplanes, certificated in any category, identified in paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(4) of this AD, all manufacturer serial numbers.

    (1) Airbus Model A318-111, -112, -121, and -122 airplanes.

    (2) Airbus Model A319-111, -112, -113, -114, -115, -131, -132, and -133 airplanes.

    (3) Airbus Model A320-211, -212, -214, -231, -232, and -233 airplanes.

    (4) Airbus Model A321-111, -112, -131, -211, -212, -213, -231, and -232 airplanes.

    (d) Subject

    Air Transport Association (ATA) of America Code 22, Auto flight; 31, Instruments.

    (e) Reason

    This AD was prompted by a determination that, in specific flight conditions, the allowable load limits on the vertical tail plane could be reached and possibly exceeded. Exceeding allowable load could result in detachment of the vertical tail plane. We are issuing this AD to prevent detachment of the vertical tail plane and consequent loss of control of the airplane.

    (f) Compliance

    Comply with this AD within the compliance times specified, unless already done.

    (g) Pin Programming Modification

    Within 48 months after the effective date of this AD, modify the pin programming to activate the stop rudder input warning (SRIW) logic, in accordance with the Accomplishment Instructions of Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1480, dated July 9, 2014.

    (h) Inspection To Determine Part Numbers (P/Ns), Flight Warning Computer (FWC) and Flight Augmentation Computer (FAC) Replacement

    Prior to or concurrently with, the actions required by paragraph (g) of this AD: Inspect the part numbers of the FWC and the FAC installed on the airplane. If any FWC or FAC having a part number identified in paragraph (h)(1) or (h)(2) of this AD, as applicable, is installed on an airplane, prior to or concurrently with, the actions required by paragraph (g) of this AD, replace all affected FWCs and FACs with a unit having a part number identified in paragraph (h)(3) of this AD, in accordance with the Accomplishment Instructions of the applicable Airbus service bulletins specified in paragraph (i) of this AD.

    (1) Paragraphs (h)(1)(i) through (h)(1)(xvii) of this AD identify FWCs having part numbers that are non-compatible with the SRIW activation required by paragraph (g) of this AD.

    (i) 350E017238484 (H1D1).

    (ii) 350E053020303 (H2E3).

    (iii) 350E016187171 (C5).

    (iv) 350E053020404 (H2E4).

    (v) 350E017248685 (H1D2).

    (vi) 350E053020606 (H2F2).

    (vii) 350E017251414 (H1E1).

    (viii) 350E053020707 (H2F3).

    (ix) 350E017271616 (H1E2).

    (x) 350E053021010 (H2F3P).

    (xi) 350E018291818 (H1E3CJ).

    (xii) 350E053020808 (H2F4).

    (xiii) 350E018301919 (H1E3P).

    (xiv) 350E053020909 (H2-F5).

    (xv) 350E018312020 (H1E3Q).

    (xvi) 350E053021111 (H2-F6).

    (xvii) 350E053020202 (H2E2).

    (2) Paragraphs (h)(2)(i) through (h)(2)(xxxiv) of this AD identify FACs having part numbers that are non-compatible with the SRIW activation required by paragraph (g) of this AD.

    (i) B397AAM0202.

    (ii) B397BAM0101.

    (iii) B397BAM0512.

    (iv) B397AAM0301.

    (v) B397BAM0202.

    (vi) B397BAM0513.

    (vii) B397AAM0302.

    (viii) B397BAM0203.

    (ix) B397BAM0514.

    (x) B397AAM0303.

    (xi) B397BAM0305.

    (xii) B397BAM0515.

    (xiii) B397AAM0404.

    (xiv) B397BAM0406.

    (xv) B397BAM0616.

    (xvi) B397AAM0405.

    (xvii) B397BAM0407.

    (xviii) B397BAM0617.

    (xix) B397AAM0506.

    (xx) B397BAM0507.

    (xxi) B397BAM0618.

    (xxii) B397AAM0507.

    (xxiii) B397BAM0508.

    (xxiv) B397BAM0619.

    (xxv) B397AAM0508.

    (xxvi) B397BAM0509.

    (xxvii) B397BAM0620.

    (xxviii) B397AAM0509.

    (xxix) B397BAM0510.

    (xxx) B397CAM0101.

    (xxxi) B397AAM0510.

    (xxxii) B397BAM0511.

    (xxxiii) B397CAM0102.

    (xxxiv) Soft P/N G2856AAA01 installed on hard P/N C13206AA00.

    (3) Paragraphs (h)(3)(i) through (h)(3)(iv) of this AD identify the FWCs and FACs having the part numbers that are compatible with SRIW activation required by paragraph (g) of this AD.

    (i) For airplane configurations with no sharklet, an FAC having P/N B397BAM0621 (621 hard B).

    (ii) For airplanes configured with sharklet A320 and A319, an FAC having P/N B397BAM0622 (622 hard B).

    (iii) For airplanes configured with sharklet A321, an FAC having P/N B397BAM0623 (623 hard B).

    (iv) For all airplane configurations, an FAC having soft P/N G2856AAA02 installed on hard P/N C13206AA00 (CAA02 hard C) and FWC having P/N 350E053021212 (H2-F7).

    (i) Service Bulletins for Actions Required by Paragraph (h) of This AD

    Do the actions required by paragraph (h) of this AD in accordance with the Accomplishment Instructions of the applicable Airbus service bulletin specified in paragraphs (i)(1) through (i)(5) of this AD.

    (1) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1375, dated January 15, 2014 (FAC 621 Hard B).

    (2) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1427, Revision 04, dated February 11, 2014 (FAC 622 Hard B).

    (3) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1447, Revision 01, dated September 18, 2014 (FAC A02 Hard C).

    (4) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1461, Revision 04, dated September 15, 2014 (FAC 623 Hard B).

    (5) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-31-1414, Revision 03, dated September 15, 2014 (FWC H-F7).

    (j) Exclusion From Actions Required by Paragraphs (g) and (h) of This AD

    An airplane on which Airbus Modification 154473 has been embodied in production is excluded from the requirements of paragraphs (g) and (h) of this AD, provided that, within 30 days after the effective date of this AD, an inspection of the part numbers of the FWC and the FAC installed on the airplane is done to determine that no FWC having a part number listed in paragraph (h)(1) of this AD, and no FAC having a part number part number listed in listed in paragraph (h)(2) of this AD, has been installed on that airplane since date of manufacture. A review of airplane maintenance records is acceptable in lieu of this inspection if the part numbers of the FWC and FAC can be conclusively determined from that review. If any FWC or FAC having a part number identified in paragraph (h)(1) or (h)(2) of this AD, as applicable, is installed on a post-modification 154473 airplane: Within 30 days after the effective date of this AD, do the replacement required by paragraph (h) of this AD.

    (k) Parts Installation Prohibitions

    After modification of an airplane as required by paragraphs (g), (h), and (j) of this AD: Do not install on that airplane any FWC having a part number listed in paragraph (h)(1) of this AD or any FAC having a part number listed in paragraph (h)(2) of this AD.

    (l) Later Approved Parts

    Installation of a version (part number) of the FWC or FAC approved after the effective date of this AD is an approved method of compliance with the requirements of paragraph (h) or (j) of this AD, provided the requirements specified in paragraphs (l)(1) and (l)(2) of this AD are met.

    (1) The version (part number) must be approved by the Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA; or the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); or Airbus's EASA Design Organization Approval (DOA).

    (2) The installation must be accomplished using a method approved by the Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA; or EASA; or Airbus's EASA DOA.

    (m) Credit for Previous Actions

    This paragraph provides credit for actions required by paragraph (h) of this AD, if those actions were performed before the effective date of this AD using the Airbus service information identified in paragraphs (m)(1) through (m)(12) of this AD. This service information is not incorporated by reference in this AD.

    (1) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1427, dated January 25, 2013.

    (2) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1427, Revision 01, dated July 30, 2013.

    (3) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1427, Revision 02, dated October 14, 2013.

    (4) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1427, Revision 03, dated November 8, 2013.

    (5) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1447, dated October 18, 2013.

    (6) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1461, dated October 31, 2013.

    (7) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1461, Revision 01, dated February 25, 2014.

    (8) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1461, Revision 02, dated April 30, 2014.

    (9) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-22-1461, Revision 03, dated July 17, 2014.

    (10) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-31-1414, dated December 19, 2012.

    (11) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-31-1414, Revision 01, dated March 21, 2013.

    (12) Airbus Service Bulletin A320-31-1414, Revision 02, dated July 30, 2013.

    (n) Other FAA AD Provisions

    The following provisions also apply to this AD:

    (1) Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs): The Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA, has the authority to approve AMOCs for this AD, if requested using the procedures found in 14 CFR 39.19. In accordance with 14 CFR 39.19, send your request to your principal inspector or local Flight Standards District Office, as appropriate. If sending information directly to the International Branch, send it to ATTN: Sanjay Ralhan, Aerospace Engineer, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA 98057-3356; telephone 425-227-1405; fax 425-227-1149. Information may be emailed to: [email protected] Before using any approved AMOC, notify your appropriate principal inspector, or lacking a principal inspector, the manager of the local flight standards district office/certificate holding district office. The AMOC approval letter must specifically reference this AD.

    (2) Required for Compliance (RC): If the service information contains procedures or tests that are identified as RC, those procedures and tests must be done to comply with this AD; any procedures and tests that are not identified as RC are recommended. Those procedures and tests that are not identified as RC may be deviated from using accepted methods in accordance with the operator's maintenance or inspection program without obtaining approval of an AMOC, provided the procedures and tests identified as RC can be done and the airplane can be put back in a serviceable condition. Any substitutions or changes to procedures or tests identified as RC require approval of an AMOC.

    (3) Contacting the Manufacturer: For any requirement in this AD to obtain corrective actions from a manufacturer, the action must be accomplished using a method approved by the Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA; or the EASA; or Airbus's EASA DOA. If approved by the DOA, the approval must include the DOA-authorized signature.

    (o) Related Information

    (1) Refer to Mandatory Continuing Airworthiness Information (MCAI) EASA Airworthiness Directive 2014-0217, dated September 26, 2014, for related information. This MCAI may be found in the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-0251.

    (2) For service information identified in this AD, contact Airbus, Airworthiness Office—EIAS, 1 Rond Point Maurice Bellonte, 31707 Blagnac Cedex, France; telephone +33 5 61 93 36 96; fax +33 5 61 93 44 51; email [email protected]; Internet http://www.airbus.com. You may view this service information at the FAA, Transport Airplane Directorate, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 425-227-1221.

    Issued in Renton, Washington, on February 19, 2015. John P. Piccola, Jr., Acting Manager, Transport Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-04504 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
    DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 39 [Docket No. FAA-2015-0244; Directorate Identifier 2014-NM-127-AD] RIN 2120-AA64 Airworthiness Directives; Airbus Airplanes AGENCY:

    Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

    ACTION:

    Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

    SUMMARY:

    We propose to adopt a new airworthiness directive (AD) for all Airbus Model A318, A319, and A320 series airplanes. This proposed AD was prompted by a cracked upper cardan in the main landing gear (MLG). This proposed AD would require revising the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, to reduce the life limits for the MLG upper cardan for certain installations. We are proposing this AD to prevent failure of the upper cardan in the MLG, which could result in MLG collapse and subsequent damage to the airplane and injury to occupants.

    DATES:

    We must receive comments on this proposed AD by April 20, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may send comments, using the procedures found in 14 CFR 11.43 and 11.45, by any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Fax: 202-493-2251.

    Mail: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590.

    Hand Delivery: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    For service information identified in this proposed AD, contact Airbus, Airworthiness Office—EIAS, 1 Rond Point Maurice Bellonte, 31707 Blagnac Cedex, France; telephone +33 5 61 93 36 96; fax +33 5 61 93 44 51; email [email protected]; Internet http://www.airbus.com. You may view this referenced service information at the FAA, Transport Airplane Directorate, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 425-227-1221. Because this service information is incorporated by reference in AD 2014-23-15, Amendment 39-18031 (80 FR 3871, January 26, 2015), it is also available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2013-0692.

    Examining the AD Docket

    You may examine the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-0244; or in person at the Docket Management Facility between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The AD docket contains this proposed AD, the regulatory evaluation, any comments received, and other information. The street address for the Docket Operations office (telephone 800-647-5527) is in the ADDRESSES section. Comments will be available in the AD docket shortly after receipt.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Sanjay Ralhan, Aerospace Engineer, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA 98057-3356; telephone 425-227-1405; fax 425-227-1149.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Comments Invited

    We invite you to send any written relevant data, views, or arguments about this proposed AD. Send your comments to an address listed under the ADDRESSES section. Include “Docket No. FAA-2015-0244; Directorate Identifier 2014-NM-127-AD” at the beginning of your comments. We specifically invite comments on the overall regulatory, economic, environmental, and energy aspects of this proposed AD. We will consider all comments received by the closing date and may amend this proposed AD based on those comments.

    We will post all comments we receive, without change, to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information you provide. We will also post a report summarizing each substantive verbal contact we receive about this proposed AD.

    Discussion

    The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is the Technical Agent for the Member States of the European Union, has issued EASA Airworthiness Directive 2014-0141, dated June 4, 2014 (referred to after this as the Mandatory Continuing Airworthiness Information, or “the MCAI”), to correct an unsafe condition for all Airbus Model Airbus Model A318, A319, and A320 series airplanes. The MCAI states:

    During an A320-200 77T main landing gear (MLG) fatigue test by Messier Bugatti-Dowty (MBD), an upper cardan was found with a crack, emanating from the grease hole/main lug intersection. The affected upper cardan, Part Number (P/N) 201163620, is listed in the applicable Airworthiness Limitations Section (ALS) Part 1 with a demonstrated fatigue life of 60,000 landings.

    This condition, if not corrected, could lead to MLG upper cardan failure, possibly resulting in MLG collapse and subsequent damage to the aeroplane and injury to occupants.

    Prompted by these findings and further to analysis, it has been decided to reduce the life limit for certain installations of the P/N 201163620 MLG upper cardan.

    For the reasons described above, this AD requires implementation of the new life limits, as applicable, and replacement of any affected MLG upper cardan units that have already exceeded the reduced limit.

    The reduced life limits for the affected MLG upper cardan are expected to be incorporated in a next revision of the Airbus A318/A319/A320/A321 ALS Part 1.

    You may examine the MCAI in the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-0244.

    Related AD

    AD 2014-23-15, Amendment 39-18031 (80 FR 3871, January 26, 2015), applicable to all Airbus Model A318, A319, A320, and A321 series airplanes, requires revising the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, to incorporate certain Airworthiness Limitation Items. Paragraph (n)(1) of AD 2014-23-15 requires incorporating Part 1—Safe Life Airworthiness Limitation Items, of the Airbus A318/A319/A320/A321 ALS, Revision 02, dated May 13, 2011. AD 2014-23-15 corresponds to EASA AD 2013-0147, dated July 16, 2013. This proposed AD would not supersede AD 2014-23-15, but would require a reduced life limit for MLG upper cardans having part number (P/N) 201163620 and installed in certain airplane configurations. Accomplishing the requirement specified in paragraph (g) of this proposed AD terminates the life limit required by paragraph (n)(1) of AD 2014-23-15 for P/N 201163620, which is installed in certain airplane configurations identified in this proposed AD.

    Related Service Information Under 1 CFR Part 51

    Airbus has issued A318/A319/A320/A321 ALS Part 1—Safe Life Airworthiness Limitation Items, Revision 02, dated May 13, 2011. This document provides revised instructions and life limits for airworthiness limitations items. The actions described in this service information are intended to correct the unsafe condition identified in the MCAI. This service information is incorporated by reference in AD 2014-23-15, Amendment 39-18031 (80 FR 3871, January 26, 2015). It is reasonably available; see ADDRESSES for ways to access this service information.

    FAA's Determination and Requirements of This Proposed AD

    This product has been approved by the aviation authority of another country, and is approved for operation in the United States. Pursuant to our bilateral agreement with the State of Design Authority, we have been notified of the unsafe condition described in the MCAI and service information referenced above. We are proposing this AD because we evaluated all pertinent information and determined an unsafe condition exists and is likely to exist or develop on other products of these same type designs.

    Differences Between This Proposed AD and the MCAI or Service Information

    EASA AD 2014-0141, dated June 4, 2014, requires replacement of each MLG upper cardan having P/N 201163620 with a serviceable part within 3 months after the effective date of that EASA AD, or prior to exceeding new life limits, whichever occurs later. Instead of requiring the part replacement, this proposed AD would require only a revision to the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, to incorporate the new reduced life limits. The affected airplanes operated in the U.S. fleet are below the reduced life limit thresholds and will not reach those thresholds within 3 months after the effective date of this proposed AD. Therefore this proposed AD would require revising the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, within 30 days after the effective date of this proposed AD. Requiring a revision to the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, rather than requiring individual repetitive actions (such as repetitively replacing a part prior to a life limit), requires operators to record AD compliance only at the time the revision is made. Repetitive actions specified in the airworthiness limitations must be complied with in accordance with section 91.403(c) of the Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CRF 91.403(c)).

    Costs of Compliance

    We estimate that this proposed AD affects 851 airplanes of U.S. registry.

    We also estimate that it would take about 1 work-hour per product to comply with the basic requirements of this proposed AD. The average labor rate is $85 per work-hour. Required parts would cost about $0 per product. Based on these figures, we estimate the cost of this proposed AD on U.S. operators to be $72,335, or $85 per product.

    Authority for This Rulemaking

    Title 49 of the United States Code specifies the FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety. Subtitle I, section 106, describes the authority of the FAA Administrator. “Subtitle VII: Aviation Programs,” describes in more detail the scope of the Agency's authority.

    We are issuing this rulemaking under the authority described in “Subtitle VII, Part A, Subpart III, Section 44701: General requirements.” Under that section, Congress charges the FAA with promoting safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing regulations for practices, methods, and procedures the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce. This regulation is within the scope of that authority because it addresses an unsafe condition that is likely to exist or develop on products identified in this rulemaking action.

    Regulatory Findings

    We determined that this proposed AD would not have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132. This proposed AD would not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.

    For the reasons discussed above, I certify this proposed regulation:

    1. Is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866;

    2. Is not a “significant rule” under the DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures (44 FR 11034, February 26, 1979);

    3. Will not affect intrastate aviation in Alaska; and

    4. Will not have a significant economic impact, positive or negative, on a substantial number of small entities under the criteria of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

    List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 39

    Air transportation, Aircraft, Aviation safety, Incorporation by reference, Safety.

    The Proposed Amendment

    Accordingly, under the authority delegated to me by the Administrator, the FAA proposes to amend 14 CFR part 39 as follows:

    PART 39—AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVES 1. The authority citation for part 39 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701.

    § 39.13 [Amended]
    2. The FAA amends § 39.13 by adding the following new airworthiness directive (AD): Airbus: Docket No. FAA-2015-0244; Directorate Identifier 2014-NM-127-AD. (a) Comments Due Date

    We must receive comments by April 20, 2015.

    (b) Affected ADs

    Paragraph (g) of this AD terminates the life limit specified in paragraph (n)(1) of AD 2014-23-15, Amendment 39-18031 (80 FR 3871, January 26, 2015), for airplanes having a main landing gear (MLG) upper cardan part number (P/N) 201163620.

    (c) Applicability

    This AD applies to the Airbus airplanes identified in paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), and (c)(3) of this AD, certificated in any category, all manufacturer serial numbers.

    (1) Model A318-111, -112, -121, and -122 airplanes.

    (2) Model A319-111, -112, -113, -114, -115, -131, -132, and -133 airplanes.

    (3) Model A320-211, -212, -214, -231, -232, and -233 airplanes.

    (d) Subject

    Air Transport Association (ATA) of America Code 32, Landing Gear.

    (e) Reason

    This AD was prompted by a cracked upper cardan in the MLG. We are issuing this AD to prevent failure of the upper cardan in the MLG, which could result in MLG collapse and subsequent damage to the airplane and injury to occupants.

    (f) Compliance

    Comply with this AD within the compliance times specified, unless already done.

    (g) Revision to Maintenance or Inspection Program

    For airplanes having a MLG upper cardan part number (P/N) 201163620: Within 30 days after the effective date of this AD revise the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, to incorporate the applicable life limits for the MLG upper cardan P/N 201163620 specified in paragraphs (g)(1) through (g)(5) of this AD and the life limit clarifications specified in paragraph (h) of this AD. The initial compliance time for replacing the MLG upper cardan is prior to the applicable life limit specified in paragraphs (g)(1) through (g)(5) of this AD, or within 30 days after the effective date of this AD, whichever occurs later. Accomplishing this revision terminates the life limit required by paragraph (n)(1) of AD 2014-23-15, Amendment 39-18031 (80 FR 3871, January 26, 2015), for the MLG upper cardan P/N 201163620 for that airplane only.

    (1) For Airbus Model A319 series airplanes, pre-Airbus Modification 26644, excluding corporate jets post-Airbus Modification 28238, 28162, and 28342: The life limit is 50,590 total flight cycles.

    (2) For Airbus Model A319 series airplanes, post-Airbus Modification 26644, excluding corporate jets post-Airbus Modification 28238, 28162, and 28342: The life limit is 56,480 total flight cycles.

    (3) For Airbus Model A320 series airplanes pre-Airbus Modification 26644 having weight variant (WV) WV011, WV012, WV016, or WV018: The life limit is 50,590 total flight cycles.

    (4) For Airbus Model A320 series airplanes post-Airbus Modification 26644, having WV011, WV012, WV016, or WV018: The life limit is 56,480 total flight cycles.

    (5) For Airbus Model A320 series airplanes post-Airbus Modification 26644, having WV015 or WV017: The life limit is 42,140 total flight cycles.

    (h) Additional Life Limit Clarifications

    (1) The life limits specified in paragraphs (g)(1) through (g)(5) of this AD are total flight cycles accumulated by the MLG since first installation on an airplane.

    (2) The life limits specified in paragraphs (g)(1) through (g)(5) of this AD are applicable only for the airplane model, configuration and WV specified in those paragraphs.

    (3) If a part is transferred between airplanes having a different life limit for the MLG unit, adjust the life limit using the method specified in Airbus A318/A319/A320/A321 ALS Part 1—Safe Life Airworthiness Limitation Items, Revision 02, dated May 13, 2011, which is incorporated by reference in AD 2014-23-15, Amendment 39-18031 (80 FR 3871, January 26, 2015).

    (4) An MLG unit on which Airbus Modification 26644 is installed is also known as “enhanced” landing gear and is identified as P/N 201582xxx Leg and Dressing Series. An MLG unit that does not have Airbus Modification 26644 installed is identified as P/N 201375xxx Leg and Dressing Series. (The xxx designation is a placeholder for numbers).

    (5) For airplanes with configurations not specified in paragraphs (g)(1) through (g)(5) of this AD, the life limit for the MLG unit is specified in Airbus A318/A319/A320/A321 ALS Part 1—Safe Life Airworthiness Limitation Items, Revision 02, dated May 13, 2011, which is incorporated by reference in AD 2014-23-15, Amendment 39-18031 (80 FR 3871, January 26, 2015).

    (i) No Alternative Actions and Intervals

    After the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, has been revised as required by paragraph (g) of this AD, no alternative actions (e.g., inspections) or intervals may be used unless the actions or intervals are approved as an alternative method of compliance (AMOC) in accordance with the procedures specified in paragraph (k)(1) of this AD.

    (j) Parts Installation Limitation

    As of the effective date of this AD, a MLG upper cardan having P/N 201163620 may be installed on an airplane, provided the part life has not exceeded the applicable life limit specified in paragraphs (g)(1) through (g)(5) of this AD, and is replaced with a serviceable part prior to exceeding the applicable life limit specified in paragraphs (g)(1) through (g)(5) of this AD.

    (k) Other FAA AD Provisions

    The following provisions also apply to this AD:

    (1) Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs): The Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA, has the authority to approve AMOCs for this AD, if requested using the procedures found in 14 CFR 39.19. In accordance with 14 CFR 39.19, send your request to your principal inspector or local Flight Standards District Office, as appropriate. If sending information directly to the International Branch, send it to ATTN: Sanjay Ralhan, Aerospace Engineer, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA 98057-3356; telephone 425-227-1405; fax 425-227-1149. Information may be emailed to: [email protected]. Before using any approved AMOC, notify your appropriate principal inspector, or lacking a principal inspector, the manager of the local flight standards district office/certificate holding district office. The AMOC approval letter must specifically reference this AD.

    (2) Contacting the Manufacturer: For any requirement in this AD to obtain corrective actions from a manufacturer, the action must be accomplished using a method approved by the Manager, International Branch, ANM-116, Transport Airplane Directorate, FAA; or the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); or Airbus's EASA Design Organization Approval (DOA). If approved by the DOA, the approval must include the DOA-authorized signature.

    (l) Related Information

    (1) Refer to Mandatory Continuing Airworthiness Information (MCAI) European Aviation Safety Agency Airworthiness Directive 2014-0141, dated June 4, 2014, for related information. This MCAI may be found in the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2015-0244.

    (2) For service information identified in this AD, contact Airbus, Airworthiness Office—EIAS, 1 Rond Point Maurice Bellonte, 31707 Blagnac Cedex, France; telephone +33 5 61 93 36 96; fax +33 5 61 93 44 51; email [email protected]; Internet http://www.airbus.com. You may view this service information at the FAA, Transport Airplane Directorate, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA. For information on the availability of this material at the FAA, call 425-227-1221.

    Issued in Renton, Washington, on February 3, 2015. Dionne Palermo, Acting Manager, Transport Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-02923 Filed 3-5-15; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 15 [Docket No. FDA-2014-N-1168] Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2012; Regulatory Science Initiatives; Public Hearing; Request for Comments AGENCY:

    Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

    ACTION:

    Notification of public hearing; request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing a public hearing that will provide an overview of the current status of regulatory science initiatives for generic drugs and an opportunity for public input on research priorities in this area. FDA is seeking this input from a variety of stakeholders—industry, academia, patient advocates, professional societies, and other interested parties—as it fulfills its commitment under the Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2012 (GDUFA) to develop an annual list of regulatory science initiatives specific to generic drugs. FDA will take the information it obtains from the public hearing into account in developing the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Regulatory Science Plan.

    DATES:

    The public hearing will be held on June 5, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The public hearing may be extended or may end early depending on the level of public participation.

    ADDRESSES:

    The public hearing will be held at the FDA White Oak Campus, 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Bldg. 31 Conference Center, the Great Room (Rm. 1503), Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002. Entrance for the public hearing participants (non-FDA employees) is through Building 1, where routine security check procedures will be performed. For parking and security information, please refer to http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/WorkingatFDA/BuildingsandFacilities/WhiteOakCampusInformation/ucm241740.htm.

    Registration and Requests for Oral Presentations: The FDA Conference Center at the White Oak location is a Federal facility with security procedures and limited seating. Attendance will be free and on a first-come, first-served basis. If you wish to attend (either in person or by Webcast (see Streaming Webcast of the Public Hearing)) and/or present at the hearing, please register for the hearing and/or make a request for oral presentations or comments by email to [email protected] by May 15, 2015. The email should contain complete contact information for each attendee (i.e., name, title, affiliation, address, email address, telephone number, and priority number(s)). Those without email access can register by contacting Thushi Amini by May 15, 2015 (see For Further Information Contact).

    FDA will try to accommodate all persons who wish to make a presentation. Individuals wishing to present should identify the number of the topic, or topics, they wish to address (see section V under Supplementary Information). This will help FDA organize the presentations. FDA will notify registered presenters of their scheduled presentation times. The time allotted for each presentation will depend on the number of individuals who wish to speak. Once FDA notifies registered presenters of their scheduled times, they are encouraged to submit an electronic copy of their presentation to [email protected] on or before May 22, 2015. Persons registered to make an oral presentation are encouraged to arrive at the hearing room early and check in at the onsite registration table to confirm their designated presentation time. An agenda for the hearing and other background materials will be made available 5 days before the hearing at http://www.fda.gov/GDUFARegScience.

    If you need special accommodations because of a disability, please contact Thushi Amini (see For Further Information Contact) at least 7 days before the hearing.

    Streaming Webcast of the Public Hearing: For those unable to attend in person, FDA will provide a live Webcast of the hearing. To join the hearing via the Webcast, please go to https://collaboration.fda.gov/gdufa2012/.

    Comments: Regardless of attendance at the public hearing, interested persons may submit either electronic comments to http://www.regulations.gov or written comments to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), 5600 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20857. The deadline for submitting comments to the docket is June 26, 2015. It is only necessary to send one set of comments. Identify comments with the docket number found in brackets in the heading of this document. Received comments may be seen in the Division of Dockets Management between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and will be posted to the docket at http://www.regulations.gov.

    Transcripts: Please be advised that as soon as a transcript is available, it will be accessible at http://www.regulations.gov or http://www.fda.gov/GDUFARegScience. It may be viewed at the Division of Dockets Management (see Comments). A transcript will also be available in either hardcopy or on CD-ROM, after submission of a Freedom of Information request. Send written requests to the Division of Freedom of Information (ELEM-1029), Food and Drug Administration, 12420 Parklawn Dr., Element Bldg., Rockville, MD 20857.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Thushi Amini, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Bldg. 75, Rm. 4728, Silver Spring, MD 20993; 240-402-7958, email: [email protected]; or Robert Lionberger, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Bldg. 75, Rm. 4722, Silver Spring, MD 20993, 240-402-7957, email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background

    In July 2012, Congress passed GDUFA (Title III of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (Pub. L. 112-144)). GDUFA is designed to enhance public access to safe, high-quality generic drugs and reduce costs to industry. To support this goal, FDA agreed in the GDUFA commitment letter to work with industry and interested stakeholders on identifying regulatory science research priorities specific to generic drugs for each fiscal year covered by GDUFA. The commitment letter outlines FDA's performance goals and procedures under the GDUFA program for the years 2012-2017. The commitment letter can be found at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForIndustry/UserFees/GenericDrugUserFees/UCM282505.pdf.

    II. FY 2013 Regulatory Science Priorities

    The FY 2013 regulatory science research priorities list was developed by FDA and industry and included in the GDUFA commitment letter. To implement the FY 2013 priorities list, the Office of Generic Drugs awarded $17 million in external contracts and grants to initiate new research studies during FY 2013. Four million dollars were allocated to support internal research related to generic drugs. This includes rapid response capabilities through equipment for FDA labs and support for laboratory research fellows at FDA, as well as research fellows to work on data analysis and coordination of internal activities with external grants and contracts.

    III. FY 2014 Regulatory Science Priorities

    On June 21, 2013, the Office of Generic Drugs held a public hearing to gain input in developing the FY 2014 regulatory science priorities list. This list was prepared based on internal Center for Drug Evaluation and Research discussions, comments received from this public hearing, and comments submitted to the public docket. The FY 2014 priorities list can be found at http://www.fda.gov/GDUFARegScience. To implement the FY 2014 priorities list, the Office of Generic Drugs awarded $17 million in external contracts and grants to initiate new research studies during FY 2014. A list of FY 2014 awarded studies can be found at http://www.fda.gov/GDUFARegScience.

    IV. FY 2015 Regulatory Science Priorities

    On May 16, 2014, the Office of Generic Drugs held a public meeting to allow public input in developing the FY 2015 regulatory science priorities list. The FY 2015 Regulatory Science Priorities are as follows:

    1. Postmarket Evaluation of Generic Drugs 2. Equivalence of Complex Products 3. Equivalence of Locally Acting Products 4. Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluation and Standards 5. Computational and Analytical Tools

    For more information on these topic areas, please visit www.fda.gov/GDUFARegScience. The Office of Generic Drugs is currently developing research studies to support the FY 2015 priorities list. Funding opportunities for collaborations will be posted in March 2015 at www.fda.gov/GDUFARegScience.

    V. Purpose and Scope of the June 5, 2015, Public Hearing

    The purpose of the June public hearing is to obtain input from industry and other interested stakeholders on the identification of regulatory science priorities for FY 2016. To help fulfill FDA's mission, FDA is particularly interested in receiving input on the following topics:

    1. Opportunities for scientific or technical advancements that would help to overcome specific barriers for industry that currently limit the availability of generic drug products.

    2. Innovative approaches to preapproval development of generic drugs, including new methodologies for design and conduct of in vitro, ex vivo, and clinical studies and identification of scientifically robust strategies for demonstration of bioequivalence for various product classes.

    3. Innovations in scientific approaches to evaluating the therapeutic equivalence of generic drug products through later stages of their lifecycle following initial approval.

    4. Identification of high-impact public health issues involving generic drugs that can be addressed by the prioritized allocation of FY 2016 funding for regulatory science research.

    5. Identification of specific issues related to generic drug products where scientific recommendations and/or clarifications are needed in developing and/or revising FDA's guidance for industry.

    6. Strategies for enhancing quality and equivalence risk management during generic drug product development, during regulatory review, and/or throughout the drug product's lifecycle following initial approval.

    FDA will consider all comments made at this hearing or received through the docket (see Comments under ADDRESSES) as it develops its FY 2016 GDUFA Regulatory Science Plan. Additional information concerning GDUFA, including the text of the law and the commitment letter, can be found at http://www.fda.gov/gdufa.

    VI. Notice of Hearing Under 21 CFR Part 15

    The Commissioner of Food and Drugs is announcing that the public hearing will be held in accordance with 21 CFR part 15. The hearing will be conducted by a presiding officer, who will be accompanied by FDA senior management from the Office of the Commissioner and the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Under § 15.30(f) (21 CFR 15.30), the hearing is informal and the rules of evidence do not apply. No participant may interrupt the presentation of another participant. Only the presiding officer and panel members may pose questions; they may question any person during or at the conclusion of each presentation. Public hearings under part 15 are subject to FDA's policy and procedures for electronic media coverage of FDA's public administrative proceedings (21 CFR part 10, subpart C). Under § 10.205 (21 CFR 10.205), representatives of the media may be permitted, subject to certain limitations, to videotape, film, or otherwise record FDA's public administrative proceedings, including presentations by participants. The hearing will be transcribed as stipulated in § 15.30(b) (see Transcripts under ADDRESSES). To the extent that the conditions for the hearing, as described in this document, conflict with any provisions set out in part 15, this document acts as a waiver of those provisions as specified in § 15.30(h).

    Dated: February 23, 2015. Leslie Kux, Associate Commissioner for Policy.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05018 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4164-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR National Park Service 36 CFR Part 7 [NPS-LAMR-17097; PPWONRADE2, PMP00EI05.YP0000] RIN 1024-AD86 Special Regulations; Areas of the National Park System, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Off-Road Motor Vehicles AGENCY:

    National Park Service, Interior.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The National Park Service proposes to amend its special regulations for Lake Meredith National Recreation Area to require permits to operate motor vehicles off roads, designate areas and routes where motor vehicles may be used off roads, create management zones that would further manage this activity, and establish camping, operational, and vehicle requirements. These changes would allow off-road vehicle use for recreation while reducing associated impacts to resources. Unless authorized by special regulation, operating a motor vehicle off roads within areas of the National Park System is prohibited.

    DATES:

    Comments must be received by May 4, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments, identified by the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AD86, by any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Mail: Superintendent, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, P.O. Box 1460, Fritch, TX 79036.

    Hand Deliver to: Superintendent, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, 419 E. Broadway, Fritch, TX 79036.

    Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and RIN for this rulemaking. Comments received will be posted without change to ­http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided. For additional information, see the “Public Participation” heading of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to http://www.regulations.gov.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Robert Maguire, Superintendent, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, P.O. Box 1460, Fritch, Texas 79036-1460, by phone at 806-857-3151, or by email at [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Purpose and Significance of Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

    Congress established Lake Meredith National Recreation Area (LAMR or recreation area) in 1990 “to provide for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment of the lands and waters associated with Lake Meredith in the State of Texas, and to protect the scenic, scientific, cultural, and other values contributing to the public enjoyment of such lands and waters. . . .” 16 U.S.C 460eee.

    Situated approximately 35 miles north of Amarillo, Texas within Potter, Moore, Hutchinson, and Carson counties, LAMR is approximately 45,000 acres in size and is the largest public landmass in the Texas Panhandle. LAMR includes a variety of habitats that are uncommon in the region, including aquatic, wetland, and riparian areas, and one of the few areas in the region with trees. The natural and geologic resources of the area have enabled a continuum of human presence in the area for more than 13,000 years. The exposed geologic features on the walls of the Canadian River valley (i.e., the “breaks”) reveal active geologic processes that are easily visible to an extent not present elsewhere in the region. The recreation area is also home to the Arkansas River shiner (Notropis girardi), a fish species that is federally listed as threatened.

    Authority To Promulgate Regulations

    The National Park Service (NPS) manages LAMR under statute commonly known as the NPS Organic Act of 1916 (Organic Act) (54 U.S.C. 100101 et seq.), which gives the NPS broad authority to regulate the use of the park areas under its jurisdiction. The Organic Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, acting through NPS, to “prescribe such regulations as the Secretary considers necessary or proper for the use and management of [National Park] System units.” 54 U.S.C. 100751(a).

    Executive Order 11644, Use of Off-Road Vehicles on the Public Lands, issued in 1972 and amended by Executive Order 11989 in 1977, required federal agencies to issue regulations designating specific areas and routes on public lands where the use of off-road vehicles may be used. NPS implemented these Executive Orders in 36 CFR 4.10.

    Under 36 CFR 4.10, the use of motor vehicles off established roads is not permitted unless routes and areas are designated for off-road motor vehicle use by special regulation. Under 36 CFR 4.10(b), such routes and areas “may be designated only in national recreation areas, national seashores, national lakeshores and national preserves.” The proposed rule would designate routes and areas where motor vehicles may be used off roads in compliance with 36 CFR 4.10 and Executive Orders 11644 and 11989. The proposed rule would replace regulations promulgated in 1975 that designate areas for off-road vehicle (ORV) use.

    Off-Road Motor Vehicle Use at LAMR Designated ORV Use Areas

    LAMR provides a variety of visitor experiences, including the use of ORVs. In 1975, the NPS promulgated a special regulation (40 FR 762, January 3, 1975) at 36 CFR 7.57(a) designating two ORV use areas at LAMR: (i) Blue Creek, with 275 acres for ORV use in the creek bottom between the cutbanks; and (ii) Rosita, with approximately 1,740 acres for ORV use below the 3,000-foot elevation line. These two areas remain the only areas designated for ORV use in the recreational area.

    The Blue Creek ORV area is in the Blue Creek riparian area at the northern end of the recreational area that empties into Lake Meredith. ORV use at Blue Creek is allowed only in the creek bottom along both sides from cutbank to cutbank. Cutbanks, also known as river-cut cliffs, are the outside banks of a water channel and are located at the base of the hills at the edges of the creek bed.

    The Rosita ORV area is a riparian area of the Canadian River at the southern end of the recreation area. ORV use at Rosita is in the Canadian River bed as well as the surrounding hills, in some cases out to a mile or more. Although the authorized area is below the 3,000-foot elevation line, and ORV use outside the authorized area is prohibited, it is difficult for ORV users to determine the exact location of the 3,000-foot elevation line.

    Changes in ORV Use at LAMR

    ORV use at Blue Creek and Rosita has changed considerably since the areas were designated by special regulation in 1975, both in intensity and the types of vehicles used. ORV use has taken place at Blue Creek and Rosita since at least the 1950s. Throughout the 1960s, ORVs primarily consisted of a small number of “river buggies” crafted from old automobiles to operate in the Canadian River bottom. A few people used dirt bikes, motorcycles, or surplus military vehicles to access the area. Standard four-wheel-drive vehicles were rarely seen.

    Today, visitors use a variety of vehicle types, including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), utility task vehicles (UTVs), dune buggies, rock crawlers, and standard four-wheel-drive vehicles. Regardless of the vehicle type, the majority of ORV use at LAMR has been and continues to be for recreation, rather than transportation. ORV users are both local and from other urban areas, especially at Rosita. ORV use is often, but not always, family focused. In February, an annual three-day event called Sand Drags is held just outside the recreation area north of Rosita. This locally sponsored racing event draws approximately 30,000 visitors to the area, including hundreds of motorcycles, four wheelers, sand rails, and river buggies. This event results in the highest annual visitation to the recreation area with a notable increase in recreational ORV use.

    Changes in the intensity and type of ORV use at LAMR have impacted natural and cultural resources and raised concerns about visitor experience, health, and safety. Impacted resources include soils, vegetation, water, soundscapes, wildlife and wildlife habitat, threatened species, and archeological sites. These impacts are described in the January 2015 Final Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that is discussed below.

    Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement

    The proposed rule would implement the preferred alternative (Alternative D) for the recreation area described in the FEIS. The FEIS, which describes the purpose and need for taking action, the alternatives considered, the scoping process and public participation, the affected environment and environmental consequences, and consultation and coordination, may be viewed on the recreation area's planning Web site at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/lamr, by clicking the link entitled “ORV Management Plan and Regulation” and then clicking “Document List.”

    Proposed Rule Fee Permit System

    The proposed rule would require a special use permit to operate a motor vehicle off roads in the recreational area. With each permit the NPS would issue a decal that would be required to be affixed to each vehicle in a manner and location determined by the superintendent. Decals would be required for each ORV operating in the recreation area or transported into the recreation area on a trailer. Families could submit a single application for special use permits for multiple vehicles that are registered to members of that family. Annual permits would be valid for the calendar year the permit is issued; three-day and one-day permits would also be available and valid from the date designated on the permit. There would be no limit to the number of annual or other permits issued.

    Permits would be issued after the applicant reads educational materials and acknowledges in writing that he or she has read, understood, and agrees to abide by the rules governing ORV use in the recreation area. Permit applications would be available at headquarters (419 E. Broadway, Fitch, TX 79036) and on the recreation area's Web site. Completed permit applications could be submitted in person or mailed to the recreation area at Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, P.O. Box 1460, Fritch, TX 79036 or brought to headquarters. The NPS would process completed permit applications and provide a permit, or mail a permit, with instructions and educational materials to the applicant. After the applicant receives the permit, he or she would sign the permit and submit it to the park or mail it back to the park at the P.O. Box address. After the NPS receives the signed permit, it would provide or send a copy of the signed permit and a decal to the permit-holder to be affixed to the ORV. Violating the terms or conditions of any permit or failing to properly display the decal would be prohibited and may result in the suspension or revocation of the permit.

    The NPS intends to recover the costs of administering the special use permit program under 54 U.S.C. 103104. In order to obtain a special use permit to operate a motor vehicle off roads in the recreational area, the proposed rule would require operators to pay a permit fee to allow the NPS to recover these costs.

    Designated Routes and Areas

    The proposed rule would prohibit ORV use in the recreational area except for designated areas, routes, and access points. These locations would be identified on maps located at headquarters (419 E. Broadway, Fitch, TX 79036) and on the recreation area's Web site.

    At Blue Creek, the proposed rule would designate the following areas, routes, and access points for ORV use:

    Designated locations for ORV use Part of a management zone? Blue Creek: Approximately 133.5 acres on the river bottom Low Speed Zone (partial overlap). Approximately one linear mile of routes and access points to the river bottom that would be marked by carsonite posts or other visible markers No.

    At Rosita, the proposed rule would designate the following areas, routes, and access points for ORV use:

    Designated locations for ORV use Part of a management zone? Rosita: Approximately 170.2 acres south of the Canadian River (currently denuded of vegetation) at the western border of LAMR where HWY 287 nears the recreation area No. Approximately 65.2 acres south of the Canadian River and on the east side of Bull Taco Hill Hunting Zone (complete overlap). Approximately 119.3 acres on the river bottom Resource Protection Zone (partial overlap). Approximately 15.1 linear miles of routes and access points to the river bottom Resource Protection Zone (partial overlap).
  • Hunting Zone (complete overlap).
  • Approximately 9.3 acres south of the Canadian River near HWY 287 that would be marked by cables Beginner Zone (complete overlap).
    Management Zones

    As indicated in the tables above, the proposed rule would also establish management zones at Blue Creek and Rosita. In some locations, the areas, routes, and access points designated for ORV use would enter into one or more of these management zones. When this occurs, special restrictions would apply to ORV use. These zones would be designed to separate types of ORV use in the recreation area to avoid visitor conflict, protect the health and safety of visitors, and minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources. Zones would be identified on maps located at headquarters (419 E. Broadway, Fitch, TX 79036) and on the recreation area's Web site. The special restrictions for each management zone are described in the table below:

    Management zone Special restrictions ORV use
  • location
  • Beginner Zone Speed limit: 20mph (unless otherwise posted)
  • Marked for beginner ORV operators only.
  • Rosita.
    Camping Zone Speed limit: 15mph (unless otherwise posted) Blue Creek. ORVs may only be used to access the campground; recreational use prohibited
  • ORVs may not be used from 10pm-6am (unless otherwise posted), except that state-registered vehicles may be used during this time.
  • Rosita.
    Hunting Zone Recreational ORV use prohibited during Texas rifle hunting season; ORVs may be used for hunting during this season Rosita. Low-Speed Zone Speed limit: 15 mph (unless otherwise posted) Blue Creek. Resource Protection Zone ORVs with a wheel width greater than 65 inches are prohibited Rosita.
    Camping

    The proposed rule would establish rules related to camping in the recreation area. Tent camping (without motor vehicles) would be allowed anywhere in the recreation area except for designated ORV areas, routes, and access points and within 100 feet of these locations. At Blue Creek and Rosita, camping in a motor vehicle, including tent trailers, RVs, and vans, would be limited to marked camping zones.

    Operational and Vehicle Requirements

    ORV use would be prohibited on vegetation anywhere in the recreation area. Driving through isolated pools of water would be prohibited at Rosita regardless of time or season for the protection of the Arkansas River shiner. Isolated pools of water means water that is not connected to or touching flowing water. ORVs would be allowed to cross flowing river water via designated access points. The decibel limit for all ORVs in the recreation area would be 96 dba. NPS personnel would enforce this rule by stopping and testing the decibel level of any ORV suspected of exceeding the noise limit. Noise level would be measured using the SAE J1287 standard. The rule would require ATVs to have a whip—a pole, rod, or antenna—securely mounted to the vehicle that extends at least eight feet from the surface of the ground with an orange colored safety flag at the top. The rule would require that ORVs have a functioning muffler system and functioning headlights and taillights if the ORV is operating at night. Operators would be required to use headlights and taillights starting one half hour before sunset and ending on half hour after sunrise. Glass containers (e.g., cups and bottles) would be prohibited in designated areas, routes, and access points, and in camping zones at Blue Creek and Rosita. Except for management zones with a slower speed limit, the speed limit would be 35 mph (unless otherwise posted) on ORV routes and 55 mph (unless otherwise posted) on the river bottom at Blue Creek and Rosita. Speed limits would be implemented for visitor safety and to reduce driving that may damage resources.

    The provisions of 36 CFR part 4 (Vehicles and Traffic Safety), including state laws adopted by 36 CFR 4.2, would continue to apply within the recreation area. Currently, Texas law includes, but is not limited to, the following rules about ORVs:

    • ORVs must have an off-highway vehicle (OHV) use decal issued by the State of Texas.

    • ATV operators must wear eye protection and helmets approved by the Texas Department of Transportation.

    • ATV operators must possess valid safety certificates issued by the State of Texas under Section 663.031 of the Texas Transportation Code.

    • ATV operators under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

    • ATV operators may not carry passengers unless the vehicle is designed by the manufacturer for carrying passengers.

    Superintendent's Discretionary Authority

    The proposed rule would allow the superintendent to open or close designated areas, routes, or access points to motor vehicle use, or portions thereof, or impose conditions or restrictions for off-road motor vehicle use after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection, and other management activities and objectives. The superintendent would provide public notice of all such actions through one or more of the methods listed in 36 CFR 1.7.

    Compliance With Other Laws, Executive Orders, and Department Policy—Use of Off-Road Vehicles on the Public Lands (Executive Orders 11644 and 11989)

    Executive Order 11644, as amended by Executive Order 11989, was adopted to address impacts on public lands from ORV use. The Executive Order applies to ORV use on federal public lands that is not authorized under a valid lease, permit, contract, or license. Section 3(a)(4) of Executive Order 11644 provides that ORV “[a]reas and trails shall be located in areas of the National Park System, Natural Areas, or National Wildlife Refuges and Game Ranges only if the respective agency head determines that off-road vehicle use in such locations will not adversely affect their natural, aesthetic, or scenic values.” Since the Executive Order clearly was not intended to prohibit all ORV use everywhere in these units, the term “adversely affect” does not have the same meaning as the somewhat similar terms “adverse impact” and “adverse effect” used in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). In analyses under NEPA, a procedural statute that provides for the study of environmental impacts, the term “adverse effect” includes minor or negligible effects.

    Section 3(a)(4) of the Executive Order, by contrast, concerns substantive management decisions and must be read in the context of the authorities applicable to such decisions. LAMR is an area of the National Park System. Therefore, NPS interprets the Executive Order term “adversely affect” consistent with its NPS Management Policies 2006. Those policies require that the NPS only allow “appropriate use” of parks and avoid “unacceptable impacts.”

    This rule is consistent with those requirements. It will not impede attainment of the recreation area's desired future conditions for natural and cultural resources as identified in the FEIS. NPS has determined that this rule will not unreasonably interfere with the atmosphere of peace and tranquility or the natural soundscape maintained in natural locations within the recreation area. Therefore, within the context of the resources and values of the recreation area, motor vehicle use on the routes and areas designated by this rule would not cause an unacceptable impact to the natural, aesthetic, or scenic values of the recreation area.

    Section 8(a) of the Executive Order requires agency heads to monitor the effects of ORV use on lands under their jurisdictions. On the basis of information gathered, agency heads may from time to time amend or rescind designations of areas or other actions as necessary to further the policy of the Executive Order. The preferred alternative in the EIS includes monitoring and resource protection procedures and periodic review to provide for the ongoing evaluation of impacts of motor vehicle use on protected resources. The superintendent has authority to take appropriate action as needed to protect the resources of the recreation area.

    Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)

    Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget will review all significant rules. OIRA has determined that this rule is not significant.

    Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of Executive Order 12866 while calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and consistent with regulatory objectives. Executive Order 13563 emphasizes further that regulations must be based on the best available science and that the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent with these requirements.

    Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA)

    This rule will not have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small entities under the RFA (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). This certification is based on the cost-benefit and regulatory flexibility analyses found in the report entitled “Benefit-Cost Analysis of ORV Use Regulations in Lake Meredith National Recreation Area” that can be viewed online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/lamr, by clicking the link entitled “ORV Management Plan and Regulation” and then clicking “Document List.” According to that report, no small entities would be directly regulated by the proposed rule, which would only regulate visitor use of ORVs.

    Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA)

    This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the SBREFA. This rule:

    (a) Does not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more.

    (b) Will not cause a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, federal, state, or local government agencies, or geographic regions.

    (c) Does not have significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of U.S. based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises.

    Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA)

    This rule does not impose an unfunded mandate on State, local, or tribal governments or the private sector of more than $100 million per year. The rule does not have a significant or unique effect on state, local or tribal governments or the private sector. The designated ORV routes and areas are located entirely within the recreation area, and would not result in direct expenditure by state, local, or tribal governments. This rule addresses public use of NPS lands, and imposes no requirements on other agencies or governments. A statement containing the information required by the UMRA (2 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) is not required.

    Takings (Executive Order 12630)

    This rule does not affect a taking of private property or otherwise have taking implications under Executive Order 12630. Access to private property adjacent to the recreation area will not be affected by this rule. A takings implication assessment is not required.

    Federalism (Executive Order 13132)

    Under the criteria in section 1 of Executive Order 13132, this rule does not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism summary impact statement. The proposed rule is limited in effect to federal lands managed by the NPS and would not have a substantial direct effect on state and local government. A Federalism summary impact statement is not required.

    Civil Justice Reform (Executive Order 12988)

    This rule complies with the requirements of Executive Order 12988. Specifically, this rule:

    (a) Meets the criteria of section 3(a) requiring that all regulations be reviewed to eliminate errors and ambiguity and be written to minimize litigation; and

    (b) Meets the criteria of section 3(b)(2) requiring that all regulations be written in clear language and contain clear legal standards.

    Consultation With Indian Tribes (Executive Order 13175 and Department Policy)

    The Department of the Interior strives to strengthen its government-to-government relationship with Indian Tribes through a commitment to consultation with Indian Tribes and recognition of their right to self-governance and tribal sovereignty. We have evaluated this rule under the Department's consultation policy and under the criteria in Executive Order 13175 and have determined that it has no substantial direct effects on federally recognized Indian tribes and that consultation under the Department's tribal consultation policy is not required.

    During scoping for the EIS, recreational area staff sent letters to the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, Comanche Nation, Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe of Oklahoma, Delaware Nation of Oklahoma, Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Jicarilla Apache Nation, Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Wichita & Affiliated Tribes requesting information on any historic properties of religious or cultural significance to the Tribes that would be affected by the FEIS. The same tribes were contacted when the recreation area released the Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement in January 2013. These tribes have not informed NPS staff of any concerns over historic properties of religious or cultural significance.

    Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that require approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act. OMB has approved the information collection requirements associated with NPS Special Park Use Permits and has assigned OMB Control Number 1024-0026 (expires 08/31/16). An agency may not conduct or sponsor and a person is not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

    National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)

    This rule constitutes a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. We have prepared the FEIS under the NEPA. The FEIS is summarized above and available online at http://www.parkplanning.nps.gov/lamr, by clicking on the link entitled “ORV Management Plan and Regulation” and then clicking “Document List.”

    Effects on the Energy Supply (Executive Order 13211)

    This rule is not a significant energy action under the definition in Executive Order 13211. A Statement of Energy Effects is not required.

    Clarity of This Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 (section 1(b)(12)), 12988 (section 3(b)(1)(B)), and 13563 (section 1(a)), and by the Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This means that each rule we publish must:

    (a) Be logically organized;

    (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;

    (c) Use common, everyday words and clear language rather than jargon;

    (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and

    (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.

    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section above. To better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs that you find unclear, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.

    Drafting Information

    The primary authors of this regulation are Lindsay Gillham, Environmental Quality Division, National Park Service, and Jay P. Calhoun, Regulations Program Specialist, National Park Service.

    Public Participation

    It is the policy of the Department of the Interior, whenever practicable, to afford the public an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process. Accordingly, interested persons may submit written comments regarding this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section above.

    Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

    List of Subjects in 36 CFR Part 7

    National parks, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    In consideration of the foregoing, the National Park Service proposes to amend 36 CFR part 7 as follows:

    PART 7—SPECIAL REGULATIONS, AREAS OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM 1. The authority citation for part 7 is revised to read as follows: Authority:

    54 U.S.C. 100101, 100751, 320102; Sec. 7.96 also issued under 36 U.S.C. 501-511, D.C. Code 10-137 (2001) and D.C. Code 50-2201 (2001).

    2. In § 7.57, revise paragraph (a) to read as follows:
    § 7.57 Lake Meredith Recreation Area.

    (a) Off-road motor vehicle use. Operating a motor vehicle is allowed within the boundaries of Lake Meredith National Recreation Area off roads under the conditions in this paragraph (a).

    (1) Permit requirement. (i) A special use permit issued and administered by the superintendent is required to operate a motor vehicle off roads at designated locations at the recreation area. There is no limit to the number of permits that the Superintendent may issue.

    (ii) The NPS charges a fee to recover the costs of administering the special use permits. Permit applicants must pay the fee charged by the NPS in order to obtain a special use permit.

    (iii) Annual permits are valid for the calendar year for which they are issued. Three-day permits are valid on the day designated on the permit and the following two days. One-day permits are valid on the day designated on the permit.

    (iv) A permit applicant must acknowledge in writing that he or she understands the rules governing off-road vehicle use at the recreation area.

    (v) Each motor vehicle permitted to operate off roads must display an NPS decal issued by the superintendent and an off-highway vehicle (OHV) use decal issued by the State of Texas. The NPS decal must be affixed to the vehicle in a manner and location specified by the superintendent.

    (vi) Permits may be requested at the recreation area headquarters in Fritch, Texas and on the recreation area Web site.

    (2) Designated locations. The operation of a motor vehicle off roads within the recreation area is prohibited except at the locations designated by this paragraph (a). Designated locations are identified on maps available at the recreation area headquarters and on the recreation area Web site.

    (i) Permitted motor vehicles may be used off roads at the following locations at Blue Creek, an area at the northern end of the recreational area that empties into Lake Meredith:

    Designated locations for off-road motor vehicle use Part of a management zone? Blue Creek: Approximately 133.5 acres on the river bottom Low Speed Zone (partial overlap). Approximately one linear mile of routes and access points to the river bottom that are marked by carsonite posts or other visible markers No.

    (ii) Permitted motor vehicles may be used off roads at the following locations at Rosita, an area of the Canadian River at the southern end of the recreation area:

    Designated locations for off-road motor vehicle use Part of a management zone? Rosita: Approximately 170.2 acres south of the Canadian River (currently denuded of vegetation) at the western border of LAMR where HWY 287 nears the recreation area No. Approximately 65.2 acres south of the Canadian River and on the east side of Bull Taco Hill Hunting Zone (complete overlap). Approximately 119.3 acres on the river bottom Resource Protection Zone (partial overlap). Approximately 15.1 linear miles of routes and access points to the river bottom Resource Protection Zone (partial overlap).
  • Hunting Zone (complete overlap).
  • Approximately 9.3 acres south of the Canadian River near HWY 287 that are marked by cables Beginner Zone (complete overlap).

    (3) Management zones. Some of the designated locations for off-road motor vehicle use enter into or abut one or more management zones that further manage this activity. These zones are identified on maps available at headquarters and on the recreation area Web site. Each zone has special restrictions governing off-road motor vehicle use as set forth in the following table:

    Zone Special restrictions Location Beginner Zone Speed limit: 20mph (unless otherwise posted)
  • Marked for beginner operators of off-road vehicles only.
  • Rosita.
    Camping Zone Speed limit: 15mph (unless otherwise posted)
  • Off-road vehicles may only be used to access the campground; recreational use prohibited.
  • Off-road vehicles that are not registered in a state may not be used from 10pm-6am (unless otherwise posted).
  • Rosita, Blue Creek.
    Hunting Zone Recreational off-road vehicle use is prohibited during Texas rifle hunting season; off-road vehicles may be used for hunting during this season Rosita. Low-Speed Zone Speed limit: 15 mph (unless otherwise posted)
  • Located approximately 1/2 mile on either side of the FM 1913 bridge.
  • Blue Creek.
    Resource Protection Zone Off-road vehicles with a wheel width greater than 65 inches are prohibited Rosita.

    (4) Camping. The following restrictions apply to camping at Blue Creek and Rosita:

    (i) At Blue Creek and Rosita, camping in a motor vehicle, including tent trailers, RVs, and vans, is prohibited outside of marked camping zones.

    (ii) Tent camping (without motor vehicles) is allowed anywhere in the recreation area except for designated ORV areas, routes, and access points and within 100 feet of these locations.

    (5) Operational and vehicle requirements. The following requirements apply to the use of motor vehicles off roads in the recreation area:

    (i) At Rosita, operating a motor vehicle in an isolated pool of water that is not connected to or touching flowing water is prohibited.

    (ii) Operating a motor vehicle on vegetation is prohibited.

    (iii) Glass containers are prohibited in designated areas, routes, and access points, and in camping zones.

    (iv) Operating a motor vehicle in excess of 35 mph (unless otherwise posted) on designated routes and access points at Blue Creek and Rosita is prohibited.

    (v) Operating a motor vehicle in excess of the speed limits identified in paragraph (a)(3) (unless otherwise posted) in specific management zones is prohibited.

    (vi) Operating a motor vehicle in excess of 55 mph (unless otherwise posted) in the designated areas that are not part of a Low-Speed Zone on the river bottoms at Blue Creek and Rosita is prohibited.

    (vii) All ATVs (as defined under Texas Transportation Code 502.001) must be equipped with a whip—a pole, rod, or antenna—that is securely mounted on the vehicle and stands upright at least eight feet from the surface of the ground when the vehicle is stopped. This whip must have a solid red or orange safety flag with a minimum size of six inches by twelve inches that is attached no more than ten inches from the top of the whip. Flags must have a pennant, triangle, square, or rectangular shape.

    (viii) A motor vehicle must display lighted headlights and taillights during the period from one-half hour before sunset to one half hour after sunrise.

    (ix) Motor vehicles must have a functioning muffler system. Motor vehicles that emit more than 96 decibels of sound (using the SAE J1287 test standard) are prohibited.

    (x) Operating a motor vehicle with a wheel width greater than 65 inches in a Resource Protection Zone is prohibited.

    (6) Prohibited acts. Violating any provision of this paragraph (a), including the special restrictions for each management zone, or the terms, conditions, or requirements of an off-road vehicle permit is prohibited. A violation may also result in the suspension or revocation of the applicable permit by the superintendent.

    (7) Superintendent's authority. The superintendent may open or close designated areas, routes, or access points to motor vehicle use, or portions thereof, or impose conditions or restrictions for off-road motor vehicle use after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection, and other management activities and objectives. The superintendent will provide public notice of all such actions through one or more of the methods listed in § 1.7 of this chapter. Violating any such closure, condition, or restriction is prohibited.

    Dated: February 19, 2015. Michael Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05034 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310-EJ-P
    ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 52 [EPA-R04-OAR-2014-0810; FRL-9923-93-Region 4] Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; Tennessee; Emissions Statement Requirement for the 2008 8-Hour Ozone Standard AGENCY:

    Environmental Protection Agency.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to approve a state implementation plan revision submitted by the State of Tennessee, through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, on January 5, 2015, to address the emissions statement requirement for the 2008 8-hour ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The revision affects Davidson, Rutherford, Shelby, Sumner, Knox, Blount, Anderson, Williamson, and Wilson Counties. Annual emissions statements are required for certain sources in all ozone nonattainment areas. These changes address requirements for the Knoxville, Tennessee 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS nonattainment area (hereinafter referred to as the Knoxville Area) and the Tennessee portion of the Memphis, Tennessee-Arkansas-Mississippi 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS nonattainment area (hereinafter referred to as the Memphis Area). The Knoxville Area is comprised of Knox and Blount County, and a portion of Anderson County, Tennessee, and the Tennessee portion of the Memphis Area is comprised of Shelby County, Tennessee. Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, Wilson and the remaining portion of Anderson County are not part of an ozone nonattainment area.

    DATES:

    Written comments must be received on or before April 6, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-R04-OAR-2014-0810 by one of the following methods:

    1. www.regulations.gov: Follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments.

    2. Email: [email protected]

    3. Fax: (404) 562-9019.

    4. Mail: “EPA-R04-OAR-2014-0810,” Air Regulatory Management Section (formerly the Regulatory Development Section), Air Planning and Implementation Branch (formerly the Air Planning Branch), Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960.

    5. Hand Delivery or Courier: Lynorae Benjamin, Chief, Air Regulatory Management Section, Air Planning and Implementation Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. Such deliveries are only accepted during the Regional Office's normal hours of operation. The Regional Office's official hours of business are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding Federal holidays.

    Please see the direct final rule which is located in the Rules section of this Federal Register for detailed instructions on how to submit comments.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Jane Spann, Air Regulatory Management Section, Air Planning and Implementation Branch, Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street SW., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. Ms. Spann can be reached at (404) 562-9029 and via electronic mail at [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    For additional information, see the direct final rule which is published in the Rules section of this Federal Register. A detailed rationale for the approval is set forth in the direct final rule and incorporated by reference herein. If no adverse comments are received in response to this rule, no further activity is contemplated. If EPA receives adverse comments, the direct final rule will be withdrawn and all adverse comments received will be addressed in a subsequent final rule based on this proposed rule. EPA will not institute a second comment period on this document. Any parties interested in commenting on this document should do so at this time.

    Dated: February 13, 2015. V. Anne Heard, Acting Regional Administrator, Region 4.
    [FR Doc. 2015-04488 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560-50-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Federal Emergency Management Agency 44 CFR Part 67 [Docket ID FEMA-2008-0020; Internal Agency Docket No. FEMA-B-1083] Proposed Flood Elevation Determinations for Humboldt County, California and Incorporated Areas AGENCY:

    Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule; withdrawal.

    SUMMARY:

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is withdrawing its proposed rule concerning proposed flood elevation determinations for Humboldt County, California and Incorporated Areas.

    DATES:

    As of March 5, 2015, the proposed rule published December 16, 2009, at 74 FR 66605, is withdrawn.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments, identified by Docket No. FEMA-B-1083, to Luis Rodriguez, Chief, Engineering Management Branch, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 500 C Street SW., Washington, DC 20472, (202) 646-4064, or (email) [email protected]

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Luis Rodriguez, Chief, Engineering Management Branch, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 500 C Street SW., Washington, DC 20472, (202) 646-4064, or (email) [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    On December 16, 2009, FEMA published a proposed rulemaking at 74 FR 66605, proposing flood elevation determinations along one or more flooding sources in Humboldt County, California. FEMA is withdrawing the proposed rulemaking and intends to publish a Notice of Proposed Flood Hazard Determinations in the Federal Register and a notice in the affected community's local newspaper following issuance of a revised preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map and Flood Insurance Study report.

    Authority:

    42 U.S.C. 4104; 44 CFR 67.4.

    Dated: February 11, 2015. Roy E. Wright, Deputy Associate Administrator for Mitigation, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05096 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110-12-P
    80 43 Thursday, March 5, 2015 Notices DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Notice of Proposed New Fee Site; Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, (Title VIII, Pub. L. 108-447) AGENCY:

    Salmon-Challis National Forest, USDA Forest Service.

    ACTION:

    Notice of proposed new fee site.

    SUMMARY:

    The Salmon-Challis National Forest is proposing to charge fee at the Copper Basin Guard Station. This cabin includes a $100/night fee and would be available for rental from June 1 to September 30. Fees are proposed based on the level of amenities and services provided, cost of operations and maintenance, and market assessment. The fee will be determined upon further analysis and public comment. An analysis of nearby rental cabins with similar amenities shows that the proposed fees are reasonable and typical of similar sites in the area. Funds from fees would be used for the continued operation and maintenance and improvements of these rental cabins.

    DATES:

    Comments will be accepted through August 1, 2015. New fees would begin May 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Charles A. Mark, Forest Supervisor, Salmon-Challis National Forest, 1206 S. Challis Street, Salmon, ID 83467.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Trish Callaghan, Recreation Fee Coordinator, 208-756-5115. Information about proposed fee changes can also be found on the Salmon-Challis National Forest Web site: http://www.fs.usda.gov/scnf.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The Federal Recreation Lands Enhancement Act (Title VII, Pub. L. 108-447) directed the Secretary of Agriculture to publish a six month advance notice in the Federal Register whenever new recreation fee areas are established.

    Once public involvement is complete, these new fees will be reviewed by a Recreation Resource Advisory Committee prior to a final decision and implementation. People wanting reserve these cabins would need to do so through the National Recreation Reservation Service, at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777 when it becomes available.

    Dated: February 20, 2015. Charles A. Mark, Forest Supervisor.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05086 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3411-15-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Economic Value of Non-Consumptive Recreation Use From Those Accessing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary via For Hire Operation Boats AGENCY:

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

    DATES:

    Written comments must be submitted on or before May 4, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Direct all written comments to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at [email protected]).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument and instructions should be directed to Dr. Vernon R. (Bob) Leeworthy, (301) 713-7261 or [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Abstract

    This request is for a new information collection.

    NOAA is mentoring student interns from the Monterey Institute for International Studies to estimate the market and non-market economic values associated with non-consumptive recreation uses (e.g., whale watching, other wildlife observation, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, beach activities, surfing, wind-surfing, kite boarding, paddle boarding, etc.) in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) for those accessing the MBNMS via “for hire” operation boats.

    We will conduct surveys of the for hire operations that take people out for non-consumptive recreation, to obtain total use by type of activity and the spatial use by type of activity. Information will also be obtained on costs-and-earnings of the operations, knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of sanctuary management strategies and regulations, and demographic information on owner/captains and crews. Surveys will also be conducted of the passengers aboard the for hire operation boats to obtain their market and non-market economic use values for non-consumptive recreation use and how those value change with changes in natural resource attribute conditions and user characteristics. Additional information will be obtained on importance-satisfaction ratings of key natural resource attributes, facilities and services, knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of management strategies and regulations, and demographic profiles of passengers.

    II. Method of Collection

    For the for hire operations, a team of students will go to the operations offices and collect the information. For the passengers, surveys will be conducted at the docks after the completion of their trips. The on-site survey will obtain information on demographic profiles, annual number of trips in the MBNMS for non-consumptive recreation, and their non-market economic use value. Self-addressed, postage paid mail back questionnaires will be used for importance-satisfaction ratings, knowledge, attitudes and perceptions, and trip expenditures.

    III. Data

    OMB Control Number: 0648-xxxx.

    Form Number: None.

    Type of Review: Regular submission (request for a new information collection).

    Affected Public: Business or other for-profit organizations; individuals or households.

    Estimated Number of Respondents: 1,050.

    Estimated Time per Response: 2 hours per for hire operation, 20 minutes per on-site interview of passengers, 20 minutes per importance-satisfaction/knowledge, attitudes and perceptions mail back, and 20 minutes for the expenditure mail back.

    Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 733.

    Estimated Total Annual Cost to Public: $0 in recordkeeping/reporting costs.

    IV. Request for Comments

    Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record.

    Dated: March 2, 2015. Sarah Brabson, NOAA PRA Clearance Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05019 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-NK-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; Economic Value of the Reduction in the Risk of Whale Strikes in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary AGENCY:

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of Commerce, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on proposed and/or continuing information collections, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

    DATES:

    Written comments must be submitted on or before May 4, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Direct all written comments to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at [email protected]).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Requests for additional information or copies of the information collection instrument and instructions should be directed to Dr. Vernon R. (Bob) Leeworthy, (301) 713-7261 or [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Abstract

    This request is for a new information collection.

    NOAA is sponsoring a class project at the Bren School of Management & Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara to estimate the market and non-market economic values associated with the reduction in risk of whale strikes by different scenarios of changes in traffic lanes and/or vessel speeds for major commercial vessels operating in the region of southern California where the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is located.

    NOAA will conduct surveys of the for hire operations that take people out for non-consumptive recreation to watch whales or other wildlife to obtain total use by type of activity (e.g., whale watching, and other wildlife observation) and the spatial use by type of activity. Information will also be obtained on costs-and-earnings of the operations and demographic information on owner/captains and crews. Surveys will also be conducted of the passengers aboard the for hire operation boats to obtain their market and non-market economic use values for the reduction in the risk of whale strikes. Additional information will be obtained on importance-satisfaction ratings of key natural resource attributes, facilities and services along with demographic profiles of passengers.

    II. Method of Collection

    For the for hire operations, a team of students will go to the operations offices and collect the information. For the passengers, surveys will be conducted at the docks after the completion of their whale watching trip. Self-addressed, postage paid mail back questionnaires will be used for importance-satisfaction ratings and whale watching trip expenditures.

    III. Data

    OMB Control Number: 0648-xxxx.

    Form Number(s): None.

    Type of Review: Regular submission (request for a new information collection).

    Affected Public: Business or other for-profit organizations; individuals or households.

    Estimated Number of Respondents: 25 for-hire operations and 500 individuals.

    Estimated Time per Response: 2 hours per for-hire operation; 20 minutes each per on-site interview of passengers, importance-satisfaction mail-back and expenditure mail-back.

    Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours: 367: For-hire operations, 50 hours; on-site survey of passengers, 167 hours; importance-satisfaction mail-back, 83 hours; expenditure mail-back, 67 hours.

    Estimated Total Annual Cost to Public: $0 in recordkeeping/reporting costs.

    IV. Request for Comments

    Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the request for OMB approval of this information collection; they also will become a matter of public record.

    Dated: February 27, 2015. Sarah Brabson, NOAA PRA Clearance Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05003 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-NK-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XD805 Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC); Public Meetings AGENCY:

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice of public meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's (Council) Ecosystem and Ocean Planning Committee will meet as a Committee of the Whole, to receive an overview from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) about their geological and geophysical (G&G) permitting process in the Atlantic, focusing on regulations and the permitted activities for G&G surveys, and the development of possible comments.

    DATES:

    The meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 25, 2015, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST, via Internet Webinar.

    ADDRESSES:

    The meeting will be held via Internet Webinar. To join the Webinar, follow this link and enter the online meeting room: http://mafmc.adobeconnect.com/marchboem/.

    Council address: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901, telephone: (302) 674-2331.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council; telephone: (302) 526-5255.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    BOEM will give a presentation to the Council's Ecosystem and Ocean Planning Committee, as a Committee Meeting of the Whole. This will include an overview of the geological and geophysical (G&G) permitting process in the Atlantic, focusing on regulations and the permitted activities for G&G surveys. BOEM will provide an overview of what is included in a complete permit and discuss the coordination process. The overview will also describe the National Environmental Policy Act and internal environmental review processes, discuss the related consultation and coordination process, and finally touch on mitigation and operations monitoring. BOEM will also give an overview of the development of the Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-22. BOEM staff will be available to answer any questions following the presentation.

    Special Accommodations

    This meeting is accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aid should be directed to Jan Saunders, (302) 526-5251, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date.

    Dated: March 2, 2015. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05076 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XD767 Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC); Public Meetings AGENCY:

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice of a public meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's (Council) Tilefish Monitoring Committee will hold a public meeting.

    DATES:

    The meeting will be held Thursday, March 26, 2015, from 10 a.m. until noon.

    ADDRESSES:

    The meeting will be held via webinar with a telephone-only connection option.

    Council address: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 N. State St., Suite 201, Dover, DE 19901; telephone: (302) 674-2331.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Christopher M. Moore, Ph.D. Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council; telephone: (302) 526-5255. The Council's Web site, www.mafmc.org also has details on the proposed agenda, webinar listen-in access, and briefing materials.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The purpose of this meeting is for the Monitoring Committee to review, and if necessary, revise the current management measures designed to achieve the recommended Golden Tilefish catch and landings limits for 2016/17.

    Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before this group for discussion, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), those issues may not be the subject of formal action during these meetings. Actions will be restricted to those issues specifically identified in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council's intent to take final action to address the emergency.

    Special Accommodations

    The meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aid should be directed to M. Jan Saunders, (302) 526-5251, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date.

    Dated: March 2, 2015. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05081 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Telecommunications and Information Administration [Docket No. 150224183-5183-01] RIN 0660-XC016 Privacy, Transparency, and Accountability Regarding Commercial and Private Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems AGENCY:

    National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Request for public comment.

    SUMMARY:

    The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is requesting comment on privacy, transparency, and accountability issues regarding commercial and private use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). On February 15, 2015, President Obama issued the Presidential Memorandum “Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” which directs NTIA to establish a multistakeholder engagement process to develop and communicate best practices for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues regarding commercial and private UAS use in the National Airspace System (NAS). Through this notice NTIA commences this process.

    DATES:

    Comments are due on or before 5 p.m. Eastern Time on April 20, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Written comments may be submitted by email to [email protected]. Comments submitted by email should be machine-readable and should not be copy-protected. Written comments also may be submitted by mail to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW., Room 4725, Attn: UAS RFC 2015, Washington, DC 20230. Responders should include the name of the person or organization filing the comment, as well as a page number on each page of their submissions. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http://www.ntia.doc.gov/category/internet-policy-task-force without change. All personal identifying information (for example, name, address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit Confidential Business Information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NTIA will accept anonymous comments.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    John Verdi or John Morris, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW., Room 4725, Washington, DC 20230; telephone (202) 482-8238 or (202) 482-1689; email [email protected] or [email protected]. Please direct media inquiries to NTIA's Office of Public Affairs, (202) 482-7002.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Background: Congress recognized the potential wide-ranging benefits of UAS operations within the United States in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-95), which requires a plan to safely integrate civil UAS into the NAS by 2015. Compared to manned aircraft, UAS may provide lower-cost operation and augment existing capabilities while reducing risks to human life. Estimates suggest the positive economic impact to U.S. industry of the integration of UAS into the NAS could be substantial and likely will grow for the foreseeable future.1 UAS may be able to provide a variety of commercial services less expensively than manned aircraft, including aerial photography and farm management, while reducing or eliminating safety risks to aircraft operators. In addition, UAS may be able to provide some commercial services that would be impossible for manned aircraft. For example, improvements in technology may allow small UAS to deliver packages to homes and businesses where manned aircraft cannot land, and high-altitude UAS could provide Internet service to remote areas by remaining aloft for months at a time—far longer than manned aircraft.

    1 Presidential Memorandum, “Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” (Feb. 15, 2015), available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/15/presidential-memorandum-promoting-economic-competitiveness-while-safegua.

    On February 15, 2015, President Obama issued the Presidential Memorandum “Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” The Presidential Memorandum states: “[a]s UAS are integrated into the NAS, the Federal Government will take steps to ensure that the integration takes into account not only our economic competitiveness and public safety, but also the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns these systems may raise.” 2 The Presidential Memorandum establishes a “multi-stakeholder engagement process to develop and communicate best practices for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues regarding commercial and private UAS use in the NAS.” 3 The process will include stakeholders from industry, civil society, and academia, and will be initiated by the Department of Commerce, through NTIA, and in consultation with other interested agencies.

    2 Presidential Memorandum at 1.

    3 Presidential Memorandum at 4.

    The NTIA-convened process is intended to help address privacy concerns raised by commercial and private UAS. UAS can enable aerial data collection that is more sustained, pervasive, and invasive than manned flight; at the same time, UAS flights can reduce costs, provide novel services, and promote economic growth. These attributes create opportunities for innovation, but also pose privacy challenges regarding collection, use, retention, and dissemination of data collected by UAS. NTIA encourages stakeholders to identify safeguards that address the privacy challenges posed by commercial and private UAS use.

    The NTIA-convened process is intended to promote transparent UAS operation by companies and individuals. Transparent operation can include identifying the entities that operate particular UAS, the purposes of UAS flights, and the data practices associated with UAS operations. Transparent UAS operation can enhance privacy and bolster other values. Transparency can help property owners identify UAS if an aircraft erroneously operates or lands on private property. Transparency can also facilitate reports of UAS operations that cause nuisances or appear unsafe. NTIA encourages stakeholders to identify mechanisms, such as standardized physical markings or electronic identifiers, which could promote transparent UAS operation.4

    4 Such standardized physical marking would be in addition to the markings required by the FAA for purposes of registration.

    The NTIA-convened process is intended to promote accountable UAS operation by companies and individuals. UAS operators can employ accountability mechanisms to help ensure that privacy protections and transparency policies are enforced within an organization. Accountability mechanisms can include rules regarding oversight and privacy training for UAS pilots, as well as policies for how companies and individuals operate UAS and handle data collected by UAS. Accountability programs can also employ audits, assessments, and internal or external reports to verify UAS operators' compliance with their privacy and transparency commitments. Accountability mechanisms can be implemented by companies, model aircraft clubs, UAS training programs, or others. NTIA encourages stakeholders to identify mechanisms that can promote accountable UAS operation.

    NTIA will convene stakeholders in an open and transparent forum to develop consensus best practices for utilization by commercial and private UAS operators. For this process, commercial and private use includes the use of UAS for commercial purposes as civil aircraft, even if the use would qualify a UAS as a public aircraft under 49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(41) and 40125. The process will not focus on law enforcement or other noncommercial governmental use of UAS.

    NTIA will convene the first public meeting of the multistakeholder process in the Washington, DC metro area. The meeting will be open to the public, webcast, and NTIA will provide an audio conference bridge. NTIA asks that stakeholders who plan to attend the first meeting express their interest at:http://www.ntia.doc.gov/2015-privacy-multistakeholder-meeting-expression. Expressions of interest will assist NTIA in approximating the number of attendees and identifying an appropriate venue for the meeting.

    Request for Comment: NTIA invites public comment on the following issues from all stakeholders, including the commercial, academic, and public interest sectors, lawmakers, and governmental consumer protection and enforcement agencies. NTIA will use the comments to help establish an efficient, effective structure for the multistakeholder engagement and identify the substantive issues stakeholders wish to discuss.

    General

    1. The Presidential Memorandum asks stakeholders to develop best practices concerning privacy, transparency, and accountability for a broad range of UAS platforms and commercial practices. How should the group's work be structured? Should working groups address portions of the task?

    2. Would it be helpful to establish three working groups with one focusing on privacy, one on transparency, and one on accountability? Should such groups work in serial or parallel?

    3. Would it be helpful for stakeholders to distinguish between micro, small, and large UAS platforms (e.g., UAS under 4.4 lbs., UAS between 4.4 lbs. and 55 lbs., and UAS over 55 lbs.)? Do smaller or larger platforms raise different issues for privacy, transparency, and accountability?

    4. What existing best practices or codes of conduct could serve as bases for stakeholders' work?

    Privacy

    5. UAS can be used for a wide variety of commercial and private purposes, including aerial photography, package delivery, farm management, and the provision of Internet service. Do some UAS-enabled commercial services raise unique or heightened privacy issues as compared to non-UAS platforms that provide the same services? For example, does UAS-based aerial photography raise unique or heightened privacy issues compared to manned aerial photography? Does UAS-based Internet service raise unique or heightened privacy issues compared to wireline or ground-based wireless Internet service?

    6. Which commercial and private uses of UAS raise the most pressing privacy challenges?

    7. What specific best practices would mitigate the most pressing privacy challenges while supporting innovation?

    Transparency

    8. Transparent UAS operation can include identifying the entities that operate particular UAS, the purposes of UAS flights, and the data practices associated with UAS operations. Is there other information that UAS operators should make public?

    9. What values can be supported by transparency of commercial and private UAS operation? Can transparency enhance privacy, encourage reporting of nuisances caused by UAS flights, or help combat unsafe UAS flying? Can transparency support other values?

    10. How can companies and individuals best provide notice to the public regarding where a particular entity or individual operates UAS in the NAS?

    11. What mechanisms can facilitate identification of commercial and private UAS by the public? Would standardized physical markings aid in identifying UAS when the aircraft are mobile or stationary? 5 Can UAS be equipped with electronic identifiers or other technology to facilitate identification of UAS by the public?

    5 Such standardized physical markings would be in addition to the markings required by the FAA for purposes of registration.

    12. How can companies and individuals best keep the public informed about UAS operations that significantly impact privacy, anti-nuisance, or safety interests? Would routine reporting by large-scale UAS operators provide value to the public? What might such reporting include? How might it be made publicly available?

    13. What specific best practices would promote transparent UAS operation while supporting innovation?

    Accountability

    14. UAS operators can employ accountability mechanisms to help ensure that privacy protections and transparency policies are enforced within an organization. How can companies, model aircraft clubs, and UAS training programs ensure that oversight procedures for commercial and private UAS operation comply with relevant policies and best practices? Can audits, assessments, or reporting help promote accountability?

    15. What rules regarding conduct, training, operation, data handling, and oversight would promote accountability regarding commercial and private UAS operation?

    16. What specific best practices would promote accountable commercial and private UAS operation while supporting innovation?

    Dated: February 27, 2015. Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05020 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-60-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XD806 New England Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting AGENCY:

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice; public meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    The New England Fishery Management Council (Council) is scheduling a public meeting of its Habitat Committee to consider actions affecting New England fisheries in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Recommendations from this group will be brought to the full Council for formal consideration and action, if appropriate.

    DATES:

    This meeting will be held on Monday, March 23, 2015 at 9 a.m. and on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 9 a.m.

    ADDRESSES:

    Meeting address: The meeting will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 363 Maine Mall Road, South Portland, ME 04106; telephone: (207) 775-6161; fax: (207) 756-6623.

    Council address: New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council; telephone: (978) 465-0492.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The Habitat committee will review the Plan Development Team analyses as requested on February 24, 2015. The committee also plans to review the Advisory Panel recommendations for preferred alternatives. They will also develop final preferred alternative recommendations for the full Council. They will discuss other business as necessary.

    Although non-emergency issues not contained in this agenda may come before these groups for discussion, those issues may not be the subject of formal action during this meeting. Action will be restricted to those issues specifically listed in this notice and any issues arising after publication of this notice that require emergency action under section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, provided the public has been notified of the Council's intent to take final action to address the emergency.

    Special Accommodations

    This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, at (978) 465-0492, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date.

    Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: February 27, 2015. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05025 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XD671 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Essential Fish Habitat 5-Year Review AGENCY:

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice of availability; request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS announces the availability of the Draft Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) 5-Year Review. The purpose of Atlantic HMS EFH 5-Year Review is to gather relevant new information and determine whether modifications to existing EFH descriptions and designations are warranted, in compliance with the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and implementing regulations. If EFH modifications are warranted, an amendment to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery Management Plan (FMP) may be initiated.

    DATES:

    Written comments must be received by April 6, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Electronic copies of the Draft Atlantic HMS EFH 5-Year Review may also be obtained on the internet at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/documents/2015_draft_efh_review.pdf.

    You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2015-0037, by any of the following methods:

    • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0037, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

    • Mail: Submit written comments to Peter Cooper, NMFS/SF1, 1315 East-West Highway, National Marine Fisheries Service, SSMC3, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter “N/A” in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Peter Cooper by phone at (301) 427-8503.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) includes provisions concerning the identification and conservation of essential fish habitat (EFH) (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.). EFH is defined in 50 CFR 600.10 as “those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity.” NMFS must identify and describe EFH, minimize to the extent practicable the adverse effects of fishing on EFH, and identify other actions to encourage the conservation and enhancement of EFH (§ 600.815(a). EFH maps are presented online in the NMFS EFH Mapper (http://www.habitat.noaa.gov/protection/efh/habitatmapper.html). Federal agencies that authorize, fund, or undertake actions that may adversely affect EFH must consult with NMFS, and NMFS must provide conservation recommendations to Federal and state agencies regarding any such actions (§ 600.815(a)(9)).

    In addition to identifying and describing EFH for managed fish species, a review of EFH must be completed every 5 years, and EFH provisions must be revised or amended, as warranted, based on the best available scientific information. The EFH 5-year review should evaluate published scientific literature, unpublished scientific reports, information solicited from interested parties, and previously unavailable or inaccessible data. NMFS announced the initiation of this review and solicited information for this review from the public in a Federal Register notice on March 24, 2014 (79 FR 15959). The initial public review/submission period ended on May 23, 2014.

    This document is a draft 5-year review of EFH for Atlantic HMS, which include tunas (bluefin, bigeye, albacore, yellowfin, and skipjack), oceanic sharks, swordfish, and billfishes (blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, roundscale spearfish, and longbill spearfish). The HMS EFH 5-year review considers data available regarding Atlantic HMS and their habitats that have become available since 2009 that were not included in Final Amendment 1 to the 2006 Consolidated Atlantic HMS (June 1, 2010, 75 FR 30484); Final Environmental Impact Statement for Amendment 3 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS FMP (June 1, 2010, 75 FR 30484); and the interpretive rule that described EFH for roundscale spearfish (September 22, 2010, 75 FR 57698), which are the most recent documents that described EFH for Atlantic HMS species. Upon completion of the HMS EFH 5-year Review, NMFS will analyze the information gathered through the EFH review process and determine if subsequent revision or amendment of EFH if warranted.

    Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 971 et seq., and 1801 et seq.

    Dated: March 2, 2015. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05079 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Office of the Secretary Renewal of Department of Defense Federal Advisory Committees AGENCY:

    DoD.

    ACTION:

    Renewal of Federal Advisory Committee.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of Defense (DoD) is publishing this notice to announce that it is renewing the charter for the Board on Coastal Engineering Research (“the Board”).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Jim Freeman, Advisory Committee Management Officer for the Department of Defense, 703-692-5952.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    This committee's charter is being renewed pursuant to 33 U.S.C. 426-2 and in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972 (5 U.S.C., Appendix, as amended) and 41 CFR 102-3.50(a).

    The Board is a non-discretionary Federal advisory committee that shall provide the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, which includes the Coastal Engineering Research Center, through the Chief of Engineers/Commander (“the Chief of Engineers”), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps of Engineers”), independent advice and recommendations on coastal engineering research priorities and additional functions as assigned by the Chief of Engineers. The Board shall report to the Secretary of the Army, through the Chief of Engineers/Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Chief of Engineers/Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, may act upon the Board's advice and recommendations.

    The Board, pursuant to 33 U.S.C. 426-2, shall be composed of seven members who are appointed by the Secretary of Defense or the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

    DoD, pursuant to the authorizing legislation, shall appoint four officers of the Corps of Engineers to the Board as ex officio appointments, with one position being occupied by the Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Chief of Engineers, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), shall determine which three of the eight coastal division commanders shall be nominated as the other ex officio members of the Board. The Chief of Engineers, in determining which of the coastal division commanders shall serve on the Board, shall consider the individual's tenure as a division commander and his or her expertise in the matters before the Board.

    The three civilian Board members shall be civilian engineers recommended by the Chief of Engineers for their expertise in the field of beach erosion, shore protection, and coastal processes and infrastructure.

    The Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, shall serve as the President of the Board.

    Board members who are not full-time or permanent part-time Federal officers or employees shall be appointed as experts or consultants pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 3109 to serve as special government employee (SGE) members. Board members who are full-time or permanent part-time Federal officers or employees shall be appointed pursuant to 41 CFR 102-3.130(a) to serve as regular government employee (RGE) members.

    The Secretary of Defense, or the Deputy Secretary of Defense, may approve the appointment of civilian Board members and the three coastal division commanders for terms of service of one-to-four years with annual renewals. However, no member, unless authorized by the Secretary of Defense or the Deputy Secretary of Defense, may serve more than two consecutive terms of service.

    Pursuant to section 105 of Public Law 91-611, Board members, who are not full-time or permanent part-time Federal officers or employees, may be paid at rates not to exceed the daily equivalent of the rate for a GS-15, step 10, for each day of attendance at Board meetings, not to exceed 30 days per year, in addition to travel and other necessary expenses connected with their official duties on the Board, in accordance with the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 5703(b), (d), and 5707. RGE members may be reimbursed for official Board-related travel and per diem.

    The DoD, when necessary and consistent with the Board's mission and DoD policies and procedures, may establish subcommittees, task forces, or working groups to support the Board. Establishment of subcommittees will be based upon a written determination, to include terms of reference, by the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of the Army, as the DoD sponsor.

    Such subcommittees shall not work independently of the Board and shall report all of their recommendations and advice solely to the Board for full and open deliberation and discussion. Subcommittees, task forces, or working groups have no authority to make decisions and recommendations, verbally or in writing, on behalf of the Board. No subcommittee or its members can update or report, verbally or in writing, on behalf of the Board, directly to the DoD or to any Federal officer or employee.

    The Secretary of Defense or the Deputy Secretary of Defense will appoint subcommittee members to a term of service of one-to-four years, with annual renewals, even if the member in question is already a member of the Board.

    Subcommittee members, if not full-time or part-time Federal officers or employees, shall be appointed as experts or consultants pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 3109 to serve as SGE members. Subcommittee members who are full-time or permanent part-time Federal officers or employees will serve as RGE members pursuant to 41 CFR 102-3.130(a).

    Each subcommittee member is appointed to provide advice to the government on the basis of his or her best judgment without representing any particular point of view and in a manner that is free from conflict of interest. Subcommittee members may be compensated, and shall be allowed travel expenses, in the same manner as the Board members.

    All subcommittees operate under the provisions of FACA, the Sunshine Act, governing Federal statutes and regulations, and established DoD policies and procedures.

    The estimated number of Board meetings is two per year.

    The Board's Designated Federal Officer (DFO), pursuant to DoD policy, shall be a full-time or permanent part-time DoD employee appointed in accordance with governing DoD policies and procedures.

    The Board's DFO is required to be in attendance at all meetings of the Board and any of its subcommittees for the entire duration of each and every meeting. However, in the absence of the Board's DFO, a properly approved Alternate DFO, duly appointed to the Board according to established DoD policies and procedures, shall attend the entire duration of the Board or any subcommittee meeting.

    The DFO, or the Alternate DFO, shall call all meetings of the Board and its subcommittees; prepare and approve all meeting agendas; and adjourn any meeting when the DFO, or the Alternate DFO, determines adjournment to be in the public interest or required by governing regulations or DoD policies and procedures.

    Pursuant to 41 CFR 102-3.105(j) and 102-3.140, the public or interested organizations may submit written statements to Board on Coastal Engineering Research membership about the Board's mission and functions. Written statements may be submitted at any time or in response to the stated agenda of planned meeting of the Board on Coastal Engineering Research.

    All written statements shall be submitted to the DFO for the Board on Coastal Engineering Research, and this individual will ensure that the written statements are provided to the membership for their consideration. Contact information for the Board on Coastal Engineering Research DFO can be obtained from the GSA's FACA Database—http://www.facadatabase.gov/.

    The DFO, pursuant to 41 CFR 102-3.150, will announce planned meetings of the Board on Coastal Engineering Research. The DFO, at that time, may provide additional guidance on the submission of written statements that are in response to the stated agenda for the planned meeting in question.

    Dated: March 2, 2015. Aaron Siegel, Alternate OSD Federal Register Liaison Officer, Department of Defense.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05040 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 5001-06-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Army Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Modernization and Repair of Piers 2 and 3, Military Ocean Terminal Concord, CA AGENCY:

    Department of the Army, DOD.

    ACTION:

    Notice of availability.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of the Army (Army) announces the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Modernization and Repair of Piers 2 and 3 at Military Ocean Terminal Concord, California (MOTCO). The Final EIS evaluates the potential environmental and socioeconomic effects that could result from demolition and reconstruction of structural elements, replacement of infrastructure, upgrades to shore-side roads and electrical infrastructure, repair of piles at Pier 3, and maintenance dredging. Environmental consequences were evaluated for noise; air quality; geology, topography, and soils; water resources; biological resources; land use and coastal zone management; transportation; infrastructure; visual resources; recreational resources; socioeconomics; environmental justice and protection of children; cultural resources; and hazardous materials, hazardous waste, toxic substances, and contaminated sites. Based on the analysis described in the EIS, all impacts are anticipated to be less than significant. The potential for environmental impacts is greatest for the following resource areas: water resources; biological resources; transportation; infrastructure; and cultural resources.

    DATES:

    The Army will make a final decision no sooner than 30 days after the publication of a Notice of Availability for the Final EIS in the Federal Register.

    ADDRESSES:

    Please send requests for a copy of the Final EIS or written comments on the Final EIS to Mr. Malcolm Charles, Director of Public Works, Attention: SDAT-CCA-MI (Charles), 410 Norman Avenue, Concord, CA 94520; email comments to [email protected]; or fax comments to (925) 246-4171 (Attention: SDAT-CCA-MI [Charles]).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Ms. Sarah Garner, Public Affairs Office, Surface Deployment and Distribution Command; telephone: (618) 220-6284; email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The purpose of the proposed action is to modernize and repair Pier 2 and repair Pier 3 so the Army can maintain its ability to meet Department of Defense (DOD) mission requirements in support of wartime and contingency operations. Piers 2 and 3 were built in the mid-1940s and are past their structural and design life and lack modern operational efficiencies. Based on Net Explosive Weight handling capability, Pier 2 is the optimum pier for mission capability, but it cannot be used due to its degraded and nonoperational condition. Pier 3, currently the primary operational pier at MOTCO, requires some level of repair to maintain even its limited operational capability through 2019.

    Alternative 1 fully implements repairs to Piers 2 and 3 with Pier 2 re-oriented to align the west end with the existing shipping channel to create a more modernized configuration. Alternative 2 would be similar to Alternative 1, but the Pier 2 footprint would not change. Alternative 3 would fully implement repairs to Piers 2 and 3, reorienting Pier 2 to create a more modernized configuration but with a larger deck surface and heavier load-carrying capacity than that proposed under Alternative 1. Under the No Action Alternative, the modernization and repair of Pier 2 and the repair of Pier 3 at MOTCO would not occur, and Pier 3 would continue to be used with loading restrictions for the remainder of its service life. The No Action Alternative provides the environmental baseline conditions for comparing the impacts associated with the other alternatives. Alternative 1 is the preferred alternative.

    The Army consulted with regulatory agencies, to include the State Historic Preservation Officer, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

    Several of the comments received during the Draft EIS review period resulted in revisions to the Final EIS. These revisions included minor clarifications and the inclusion of updated information. The Final EIS includes responses to all comments.

    Copies of the Final EIS are available for public review at the following two Contra Costa County libraries: (1) Concord Library, 2900 Salvio Street, Concord, CA 94519 and (2) Bay Point Library, 205 Pacifica Avenue, Bay Point, CA 94565. The Final EIS may also be reviewed electronically at http://www.sddc.army.mil/MOTCO/default.aspx.

    Brenda S. Bowen, Army Federal Register Liaison Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05083 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3710-08-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Air Force Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for United States Air Force F-35a Operational Basing—Pacific AGENCY:

    Department of the Air Force, DOD.

    ACTION:

    Notice of Intent (NOI).

    SUMMARY:

    The Air Force is issuing this notice of intent (NOI) (40 CFR 1508.22) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the proposed action to base two (2) F-35A squadrons (48 Primary Assigned Aircraft (PAA)) at Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska. The proposed action will also include the use of related airspace and ranges, particularly the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC). The F-35A is the conventional take-off and landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). It is a multiple-role fighter with an emphasis on air-to-ground missions.

    A No-Action Alternative will be included in the EIS, whereby no F-35A squadrons would be based at Eielson AFB. The analysis of the no-action alternative will provide a benchmark to enable Air Force decision-makers to compare the magnitude of the environmental effects of the proposed action. No-action means the proposed action would not take place, and the resulting environmental effects from taking no-action will be compared with the effects of allowing the proposed activity to go forward.

    Scoping: The public scoping process will be used to identify community concerns and local issues to be considered during the draft EIS development process. Federal, state, and local agencies; Alaska Native Tribes and organizations; as well as interested persons are encouraged to provide written comments of environmental concern associated with the proposed action to the Air Force. Comments should be provided by the methods and dates indicated below.

    DATES:

    Public scoping meetings will be held in North Pole, Fairbanks, and Delta Junction, Alaska at the following dates, times, and locations:

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    North Pole Worship Center, 3340 Badger Road, North Pole.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    Westmark Hotel and Conference Center, 813 Noble Street, Fairbanks.

    Thursday, March 26, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    Alaskan Steakhouse & Motel, 265 Richardson Highway, Delta Junction.

    Comments on the proposal can be made at the scoping meetings, by mail, or via the project Web site at: https://www.PACAF-F35Aeis.com. Written comments can be mailed to: 354 FW/PA, 354 Broadway Avenue, Suite 15A, Eielson AFB, AK 99702.

    Although comments can be submitted to the Air Force at any time during the EIS process, scoping comments are requested by Friday, April 17, 2015 to ensure full consideration in the draft EIS.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    For questions regarding the proposed action, scoping, and EIS development, contact the Eielson AFB Public Affairs Office, at 907-377-2116 or at [email protected]

    Henry Williams Jr., Acting Air Force Federal Register Liaison Officer, DAF.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05014 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 5001-10-P
    DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION [Docket No.: ED-2015-ICCD-0023] Agency Information Collection Activities; Comment Request; Roads to Success in North Dakota: A Randomized Study of a College and Career Preparation Curriculum AGENCY:

    Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), Department of Education (ED).

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. chapter 3501 et seq.), ED is proposing a new information collection.

    DATES:

    Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before May 4, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Comments submitted in response to this notice should be submitted electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov by selecting Docket ID number ED-2015-ICCD-0023 or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. If the regulations.gov site is not available to the public for any reason, ED will temporarily accept comments at [email protected] Please note that comments submitted by fax or email and those submitted after the comment period will not be accepted; ED will ONLY accept comments during the comment period in this mailbox when the regulations.gov site is not available. Written requests for information or comments submitted by postal mail or delivery should be addressed to the Director of the Information Collection Clearance Division, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW., LBJ, Mailstop L-OM-2-2E319, Room 2E103, Washington, DC 20202.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    For specific questions related to collection activities, please contact Braden Goetz, 202-245-7405.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The Department of Education (ED), in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) (44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A)), provides the general public and Federal agencies with an opportunity to comment on proposed, revised, and continuing collections of information. This helps the Department assess the impact of its information collection requirements and minimize the public's reporting burden. It also helps the public understand the Department's information collection requirements and provide the requested data in the desired format. ED is soliciting comments on the proposed information collection request (ICR) that is described below. The Department of Education is especially interested in public comment addressing the following issues: (1) Is this collection necessary to the proper functions of the Department; (2) will this information be processed and used in a timely manner; (3) is the estimate of burden accurate; (4) how might the Department enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (5) how might the Department minimize the burden of this collection on the respondents, including through the use of information technology. Please note that written comments received in response to this notice will be considered public records.

    Title of Collection: Roads to Success in North Dakota: A Randomized Study of a College and Career Preparation Curriculum.

    OMB Control Number: 1830—NEW.

    Type of Review: A new information collection.

    Respondents/Affected Public: Individuals or Households.

    Total Estimated Number of Annual Responses: 88.

    Total Estimated Number of Annual Burden Hours: 22.

    Abstract: The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education in the U.S. Department of Education is supporting an evaluation that will examine the impact of a college and career preparation curriculum for students in the 11th and 12th grades on students' college and career aspirations, planning for postsecondary transitions and adult life, and attitudes toward education and careers. The evaluation has an experimental design with school-level random assignment. This Information Collection Request includes surveys of students, instructors, and principals and protocols for site visits.

    Dated: March 2, 2015. Kate Mullan, Acting Director, Information Collection Clearance Division, Privacy, Information and Records Management Services, Office of Management.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05011 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4000-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Nevada AGENCY:

    Department of Energy.

    ACTION:

    Notice of open meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    This notice announces a meeting of the Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board (EM SSAB), Nevada. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (Pub. L. 92-463, 86 Stat. 770) requires that public notice of this meeting be announced in the Federal Register.

    DATES:

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 5:00 p.m.

    ADDRESSES:

    National Atomic Testing Museum, 755 East Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Barbara Ulmer, Board Administrator, 232 Energy Way, M/S 505, North Las Vegas, Nevada 89030. Phone: (702) 630-0522; Fax (702) 295-5300 or Email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Purpose of the Board: The purpose of the Board is to make recommendations to DOE-EM and site management in the areas of environmental restoration, waste management, and related activities.

    Tentative Agenda:

    1. Briefing and Recommendation Development for Corrective Action Alternatives for Corrective Action Unit 568, Area 3 Plutonium Dispersion Sites—Work Plan Item #2

    2. Briefing and Recommendation Development for Fiscal Year 2017 Baseline Prioritization—Work Plan Item #7

    Public Participation: The EM SSAB, Nevada, welcomes the attendance of the public at its advisory committee meetings and will make every effort to accommodate persons with physical disabilities or special needs. If you require special accommodations due to a disability, please contact Barbara Ulmer at least seven days in advance of the meeting at the phone number listed above. Written statements may be filed with the Board either before or after the meeting. Individuals who wish to make oral presentations pertaining to agenda items should contact Barbara Ulmer at the telephone number listed above. The request must be received five days prior to the meeting and reasonable provision will be made to include the presentation in the agenda. The Deputy Designated Federal Officer is empowered to conduct the meeting in a fashion that will facilitate the orderly conduct of business. Individuals wishing to make public comments can do so during the 15 minutes allotted for public comments.

    Minutes: Minutes will be available by writing to Barbara Ulmer at the address listed above or at the following Web site: http://nv.energy.gov/nssab/MeetingMinutes.aspx

    Issued at Washington, DC, on February 26, 2015. LaTanya R. Butler, Deputy Committee Management Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05090 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Savannah River Site AGENCY:

    Department of Energy.

    ACTION:

    Notice of open meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    This notice announces a meeting of the Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board (EM SSAB), Savannah River Site. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (Pub. L. 92-463, 86 Stat. 770) requires that public notice of this meeting be announced in the Federal Register.

    DATES:

    Monday, March 23, 2015, 1:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015, 8:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m.

    ADDRESSES:

    New Ellenton Community Center, 212 Pine Hill Avenue, New Ellenton, SC 29809.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    de'Lisa Carrico, Office of External Affairs, Department of Energy, Savannah River Operations Office, P.O. Box A, Aiken, SC 29802; Phone: (803) 952-8607.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Purpose of the Board: The purpose of the Board is to make recommendations to DOE-EM and site management in the areas of environmental restoration, waste management, and related activities.

    Tentative Agenda Monday, March 23, 2015 1:00 p.m. Welcome & Agenda Review 1:10 p.m. Recommendation & Work Plan Update 1:15 p.m. Combined Committees Session

    Order of committees:

    • Strategic & Legacy Management • Administrative & Outreach • Facilities Disposition & Site Remediation • Waste Management • Nuclear Materials 4:15 p.m. Public Comments Session 4:30 p.m. Adjourn Tuesday, March 24, 2015 8:30 a.m. Opening, Pledge, Approval of Minutes, and Chair Update 9:00 a.m. Agency Updates 10:15 a.m. Public Comment 10:30 a.m. Nuclear Materials Committee Report 11:10 a.m. Break 11:20 a.m. Administrative & Outreach Committee Report 12:00 p.m. Public Comment 12:15 p.m. Lunch Break 1:45 p.m. Facilities Disposition & Site Remediation Committee Report 2:20 p.m. Waste Management Committee Report 2:55 p.m. Strategic & Legacy Management Committee Report 4:00 p.m. Public Comment 4:15 p.m. Adjourn

    Public Participation: The EM SSAB, Savannah River Site, welcomes the attendance of the public at its advisory committee meetings and will make every effort to accommodate persons with physical disabilities or special needs. If you require special accommodations due to a disability, please contact de'Lisa Carrico at least seven days in advance of the meeting at the phone number listed above. Written statements may be filed with the Board either before or after the meeting. Individuals who wish to make oral statements pertaining to agenda items should contact de'Lisa Carrico's office at the address or telephone listed above. Requests must be received five days prior to the meeting and reasonable provision will be made to include the presentation in the agenda. The Deputy Designated Federal Officer is empowered to conduct the meeting in a fashion that will facilitate the orderly conduct of business. Individuals wishing to make public comments will be provided a maximum of five minutes to present their comments.

    Minutes: Minutes will be available by writing or calling Gerri Flemming at the address or phone number listed above. Minutes will also be available at the following Web site: http://cab.srs.gov/srs-cab.html.

    Issued at Washington, DC, on February 27, 2015. LaTanya R. Butler, Deputy Committee Management Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05088 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board, Northern New Mexico AGENCY:

    Department of Energy.

    ACTION:

    Notice of open meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    This notice announces a meeting of the Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board (EM SSAB), Northern New Mexico. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (Pub. L. 92-463, 86 Stat. 770) requires that public notice of this meeting be announced in the Federal Register.

    DATES:

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 1:00 p.m.-5:15 p.m.

    ADDRESSES:

    La Fonda on the Plaza, La Terraza Room, 100 E. San Francisco Street, Sante Fe, New Mexico 87501.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Menice Santistevan, Northern New Mexico Citizens' Advisory Board (NNMCAB), 94 Cities of Gold Road, Santa Fe, NM 87506. Phone (505) 995-0393; Fax (505) 989-1752 or Email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Purpose of the Board: The purpose of the Board is to make recommendations to DOE-EM and site management in the areas of environmental restoration, waste management, and related activities.

    Tentative Agenda 1:00 p.m. Call to Order by Deputy Designated Federal Officer (DDFO), Lee Bishop; Establishment of a Quorum: Roll Call and Excused Absences, William Alexander; Welcome and Introductions, Doug Sayre, Chair; Approval of Agenda and Meeting Minutes of January 28, 2015. 1:15 p.m. Old Business • Written Reports • Report on Waste Management Symposia, Mona Varela • Report on Environmental Justice Conference, Danny Mayfield and Carlos Valdez 1:30 p.m. New Business 1:45 p.m. Update from DDFO, Lee Bishop/Michael Gardipe 2:00 p.m. Update to DOE Stakeholders on Fiscal Year 2017 EM Budget and Planning Integration, Pete Maggiore 2:30 p.m. Break 3:00 p.m. Consideration and Action on NNMCAB Recommendations to DOE, Doug Sayre, Chair 3:30 p.m. Update from Liaisons • Update from DOE, Pete Maggiore • Update from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Randy Erickson • Update from New Mexico Environment Department, Jeff Kendall 4:45 p.m. Public Comment Period 5:00 p.m. Wrap-Up and Comments from NNMCAB Members 5:15 p.m. Adjourn, Lee Bishop

    Public Participation: The EM SSAB, Northern New Mexico, welcomes the attendance of the public at its advisory committee meetings and will make every effort to accommodate persons with physical disabilities or special needs. If you require special accommodations due to a disability, please contact Menice Santistevan at least seven days in advance of the meeting at the telephone number listed above. Written statements may be filed with the Board either before or after the meeting. Individuals who wish to make oral statements pertaining to agenda items should contact Menice Santistevan at the address or telephone number listed above. Requests must be received five days prior to the meeting and reasonable provision will be made to include the presentation in the agenda. The Deputy Designated Federal Officer is empowered to conduct the meeting in a fashion that will facilitate the orderly conduct of business. Individuals wishing to make public comments will be provided a maximum of five minutes to present their comments.

    Minutes: Minutes will be available by writing or calling Menice Santistevan at the address or phone number listed above. Minutes and other Board documents are on the Internet at: http://www.nnmcab.energy.gov/.

    Issued at Washington, DC, on February 26, 2015. LaTanya R. Butler, Deputy Committee Management Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05093 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6405-01-P
    ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY [EPA-HQ-ORD-2015-0145; FRL 9923-83-ORD] Human Studies Review Board; Notification of a Public Meeting AGENCY:

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of the Science Advisor announces a public meeting of the Human Studies Review Board to advise the Agency on the EPA ethical and scientific reviews of research with human subjects.

    DATES:

    This public meeting will be held on April 22-23, 2015, from approximately 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22 to approximately 4:45 p.m. eastern standard time and on Thursday, April 23, 2015 from 8:30 a.m. to approximately 11:30 a.m. Comments may be submitted on or before noon (eastern standard time) on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    The meeting will be held at the Environmental Protection Agency, Conference Center, Lobby Level, One Potomac Yard (South Bldg.), 2777 S. Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202.

    Comments: Submit your written comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2015-0145, by one of the following methods:

    Internet: http://www.regulations.gov: Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

    Email: [email protected]

    Mail: The EPA Docket Center EPA/DC, ORD Docket, Mail code: 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460.

    Hand Delivery: The EPA/DC Public Reading Room is located in the EPA Headquarters Library, Room Number 3334 in the EPA WJC West, at 1301 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460. The hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. eastern standard time, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays. Please call (202) 566-1744 or email the ORD Docket at [email protected] for instructions. Updates to Public Reading Room access are available on the Web site http://www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm.

    Instructions: Direct your comments to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2015-0145. The Agency's policy is that all comments received will be included in the public docket without change and may be made available online at http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided, unless the comment includes information claimed to be Confidential Business Information or other information the disclosure of which is restricted by statute. Do not submit information that you consider to be CBI or otherwise protected through http://www.regulations.gov or email. The http://www.regulations.gov Web site is an “anonymous access” system, which means EPA will not know your identity or contact information unless you provide it in the body of your comment. If you send an email comment directly to the EPA without going through http://www.regulations.gov, your email address will be automatically captured and included as part of the comment that is placed in the public docket and made available on the Internet. If you submit an electronic comment, the EPA recommends that you include your name and other contact information in the body of your comment and with any electronic storage media you submit. If the EPA cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, the EPA may not be able to consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid the use of special characters, any form of encryption, and be free of any defects or viruses.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Any member of the public who wishes to receive further information should contact Jim Downing at telephone number (202) 564-2468; fax: (202) 564-2070; email address: [email protected]; mailing address Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Science Advisor, Mail code 8105R, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460. General information concerning the EPA HSRB can be found on the EPA Web site at http://www.epa.gov/hsrb.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Meeting access: Ample seating is available at the meeting on a first-come basis. To request accommodation of a disability, please contact the persons listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT at least ten business days prior to the meeting using the information under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

    Procedures for providing public input: Interested members of the public may submit relevant written or oral comments for the HSRB to consider during the advisory process. Additional information concerning submission of relevant written or oral comments is provided in section I, “Public Meeting” under subsection D. “How May I Participate in this Meeting?” of this notice.

    Webcast: This meeting may be webcast. Please refer to the HSRB Web site, http://www.epa.gov/hsrb/ for information on how to access the webcast. Please note that the webcast is a supplementary public process provided only for convenience. If difficulties arise resulting in webcasting outages, the meeting will continue as planned.

    Public Meeting A. Does this action apply to me?

    This action is directed to the public in general. This notice may, however, be of particular interest to persons who conduct or assess human studies, especially studies on substances regulated by the EPA, or to persons who are, or may be required to conduct testing of chemical substances under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. This notice might also be of special interest to participants of studies involving human subjects, or representatives of study participants or experts on community engagement. Since many entities may also be interested, the Agency has not attempted to describe all the specific entities that may be affected by this action. If you have any questions regarding the applicability of this action to a particular entity, consult Jim Downing listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

    B. How can I access electronic copies of this document and other related information?

    In addition to using regulations.gov, you may access this Federal Register document electronically through the EPA Internet under the “Federal Register” listings at http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/.

    Docket: All documents in the docket are listed in the http://www.regulations.gov index. Although listed in the index, some information is not publicly available, e.g., CBI or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other material, such as copyrighted material, will be publicly available only in hard copy. Publicly available docket materials are available either electronically in http://www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the ORD Docket, EPA/DC, Public Reading Room. The EPA/DC Public Reading Room is located in the EPA Headquarters Library, Room Number 3334 in the EPA WJC West, at 1301 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460. The hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. eastern standard time, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays. Please call (202) 566-1744 or email the ORD Docket at [email protected] for instructions. Updates to Public Reading Room access are available on the Web site (http://www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm). The Agency's position paper(s), charge/questions to the HSRB, and the meeting agenda will be available by the last week of March 2015. In addition, the Agency may provide additional background documents as the materials become available. You may obtain electronic copies of these documents, and certain other related documents that might be available electronically, at http://www.regulations.gov and the EPA HSRB Web site at http://www.epa.gov/hsrb/. For questions on document availability, or if you do not have access to the Internet, consult Jim Downing listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.

    C. What should I consider as I prepare my comments for the EPA?

    You may find the following suggestions helpful for preparing your comments:

    1. Explain your views as clearly as possible.

    2. Describe any assumptions that you used.

    3. Provide copies of any technical information and/or data that you used to support your views.

    4. Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns and suggest alternatives.

    5. To ensure proper receipt by the EPA, be sure to identify the Docket ID number assigned to this action in the subject line on the first page of your response. You may also provide the name, date, and Federal Register citation.

    D. How may I participate in this meeting?

    You may participate in this meeting by following the instructions in this section. To ensure proper receipt by the EPA, it is imperative that you identify Docket ID number EPA-HQ-ORD-2015-0145 in the subject line on the first page of your request.

    1. Oral comments. Requests to present oral comments will be accepted up to Wednesday, April 15, 2015. To the extent that time permits, interested persons who have not pre-registered may be permitted by the Chair of the HSRB to present oral comments at the meeting. Each individual or group wishing to make brief oral comments to the HSRB is strongly advised to submit their request (preferably via email) to Jim Downing, under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT no later than noon, eastern standard time, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in order to be included on the meeting agenda and to provide sufficient time for the HSRB Chair and HSRB Designated Federal Official to review the meeting agenda to provide an appropriate public comment period. The request should identify the name of the individual making the presentation and the organization (if any) the individual will represent. Oral comments before the HSRB are generally limited to five minutes per individual or organization. Please note that this includes all individuals appearing either as part of, or on behalf of, an organization. While it is our intent to hear a full range of oral comments on the science and ethics issues under discussion, it is not our intent to permit organizations to expand the time limitations by having numerous individuals sign up separately to speak on their behalf. If additional time is available, further public comments may be possible.

    2. Written comments. Submit your written comments prior to the meeting. For the Board to have the best opportunity to review and consider your comments as it deliberates on its report, you should submit your comments at least five business days prior to the beginning of this meeting. If you submit comments after this date, those comments will be provided to the Board members, but you should recognize that the HSRB members may not have adequate time to consider those comments prior to making a decision. Thus, if you plan to submit written comments, the agency strongly encourages you to submit such comments no later than noon, eastern standard time, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. You should submit your comments using the instructions in section I., under subsection C., “What Should I Consider as I Prepare My Comments for the EPA?” In addition, the agency also requests that persons submitting comments directly to the docket also provide a copy of their comments to Jim Downing listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. There is no limit on the length of written comments for consideration by the HSRB.

    E. Background

    The HSRB is a Federal advisory committee operating in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act 5 U.S.C. App. 2, sec. 9. The HSRB provides advice, information, and recommendations to the EPA on issues related to scientific and ethical aspects of human subjects research. The major objectives of the HSRB are to provide advice and recommendations on: (1) Research proposals and protocols; (2) reports of completed research with human subjects; and (3) how to strengthen EPA's programs for protection of human subjects of research. The HSRB reports to the EPA Administrator through the Agency's Science Advisor.

    1. Topics for discussion. At its meeting on April 22-23, 2015, EPA's Human Studies Review Board (HSRB) will consider ethical and scientific issues surrounding the following topics:

    a. A Completed Study and Monograph Report for Backpack and Handgun Application of Liquid Spray in Utility Rights of Way (Agricultural Handlers Exposure Task Force) b. A New Protocol for Field Testing of Skin Applied Mosquito Repellent Products (SC Johnson)

    2. Meeting minutes and reports. Minutes of the meeting, summarizing the matters discussed and recommendations, if any, made by the advisory committee regarding such matters, will be released within 90 calendar days of the meeting. Such minutes will be available at http://www.epa.gov/osa/hsrb/ and http://www.regulations.gov. In addition, information regarding the Board's final meeting report, will be found at http://www.epa.gov/osa/hsrb/ or from the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

    Dated: February 20, 2015. Thomas A. Burke, Science Advisor.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05068 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560-50-P
    FARM CREDIT ADMINISTRATION Sunshine Act; Regular Meeting AGENCY:

    Farm Credit Administration Board, Farm Credit Administration.

    SUMMARY:

    Notice is hereby given, pursuant to the Government in the Sunshine Act, of the regular meeting of the Farm Credit Administration Board (Board).

    DATE AND TIME:

    The regular meeting of the Board will be held at the offices of the Farm Credit Administration in McLean, Virginia, on March 12, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. until such time as the Board concludes its business.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Dale L. Aultman, Secretary to the Farm Credit Administration Board, (703) 883-4009, TTY (703) 883-4056.

    ADDRESSES:

    Farm Credit Administration, 1501 Farm Credit Drive, McLean, Virginia 22102-5090. Submit attendance requests via email to [email protected] See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for further information about attendance requests.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Parts of this meeting of the Board will be open to the public (limited space available), and parts will be closed to the public. Please send an email to [email protected] at least 24 hours before the meeting. In your email include: Name, postal address, entity you are representing (if applicable), and telephone number. You will receive an email confirmation from us. Please be prepared to show a photo identification when you arrive. If you need assistance for accessibility reasons, or if you have any questions, contact Dale L. Aultman, Secretary to the Farm Credit Administration Board, at (703) 883-4009. The matters to be considered at the meeting are:

    Open Session A. Approval of Minutes • February 12, 2015 B. Reports • Report on Farm Credit System's Funding Condition • Farm Credit System Building Association Auditor's Report on 2014 Financial Audit Closed Executive Session *

    * Session Closed-Exempt pursuant to 5 U.S.C. Section 552b(c)(2).

    Reports • Farm Credit Building Association Auditor's Report Dated: March 3, 2015. Dale L. Aultman, Secretary, Farm Credit Administration Board.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05221 Filed 3-3-15; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 6705-01-P
    FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION [OMB 3060-0264] Information Collection Being Reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission Under Delegated Authority AGENCY:

    Federal Communications Commission.

    ACTION:

    Notice and request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    As part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork burdens, and as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) invites the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on the following information collections. Comments are requested concerning: whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Commission, including whether the information shall have practical utility; the accuracy of the Commission's burden estimate; ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected; ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on the respondents, including the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology; and ways to further reduce the information collection burden on small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees. The FCC may not conduct or sponsor a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. No person shall be subject to any penalty for failing to comply with a collection of information subject to the PRA that does not display a valid OMB control number.

    DATES:

    Written PRA comments should be submitted on or before May 4, 2015. If you anticipate that you will be submitting comments, but find it difficult to do so within the period of time allowed by this notice, you should advise the contact listed below as soon as possible.

    ADDRESSES:

    Direct all PRA comments to Cathy Williams, FCC, via email to [email protected] and to [email protected]

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    For additional information about the information collection, contact Cathy Williams at (202) 418-2918

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    OMB Control Number: 3060-0264.

    Title: Section 80.413, On-Board Station Equipment Records.

    Form Number: N/A.

    Type of Review: Extension of a currently approved collection.

    Respondents: Business or other for-profit entities, not-for-profit institutions, and state, local or tribal government.

    Number of Respondents: 1,000 respondents; 1,000 responses.

    Estimated Time per Response: 2 hours.

    Frequency of Response: Recordkeeping requirement.

    Obligation to Respond: Required to obtain or retain benefits. Statutory authority for this information collection is contained in 47 U.S.C. 154, 303, 307(e), 309 and 332 and 151-155 and sections 301-609 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.

    Total Annual Burden: 2,000 hours.

    Total Annual Cost: No cost.

    Privacy Impact Assessment: No impact(s).

    Nature and Extent of Confidentiality: There is no need for confidentiality.

    Needs and Uses: The Commission is seeking an extension of this expiring information collection in order to obtain the full three year approval from OMB. There is no change to the recordkeeping requirement.

    Section 80.413 requires the licensee of an on-board station to keep equipment records which show:

    (1) The ship name and identification of the on-board station;

    (2) The number of and type of repeater and mobile units used on-board the vessel; and

    (3) The date the type of equipment which is added or removed from the on-board station.

    The information is used by FCC personnel during inspections and investigations to determine what mobile units and repeaters are associated with on-board stations aboard a particular vessel. If this information were not maintained, no means would be available to determine if this type of radio equipment is authorized or who is responsible for its operation. Enforcement and frequency management programs would be negatively affected if the information were not retained.

    Federal Communications Commission. Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Office of the Managing Director.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05078 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712-01P
    FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION Federal Advisory Committee Act; Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee AGENCY:

    Federal Communications Commission.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    In accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, this notice advises interested persons that the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC or Commission) Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC) will hold a meeting on March 24, 2015. At the meeting, the Current Commercial Requirements Working Group and the Technology and Preferred Architectures Working Group will present their findings, the Advisory Committee will consider establishing more working groups, and the committee will discuss any other topics related to the DSTAC's work that may arise.

    DATES:

    March 24, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Federal Communications Commission, Room TW-C305 (Commission Meeting Room), 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    For additional information on this proceeding, contact Brendan Murray, [email protected], of the Media Bureau, Policy Division, (202) 418-1573 or Nancy Murphy, [email protected], of the Media Bureau, (202) 418-1043.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The meeting will be held on March 24, 2015, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Commission Meeting Room of the Federal Communications Commission, Room TW-C305, 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554.

    The DSTAC is a Federal Advisory Committee that will “identify, report, and recommend performance objectives, technical capabilities, and technical standards of a not unduly burdensome, uniform, and technology- and platform-neutral software-based downloadable security system.”

    The meeting on March 24, 2015, will be the second meeting of the DSTAC. The FCC will attempt to accommodate as many attendees as possible; however, admittance will be limited to seating availability. The Commission will provide audio and/or video coverage of the meeting over the Internet from the FCC's Web page at http://www.fcc.gov/live. The public may submit written comments before the meeting to Brendan Murray, DSTAC Designated Federal Officer, by email to [email protected] or by U.S. Postal Service Mail to 445 12th Street SW., Room 4-A726, Washington, DC 20554.

    Open captioning will be provided for this event. Other reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request. Requests for such accommodations should be submitted via email to [email protected] or by calling the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (tty). Such requests should include a detailed description of the accommodation needed. In addition, please include a way the FCC can contact you if it needs more information. Please allow at least five days' advance notice; last-minute requests will be accepted, but may be impossible to fill.

    Federal Communications Commission. Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05077 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Food and Drug Administration [Docket No. FDA-2011-D-0147] Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request; Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff; Section 905(j) Reports: Demonstrating Substantial Equivalence for Tobacco Products and Demonstrating the Substantial Equivalence of a New Tobacco Product: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions AGENCY:

    Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing an opportunity for public comment on the proposed collection of certain information by the Agency. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (the PRA), Federal Agencies are required to publish notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information, including each proposed extension of an existing collection of information, and to allow 60 days for public comment in response to the notice. This notice solicits comments on the information collections in the guidances for industry and FDA staff entitled “Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff on Section 905(j) Reports: Demonstrating Substantial Equivalence for Tobacco Products” and “Demonstrating the Substantial Equivalence of a New Tobacco Product: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions.”

    DATES:

    Submit either electronic or written comments on the collection of information by May 4, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit electronic comments on the collection of information to http://www.regulations.gov. Submit written comments on the collection of information to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be identified with the docket number found in brackets in the heading of this document.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    FDA PRA Staff, Office of Operations, Food and Drug Administration, 8455 Colesville Rd., COLE-14526, Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002, [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Under the PRA (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520), Federal Agencies must obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for each collection of information they conduct or sponsor. “Collection of information” is defined in 44 U.S.C. 3502(3) and 5 CFR 1320.3(c) and includes Agency requests or requirements that members of the public submit reports, keep records, or provide information to a third party. Section 3506(c)(2)(A) of the PRA (44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A)) requires Federal Agencies to provide a 60-day notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information, including each proposed extension of an existing collection of information, before submitting the collection to OMB for approval. To comply with this requirement, FDA is publishing notice of the proposed collection of information set forth in this document.

    With respect to the following collection of information, FDA invites comments on these topics: (1) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of FDA's functions, including whether the information will have practical utility; (2) the accuracy of FDA's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques, when appropriate, and other forms of information technology.

    Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff on Section 905(j) Reports: Demonstrating Substantial Equivalence for Tobacco Products—(OMB Control Number 0910-0673) (Extension)

    On June 22, 2009, the President signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (the Tobacco Control Act) (Pub. L. 111-31) into law. The Tobacco Control Act amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act) by adding a new chapter granting FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health generally and to reduce tobacco use by minors. Section 905(j) of the FD&C Act (21 U.S.C. 387e(j)) authorizes FDA to establish the form for the submission of information related to substantial equivalence (SE). In guidance documents issued under the Good Guidances Practices regulation (21 CFR 10.115), FDA provides recommendations intended to assist persons submitting reports under section 905(j) of the FD&C Act and explains, among other things, FDA's interpretation of the statutory sections related to substantial equivalence.

    FDA estimates the burden of this collection of information as follows:

    Table 1—Estimated Annual Reporting Burden 1 Activity Number of
  • respondents
  • Number of
  • responses per
  • respondent
  • Total annual responses Average burden per response Total hours
    Full SE 905(j)(1)(A)(i) and 910(a) 75 1 75 300 22,500 Product Quantity Change SE Report 125 1 125 87 10,875 Same characteristics SE Report 100 1 100 47 4,700 Totals 38,075 1 There are no capital costs or operating and maintenance costs associated with this collection of information.

    FDA has based these estimates on information it now has available from interactions with the industry, information related to other regulated products, and FDA's expectations regarding the tobacco industry's use of the section 905(j) pathway to market their products. Table 1 describes the annual reporting burden as a result of the implementation of the SE requirements of sections 905(j) and 910(a) of the FDC Act (21 U.S.C. 387j(a)). Based on current information, FDA now estimates that it will receive 300 section 905(j) reports each year. Of these 300 reports, FDA estimates that 75 of these reports will be “full” SE reports that take a manufacturer approximately 300 hours to prepare. Under the newly issued guidance entitled, “Demonstrating the Substantial Equivalence of a New Tobacco Product: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions,” FDA is recommending that certain modifications might be addressed in either a “Same Characteristics SE Report” or “Product Quantity Change Report.” FDA estimates that it will receive 100 Same Characteristics SE Reports and that it will take a manufacturer approximately 47 hours to prepare this report. FDA estimates that it will receive 125 Product Quantity Change SE Reports and that it will take a manufacturer approximately 87 hours to prepare this report. Therefore, FDA estimates the burden for submission of SE information will be 38,075 hours.

    Dated: February 27, 2015. Leslie Kux, Associate Commissioner for Policy.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05024 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4164-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES National Institutes of Health Center For Scientific Review; Notice of Closed Meetings

    Pursuant to section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.), notice is hereby given of the following meetings.

    The meetings will be closed to the public in accordance with the provisions set forth in sections 552b(c)(4) and 552b(c)(6), Title 5 U.S.C., as amended. The grant applications and the discussions could disclose confidential trade secrets or commercial property such as patentable material, and personal information concerning individuals associated with the grant applications, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; Member Conflict: Neurobiology of Addictions.

    Date: March 11, 2015.

    Time: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892 (Telephone Conference Call).

    Contact Person: Boris P. Sokolov, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 5217A, MSC 7846, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-408-9115, [email protected]

    This notice is being published less than 15 days prior to the meeting due to the timing limitations imposed by the review and funding cycle.

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; Member Conflict: Neurobiology of Psychiatric Disorders.

    Date: March 11, 2015.

    Time: 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892 (Telephone Conference Call).

    Contact Person: Boris P. Sokolov, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 5217A, MSC 7846, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-408-9115, [email protected]

    This notice is being published less than 15 days prior to the meeting due to the timing limitations imposed by the review and funding cycle.

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; Member Conflicts and Continuous Submissions.

    Date: March 25, 2015.

    Time: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892 (Virtual Meeting).

    Contact Person: Olga A. Tjurmina, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 4138, MSC 7814, Bethesda, MD 20892, (301) 451-1375, [email protected]

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; PAR-13-009: Secondary Dataset Analyses in Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases and Sleep Disorders.

    Date: March 26, 2015.

    Time: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: Melrose Georgetown Hotel, 2430 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20037.

    Contact Person: George Vogler, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 3140, MSC 7770, Bethesda, MD 20892, (301) 237-2693, [email protected]

    (Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Nos. 93.306, Comparative Medicine; 93.333, Clinical Research, 93.306, 93.333, 93.337, 93.393-93.396, 93.837-93.844, 93.846-93.878, 93.892, 93.893, National Institutes of Health, HHS)
    Dated: February 25, 2015. Carolyn Baum, Program Analyst. Office of Federal Advisory Committee Policy.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05005 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4140-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Food and Drug Administration [Docket No. FDA-2010-N-0302] Jeffrey L. Rockmore; Denial of Hearing; Final Debarment Order AGENCY:

    Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is denying a request for a hearing submitted by Dr. Jeffrey L. Rockmore, and is issuing an order under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) debarring Dr. Rockmore for 2 years from providing services in any capacity to a person that has an approved or pending drug product application. FDA bases this order on a finding that Dr. Rockmore was convicted of a misdemeanor under Federal law for conduct relating to the regulation of a drug product under the FD&C Act and that the type of conduct underlying the conviction undermines the process for the regulation of drugs. In determining the appropriateness and period of Dr. Rockmore's debarment, FDA has considered the relevant factors listed in the FD&C Act. Dr. Rockmore has failed to file with the Agency information and analyses sufficient to create a basis for a hearing concerning this action.

    DATES:

    The order is effective March 5, 2015.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit applications for termination of debarment to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Nathan Doty, Office of Scientific Integrity, Food and Drug Administration, 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20993, 301-796-8556.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background

    On August 11, 2009, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, Dr. Rockmore, a physician, pled guilty to a misdemeanor under the FD&C Act, namely misbranding a drug in violation of sections 301(k), 502(i)(3) and 303(a)(1) of the FD&C Act (21 U.S.C. 331(k), 352(i)(3), 333(a)(1)) and 18 U.S.C. 2. The basis for this conviction was conduct surrounding his injection of patients seeking treatment with BOTOX/BOTOX Cosmetic (BOTOX) with a product, TRI-toxin, distributed by Toxin Research International, Inc. BOTOX is a biological product derived from Botulinum Toxin Type A that is manufactured by Allergan, Inc., and was approved by FDA for use on humans for the treatment of facial wrinkles in 1991. According to the records of the criminal proceedings, Dr. Rockmore's colleague in the same medical practice, The Plastic Surgery Group (TPSG), directed a nurse to obtain 31 vials of TRI-toxin, an unapproved drug product, which was represented by its distributor as “Botulinum Toxin Type A”. Dr. Rockmore then proceeded to inject approximately 26 patients, who believed they were being injected with BOTOX, with TRI-toxin as a substitute.

    Dr. Rockmore is subject to debarment based on a finding, under section 306(b)(2)(B)(i)(I) of the FD&C Act (21 U.S.C. 335a(b)(2)(B)(i)(I)): (1) That he was convicted of a misdemeanor under Federal law relating to the regulation of a drug product under the FD&C Act and (2) that the type of conduct underlying the conviction undermines the process for the regulation of drugs. By notice to Dr. Rockmore dated November 30, 2010, FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) proposed to debar him for 4 years from providing services in any capacity to a person having an approved or pending drug product application.

    In a letter dated December 30, 2010, through counsel, Dr. Rockmore requested a hearing on the proposal. In his request for a hearing, Dr. Rockmore acknowledges his conviction under Federal law, as alleged by FDA. By letter dated January 28, 2011, Dr. Rockmore submitted materials and arguments in support of his request. Dr. Rockmore acknowledges that he was convicted of a Federal misdemeanor, as found in the proposal to debar, but argues that he should not be debarred for reasons related to the factual basis set forth in the proposal to debar. In particular, with respect to the considerations for determining the appropriateness and period of debarment under section 306(c)(3) of the FD&C Act, he argues that there are genuine and substantial issues of fact for resolution at a hearing, namely factual issues bearing on whether he participated in or even knew of certain conduct that resulted in his violation of the FD&C Act.

    Hearings are granted only if there is a genuine and substantial issue of fact. Hearings will not be granted on issues of policy or law, on mere allegations, denials, or general descriptions of positions and contentions, or on data and information insufficient to justify the factual determination urged or the action requested (see 21 CFR 12.24(b)).

    The Chief Scientist has considered Dr. Rockmore's arguments, as well as the proposal to debar itself, and concludes that, although Dr. Rockmore has failed to raise a genuine and substantial issue of fact requiring a hearing, the appropriate period of debarment is 2 years.

    II. Arguments

    In support of his hearing request, Dr. Rockmore first asserts that he is not subject to debarment under section 306(b)(2)(B)(i)(I) of the FD&C Act. He contends that he pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the FD&C Act (see section 303(a)(1) of the FD&C Act), which is a strict liability offense, and that thus there was no demonstration or admission of criminal intent or knowledge underlying the conviction. Dr. Rockmore concludes, therefore, that the conduct underlying his conviction did not undermine the process for the regulation of drugs.

    Section 306(b)(2)(B)(i)(I) of the FD&C Act specifically provides for the debarment of individuals convicted of Federal misdemeanors related to the regulation of drug products under the FD&C Act. Given that misdemeanor violations of the FD&C Act themselves are strict liability offenses, it stands to reason that criminal intent is not a critical component to debar an individual under section 306(b)(2)(B)(i)(I). During his criminal proceedings, Dr. Rockmore pled guilty to misbranding and causing the misbranding of a drug in violation of sections 301(k), 502(i)(3) and 303(a)(1) of the FD&C Act by offering an unapproved drug, TRI-toxin, for sale as an approved drug product, BOTOX. Dr. Rockmore's conduct undermined the process for the regulation of drugs in that it permitted an unapproved drug to be substituted for an approved drug without the knowledge of the patient. As a result, Dr. Rockmore is, in fact, subject to debarment under section 306(b)(2)(B)(i)(I) of the FD&C Act.

    Dr. Rockmore next challenges the manner in which ORA applied the considerations under section 306(c)(3) of the FD&C Act in determining the appropriateness and period of his debarment. In the proposal to debar Dr. Rockmore, ORA stated that there are four applicable considerations under section 306(c)(3) of the FD&C Act: (1) The nature and seriousness of his offense under section 306(c)(3)(A); (2) the nature and extent of management participation in the offense under section 306(c)(3)(B); (3) the nature and extent of voluntary steps taken to mitigate the impact on the public under section 306(c)(3)(C); and (4) prior convictions involving matters within the jurisdiction of FDA under section 306(c)(3)(F). ORA found with respect to Dr. Rockmore that the first two considerations weigh in favor of debarment and noted that the third and fourth considerations would be treated as favorable factors for him. In making all of its findings under section 306(c)(3) of the FD&C Act, ORA characterized Dr. Rockmore's conduct based on records from his criminal proceedings.

    Under section 306(c)(3)(A) of the FD&C Act, in determining the appropriateness and period of debarment, FDA considers “the nature and seriousness of the offense involved.” In the proposal to debar, ORA relied on the criminal information to which Dr. Rockmore pled guilty to find that the conduct underlying his convictions:

    created a risk of injury to consumers due to the use of an unapproved drug, undermined [FDA's] oversight of an approved drug product by representing that [he] used the approved drug while actually substituting an unapproved drug in its place, and seriously undermined the integrity of [FDA's] regulation of drug products. Under section 306(c)(3)(B) of the FD&C Act, ORA also considered the “nature and extent of [Dr. Rockmore's] management participation in the offense” and specifically found that he was a corporate principal who “pleaded guilty to misbranding TRI-toxin” and “participated in the [TPSG's] unlawful conduct of administering [an] unapproved drug on multiple occasions to patients.” ORA concluded, therefore, that the nature and seriousness of Dr. Rockmore's offenses and the nature and extent of management participation were unfavorable factors with respect to him.

    Dr. Rockmore counters ORA's findings with respect to those two considerations in section 306(c)(3) of the FD&C Act with the following arguments: (1) That he did not admit any criminal intent or intentional wrongdoing when he pled guilty to a misdemeanor offense under the FD&C Act; (2) that, in fact, another physician at TPSG took unilateral action in ordering the TRI-toxin and directing a nurse to substitute it for BOTOX; (3) that the TRI-toxin vials that they used for injecting patients with TRI-toxin were identical to the vials he used for BOTOX before the substitution; and (4) that since the conviction for the underlying misdemeanor was of an individual, that there was no management participation and that, thus, the nature and extent of management participation is inapplicable as a factor in determining appropriateness and period of debarment. Dr. Rockmore concedes that he pled guilty to the misdemeanor offense because he was, in fact, guilty of offering TRI-toxin for sale to their patients as BOTOX. He argues, however, that the criminal records do not establish any intent or knowledge on his part and that thus the conduct underlying his conviction does not warrant debarment in light of the considerations in section 306(c)(3) of the FD&C Act.

    As noted previously, ORA relied on the records of Dr. Rockmore's criminal proceedings for its findings in the proposal to debar. There is nothing definitive in the criminal records before FDA to contradict Dr. Rockmore's assertions with respect to the nature of his involvement in the misdemeanor offense to which he pled guilty. The criminal information to which Dr. Rockmore pled guilty alleges that TPSG, as opposed to Dr. Rockmore, began ordering TRI-toxin for use in the medical practice, and there are no allegations that Dr. Rockmore took part in the ordering process. Indeed, the proposal to debar states that, as claimed by Dr. Rockmore, another physician in the practice, William F. DeLuca, Jr., was responsible for authorizing a nurse to substitute TRI-toxin for BOTOX, not Dr. Rockmore. At Dr. Rockmore's sentencing hearing, at which six other codefendants, including DeLuca, were also sentenced, the presiding judge also made clear that he believed DeLuca was the physician responsible for making the “mistake” that led to the other physician's offenses. In addressing DeLuca, the court stated:

    And we're here because of your actions and inactions. As I said, your mistakes were different in kind and degree from those of your colleagues. It was you who brought this drug into the practice, and it was your conduct and your failure to check out either the company or the drug that you were ordering, as you should have done, your negligence in doing that that has brought us here today in the end. In addressing one of the other three physicians who pled guilty under circumstances similar to Dr. Rockmore's, the court further stated: “There have been disputes on how in the past over who knew what and at what point in time. It is clear from the facts in this case that you had no knowledge that the substance was anything other than [BOTOX] until your discovery of it in November of 2004.”

    In short, consistent with the proposal to debar Dr. Rockmore for 4 years, the records of his criminal proceedings establish that the misdemeanor convictions for the physicians in TPSG other than DeLuca were not based on any affirmative involvement in ordering the TRI-toxin or substituting the TRI-toxin for BOTOX. Furthermore, in proposing to debar Dr. Rockmore for 4 years, ORA did not rely on any findings with respect to Dr. Rockmore's intent or knowledge. Rather, citing the records of Dr. Rockmore's criminal proceedings, the proposal to debar simply rests on Dr. Rockmore's position of authority within TPSG and his conduct in misbranding TRI-toxin by administering it to patients who believed they were receiving BOTOX. As a result, under § 12.24(b), there is no genuine and substantial issue of fact raised by Dr. Rockmore's arguments for resolution at a hearing.

    As set forth in the proposal to debar and summarized previously, Dr. Rockmore pled guilty to a misdemeanor under the FD&C Act for his role in offering a drug under the name of another. Based on the undisputed record before the Agency, the consideration in section 306(c)(3)(A) of the FD&C Act with respect to the nature and seriousness of the offense involved is a favorable factor. As reflected in the records of the criminal proceedings, Dr. Rockmore's offense did not rest on any intent or knowledge of wrongdoing on his part, nor may such intent or knowledge be inferred from the circumstances of his offense or the findings in the proposal to debar. Although, as a practicing physician, Dr. Rockmore should be expected to take the appropriate steps to avoid administering an unapproved new drug to patients or misrepresenting the drug being administered, his failure to do so over a 10-month period does not warrant considering the nature and seriousness of his offense as an unfavorable factor, relative to the range of conduct that might underlie a Federal misdemeanor conviction.

    On the other hand, because of Dr. Rockmore's position of authority within TPSG and, thus, presumed ability to prevent the series of events that resulted in the offense underlying his misdemeanor conviction, the nature and extent of management participation in the offense is an unfavorable factor, for the purposes of the consideration under 306(c)(3)(B) of the FD&C Act. Dr. Rockmore asserts that there was no management participation, and thus, this factor is inapplicable because the underlying conviction was of an individual. However, the criminal information to which Dr. Rockmore pled guilty alleges that TPSG began ordering TRI-toxin for use in the medical practice. It is undisputed that Dr. Rockmore is a principal in TPSG, and this is the basis for considering the nature and extent of management participation as a factor in determining the appropriateness and period of debarment. FDA has relied on this factor in other debarment cases where the underlying conviction was of an individual (see 78 FR 68455 (November 14, 2013); 77 FR 27236 (May 9, 2012)).

    The limited scope of his direct actions in committing the underlying misdemeanor offense does not mitigate the extent of his management participation, as established during his criminal proceedings and as set out in the proposal to debar. It is true that nothing in the criminal proceedings or the proposal to debar reflects any involvement by him in the decision to order the TRI-toxin and substitute it for BOTOX, and the proposal to debar specifically finds that another physician authorized a nurse to place that order. However, Dr. Rockmore, as a principal of TPSG, was responsible for failing to ensure that there were controls and procedures in place to prevent other physicians or a nurse from ordering unapproved drugs for administration to patients. His own admitted inaction on that front warrants treating his management participation as an unfavorable factor.1

    1 See United States v. Park, 421 U.S. 658, 673-74 (1975) (holding that a high-level manager within a business entity bears a responsibility to prevent and correct violations of the FD&C Act).

    Consistent with the proposal to debar, the record establishes that the medical practice of which Dr. Rockmore was a part ultimately took voluntary steps to mitigate the effect on the public health from its unlawful conduct (see section 306(c)(3)(C) of the FD&C Act). Furthermore, it is undisputed that Dr. Rockmore had no previous criminal convictions related to matters within the jurisdiction of FDA (see section 306(c)(3)(F) of the FD&C Act). Therefore, these will be treated as favorable factors. In light of the foregoing four considerations, one of which weighs against Dr. Rockmore, debarment for 2 years is appropriate.

    III. Findings and Order

    Therefore, the Chief Scientist, under section 306(b)(2)(B)(i)(I) of the FD&C Act and under authority delegated to him, finds that Dr. Rockmore has been convicted of a misdemeanor under Federal law for conduct relating to the development or approval of a drug product or otherwise relating to the regulation of a drug product under the FD&C Act and that the conduct underlying the conviction undermines the regulation of drugs. FDA has considered the relevant factors listed in section 306(c)(3) of the FD&C Act and determined that a debarment of 2 years is appropriate.

    As a result of the foregoing findings, Dr. Rockmore is debarred for 2 years from providing services in any capacity to a person with an approved or pending drug product application under section 505, 512, or 802 of the FD&C Act (21 U.S.C. 355, 360b, or 382), or under section 351 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 262), effective (see DATES) (see 21 U.S.C. 335a(c)(1)(B) and (c)(2)(A)(iii) and 21 U.S.C. 321(dd)). Any person with an approved, or pending, drug product application, who knowingly uses the services of Dr. Rockmore, in any capacity during his period of debarment, will be subject to civil money penalties. If Dr. Rockmore, during his period of debarment, provides services in any capacity to a person with an approved or pending drug product application he will be subject to civil money penalties. In addition, FDA will not accept or review any abbreviated new drug applications submitted by or with the assistance of Dr. Rockmore during his period of debarment.

    Any application by Dr. Rockmore for termination of debarment under section 306(d) of the FD&C Act should be identified with Docket No. FDA-2010-N-0302 and sent to the Division of Dockets Management (see ADDRESSES). All such submissions are to be filed in four copies. The public availability of information in these submissions is governed by 21 CFR 10.20(j). Publicly available submissions may be seen in the Division of Dockets Management between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Persons with access to the Internet may obtain documents in the Docket at http://www.regulations.gov.

    Dated: February 24, 2015. Stephen Ostroff, Director, Office of the Chief Scientist.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05045 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4164-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES National Institutes of Health National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; Notice of Closed Meeting

    Pursuant to section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.), notice is hereby given of the following meeting.

    The meeting will be closed to the public in accordance with the provisions set forth in sections 552b(c)(4) and 552b(c)(6), Title 5 U.S.C., as amended. The grant applications and the discussions could disclose confidential trade secrets or commercial property such as patentable material, and personal information concerning individuals associated with the grant applications, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

    Name of Committee: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Special Emphasis Panel, International Collaborations in Environmental Health.

    Date: March 24-25, 2015.

    Time: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: NIEHS/National Institutes of Health, Keystone Building, 530 Davis Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, (Virtual Meeting).

    Contact Person: Sally Eckert-Tilotta, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Office of Program Operations, Scientific Review Branch, P.O. Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, (919) 541-1446, [email protected]

    (Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Nos. 93.115, Biometry and Risk Estimation—Health Risks from Environmental Exposures; 93.142, NIEHS Hazardous Waste Worker Health and Safety Training; 93.143, NIEHS Superfund Hazardous Substances—Basic Research and Education; 93.894, Resources and Manpower Development in the Environmental Health Sciences; 93.113, Biological Response to Environmental Health Hazards; 93.114, Applied Toxicological Research and Testing, National Institutes of Health, HHS)
    Dated: February 25, 2015. Carolyn Baum, Program Analyst, Office of Federal Advisory Committee Policy.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05004 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4140-01P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review; Notice of Closed Meetings

    Pursuant to section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.), notice is hereby given of the following meetings.

    The meetings will be closed to the public in accordance with the provisions set forth in sections 552b(c)(4) and 552b(c)(6), Title 5 U.S.C., as amended. The grant applications and the discussions could disclose confidential trade secrets or commercial property such as patentable material, and personal information concerning individuals associated with the grant applications, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; PAR-14-317 and 318: Role of the Microbiome in HIV Vaccine Responses.

    Date: March 18, 2015.

    Time: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892.

    Contact Person: Mary Clare Walker, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 5208, MSC 7852, Bethesda, MD 20892, (301) 435-1165, [email protected].

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; Special R01 Review.

    Date: March 25, 2015.

    Time: 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, (Telephone Conference Call).

    Contact Person: Wallace Ip, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 5128, MSC 7840, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-435-1191, [email protected].

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; RFA ES-14-010: Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research.

    Date: March 30-April 1, 2015.

    Time: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: Ritz Carlton Hotel, 1150 22nd Street NW., Washington, DC 20037.

    Contact Person: Wenchi Liang, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 3150, MSC 7770, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-435-0681, [email protected]

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; Program Project: “Cloud based Data Sharing and Analysis with Privacy Protection”.

    Date: March 30, 2015.

    Time: 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, (Virtual Meeting).

    Contact Person: Raymond Jacobson, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 5858, MSC 7849, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-996-7702, [email protected].

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; TW-14-003: Limited Competition: Research Training for Career Development of Junior Faculty in Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Institutions.

    Date: March 31, 2015.

    Time: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20036.

    Contact Person: Hilary D. Sigmon, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 5216, MSC 7852, Bethesda, MD 20892, (301) 594-6377, [email protected].

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; AIDS and AIDS Related Applications.

    Date: March 31, 2015.

    Time: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications and/or proposals.

    Place: Hyatt Regency Bethesda, One Bethesda Metro Center, 7400 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814.

    Contact Person: Jingsheng Tuo, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 5207, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-451-8754, [email protected]

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; PAR-14-280: Pilot Centers for Precision Disease Modeling.

    Date: March 31, 2015.

    Time: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate cooperative agreement applications.

    Place: Residence Inn Washington DC, 1199 Vermont Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20005.

    Contact Person: Kenneth Ryan, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 3218, MSC 7717, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-435-0229, [email protected]

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; Member Conflict: Pregnancy/Neonatology Research.

    Date: March 31, 2015.

    Time: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, (Virtual Meeting).

    Contact Person: Gary Hunnicutt, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 6164, MSC 7892, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-435-0229, [email protected]

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; Small Business: Innovative Molecular Analysis Technology.

    Date: March 31, 2015.

    Time: 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, (Telephone Conference Call).

    Contact Person: Zhang-Zhi Hu, MD, Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 6186, MSC 7804, Bethesda, MD 20892, (301) 594-2414, [email protected]

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; Member Conflict: Cancer Therapeutics.

    Date: March 31, 2015.

    Time: 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, (Telephone Conference Call).

    Contact Person: Careen K. Tang-Toth, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 6214, MSC 7804, Bethesda, MD 20892, (301) 435-3504, [email protected]

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; Member Conflict: Organelles' Dysfunction in Neurodegerative Disorders.

    Date: March 31, 2015.

    Time: 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, (Telephone Conference Call).

    Contact Person: Alessandra C. Rovescalli, Scientific Review Officer, National Institutes of Health, Center for Scientific Review, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Rm 5205, MSC 7846, Bethesda, MD 20892, (301) 435-1021, [email protected].

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; “Program Project: BTRC Center Review”.

    Date: March 31-April 2, 2015.

    Time: 6:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: Bethesda Marriott Suites, 6711 Democracy Boulevard, Bethesda, MD 20817.

    Contact Person: Craig Giroux, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, BST IRG, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 5150, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-435-2204, [email protected].

    Name of Committee: Center for Scientific Review Special Emphasis Panel; RFA-RM-14-015: Facile Methods and Technologies for Synthesis of Biomedically Relevant Carbohydrates.

    Date: March 31, 2015.

    Time: 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    Agenda: To review and evaluate grant applications.

    Place: National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892.

    Contact Person: Kathryn M. Koeller, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 4166, MSC 7806, Bethesda, MD 20892, 301-435-2681, [email protected]

    (Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Nos. 93.306, Comparative Medicine; 93.333, Clinical Research, 93.306, 93.333, 93.337, 93.393-93.396, 93.837-93.844, 93.846-93.878, 93.892, 93.893, National Institutes of Health, HHS)
    Dated: February 27, 2015. Anna Snouffer, Deputy Director, Office of Federal Advisory Committee Policy.
    [FR Doc. 2015-05008 Filed 3-4-15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4140-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Food and Drug Administration [Docket No. FDA-2010-N-0299] Douglas M. Hargrave; Denial of Hearing; Final Debarment Order AGENCY:

    Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is denying a request for a hearing submitted by Dr. Douglas M. Hargrave (Dr. Hargrave), and is issuing an order under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act) debarring Dr. Hargrave for 2 years from providing services in any capacity to a person that has an approved or pending drug product application. FDA bases this order on a finding that Dr. Hargrave was convicted of a misdemeanor under Federal law for conduct relating to the regulation of a drug product under the FD&C Act and that the type of conduct underlying the conviction undermines the process for the regulation of drugs. In determining the appropriateness and period of Dr. Hargrave's debarment, FDA has considered the relevant factors listed in the FD&C Act. Dr. Hargrave has failed to file with the Agency information and analyses sufficient to create a basis for a hearing concerning this action.

    DATES:

    The order is effective March 5, 2015.