Federal Register Vol. 81, No.35,

Federal Register Volume 81, Issue 35 (February 23, 2016)

Page Range8821-9079
FR Document

81_FR_35
Current View
Page and SubjectPDF
81 FR 9016 - Sunshine Act MeetingPDF
81 FR 8906 - Government in the Sunshine Act Meeting NoticePDF
81 FR 8979 - Privacy Act of 1974; Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection-009 Electronic System for Travel Authorization System of RecordsPDF
81 FR 9016 - In the Matter of AI Document Services, Inc., Creative Edge Nutrition, Inc. and Interactive Health Network; Order of Suspension of TradingPDF
81 FR 9067 - Sunshine Act MeetingPDF
81 FR 9003 - Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., Pilgrim Nuclear Power StationPDF
81 FR 9002 - Fort St. Vrain Independent Spent Fuel Storage InstallationPDF
81 FR 8821 - National Organic Program: USDA Organic RegulationsPDF
81 FR 8860 - Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order; Continuance ReferendumPDF
81 FR 8822 - Softwood Lumber Research, Promotion, Consumer Education and Industry Information Order; Continuance ReferendumPDF
81 FR 9073 - Requested Administrative Waiver of the Coastwise Trade Laws: Vessel Islescapes; Invitation for Public CommentsPDF
81 FR 8843 - Expanding the Economic and Innovation Opportunities of Spectrum Through Incentive AuctionsPDF
81 FR 9072 - Requested Administrative Waiver of the Coastwise Trade Laws: Vessel Anchor Management; Invitation for Public CommentsPDF
81 FR 9073 - Requested Administrative Waiver of the Coastwise Trade Laws: Vessel Large Flightless Birds; Invitation for Public CommentsPDF
81 FR 9074 - Requested Administrative Waiver of the Coastwise Trade Laws: Vessel Sea Reaper; Invitation for Public CommentsPDF
81 FR 9072 - Requested Administrative Waiver of the Coastwise Trade Laws: Vessel Tua Yacht; Invitation for Public CommentsPDF
81 FR 9074 - Requested Administrative Waiver of the Coastwise Trade Laws: Vessel CROSSFIRE; Invitation for Public CommentsPDF
81 FR 8835 - Reporting of Specified Foreign Financial AssetsPDF
81 FR 8870 - Definition of Political SubdivisionPDF
81 FR 8841 - Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Acushnet River, New Bedford and Fairhaven, MAPDF
81 FR 8898 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Collection; Comment Request; State Administrative Expense FundsPDF
81 FR 8957 - Sunshine Act MeetingsPDF
81 FR 9069 - Missouri; Disaster DeclarationPDF
81 FR 9067 - Oklahoma; Disaster DeclarationPDF
81 FR 9067 - California; Declaration of Economic InjuryPDF
81 FR 9069 - California; Declaration of Economic InjuryPDF
81 FR 9068 - Texas; Disaster DeclarationPDF
81 FR 9068 - Mississippi; Disaster DeclarationPDF
81 FR 9068 - Regulatory Fairness Hearing: Region VIII-Salt Lake City, UtahPDF
81 FR 8948 - Executive Summit on Marine and Hydrokinetic (MHK) Research and DevelopmentPDF
81 FR 8999 - Records Schedules; Availability and Request for CommentsPDF
81 FR 8896 - National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry InspectionPDF
81 FR 8994 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; Claim for Medical Reimbursement FormPDF
81 FR 8906 - Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ) 102-St. Louis, Missouri; Authorization of Production Activity; H-J Enterprises, Inc./H-J International, Inc. (Electrical Transformer Bushing Assemblies), High Ridge, MissouriPDF
81 FR 8913 - Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric From the People's Republic of China: Initiation of Less-Than-Fair-Value InvestigationPDF
81 FR 8909 - Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric From the People's Republic of China: Initiation of Countervailing Duty InvestigationPDF
81 FR 8918 - Certain Pasta From Italy: Final Results, and Rescission, in Part, of Countervailing Duty Administrative Review; 2013PDF
81 FR 8944 - Charter Establishment of Department of Defense Federal Advisory CommitteesPDF
81 FR 8947 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Comment Request; Streamlined Clearance Process for Discretionary GrantsPDF
81 FR 8825 - Addition of Certain Persons and Modification of Certain Entries to the Entity List; and Removal of Certain Persons From the Entity ListPDF
81 FR 8956 - Proposed Information Collection Request; Comment Request; Recordkeeping and Reporting-Solid Waste Disposal Facilities and PracticesPDF
81 FR 8908 - Export Trade Certificate of ReviewPDF
81 FR 8991 - Notice of Lodging of Proposed Consent Decree Under the Clean Air ActPDF
81 FR 9017 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; BATS Exchange, Inc.; Order Granting Approval of a Proposed Rule Change, as Modified by Amendment No. 1 Thereto, To Adopt Rule 8.17 To Provide a Process for an Expedited Suspension Proceeding and Rule 12.15 To Prohibit Disruptive Quoting and Trading ActivityPDF
81 FR 9038 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; NYSE Arca, Inc.; Notice of Withdrawal of a Proposed Rule Change To Adopt a New Policy Relating To Trade Reports for Exchange Traded ProductsPDF
81 FR 9025 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; NYSE Arca, Inc.; Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change Amending the NYSE Arca Schedule of Options Fees and ChargesPDF
81 FR 9027 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; NYSE MKT LLC; Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Change Amending the NYSE Amex Options Fee SchedulePDF
81 FR 8994 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; Uniform Billing FormPDF
81 FR 8995 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request; Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs Gold Standard EvaluationPDF
81 FR 8899 - Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests; Colorado; Federal Coal Lease Modifications COC-1362 & COC-67232PDF
81 FR 8867 - Transfer Agent Regulations; Extension of Comment PeriodPDF
81 FR 8859 - Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Cod by Vessels Using Pot Gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of AlaskaPDF
81 FR 8907 - Foreign-Trade Zone 27-Boston, Massachusetts; Application for Subzone, Barrett Distribution Centers, Inc., Franklin, MassachusettsPDF
81 FR 8992 - Notice of Filing of Environmental Response Trust Agreement Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery ActPDF
81 FR 8997 - Petitions for Modification of Application of Existing Mandatory Safety StandardsPDF
81 FR 8998 - Petitions for Modification of Application of Existing Mandatory Safety StandardsPDF
81 FR 8996 - Affirmative Decisions on Petitions for Modification Granted in Whole or in PartPDF
81 FR 8841 - Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Cape Fear River, Wilmington, NCPDF
81 FR 9004 - New Postal ProductPDF
81 FR 8990 - Notice of Public Meeting; Wyoming Resource Advisory CouncilPDF
81 FR 8959 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request; ExtensionPDF
81 FR 8987 - Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Incidental Take Permit Application; Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan and Associated Documents; City of Santee, CaliforniaPDF
81 FR 8869 - Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented or Hydrolyzed Foods; Reopening of the Comment PeriodPDF
81 FR 8957 - Agency Information Collection Activities OMB ResponsesPDF
81 FR 8955 - Information Collection Request Submitted to OMB for Review and Approval; Comment Request; NSPS for Secondary Lead Smelters (Renewal)PDF
81 FR 9071 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; Alwyn LynchPDF
81 FR 8967 - Waterpipes and Waterpipe Tobacco; Public Workshop; Establishment of a Public DocketPDF
81 FR 8958 - Proposed Agency Information Collection Activities; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 9070 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; American Airlines, Inc.PDF
81 FR 9071 - Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received; United Airlines, Inc.PDF
81 FR 8867 - Center for Science in the Public Interest, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Improving Kids' Environment, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense Fund, and James Huff; Filing of Food Additive Petition; Extension of Comment PeriodPDF
81 FR 8947 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission to the Office of Management and Budget for Review and Approval; Comment Request; Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loan and Federal Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loan Master Promissory NotePDF
81 FR 8922 - Western Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public MeetingPDF
81 FR 8989 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Request for Comments on the USGS Water Use Data and Research ProgramPDF
81 FR 8963 - Medicare Program; Public Meetings in Calendar Year 2016 for All New Public Requests for Revisions to the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) Coding and Payment DeterminationsPDF
81 FR 9078 - Port Performance Freight Statistics Working GroupPDF
81 FR 8942 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request-Requirements for Electrically Operated Toys and Children's ArticlesPDF
81 FR 8943 - Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request-Safety Standard for Walk-Behind Power Lawn MowersPDF
81 FR 8833 - Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims; Alpha-Linolenic Acid, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and Docosahexaenoic Acid Omega-3 Fatty Acids; Small Entity Compliance Guide; AvailabilityPDF
81 FR 8966 - Design Considerations and Premarket Submission Recommendations for Interoperable Medical Devices; Draft Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff; Extension of Comment PeriodPDF
81 FR 8986 - Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Application for Enhancement of Survival Permit; Proposed Programmatic Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake in MichiganPDF
81 FR 8958 - Change in Bank Control Notices; Acquisitions of Shares of a Bank or Bank Holding CompanyPDF
81 FR 9001 - Meetings of Humanities PanelPDF
81 FR 8962 - Agency Forms Undergoing Paperwork Reduction Act ReviewPDF
81 FR 9069 - Notice of Intent To Rule on Disposal of Aeronautical Property at Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport, Smyrna, TNPDF
81 FR 8941 - Endangered and Threatened Species; Take of Anadromous FishPDF
81 FR 8920 - National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Council-Initiated Fishery Management Actions Under the Magnuson-Stevens ActPDF
81 FR 8942 - Marine Mammals; File No. 19309PDF
81 FR 8992 - Comment Request for Information Collection for H-1B Technical Skills Training (H-1B) and the H-1B Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge (JIAC) Grant Programs, Extension With RevisionsPDF
81 FR 8924 - Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Russian River Estuary Management ActivitiesPDF
81 FR 8988 - Agency Information Collection Activities: Request for Comments on the National Spatial Data Infrastructure-Cooperative Agreements Program (NSDI CAP)PDF
81 FR 8991 - Wooden Bedroom Furniture From China; Notice of Commission Determination To Conduct a Full Five-Year ReviewPDF
81 FR 9005 - Product Change-Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, & First-Class Package Service Negotiated Service AgreementPDF
81 FR 9005 - Product Change-Priority Mail Express Negotiated Service AgreementPDF
81 FR 8896 - Submission for OMB Review; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 8895 - Recognizing European Union (EU) and EU Member State Regionalization Decisions for African Swine Fever (ASF) by Updating the APHIS List of Regions Affected With ASFPDF
81 FR 8976 - Carriage of Conditionally Permitted Shale Gas Extraction Waste Water in BulkPDF
81 FR 8884 - Pacific Island Fisheries; 2015-16 Annual Catch Limit and Accountability Measures; Main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 BottomfishPDF
81 FR 8822 - Golden Nematode; Removal of Regulated Areas in Orleans, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, New YorkPDF
81 FR 8945 - Proposed Collection; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 8886 - Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization ProgramPDF
81 FR 9041 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; Boston Stock Exchange Clearing Corporation; Stock Clearing Corporation of Philadelphia; NASDAQ OMX BX, Inc.; The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC; NASDAQ OMX PHLX LLC; Order Approving Proposed Rule Changes, as Modified by Amendments Thereto, To Amend the By-Laws of NASDAQ, Inc.PDF
81 FR 9043 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.; Notice of Filing of Partial Amendment No. 1 and Order Granting Accelerated Approval to a Proposed Rule Change, as Modified by Partial Amendment No. 1, To Adopt FINRA Rule 6191(b) and Amend FINRA Rule 7440 To Implement the Data Collection Requirements of the Regulation NMS Plan To Implement a Tick Size Pilot ProgramPDF
81 FR 9029 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; NYSE Arca, Inc.; Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change Relating To Listing and Trading of Shares of WBI Tactical Rotation Shares Under NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600PDF
81 FR 9041 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; BATS Exchange, Inc.; Notice of Designation of a Longer Period for Commission Action on Proposed Rule Change to Rule 14.11(i), Managed Fund Shares, To List and Trade the Shares of the Elkhorn S&P GSCI Dynamic Roll Commodity ETF of Elkhorn ETF TrustPDF
81 FR 9065 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.; Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of a Proposed Rule Change To Delay the Implementation Date of FINRA Rule 2242 (Debt Research Analysts and Debt Research Reports)PDF
81 FR 9052 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; BATS Y-Exchange, Inc.; Notice of Filing of a Proposed Rule Change To Amend the Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws of the Exchange's Ultimate Parent Company, BATS Global Markets, Inc.PDF
81 FR 9008 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; BATS Exchange, Inc.; Notice of Filing of a Proposed Rule Change To Amend the Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws of the Exchange's Ultimate Parent Company, BATS Global Markets, Inc.PDF
81 FR 9063 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; BOX Options Exchange LLC; Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of a Proposed Rule Change To Reduce the Order Handling Period for Directed Orders From Three Seconds to One SecondPDF
81 FR 9039 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; NASDAQ OMX PHLX LLC; Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change To Extend the FLEX No Minimum Value PilotPDF
81 FR 9061 - Self-Regulatory Organizations; The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC; Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change To Amend Nasdaq Rule 7014 and Nasdaq Rule 7018PDF
81 FR 9075 - Pipeline Safety: Request for Special PermitPDF
81 FR 8985 - The President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory CommitteePDF
81 FR 8978 - Meeting: Homeland Security Advisory CouncilPDF
81 FR 8832 - Regulations Governing Organization of the Joint Board for the Enrollment of ActuariesPDF
81 FR 8974 - National Cancer Institute; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
81 FR 8944 - Proposed Collection; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 8972 - National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders; Notice of Closed MeetingPDF
81 FR 8973 - Center for Scientific Review; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
81 FR 8972 - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Notice of Closed MeetingPDF
81 FR 8975 - Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health; Notice of MeetingPDF
81 FR 8973 - Clinical Center; Notice of MeetingPDF
81 FR 8975 - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Notice of Closed MeetingPDF
81 FR 8976 - Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
81 FR 8970 - Center for Scientific Review; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
81 FR 8972 - Center for Scientific Review; Notice of Closed MeetingsPDF
81 FR 8973 - National Center For Advancing Translational Sciences; Notice of Closed MeetingPDF
81 FR 9038 - Proposed Collection; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 9052 - Proposed Collection; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 9005 - Proposed Collection; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 9007 - Proposed Collection; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 8874 - Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List Three Manta Rays as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species ActPDF
81 FR 8975 - National Institute of General Medical Sciences; Notice of Closed MeetingPDF
81 FR 8974 - National Institute of General Medical Sciences; Notice of Closed MeetingPDF
81 FR 8976 - National Institute on Aging; Notice of Closed MeetingPDF
81 FR 8969 - Medicare Program; Administrative Law Judge Hearing Program for Medicare Claim and Entitlement Appeals; Quarterly Listing of Program Issuances-October Through December 2015PDF
81 FR 8946 - Proposed Collection; Comment RequestPDF
81 FR 8834 - Privacy Act; STATE-75, Family Advocacy Case RecordsPDF
81 FR 8923 - Endangered and Threatened Species; Initiation of 5-Year Review for Indus River DolphinPDF
81 FR 8860 - Organization; Funding and Fiscal Affairs, Loan Policies and Operations, and Funding Operations; Farmer Mac Investment EligibilityPDF
81 FR 8954 - Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; Notice of Preliminary Permit Application Accepted for Filing and Soliciting Comments, Motions To Intervene, and Competing ApplicationsPDF
81 FR 8950 - Notice of Commission Staff AttendancePDF
81 FR 8949 - TransSource, LLC v. PJM Interconnection, LLC; Notice of Amended and Restated ComplaintPDF
81 FR 8949 - Combined Notice of FilingsPDF
81 FR 8951 - Combined Notice of Filings #2PDF
81 FR 8950 - Combined Notice of Filings #1PDF
81 FR 8952 - Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; Notice of Preliminary Permit Application Accepted for Filing and Soliciting Comments, Motions To Intervene, and Competing ApplicationsPDF
81 FR 8949 - Notice of Availability of Environmental AssessmentPDF
81 FR 8953 - Idaho Power Company; Notice of Application Accepted for Filing and Soliciting Comments, Motions To Intervene, and ProtestsPDF
81 FR 8951 - Equitrans, LP; Notice of Schedule for Environmental Review of the TP-371 Replacement ProjectPDF
81 FR 8954 - Combined Notice of Filings #1PDF
81 FR 8857 - Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species Fisheries; Annual SpecificationsPDF
81 FR 8907 - Notice of Imminent Establishment of the United States-Mexico Energy Business Council and Solicitation of Nominations for U.S. Private Sector MembersPDF
81 FR 8823 - Airworthiness Directives; The Boeing Company AirplanesPDF
81 FR 8848 - Improving Regulation and Regulatory ReviewPDF

Issue

81 35 Tuesday, February 23, 2016 Contents Agricultural Marketing Agricultural Marketing Service RULES National Organic Program: USDA Organic Regulations, 8821-8822 2016-03808 Referendum Orders: Softwood Lumber Research, Promotion, Consumer Education and Industry Information, 8822-8823 2016-03805 PROPOSED RULES Referendum Orders: Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information, 8860 2016-03806 Agriculture Agriculture Department See

Agricultural Marketing Service

See

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

See

Farm Service Agency

See

Food and Nutrition Service

See

Food Safety and Inspection Service

See

Forest Service

Animal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service RULES Golden Nematode; Removal of Regulated Areas: Orleans, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, NY, 8822 2016-03672 NOTICES Recognizing European Union and EU Member State Regionalization Decisions for African Swine Fever by Updating the APHIS List of Regions Affected with African Swine Fever, 8895-8896 2016-03675 Broadcasting Broadcasting Board of Governors NOTICES Meetings; Sunshine Act, 8906 2016-03880 Centers Disease Centers for Disease Control and Prevention NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 8962-8963 2016-03687 Centers Medicare Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services NOTICES Meetings: Medicare Programs; Public Meetings in Calendar Year 2016 for All New Public Requests for Revisions to the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System Coding and Payment Determinations, 8963-8966 2016-03703 Coast Guard Coast Guard RULES Drawbridge Operations: Acushnet River, New Bedford and Fairhaven, MA, 8841-8843 2016-03789 Cape Fear River, Wilmington, NC, 8841 2016-03723 NOTICES Carriage of Conditionally Permitted Shale Gas Extraction Waste Water in Bulk, 8976-8978 2016-03674 Commerce Commerce Department See

Foreign-Trade Zones Board

See

Industry and Security Bureau

See

International Trade Administration

See

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Consumer Product Consumer Product Safety Commission NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Requirements for Electrically Operated Toys and Children's Articles, 8942-8943 2016-03701 Safety Standard for Walk-Behind Power Lawn Mowers, 8943-8944 2016-03700 Defense Department Defense Department See

Navy Department

NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 8944-8946 2016-03653 2016-03671 Charter Establishment: Federal Advisory Committees, 8944 2016-03749
Education Department Education Department NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loan and Federal Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loan Master Promissory Note, 8947-8948 2016-03707 Streamlined Clearance Process for Discretionary Grants, 8947 2016-03746 Employment and Training Employment and Training Administration NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: H-1B Technical Skills Training and the H-1B Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Grant Programs, 8992-8993 2016-03682 Energy Department Energy Department See

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office

See

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Energy Efficiency Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office NOTICES Executive Summit on Marine and Hydrokinetic Research and Development, 8948-8949 2016-03764 Environmental Protection Environmental Protection Agency NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 8957 2016-03715 Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: NSPS for Secondary Lead Smelters, 8955-8956 2016-03714 Recordkeeping and Reporting -- Solid Waste Disposal Facilities and Practices, 8956-8957 2016-03744 Farm Credit Farm Credit Administration PROPOSED RULES Organization: Funding and Fiscal Affairs, Loan Policies and Operations, and Funding Operations; Farmer Mac Investment Eligibility, 8860-8867 2016-03626 Farm Service Farm Service Agency NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 8896 2016-03676 Federal Aviation Federal Aviation Administration RULES Airworthiness Directives: The Boeing Company Airplanes, 8823-8825 2016-03562 NOTICES Disposal of Aeronautical Properties: Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport, Smyrna, TN, 9069-9070 2016-03686 Petitions for Exemptions; Summaries: Alwyn Lynch, 9071-9072 2016-03713 American Airlines, Inc., 9070 2016-03710 United Airlines, Inc., 9071 2016-03709 Federal Communications Federal Communications Commission RULES Expanding the Economic and Innovation Opportunities of Spectrum through Incentive Auctions, 8843-8848 2016-03801 Federal Election Federal Election Commission NOTICES Meetings; Sunshine Act, 8957-8958 2016-03787 Federal Energy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission NOTICES Applications; Idaho Power Co., 8953 2016-03613 Combined Filings, 8949-8952, 8954-8955 2016-03611 2016-03616 2016-03617 2016-03618 Complaints: TransSource, LLC v. PJM Interconnection, LLC, 8949-8950 2016-03619 Environmental Assessments; Availability, etc.: Equitrans, LP; TP-371 Replacement Project, 8951 2016-03612 Kentucky River Lock and Dam No. 11 Hydroelectric Project, 8949 2016-03614 Preliminary Permit Applications: Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, 8952-8954 2016-03615 2016-03621 Staff Attendances, 8950-8951 2016-03620 Federal Reserve Federal Reserve System NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 8958-8959 2016-03711 Changes in Bank Control: Acquisitions of Shares of a Bank or Bank Holding Company, 8958 2016-03691 Federal Trade Federal Trade Commission NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 8959-8962 2016-03718 Fish Fish and Wildlife Service NOTICES Incidental Take Permit Applications: Santee, CA, 8987-8988 2016-03717 Permit Applications: Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Enhancement of Survival Permit and Proposed Programmatic Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake in Michigan, 8986-8987 2016-03692 Food and Drug Food and Drug Administration RULES Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims; Alpha-Linolenic Acid, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and Docosahexaenoic Acid Omega-3 Fatty Acids; Small Entity Compliance Guide, 8833-8834 2016-03697 PROPOSED RULES Food Additive Petitions: Center for Science in the Public Interest, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Improving Kids' Environment, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense Fund, and James Huff; Extensions, 8867-8869 2016-03708 Food Labeling: Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented or Hydrolyzed Foods; Reopening of Comment Period, 8869-8870 2016-03716 NOTICES Guidance: Design Considerations and Premarket Submission Recommendations for Interoperable Medical Devices, 8966-8967 2016-03696 Meetings: Waterpipes and Waterpipe Tobacco; Public Workshop, 8967-8969 2016-03712 Food and Nutrition Food and Nutrition Service NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: State Administrative Expense Funds, 8898-8899 2016-03788 Food Safety Food Safety and Inspection Service NOTICES Meetings: National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection, 8896-8898 2016-03762 Foreign Trade Foreign-Trade Zones Board NOTICES Production Activities: H-J Enterprises, Inc./H-J International, Inc., Foreign-Trade Zone 102, St. Louis, MO, 8906-8907 2016-03759 Subzone Applications: Barrett Distribution Centers, Inc., Foreign-Trade Zone 27, Boston, MA, 8907 2016-03730 Forest Forest Service NOTICES Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests; Colorado; Federal Coal Lease Modifications COC-1362 & COC-67232, 8899-8906 2016-03734 Geological Geological Survey NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: National Spatial Data Infrastructure -- Cooperative Agreements Program, 8988-8989 2016-03680 Request for Comments on the USGS Water Use Data and Research Program, 8989-8990 2016-03704 Health and Human Health and Human Services Department See

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

See

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

See

Food and Drug Administration

See

National Institutes of Health

NOTICES Medicare Program: Administrative Law Judge Hearing Program for Medicare Claim and Entitlement Appeals; Quarterly Listing of Program Issuances -- October through December 2015, 8969-8970 2016-03634
Homeland Homeland Security Department See

Coast Guard

NOTICES Meetings: Homeland Security Advisory Council, 8978-8979 2016-03656 President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, 8985 2016-03657 Privacy Act; Systems of Records, 8979-8985 2016-03867
Industry Industry and Security Bureau RULES Addition and Removal of Certain Persons and Modification of Certain Entries to the Entity List, 8825-8832 2016-03745 Interior Interior Department See

Fish and Wildlife Service

See

Geological Survey

See

Land Management Bureau

Internal Revenue Internal Revenue Service RULES Reporting of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, 8835-8840 2016-03795 PROPOSED RULES Definition of Political Subdivision, 8870-8874 2016-03790 International Trade Adm International Trade Administration NOTICES Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Investigations, Orders, or Reviews: Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China, 8909-8913 2016-03751 Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China; Initiation of Less Than Fair Value Investigation, 8913-8918 2016-03756 Certain Pasta from Italy, 8918-8920 2016-03750 Export Trade Certificates of Review, 8908-8909 2016-03742 Requests for Nominations: United States-Mexico Energy Business Council U.S. Private Sector Members, 8907-8908 2016-03594 International Trade Com International Trade Commission NOTICES Investigations; Determinations, Modifications, and Rulings, etc.: Wooden Bedroom Furniture from China, 8991 2016-03679 Joint Joint Board for Enrollment of Actuaries RULES Organization of the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries, 8832-8833 2016-03655 Justice Department Justice Department NOTICES Environmental Response Trust Agreement under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 8992 2016-03728 Proposed Consent Decree under the Clean Air Act, 8991 2016-03741 Labor Department Labor Department See

Employment and Training Administration

See

Mine Safety and Health Administration

NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 8995-8996 2016-03735 Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: Claim for Medical Reimbursement Form, 8994 2016-03761 Uniform Billing Form, 8994-8995 2016-03736
Land Land Management Bureau NOTICES Meetings: Wyoming Resource Advisory Council, 8990-8991 2016-03719 Maritime Maritime Administration NOTICES Requests for Administrative Waivers of the Coastwise Trade Laws: Vessel ANCHOR MANAGEMENT, 9072 2016-03800 Vessel CROSSFIRE, 9074-9075 2016-03796 Vessel ISLESCAPES, 9073 2016-03803 Vessel LARGE FLIGHTLESS BIRDS, 9073-9074 2016-03799 Vessel SEA REAPER, 9074 2016-03798 Vessel TUA YACHT, 9072-9073 2016-03797 Mine Mine Safety and Health Administration NOTICES Affirmative Decisions on Petitions for Modification Granted in Whole or in Part, 8996-8997 2016-03724 Petitions for Modification of Application of Existing Mandatory Safety Standards, 8997-8999 2016-03725 2016-03726 National Archives National Archives and Records Administration NOTICES Records Schedules; Availability, 8999-9001 2016-03763 National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Humanities NOTICES Meetings: Humanities Panel, 9001-9002 2016-03688 National Foundation National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities See

National Endowment for the Humanities

National Institute National Institutes of Health NOTICES Meetings: Center for Scientific Review, 8970-8973 2016-03644 2016-03645 2016-03651 Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 8976 2016-03646 National Cancer Institute, 8974 2016-03654 National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, 8973 2016-03643 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 8975 2016-03647 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 8972 2016-03650 National Institute of General Medical Sciences, 8974-8976 2016-03636 2016-03637 National Institute on Aging, 8976 2016-03635 National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 8972 2016-03652 NIH Advisory Board for Clinical Research, 8973-8974 2016-03648 Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health, 8975 2016-03649 National Oceanic National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RULES Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska: Pacific Cod by Vessels Using Pot Gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska, 8859 2016-03732 Fisheries Off West Coast States: Coastal Pelagic Species Fisheries; Annual Specifications, 8857-8859 2016-03610 PROPOSED RULES Endangered and Threatened Wildlife: Three Manta Rays; 90-Day Finding on Petition to List as Threatened or Endangered, 8874-8884 2016-03638 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska: Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization Program, 8886-8894 2016-03670 Pacific Island Fisheries: Main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 Bottomfish; Annual Catch Limit and Accountability Measures, 8884-8885 2016-03673 NOTICES Endangered and Threatened Species: Indus River Dolphin; Initiation of 5-Year Review, 8923-8924 2016-03628 Take of Anadromous Fish, 8941-8942 2016-03685 Meetings: Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, 8922-8923 2016-03705 National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Council-Initiated Fishery Management Action, 8920-8922 2016-03684 Permits: Marine Mammals; File No. 19309, 8942 2016-03683 Takes of Marine Mammals: Russian River Estuary Management Activities, 8924-8941 2016-03681 Navy Navy Department NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 8946-8947 2016-03632 Nuclear Regulatory Nuclear Regulatory Commission NOTICES Environmental Assessments; Availability, etc.: Fort St. Vrain Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation, 9002-9003 2016-03810 Petitions: Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, 9003-9004 2016-03811 Pipeline Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration NOTICES Pipeline Safety: Requests for Special Permits, 9075-9078 2016-03659 Postal Regulatory Postal Regulatory Commission NOTICES New Postal Products, 9004-9005 2016-03720 2016-03721 Postal Service Postal Service NOTICES Product Changes: Priority Mail Express Negotiated Service Agreement, 9005 2016-03677 Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, and First-Class Package Service Negotiated Service Agreement, 9005 2016-03678 Securities Securities and Exchange Commission PROPOSED RULES Transfer Agent Regulations; Comment Period Extension, 8867 2016-03733 NOTICES Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals, 2016-03639 9005-9007, 9038, 9052 2016-03640 2016-03641 2016-03642 Meetings; Sunshine Act, 2016-03846 9016, 9067 2016-03936 Self-Regulatory Organizations; Proposed Rule Changes: BATS Exchange, Inc., 9008-9025, 9041 2016-03663 2016-03666 2016-03740 BATS Y-Exchange, Inc., 9052-9061 2016-03664 Boston Stock Exchange Clearing Corp., 9041-9043 2016-03669 BOX Options Exchange, LLC, 9063-9065 2016-03662 Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc., 9043-9052, 9065-9067 2016-03665 2016-03668 NASDAQ OMX PHLX, LLC, 9039-9041 2016-03661 NYSE Arca, Inc., 9025-9027, 9029-9038 2016-03667 2016-03738 2016-03739 NYSE MKT, LLC, 9027-9029 2016-03737 The NASDAQ Stock Market, LLC, 9061-9063 2016-03660 Trading Suspension Orders: AI Document Services, Inc., Creative Edge Nutrition, Inc., Interactive Health Network, 9016 2016-03847 Small Business Small Business Administration NOTICES Disaster Declarations: California; Amendment 1, 9069 2016-03768 California; Declaration of Economic Injury, 9067 2016-03769 Mississippi; Amendment 3, 9068 2016-03766 Missouri, 9069 2016-03771 Oklahoma, 9067-9068 2016-03770 Texas, 9068-9069 2016-03767 Regulatory Fairness Hearing: Region VIII, Salt Lake City, UT, 9068 2016-03765 State Department State Department RULES Privacy Act; Systems of Records, 8834-8835 2016-03630 Surface Transportation Surface Transportation Board RULES Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, 8848-8857 2016-03298 Transportation Department Transportation Department See

Federal Aviation Administration

See

Maritime Administration

See

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

NOTICES Requests for Nominations: Port Performance Freight Statistics Working Group, 9078-9079 2016-03702
Treasury Treasury Department See

Internal Revenue Service

Reader Aids

Consult the Reader Aids section at the end of this issue for phone numbers, online resources, finding aids, and notice of recently enacted public laws.

To subscribe to the Federal Register Table of Contents LISTSERV electronic mailing list, go to http://listserv.access.thefederalregister.org and select Online mailing list archives, FEDREGTOC-L, Join or leave the list (or change settings); then follow the instructions.

81 35 Tuesday, February 23, 2016 Rules and Regulations DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Marketing Service 7 CFR Part 205 [Document Number AMS-NOP-16-0001; NOP-15-13] National Organic Program: USDA Organic Regulations AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Notice of 2016 Sunset Review.

SUMMARY:

This document addresses the 2016 Sunset Review submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) through the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) following the NOSB's October 2014 and April 2015 meetings. The 2016 Sunset Review pertains to the NOSB's review of the need for the continued allowance for seven substances on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List). Consistent with the NOSB's review, this publication provides notice on the renewal of five synthetic and two nonsynthetic substances on the National List, along with any restrictive annotations. For substances that have been renewed on the National List, this document completes the 2016 National List Sunset Process.

DATES:

This document is effective September 12, 2016.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Requests for a copy of this document should be sent to Robert Pooler, Standards Division, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Room 2642-S., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250-0268. Telephone: (202) 720-3252. Email: [email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The National Organic Program (NOP) is authorized by the Organic Foods Protection Act (OFPA) of 1990, as amended (7 U.S.C. 6501-6522). The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administers the NOP. Final regulations implementing the NOP, also referred to as the USDA organic regulations, were published December 21, 2000 (65 FR 80548), and became effective on October 21, 2002. Through these regulations, the AMS oversees national standards for the production, handling, and labeling of organically produced agricultural products. Since becoming effective, the USDA organic regulations have been frequently amended, mostly for changes to the National List in 7 CFR 205.601-205.606.

This National List identifies the synthetic substances that may be used and the nonsynthetic (natural) substances that may not be used in organic production. The National List also identifies synthetic, nonsynthetic nonagricultural, and nonorganic agricultural substances that may be used in organic handling. The OFPA and the USDA organic regulations, as indicated in § 205.105, specifically prohibit the use of any synthetic substance in organic production and handling unless the synthetic substance is on the National List. Section 205.105 also requires that any nonorganic agricultural substance, and any nonsynthetic nonagricultural substance used in organic handling appear on the National List.

As stipulated by OFPA, recommendations to propose or amend the National List are developed by the NOSB, operating in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App. 2 et seq.), to assist in the evaluation of substances to be used or not used in organic production and handling, and to advise the Secretary on the USDA organic regulations. OFPA also requires a review of all substances included on the National List within 5 years of their addition to or renewal on the list. If a listed substance is not reviewed by NOSB and renewed by USDA within the five year period, its allowance or prohibition on the National List is no longer in effect. The NOSB sunset review includes considering any new information pertaining to a substance's impact on human health and the environment, its necessity, and its compatibility with organic production and handling.

To implement the sunset review requirement, AMS initially published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on the National List sunset review process on June 17, 2005 (70 FR 35177). This document described the process used by the NOSB to complete their responsibility to review National List substances within the OFPA required five year period.

AMS published a revised sunset review process in the Federal Register on September 16, 2013 (78 FR 56811). This revised process provides public notice on the renewal of National List substances. This renewal occurs after the NOSB review.

At its October 2014, and April 2015 public meetings, the NOSB considered seven substances that were added to or continued on the National List after sunset review in 2011. AMS has reviewed and accepted the NOSB sunset review and recommendations. Substances in Table 1 having final actions of “renew” will continue to be listed on the National List and will be included in their next sunset review (Sunset Review 2021).

Table 1—Overview of Final Action for Sunset 2016 National List section Substance listing Final action Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production § 205.601(h) As slug or snail bait. Ferric phosphate (CAS # 10045-86-0) Renew. § 205.601(n) Seed preparations. Hydrogen chloride (CAS # 7647-01-0)—for delinting cotton seed for planting Renew. Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” § 205.605(a) L—malic acid (CAS # 97-67-6) Renew. § 205.605(a) Microorganisms—any food grade bacteria, fungi, and other microorganism Renew. § 205.605(b) Activated charcoal (CAS #s 7440-44-0; 64365-11-3)—only from vegetative sources; for use only as a filtering aid Renew. § 205.605(b) Peracetic acid/Peroxyacetic acid (CAS # 79-21-0)—for use in wash and/or rinse water according to FDA limitations. For use as a sanitizer on food contact surfaces Renew. § 205.605(b) Sodium acid pyrophosphate (CAS # 7758-16-9)—for use only as a leavening agent Renew. Authority:

7 U.S.C. 6501-6522.

Dated: February 18, 2016. Elanor Starmer, Acting Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-03808 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-02-P
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 7 CFR Part 301 [Docket No. APHIS-2015-0040] Golden Nematode; Removal of Regulated Areas in Orleans, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, New York AGENCY:

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Affirmation of interim rule as final rule.

SUMMARY:

We are adopting as a final rule, without change, an interim rule that amended the golden nematode regulations by removing areas in Orleans, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties in the State of New York from the list of generally infested areas. The interim rule was necessary to relieve restrictions on the movement of regulated articles from areas no longer under quarantine for golden nematode. As a result of the interim rule, movement of such articles from areas no longer under quarantine can proceed while preventing the spread of golden nematode from infested areas to noninfested areas of the United States.

DATES:

Effective on February 23, 2016, we are adopting as a final rule the interim rule published at 80 FR 59551-59557 on October 2, 2015.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mr. Jonathan M. Jones, National Policy Manager, Pest Management, Plant Protection and Quarantine, APHIS, 4700 River Road, Unit 160, Riverdale, MD 20737; (301) 851-2128.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

In an interim rule1 effective and published in the Federal Register on October 2, 2015 (80 FR 59551-59557, Docket No. APHIS-2015-0040), we amended the golden nematode regulations in 7 CFR part 301 by removing areas in Orleans, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties in the State of New York from the list of areas regulated for golden nematode.

1 To view the interim rule and supporting documents, go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2015-0040.

Comments on the interim rule were required to be received on or before December 1, 2015. We did not receive any comments. Therefore, for the reasons given in the interim rule, we are adopting the interim rule as a final rule without change.

This action also affirms the information contained in the interim rule concerning Executive Order 12866 and the Regulatory Flexibility Act, Executive Orders 12372 and 12988, and the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Further, for this action, the Office of Management and Budget has waived its review under Executive Order 12866.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 301

Agricultural commodities, Plant diseases and pests, Quarantine, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

PART 301—DOMESTIC QUARANTINE NOTICES Accordingly, we are adopting as a final rule, without change, the interim rule that amended 7 CFR part 301 and that was published at 80 FR 59551-59557 on October 2, 2015. Done in Washington, DC, this 17th day of February 2016. Kevin Shea, Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-03672 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-34-P
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Marketing Service 7 CFR Part 1217 [Document No. AMS-SC-15-0079] Softwood Lumber Research, Promotion, Consumer Education and Industry Information Order; Continuance Referendum AGENCY:

Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Referendum order.

SUMMARY:

This document directs that a referendum be conducted among eligible domestic manufacturers and importers of softwood lumber to determine whether they favor continuance of the Softwood Lumber Research, Promotion, Consumer Education and Industry Information Order (Order).

DATES:

The referendum will be conducted by mail ballot from August 1 through 25, 2016. To be eligible to vote, softwood lumber manufacturers and importers must have domestically manufactured and shipped or imported 15 million board feet or more of softwood lumber during the representative period of January 1 through December 31, 2015, paid assessments during that period, and must currently be softwood lumber domestic manufacturers or importers subject to assessment under the Order. Ballots must be received by the referendum agents no later than the close of business on August 25, 2016, to be counted.

ADDRESSES:

Copies of the Order may be obtained from: Referendum Agent, Promotion and Economics Division, Specialty Crops Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 1406-S, Stop 0244, Washington, DC 20250-0244, telephone: (202) 720-9915; facsimile: (202) 205-2800; or contact Maureen Pello at (503) 632-8848 or via electronic mail: [email protected]

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Maureen Pello, Marketing Specialist, PED, SC, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 1406-S, Stop 0244, Washington, DC 20250-0244; telephone: (202) 720-9915, (503) 632-8848 (direct line); facsimile: (202) 205-2800; or electronic mail: [email protected]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 7411-7425) (Act), it is hereby directed that a referendum be conducted to ascertain whether continuance of the Order (7 CFR part 1217) is favored by eligible domestic manufacturers and importers of softwood lumber. The Order is authorized under the Act.

The representative period for establishing voter eligibility for the referendum shall be the period from January 1 through December 31, 2015. Persons who domestically manufactured and shipped or imported 15 million board feet or more of softwood lumber during the representative period, paid assessments during that period, and are currently softwood lumber manufacturers or importers subject to assessment under the Order are eligible to vote. Persons who received an exemption from assessments for the entire representative period are ineligible to vote. The referendum will be conducted by mail ballot from August 1 through 25, 2016.

Section 518 of the Act authorizes continuance referenda. Under § 1217.81(b) of the Order, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must conduct a referendum 5 years after the program has been in effect to determine whether persons subject to assessment favor continuance of the Order. The program became effective in 2011. USDA would continue the Order if continuance is favored by a majority of the domestic manufacturers and importers voting in the referendum, who also represent a majority of the volume of softwood lumber represented in the referendum.

In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. chapter 35), the referendum ballot has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and assigned OMB No. 0581-0093. It has been estimated that there are approximately 170 domestic manufacturers and 70 importers who will be eligible to vote in the referendum. It will take an average of 15 minutes for each voter to read the voting instructions and complete the referendum ballot.

Referendum Order

Maureen Pello, Marketing Specialist, and Heather Pichelman, Director, PED, SC, AMS, USDA, Stop 0244, Room 1406-S, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-0244, are designated as the referendum agents to conduct this referendum. The referendum procedures at 7 CFR 1217.100 through 1217.108, which were issued pursuant to the Act, shall be used to conduct the referendum.

The referendum agent will mail the ballots to be cast in the referendum and voting instructions to all known, eligible domestic manufacturers and importers prior to the first day of the voting period. Persons who domestically manufactured and shipped or imported 15 million board feet or more of softwood lumber during the representative period, paid assessments during that period, and are currently softwood lumber domestic manufacturers or importers subject to assessment under the Order are eligible to vote. Persons who received an exemption from assessments during the entire representative period are ineligible to vote. Any eligible domestic manufacturer or importer who does not receive a ballot should contact the referendum agent no later than one week before the end of the voting period. Ballots must be received by the referendum agent by 4:30 p.m. Eastern time, August 25, 2016, in order to be counted.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 1217

Administrative practice and procedure, Advertising, Consumer information, Marketing agreements, Promotion, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Softwood lumber.

Authority:

7 U.S.C. 7411-7425; 7 U.S.C. 7401.

Dated: February 18, 2016. Elanor Starmer, Acting Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-03805 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-02-P
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 39 [Docket No. FAA-2016-3699; Directorate Identifier 2015-NM-109-AD; Amendment 39-18402; AD 2016-04-08] RIN 2120-AA64 Airworthiness Directives; The Boeing Company Airplanes AGENCY:

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION:

Final rule; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

We are adopting a new airworthiness directive (AD) for certain The Boeing Company Model 787-8 airplanes. This AD requires revising the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, to include an airworthiness limitation for repetitive inspections of the web fastener holes in the overwing flex-tees. This AD was prompted by a report that certain web fastener holes in the overwing flex-tees at the wing-to-body interface might not have been deburred properly when manufactured. Fastener holes without the deburr chamfer applied can develop fatigue cracking. We are issuing this AD to detect and correct cracking in the web fastener holes in the overwing flex-tees, which can weaken the primary wing structure so it cannot sustain limit load.

DATES:

This AD is effective March 9, 2016.

The Director of the Federal Register approved the incorporation by reference of a certain publication listed in this AD as of March 9, 2016.

We must receive comments on this AD by April 8, 2016.

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 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

For service information identified in this final rule, contact Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Attention: Data & Services Management, P. O. Box 3707, MC 2H-65, Seattle, WA 98124-2207; telephone 206-544-5000, extension 1; fax 206-766-5680; Internet https://www.myboeingfleet.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. It is also available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2016-3699.

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-2016-3699; 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 AD, the regulatory evaluation, any comments received, and other information. The street address for the Docket Office (phone: 800-647-5527) is in the ADDRESSES section. Comments will be available in the AD docket shortly after receipt.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Melanie Violette, Senior Aerospace Engineer, Airframe Branch, ANM-120S, FAA, Seattle Aircraft Certification Office (ACO), 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA 98057-3356; phone: 425-917-6422; fax: 425-917-6590; email: [email protected]

Discussion

We received a report that certain web fastener holes in the overwing flex-tees at the wing-to-body interface might not have been deburred properly when manufactured. A deburr chamfer should have been applied to the fastener holes in the overwing flex-tees. Fastener holes without the deburr chamfer applied can develop fatigue cracking before the required supplemental structural fatigue inspections are scheduled to begin. Such fatigue cracking, if not corrected, could result in the primary wing structure being weakened so it cannot sustain limit load. We are issuing this AD to correct the unsafe condition on these products.

Related Service Information Under 1 CFR Part 51

We reviewed Boeing 787 Airworthiness Limitations—Line Number Specific, D011Z009-03-02, dated February 2015. The service information contains airworthiness limitation tasks pertaining to inspections for web fastener holes in the overwing flex-tees at the wing-to-body interface.

This service information is reasonably available because the interested parties have access to it through their normal course of business or by the means identified in the ADDRESSES section.

FAA's Determination

We are issuing this AD because we evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe condition described previously is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design.

AD Requirements

This AD requires revising the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, to include an airworthiness limitation for repetitive inspection of the web fastener holes in the overwing flex-tees.

This AD requires revisions to certain operator maintenance documents to include new actions (e.g., inspections). Compliance with these actions is required by 14 CFR 91.403(c). For airplanes that have been previously modified, altered, or repaired in the areas addressed by this AD, the operator may not be able to accomplish the actions described in the revisions. In this situation, to comply with 14 CFR 91.403(c), the operator must request approval for an alternative method of compliance according to paragraph (h) of this AD. The request should include a description of changes to the required actions that will ensure the continued operational safety of the airplane.

FAA's Justification and Determination of the Effective Date

There are no products of this type currently registered in the United States. However, this rule is necessary to ensure that the described unsafe condition is addressed if any of these products are placed on the U.S. Register in the future. Therefore, we find that notice and opportunity for prior public comment are unnecessary and that good cause exists for making this amendment effective in less than 30 days.

Comments Invited

This AD is a final rule that involves requirements affecting flight safety and was not preceded by notice and an opportunity for public comment. However, we invite you to send any written data, views, or arguments about this AD. Send your comments to an address listed under the ADDRESSES section. Include the docket number FAA-2016-3699 and Directorate Identifier 2015-NM-109-AD at the beginning of your comments. We specifically invite comments on the overall regulatory, economic, environmental, and energy aspects of this AD. We will consider all comments received by the closing date and may amend this AD because of 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 AD.

Costs of Compliance

We estimate that this AD affects 0 airplanes of U.S. registry.

We estimate the following costs to comply with this AD:

Estimated Costs Action Labor cost Parts cost Cost per
  • product
  • Cost on U.S. operators
    Maintenance/inspection program revision 1 work-hour × $85 per hour = $85 $0 $85 $0
    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

    This AD will not have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132. This AD will 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 that this AD:

    (1) Is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866,

    (2) Is not a “significant rule” under 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.

    Adoption of the Amendment

    Accordingly, under the authority delegated to me by the Administrator, the FAA amends 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): 2016-04-08 The Boeing Company: Amendment 39-18402; Docket No. FAA-2016-3699; Directorate Identifier 2015-NM-109-AD. (a) Effective Date

    This AD is effective March 9, 2016.

    (b) Affected ADs

    None.

    (c) Applicability

    The Boeing Company Model 787-8 airplanes, certificated in any category, having line numbers 78 and 82.

    (d) Subject

    Air Transport Association (ATA) of America Code 57, Wings.

    (e) Unsafe Condition

    This AD was prompted by a report that certain web fastener holes in the overwing flex-tees at the wing-to-body interface might not have been deburred properly when manufactured. We are issuing this AD to detect and correct cracking in the web fastener holes in the overwing flex-tees, which can weaken the primary wing structure so it cannot sustain limit load.

    (f) Compliance

    Comply with this AD within the compliance times specified, unless already done.

    (g) Revision to Maintenance or Inspection Program

    Within 30 days after the effective date of this AD, revise the maintenance or inspection program, as applicable, to incorporate the applicable inspection requirement identified in paragraphs (g)(1) and (g)(2) of this AD, as specified in Boeing 787 Airworthiness Limitations—Line Number Specific, D011Z009-03-02, dated February 2015. The initial compliance time for the tasks is at the applicable time specified in Boeing 787 Airworthiness Limitations—Line Number Specific, D011Z009-03-02, dated February 2015.

    (1) For the airplane having line number 78: Principal Structural Element 57-10-06a_MRB9, “Overwing Flex-Tee—Web Fastener Holes.”

    (2) For the airplane having line number 82: Principal Structural Element 57-10-06a_MRB10, “Overwing Flex-Tee—Web Fastener Holes.”

    (h) Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs)

    (1) The Manager, Settle Aircraft Certification Office (ACO), 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 manager of the ACO, send it to the attention of the person identified in paragraph (i) of this AD. Information may be emailed to: [email protected]

    (2) 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.

    (3) An AMOC that provides an acceptable level of safety may be used for any repair, modification, or alteration required by this AD if it is approved by the Boeing Commercial Airplanes Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) that has been authorized by the Manager, Seattle ACO, to make those findings. To be approved, the repair method, modification deviation, or alteration deviation must meet the certification basis of the airplane, and the approval must specifically refer to this AD.

    (i) Related Information

    For more information about this AD, contact Melanie Violette, Senior Aerospace Engineer, Airframe Branch, ANM-120S, FAA, Seattle ACO, 1601 Lind Avenue SW., Renton, WA 98057-3356; phone: 425-917-6422; fax: 425-917-6590; email: [email protected]

    (j) Material Incorporated by Reference

    (1) The Director of the Federal Register approved the incorporation by reference (IBR) of the service information listed in this paragraph under 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51.

    (2) You must use this service information as applicable to do the actions required by this AD, unless the AD specifies otherwise.

    (i) Boeing 787 Airworthiness Limitations—Line Number Specific, D011Z009-03-02, dated February 2015.

    (ii) Reserved.

    (3) For service information identified in this AD, contact Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Attention: Data & Services Management, P.O. Box 3707, MC 2H-65, Seattle, WA 98124-2207; telephone 206-544-5000, extension 1; fax 206-766-5680; Internet https://www.myboeingfleet.com.

    (4) You may view this service information at 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.

    (5) You may view this service information that is incorporated by reference at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this material at NARA, call 202-741-6030, or go to: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/cfr/ibr-locations.html.

    Issued in Renton, Washington, on February 10, 2016. Michael Kaszycki, Acting Manager, Transport Airplane Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03562 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910-13-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Bureau of Industry and Security 15 CFR Part 744 [Docket No. 151209999-5999-01] RIN 0694—AG81 Addition of Certain Persons and Modification of Certain Entries to the Entity List; and Removal of Certain Persons From the Entity List AGENCY:

    Bureau of Industry and Security, Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    This rule amends the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) by adding eight persons under eight entries to the Entity List. The eight persons who are added to the Entity List have been determined by the U.S. Government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. These eight persons will be listed on the Entity List under the destination of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). This final rule also removes nine persons from the Entity List, as the result of a request for removal submitted by these persons, a review of information provided in the removal request in accordance with the procedure for requesting removal or modification of an Entity List entity and further review conducted by the End-User Review Committee (ERC). Finally, this rule is also revising six existing entries in the Entity List. One entry under Iran is modified to correct the entry by updating the Federal Register citation. Five entries on the Entity List under the destinations of Armenia, Greece, India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom (U.K.) are modified to reflect a removal from the Entity List.

    DATES:

    This rule is effective February 23, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

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

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Background

    The Entity List (Supplement No. 4 to Part 744) identifies entities and other persons reasonably believed to be involved in or to pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. The EAR imposes additional license requirements on, and limits the availability of most license exceptions for exports, reexports, and transfers (in-country) to those persons or entities listed on the Entity List. The “license review policy” for each listed entity or other person is identified in the License Review Policy column on the Entity List and the impact on the availability of license exceptions is described in the Federal Register notice adding entities or other persons to the Entity List. BIS places entities and other persons on the Entity List pursuant to sections of part 744 (Control Policy: End-User and End-Use Based) and part 746 (Embargoes and Other Special Controls) of the EAR.

    The ERC, composed of representatives of the Departments of Commerce (Chair), State, Defense, Energy and, where appropriate, the Treasury, makes all decisions regarding additions to, removals from, or other modifications to the Entity List. The ERC makes all decisions to add an entry to the Entry List by majority vote and all decisions to remove or modify an entry by unanimous vote.

    ERC Entity List Decisions Additions to the Entity List

    This rule implements the decision of the ERC to add eight persons under eight entries to the Entity List. These eight persons are being added on the basis of § 744.11 (License requirements that apply to entities acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States) of the EAR. The eight entries added to the entity list are located in the U.A.E.

    The ERC reviewed § 744.11(b) (Criteria for revising the Entity List) in making the determination to add these eight persons to the Entity List. Under that paragraph, persons and those acting on behalf of such persons may be added to the Entity List if there is reasonable cause to believe, based on specific and articulable facts, that they have been involved, are involved, or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in, activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. Paragraphs (b)(1) through (b)(5) of § 744.11 include an illustrative list of activities that could be contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. Pursuant to § 744.11 of the EAR, the ERC determined that the eight entities, located in the destination of the U.A.E., be added to the Entity List for actions contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.

    Specifically, the ERC determined that two entities located in the U.A.E., Euro Vision Technology LLC and Noun Nasreddine, should be be added to the Entity List on the basis of their attempts to procure U.S.-origin technology on behalf of designated persons, contrary to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. Specifically, these persons in the U.A.E. have been involved in supplying U.S.-origin items to persons designated by the Secretary of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) and present a risk of supplying U.S.-origin items to embargoed destinations without the required authorizations. An additional two entities located in the U.A.E., Dow Technology and Hassan Dow, are also being added to the Entity List on the basis of their procurements of U.S.-origin technology on behalf of persons that have been involved in supplying U.S.-origin items to persons designated by the Secretary of State as FTOs.

    Pursuant to § 744.11 of the EAR, the ERC determined that the conduct of these four persons raises sufficient concern that prior review of exports, reexports or transfers (in-country) of items subject to the EAR involving these persons, and the possible imposition of license conditions or license denials on shipments to the persons, will enhance BIS's ability to prevent violations of the EAR.

    In addition, the ERC has determined that for four other entities located in the U.A.E., FWS Trading FZE, Rainbow General Trading Company, Hamed Kianynejad and Mojtaba Alikhani, there is reasonable cause to believe, based on specific and articulable facts, that they prevented the successful accomplishment of end-use checks by BIS officials. Prevention of an end-use check is one of the criteria for addition to the Entity List in the illustrative list of activities contrary to U.S. national security and foreign policy found in § 744.11 of the EAR.

    Pursuant to § 744.11 (b)(4) of the EAR, the ERC determined that the conduct of these four persons (FWS Trading, Rainbow General, Kianynejad and Alikhani) raises sufficient concern that prior review of exports, reexports or transfers (in-country) of items subject to the EAR involving these persons, and the possible imposition of license conditions or license denials on shipments to the persons, will enhance BIS's ability to prevent violations of the EAR.

    For the eight persons added to the Entity List, BIS imposes a license requirement for all items subject to the EAR and a license review policy of presumption of denial. The license requirements apply to any transaction in which items are to be exported, reexported, or transferred (in-country) to any of the persons or in which such persons act as purchaser, intermediate consignee, ultimate consignee, or end-user. In addition, no license exceptions are available for exports, reexports, or transfers (in-country) to the persons being added to the Entity List in this rule. The acronym “a.k.a.” (also known as) is used in entries on the Entity List to help exporters, reexporters and transferors better identify listed persons on the Entity List.

    This final rule adds the following eight persons under eight entries to the Entity List:

    United Arab Emirates (1) Dow Technology, W-38 Musalla Tower, Dubai, U.A.E.; and P.O. Box 5780, Dubai, U.A.E.; (2) Euro Vision Technology LLC, #701 Damas Tower, 702 Al Maktoum St, Dubai, U.A.E.; and 701 Attar Tower, Maktoum St, Dubai, U.A.E.; and City Tower, Al Maktoum St. Office No. 701, Dubai U.A.E.; and P.O. Box 40595, Dubai, U.A.E.; and Warehouse No. 8, Plot No. 238, Rashidiya, Dubai, U.A.E.; (3) FWS Trading FZE, Rainbow No. 1212, Ajman Free Zone, Ajman, U.A.E.; and City Tower 2, Office #2004, Dubai, U.A.E.; (4) Hamed Kianynejad, Rainbow No. 1212, Ajman Free Zone, Ajman, U.A.E.; and City Tower 2, Office #2004, Dubai, U.A.E.; and City Tower 2, 20th Floor, Office #2005, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, U.A.E.; (5) Hassan Dow, W-38 Musalla Tower, Dubai, U.A.E.; and P.O. Box 5780, Dubai, U.A.E.; (6) Mojtaba Alikhani, Rainbow No. 1212, Ajman Free Zone, Ajman, U.A.E.; and City Tower 2, Office #2004, Dubai, U.A.E.; (7) Noun Nasreddine, a.k.a., the following one alias: —N.A. Nasreddine. #701 Damas Tower, 702 Al Maktoum St, Dubai, U.A.E.; and 701 Attar Tower, Maktoum St, Dubai, U.A.E.; and City Tower, Al Maktoum St. Office No. 701, Dubai U.A.E.; and P.O. Box 40595, Dubai, U.A.E.; and Warehouse No. 8, Plot No. 238, Rashidiya, Dubai, U.A.E.; and (8) Rainbow General Trading Company, City Tower 2, 20th Floor, Office #2005, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, U.A.E. Removals From the Entity List

    This rule implements a decision of the ERC to remove the following nine persons from the Entity List based on a removal request submitted by Indira, Jaideep and Nitin Mirchandani and their six companies: Agneet Sky Limited, located in Ireland; and Aeolus FZE, Aerospace Company FZE, Aircon Beibars FZE, Group Sky One, and Veteran Avia LLC, all located in the U.A.E. These entities were added to the Entity List on September 28, 2014 (79 FR 55999) pursuant to § 744.11 (b)(5) of the EAR. Jaideep Mirchandani and his family members, Indira Mirchandani and Nitin Mirchandani, and the entities owned, operated or controlled by them, were found to be involved in activities supporting the Syrian regime and attempting to export a U.S.-origin aircraft to Syria that would be used to further support the Syrian regime. The ERC's decision to remove these nine persons from the Entity List was based on information provided by the entities in their appeal request pursuant to § 744.16 (Procedure for requesting removal or modification of an Entity List entity) and further review conducted by the ERC.

    In accordance with § 744.16(c), the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Export Administration has sent written notification informing these persons of the ERC's decision.

    This final rule implements the decision to remove the following nine entities located in Ireland and the U.A.E. from the Entity List.

    Ireland (1) Agneet Sky Limited, 12, Fitzwilliam Place Dublin, 2 Ireland. United Arab Emirates (1) Aeolus FZE, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Aeolus Air Group. Sharjah Airport Saif Zone, P.O. Box 120435 Sharjah, U.A.E.; (2) Aerospace Company FZE, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Aerospace Consortium. 18, Fujairah Free Zone, P.O. Box 1729, Fujairah, U.A.E.; and Fujairah Free Zone, P.O. Box 7168, Fujairah, U.A.E.; (3) Aircon Beibars FZE, Plot of Land L4—03, 04, 05, 06, P.O. Box 121095, Sharjah, U.A.E.; (4) Indira Mirchandani, Town House 1033 Uptown Mirdif, Mirdif, Algeria Street, Dubai, U.A.E.; (5) Jaideep Mirchandani, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Jaidip Mirchandani. Villa No. W10 Emirates Hills, Dubai, U.A.E.; (6) Nitin Mirchandani, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Nithin Merchandani. H2601 Executive Towers, Business Bay, Dubai, U.A.E.; (7) Group Sky One, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Sky One FZE. Q4 76, Sharjah Airport Free Zone, Sharjah, U.A.E., and Executive Desk, Q1-05, 030/C, P.O. Box 122849, Sharjah, U.A.E.; and (8) Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. Sharjah SAIF Zone, Sharjah, U.A.E.; and Y2-307, Saif Zone, Sharjah International Airport, P.O. Box 122598, Sharjah, U.A.E. (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, India, Pakistan, and U.K., which have been revised to reflect this removal).

    The removal of the nine persons referenced above, which was approved by the ERC, eliminates the existing license requirements in Supplement No. 4 to part 744 for exports, reexports and transfers (in-country) to these entities. However, the removal of these nine persons from the Entity List does not relieve persons of other obligations under part 744 of the EAR or under other parts of the EAR. Neither the removal of an entity from the Entity List nor the removal of Entity List-based license requirements relieves persons of their obligations under General Prohibition 5 in § 736.2(b)(5) of the EAR which provides that, “you may not, without a license, knowingly export or reexport any item subject to the EAR to an end-user or end-use that is prohibited by part 744 of the EAR.” Additionally, these removals do not relieve persons of their obligation to apply for export, reexport or in-country transfer licenses required by other provisions of the EAR. BIS strongly urges the use of Supplement No. 3 to part 732 of the EAR, “BIS's `Know Your Customer' Guidance and Red Flags,” when persons are involved in transactions that are subject to the EAR.

    Corrections and Conforming Changes to the Entity List

    This final rule implements corrections and conforming changes for six existing entries on the Entity List. Under the destination of Iran, the entry for Simin Neda Industrial and Electrical Parts is amended by correcting the Federal Register citation. Under the destinations of Armenia, Greece, India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, the five entries for the entity Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., Veteran Airline, are amended to reflect the removal of the Veteran Avia LLC entity located in the U.A.E.

    Correction for Federal Register citation. The original citation for the final rule that added Simin Neda Industrial and Electrical Parts to the Entity list was erroneously listed as 72 FR 38008, 7/12/07 in the following rule: Addition of Certain Persons to the Entity List; and Implementation of Entity List Annual Review Changes, April 25, 2012 (72 FR 24590). Simin Neda Industrial and Electrical Parts was added to the Entity List in the following rule: Addition of Certain Persons to the Entity List; Removal of General Order From the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), September 22, 2008 (73 FR 54507). This final rule corrects the original Federal Register citiation for this entity to correctly reference the Federal Register citation for the September 22, 2008 final rule. This final rule does not make any other changes to this Iranian entity. The entity name remains the same, the license requirement remains for all items subject to the EAR, and the license application review policy remains a presumption of denial.

    Conforming changes for an approved removal. This final rule revises five entries in the in the Entity List for the entity Veteran Avia LLC to remove all references to the U.A.E. location of Veteran Avia LLC. As described above, the U.A.E. location of Veteran LLC was approved for removal from the Entity List. Therefore, this final rule makes conforming changes to the remaining five entries for the entity Veteran Avia LLC to remove the cross reference to the U.A.E. This final rule does not make any other changes to these five entries. The license requirement remains for all items subject to the EAR, and the license application review policy remains a presumption of denial.

    This final rule makes the following revisions to six entries on the Entity List:

    Armenia (1) Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. 64, Baghramyam Avenue, Apt 16, Yerevan 0033, Armenia; and 1 Eervand Kochari Street Room 1, 375070 Yerevan, Armenia (See also addresses under Greece, India, Pakistan, and U.K.). Greece (1) Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. 24, A. Koumbi Street, Markopoulo 190 03, Attika, Greece (See also addresses under Armenia, India, Pakistan, and U.K.). India (1) Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. A-107, Lajpat Nagar—I New Delhi 110024, India; and Room No. 34 Import Cargo, IGI Aiport Terminal—II, New Delhi 110037, India; and 25B, Camac Street 3E, Camac Court Kolkatta, 700016, India; and Ali's Chamber #202, 2nd Floor Sahar Cargo Complex Andheri East Mumbai, 400099, India (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, Pakistan, and U.K.). Iran (1) Simin Neda Industrial and Electrical Parts, a.k.a., the following alias: —TTSN. No. 22, Second Floor, Amjad Bldg., Jomhoori Ave., Tehran, Iran. Pakistan (1) Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. Room No. 1, ALC Building, PIA Cargo Complex Jiap, Karachi, Pakistan (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, India, and U.K.). United Kingdom (1) Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. 1 Beckett Place, South Hamptonshire, London, U.K. (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, India, and Pakistan). Savings Clause

    Shipments of items removed from eligibility for a License Exception or export or reexport without a license (NLR) as a result of this regulatory action that were en route aboard a carrier to a port of export or reexport, on February 23, 2016 pursuant to actual orders for export or reexport to a foreign destination, may proceed to that destination under the previous eligibility for a License Exception or export or reexport without a license (NLR).

    Export Administration Act

    Although the Export Administration Act expired on August 20, 2001, 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, 2015, 80 FR 48233 (August 11, 2015), has continued the Export Administration Regulations in effect under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. 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, of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. This rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866.

    2. Notwithstanding any other provision 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 Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) (PRA), unless that collection of information displays a currently valid Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Control Number. This regulation involves collections previously approved by OMB under control number 0694-0088, Simplified Network Application Processing System, which includes, among other things, license applications and carries a burden estimate of 43.8 minutes for a manual or electronic submission.

    Total burden hours associated with the PRA and OMB control number 0694-0088 are not expected to increase as a result of this rule. You may send comments regarding the collection of information associated with this rule, including suggestions for reducing the burden, to Jasmeet K. Seehra, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), by email to [email protected], or by fax to (202) 395-7285.

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

    4. For the eight persons added to the Entity List in this final rule, the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553) requiring notice of proposed rulemaking, the opportunity for public comment and a delay in effective date are inapplicable because this regulation involves a military or foreign affairs function of the United States. (See 5 U.S.C. 553(a)(1)). BIS implements this rule to protect U.S. national security or foreign policy interests by preventing items from being exported, reexported, or transferred (in country) to the persons being added to the Entity List. If this rule were delayed to allow for notice and comment and a delay in effective date, the entities being added to the Entity List by this action would continue to be able to receive items without a license and to conduct activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. In addition, publishing a proposed rule would give these parties notice of the U.S. Government's intention to place them on the Entity List and would create an incentive for these persons to either accelerate receiving items subject to the EAR to conduct activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States, and/or to take steps to set up additional aliases, change addresses, and other measures to try to limit the impact of the listing on the Entity List once a final rule was published. Further, no other law requires that a notice of proposed rulemaking and an opportunity for public comment be given for this rule. Because a notice of proposed rulemaking and an opportunity for public comment are not required to be given for this rule by 5 U.S.C. 553, or by any other law, the analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., are not applicable. Accordingly, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required and none has been prepared.

    5. For the nine removals from the Entity List in this final rule, 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 it would be contrary to the public interest.

    In determining whether to grant removal requests from the Entity List, a committee of U.S. Government agencies (the End-User Review Committee (ERC)) evaluates information about and commitments made by listed persons requesting removal from the Entity List, the nature and terms of which are set forth in 15 CFR part 744, Supplement No. 5, as noted in 15 CFR 744.16(b). The information, commitments, and criteria for this extensive review were all established through the notice of proposed rulemaking and public comment process (72 FR 31005 (June 5, 2007) (proposed rule), and 73 FR 49311 (August 21, 2008) (final rule)). These nine removals have been made within the established regulatory framework of the Entity List. If the rule were to be delayed to allow for public comment, U.S. exporters may face unnecessary economic losses as they turn away potential sales because the customer remained a listed person on the Entity List even after the ERC approved the removal pursuant to the rule published at 73 FR 49311 on August 21, 2008. By publishing without prior notice and comment, BIS allows the applicant to receive U.S. exports immediately because the applicant already has received approval by the ERC pursuant to 15 CFR part 744, Supplement No. 5, as noted in 15 CFR 744.16(b).

    The removals from the Entity List granted by the ERC involve interagency deliberation and result from review of public and non-public sources, including sensitive law enforcement information and classified information, and the measurement of such information against the Entity List removal criteria. This information is extensively reviewed according to the criteria for evaluating removal requests from the Entity List, as set out in 15 CFR part 744, Supplement No. 5 and 15 CFR 744.16(b). For reasons of national security, BIS is not at liberty to provide to the public detailed information on which the ERC relied to make the decisions to remove these nine entities. In addition, the information included in the removal request is information exchanged between the applicant and the ERC, which by law (section 12(c) of the Export Administration Act), BIS is restricted from sharing with the public. Moreover, removal requests from the Entity List contain confidential business information, which is necessary for the extensive review conducted by the U.S. Government in assessing such removal requests.

    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)(1) because this rule is a substantive rule which relieves a restriction. This rule's removal of nine persons from the Entity List removes a requirement (the Entity-List-based license requirement and limitation on use of license exceptions) on these nine persons being removed from the Entity List. The rule does not impose a requirement on any other person for these nine removals from the Entity List.

    In addition, the Department finds that there is good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) to waive the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requiring prior notice and the opportunity for public comment for the six corrections and conforming changes included in this rule because they are either unnecessary or contrary to the public interest. The following six corrections and conforming changes are non-substantive or are limited to ensure consistency with a past rulemaking, and thus prior notice and the opportunity for public comment is unnecessary. One correction is limited to correcting the Federal Register citation to ensure consistency with a past rulemaking. The other five conforming changes are limited to making a conforming change to reflect the removal of the Veteran Avia LLC entity located in the U.A.E. These five conforming changes are needed to correct the cross reference parenthetical phrase included in each of these five entries.

    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 744

    Exports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Terrorism.

    Accordingly, part 744 of the Export Administration Regulations (15 CFR parts 730-774) is amended as follows:

    PART 744—[AMENDED] 1. The authority citation for 15 CFR part 744 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    50 U.S.C. app. 2401 et seq.; 50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.; 22 U.S.C. 3201 et seq.; 42 U.S.C. 2139a; 22 U.S.C. 7201 et seq.; 22 U.S.C. 7210; E.O. 12058, 43 FR 20947, 3 CFR, 1978 Comp., p. 179; E.O. 12851, 58 FR 33181, 3 CFR, 1993 Comp., p. 608; E.O. 12938, 59 FR 59099, 3 CFR, 1994 Comp., p. 950; E.O. 12947, 60 FR 5079, 3 CFR, 1995 Comp., p. 356; E.O. 13026, 61 FR 58767, 3 CFR, 1996 Comp., p. 228; E.O. 13099, 63 FR 45167, 3 CFR, 1998 Comp., p. 208; E.O. 13222, 66 FR 44025, 3 CFR, 2001 Comp., p. 783; E.O. 13224, 66 FR 49079, 3 CFR, 2001 Comp., p. 786; Notice of January 21, 2015, 80 FR 3461 (January 22, 2015); Notice of August 7, 2015, 80 FR 48233 (August 11, 2015); Notice of September 18, 2015, 80 FR 57281 (September 22, 2015); Notice of November 12, 2015, 80 FR 70667, November 13, 2015.

    2. Supplement No. 4 to part 744 is amended: a. By revising under Armenia, one Armenian entity, “Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. 64, Baghramyam Avenue, Apt 16, Yerevan 0033, Armenia; and 1 Eervand Kochari Street Room 1, 375070 Yerevan, Armenia (See also addresses under Greece, India, Pakistan, and U.K.)”; b. By revising, under Greece, one Greek entity, “Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. 24, A. Koumbi Street, Markopoulo 190 03, Attika, Greece (See also addresses under Armenia, India, Pakistan, and U.K.)”; c. By revising, under India, one Indian entity, “Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. A-107, Lajpat Nagar—I New Delhi 110024, India; and Room No. 34 Import Cargo, IGI Aiport Terminal—II, New Delhi 110037, India; and 25B, Camac Street 3E, Camac Court Kolkatta, 700016, India; and Ali's Chamber #202, 2nd Floor Sahar Cargo Complex Andheri East Mumbai, 400099, India (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, Pakistan, and U.K.)”; d. By revising under Iran, the Iranian entity “Simin Neda Industrial and Electrical Parts, a.k.a., the following alias: —TTSN. No. 22, Second Floor, Amjad Bldg., Jomhoori Ave., Tehran, Iran.”; e. By removing, under Ireland, one Irish entity, “Agneet Sky Limited, 12, Fitzwilliam Place Dublin, 2 Ireland.”; f. By revising, under Pakistan, one Pakistani entity, “Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. Room No. 1, ALC Building, PIA Cargo Complex Jiap, Karachi, Pakistan (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, India, U.A.E., and U.K.)”; g. By adding under the United Arab Emirates, in alphabetical order, eight Emirati entities; h. By removing under the United Arab Emirates, eight Emirati entities, “Aeolus FZE, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Aeolus Air Group. Sharjah Airport Saif Zone, P.O. Box 120435 Sharjah, U.A.E.”;

    “Aerospace Company FZE, a.k.a., the following one alias:

    —Aerospace Consortium. 18, Fujairah Free Zone, P.O. Box 1729, Fujairah, U.A.E.; and Fujairah Free Zone, P.O. Box 7168, Fujairah, U.A.E.”;

    “Aircon Beibars FZE, Plot of Land L4—03, 04, 05, 06, P.O. Box 121095, Sharjah, U.A.E.”; “Indira Mirchandani, Town House 1033 Uptown Mirdif, Mirdif, Algeria Street, Dubai, U.A.E.”; “Jaideep Mirchandani, a.k.a., the following one alias:

    —Jaidip Mirchandani. Villa No. W10 Emirates Hills, Dubai, U.A.E.”;

    “Nitin Mirchandani, a.k.a., the following one alias:

    —Nithin Merchandani. H2601 Executive Towers, Business Bay, Dubai, U.A.E.”;

    “Group Sky One, a.k.a., the following one alias:

    —Sky One FZE. Q4 76, Sharjah Airport Free Zone, Sharjah, U.A.E., and Executive Desk, Q1-05, 030/C, P.O. Box 122849, Sharjah, U.A.E.”; and

    “Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias:

    —Veteran Airline. Sharjah SAIF Zone, Sharjah, U.A.E.; and Y2-307, Saif Zone, Sharjah International Airport, P.O. Box 122598, Sharjah, U.A.E. (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, India, Pakistan, and U.K.); and i. By revising, under the United Kingdom, one British entity, “Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias: —Veteran Airline. 1 Beckett Place, South Hamptonshire, London, U.K. (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, India, and Pakistan).”

    The additions and revisions read as follows:

    Supplement No. 4 to Part 744—Entity List Country Entity License requirement License review policy Federal Register citation *         *         *         *         *         *         * ARMENIA  *        *         *         *         *         * Veteran Avia LLC a.k.a., the following alias:
  • —Veteran Airline.
  • For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR). Presumption of denial 79 FR 56003, 9/18/14.
  • 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.
  • 64, Baghramyam Avenue, Apt 16, Yerevan 0033, Armenia; and 1 Eervand Kochari Street Room 1, 375070 Yerevan, Armenia (See also addresses under Greece, India, Pakistan, and U.K.) *         *         *         *         *         *         * GREECE  *         *         *         *         *         * Veteran Avia LLC a.k.a., the following alias:
  • —Veteran Airline.
  • For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR). Presumption of denial 79 FR 56003, 9/18/14.
  • 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER, 2/23/16.
  • 24, A. Koumbi Street, Markopoulo 190 03, Attika, Greece (See also addresses under Armenia, India, Pakistan, and U.K.) *         *         *         *         *         *         * INDIA  *         *         *         *         *         * Veteran Avia LLC a.k.a., the following alias:
  • —Veteran Airline.
  • For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR). Presumption of denial 79 FR 56003, 9/18/14.
  • 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.
  • A-107, Lajpat Nagar—I New Delhi 110024, India; and Room No. 34 Import Cargo, IGI Airport Terminal—II, New Delhi 110037, India; and 25B, Camac Street 3E, Camac Court Kolkatta, 700016, India; and Ali's Chamber #202, 2nd Floor Sahar Cargo Complex Andheri East Mumbai, 400099, India (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, Pakistan, and U.K.) IRAN  *         *         *         *         *         * Simin Neda Industrial and Electrical Parts, a.k.a., the following alias:
  • —TTSN
  • For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR). Presumption of denial 73 FR 54507, 9/22/08.
  • 77 FR 24590, 4/25/12.
  • No. 22, Second Floor, Amjad Bldg., Jomhoori Ave., Tehran, Iran  *         *         *         *         *         * *         *         *         *         *         *         * PAKISTAN  *         *         *         *         *         * Veteran Avia LLC, a.k.a., the following one alias:
  • —Veteran Airline
  • For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 79 FR 56003, 9/18/14.
  • 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.
  • Room No. 1, ALC Building, PIA Cargo Complex Jiap, Karachi, Pakistan (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, India, and U.K.)  *         *         *         *         *         * *         *         *         *         *         *         * UNITED ARAB  *         *         *         *         *         * EMIRATES Dow Technology, W-38 Musalla Tower, Dubai, U.A.E.; and P.O. Box 5780, Dubai, U.A.E. For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.  *         *         *         *         *         * Euro Vision Technology LLC, #701 Damas Tower, 702 Al Maktoum St., Dubai, U.A.E.; and 701 Attar Tower, Maktoum St. Dubai, U.A.E.; and City Tower, Al Maktoum St., Office No. 701, Dubai U.A.E.; and P.O. Box 40595, Dubai, U.A.E.; and Warehouse No. 8, Plot No. 238, Rashidiya, Dubai, U.A.E. For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.  *         *         *         *         *         * FWS Trading FZE, Rainbow No. 1212, Ajman Free Zone, Ajman, U.A.E.; and City Tower 2, Office #2004, Dubai, U.A.E. For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.  *         *         *         *         *         * Hamed Kianynejad, Rainbow No. 1212, Ajman Free Zone, Ajman, U.A.E.; City Tower 2, Office #2004, Dubai, U.A.E.; and City Tower 2, 20th Floor, Office #2005, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, U.A.E. For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.  *         *         *         *         *         * Hassan Dow, W-38 Musalla Tower, Dubai, U.A.E.; and P.O. Box 5780, Dubai, U.A.E. For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.  *         *         *         *         *         * Mojtaba Alikhani, Rainbow No. 1212, Ajman Free Zone, Ajman, U.A.E.; and City Tower 2, Office #2004, Dubai, U.A.E. For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.  *         *         *         *         *         * Noun Nasreddine, a.k.a., the following one alias:
  • —N.A. Nasreddine.
  • For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.
    #701 Damas Tower, 702 Al Maktoum St., Dubai, U.A.E.; and 701 Attar Tower, Maktoum St. Dubai, U.A.E.; and City Tower, Al Maktoum St., Office No. 701, Dubai U.A.E.; and P.O. Box 40595, Dubai, U.A.E.; and Warehouse No. 8, Plot No. 238, Rashidiya, Dubai, U.A.E.  *         *         *         *         *         * Rainbow General Trading Company,
  • City Tower 2, 20th Floor, Office #2005, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, U.A.E.
  • For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.
     *         *         *         *         *         * UNITED KINGDOM  *         *         *         *         *         * Veteran Avia LLC a.k.a., the following alias:
  • —Veteran Airline
  • For all items subject to the EAR. (See § 744.11 of the EAR) Presumption of denial 79 FR 56003, 9/18/14.
  • 81 FR [INSERT FR PAGE NUMBER], 2/23/16.
  • 1 Beckett Place, South Hamptonshire, London, U.K. (See also addresses under Armenia, Greece, India, and Pakistan).  *         *         *         *         *         *
    Dated: February 16, 2016. Kevin J. Wolf, Assistant Secretary for Export Administration.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03745 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-33-P
    JOINT BOARD FOR THE ENROLLMENT OF ACTUARIES 20 CFR Part 900 [TD 9749] RIN 1545-BM81 Regulations Governing Organization of the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries AGENCY:

    Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    This document contains final regulations relating to the organization of the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries. The regulations are being amended in order to conform one provision of the regulations to the Bylaws of the Joint Board. These regulations solely address the internal management of the Joint Board and do not affect pension plans, plan participants, actuaries, or the general public.

    DATES:

    Effective date: These regulations are effective April 25, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Patrick McDonough, Executive Director, Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries, at (703) 414-2173 (not a toll-free number).

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Background and Explanation

    The Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries was established on October 31, 1974 pursuant to section 3041 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (88 Stat. 829), Public Law 93-406 (ERISA). Section 3041 of ERISA provides that the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury shall, not later than the last day of the first calendar month beginning after the date of enactment of ERISA, establish a Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries (Joint Board).

    Regulations under ERISA section 3041 were published in the Federal Register on April 30, 1975 (40 FR 18776) and are currently located in the Code of Federal Regulations at 20 CFR part 900 (the 1975 Joint Board regulations). These regulations provide that, pursuant to the Bylaws, three members are appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury, two members are appointed by the Secretary of Labor, the Chairman of the Joint Board is to be elected from among the Treasury Department representatives, and the Secretary is to be elected from among the Labor Department representatives.

    On April 27, 1981, the Secretaries of Treasury and Labor approved restated Bylaws of the Joint Board (the 1981 Bylaws). Sections 3(b) and 3(c) of the 1981 Bylaws provide that the Chairman and Secretary, respectively, will be elected for a one-year term by the Joint Board from among its members, eliminating the requirement that the Chairman be a Treasury Department representative and the Secretary be a Labor Department representative.

    These final regulations amend § 900.3 of the 1975 Joint Board regulations in order to conform the regulations to the 1981 Bylaws.

    Special Analyses

    These regulations are being published as a final rule because the amendments apply solely to the Joint Board's organization and management. Moreover, the Joint Board finds good cause that these changes do not impose any requirements on any member of the public. These amendments are the most efficient means for the Joint Board to harmonize the regulations and Bylaws involving the Board's internal election procedure.

    Accordingly, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(a)(2), 553(b)(3)(A), and 553(b)(3)(B), the Joint Board finds good cause that prior notice and other public procedures with respect to this rule are unnecessary. Because a notice of proposed rulemaking is not required, the provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601-612, do not apply.

    This rule is not a significant regulatory action pursuant to Executive Order 12866, as supplemented and reaffirmed by Executive Order 13563. Therefore, a regulatory impact assessment is not required.

    List of Subjects in 20 CFR Part 900

    Organization and functions (Government agencies).

    Adoption of Amendments to the Regulations

    Accordingly, 20 CFR part 900 is amended as follows:

    PART 900—STATEMENT OF ORGANIZATION Paragraph 1. The authority citation for part 900 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    Sec. 3041-2, Pub. L. 93-406, 88 Stat. 829, 1002 (29 U.S.C. 1241-2).

    Par. 2. Section 900.3 is revised to read as follows:
    § 900.3 Composition.

    Pursuant to the Bylaws, the Joint Board consists of three members appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury and two members appointed by the Secretary of Labor. The Board elects a Chairman and a Secretary from among the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Labor members. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation may designate a non-voting representative to sit with, and participate in, the discussions of the Board. All decisions of the Board are made by simple majority vote.

    Approved: February 12, 2016. Carolyn E. Zimmerman, Chairman, Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03655 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4830-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 101 [Docket No. FDA-2016-N-0585] Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims; Alpha-Linolenic Acid, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and Docosahexaenoic Acid Omega-3 Fatty Acids; Small Entity Compliance Guide; Availability AGENCY:

    Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

    ACTION:

    Notification of availability.

    SUMMARY:

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA, the Agency, or we) is announcing the availability of a guidance for industry entitled “Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims; Alpha-Linolenic Acid, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and Docosahexaenoic Acid Omega-3 Fatty Acids—Small Entity Compliance Guide.” The small entity compliance guide (SECG) is intended to help small entities comply with the final rule titled “Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims; Alpha-Linolenic Acid, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and Docosahexaenoic Acid Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

    DATES:

    Submit either electronic or written comments on FDA guidances at any time.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments as follows:

    Electronic Submissions

    Submit electronic comments in the following way:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Comments submitted electronically, including attachments, to http://www.regulations.gov will be posted to the docket unchanged. Because your comment will be made public, you are solely responsible for ensuring that your comment does not include any confidential information that you or a third party may not wish to be posted, such as medical information, your or anyone else's Social Security number, or confidential business information, such as a manufacturing process. Please note that if you include your name, contact information, or other information that identifies you in the body of your comments, that information will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov.

    • If you want to submit a comment with confidential information that you do not wish to be made available to the public, submit the comment as a written/paper submission and in the manner detailed (see “Written/Paper Submissions” and “Instructions”).

    Written/Paper Submissions

    Submit written/paper submissions as follows:

    Mail/Hand delivery/Courier (for written/paper submissions): Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

    • For written/paper comments submitted to the Division of Dockets Management, FDA will post your comment, as well as any attachments, except for information submitted, marked and identified, as confidential, if submitted as detailed in “Instructions.”

    Instructions: All submissions received must include the Docket No. FDA-2016-N-0585 for “Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims; Alpha-Linolenic Acid, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and Docosahexaenoic Acid Omega-3 Fatty Acids; Small Entity Compliance Guide.” Received comments will be placed in the docket and, except for those submitted as “Confidential Submissions,” publicly viewable at http://www.regulations.gov or at the Division of Dockets Management between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    • Confidential Submissions—To submit a comment with confidential information that you do not wish to be made publicly available, submit your comments only as a written/paper submission. You should submit two copies total. One copy will include the information you claim to be confidential with a heading or cover note that states “THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION.” The Agency will review this copy, including the claimed confidential information, in its consideration of comments. The second copy, which will have the claimed confidential information redacted/blacked out, will be available for public viewing and posted on http://www.regulations.gov. Submit both copies to the Division of Dockets Management. If you do not wish your name and contact information to be made publicly available, you can provide this information on the cover sheet and not in the body of your comments and you must identify this information as “confidential.” Any information marked as “confidential” will not be disclosed except in accordance with 21 CFR 10.20 and other applicable disclosure law. For more information about FDA's posting of comments to public dockets, see 80 FR 56469, September 18, 2015, or access the information at: http://www.fda.gov/regulatoryinformation/dockets/default.htm.

    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or the electronic and written/paper comments received, go to http://www.regulations.gov and insert the docket number, found in brackets in the heading of this document, into the “Search” box and follow the prompts and/or go to the Division of Dockets Management, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

    Submit written requests for single copies of the SECG to the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (HFS-830), Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy., College Park, MD 20740. Send two self-addressed adhesive labels to assist that office in processing your request. See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for electronic access to the SECG.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Vincent de Jesus, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (HFS-830), Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy., College Park, MD 20740, 240-402-1774.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background

    In the Federal Register of April 28, 2014 (79 FR 23262), (see also Docket Nos. FDA-2007-0601, FDA-2004-N-0382, FDA-2005-P-0371, and FDA-2006-P-0224 (formerly Docket Nos. 2004N-0217, 2005P-0189, and 2006P-0137)), we issued a final rule prohibiting certain nutrient content claims for foods, including conventional foods and dietary supplements, that contain omega-3 fatty acids based on our determination that such nutrient content claims do not meet the requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. The final rule became effective January 1, 2016.

    We examined the economic implications of the final rule as required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-612) and determined that the final rule may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. In compliance with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (Pub. L. 104-121, as amended by Pub. L. 110-28), we are making available the SECG to explain the actions that a small entity must take to comply with the rule.

    We are issuing the SECG consistent with our good guidance practices regulation (21 CFR 10.115(c)(2)). The SECG represents the current thinking of the FDA on this topic. It does not establish any rights for any person and is not binding on FDA or the public. You can use an alternative approach if it satisfies the requirements of the applicable statutes and regulations.

    II. Electronic Access

    Persons with access to the Internet may obtain the SECG at either http://www.fda.gov/FoodGuidances or http://www.regulations.gov. Use the FDA Web site listed in the previous sentence to find the most current version of the guidance.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Leslie Kux, Associate Commissioner for Policy.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03697 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4164-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF STATE 22 CFR Part 171 [Public Notice: 9448] RIN 1400-AD78 Privacy Act; STATE-75, Family Advocacy Case Records AGENCY:

    Department of State.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of State (the Department) finalizes its rule exempting portions of the Family Advocacy Case Records, State-75, from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974.

    DATES:

    This rule is effective on February 23, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    John Hackett, Director; Office of Information Programs and Services, A/GIS/IPS; Department of State, SA-2; 515 22nd Street NW., Washington, DC 20522-8001, or at [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The Department maintains the Family Advocacy Case Records system of records. The primary purpose of this system of records is to be utilized at post by members of the Family Advocacy Team and in the Department of State by the Family Advocacy Committee. The information may be shared within the Department on a need to know basis and in medical clearance determinations for overseas assignment of covered employees and family members, as well as for making determinations involving curtailment, medical evacuation, suitability, and security clearance.

    The Department published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on September 9, 2015, (80 FR 54256) proposing to amend 22 CFR part 171 to exempt portions of this system of records from the following subsections of the Privacy Act pursuant to subsections (k)(1) and (k)(2):

    • 5 U.S.C. 552a(c)(3) (requiring that an accounting of certain disclosures be made available to an individual upon request);

    • 5 U.S.C. 552a(d) (establishing requirements related to an individual's right to access and request amendment to certain records);

    • 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(1) (providing that an agency that maintains a system of records shall “maintain in its records only such information about an individual as is relevant and necessary to accomplish a purpose of the agency required to be accomplished by statute or by executive order of the President”);

    • 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(4)(G) (requiring that an agency that maintains a system of records publish in the Federal Register “the agency procedures whereby an individual can be notified at his request if the system of records contains a record pertaining to him”);

    • 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(4)(H) (requiring that an agency that maintains a system of records publish in the Federal Register “the agency procedures whereby an individual can be notified at his request how he can gain access to any record pertaining to him contained in the system of records, and how he can contest its content”);

    • 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(4)(I) (requiring that an agency that maintains a system of records publish in the Federal Register “the categories of sources of records in the system”); and

    • 5 U.S.C. 552a(f) (requiring that an agency that maintains a system of records promulgate certain regulations).

    STATE-75 is exempted under subsection (k)(1) to the extent that records within that system are subject to the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(1), which covers materials that: (i) Are specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense and foreign policy, and (ii) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order. STATE-75 is exempted under subsection (k)(2) to the extent that records within that system are comprised of investigatory material compiled for law enforcement purposes, subject to the limitations set forth in subsection (k)(2). The subsection (k)(2) exemption is intended to prevent individuals who are the subject of investigation from frustrating the investigatory process, facilitate the proper functioning and integrity of law enforcement activities, prevent disclosure of investigative techniques, maintain the confidence of foreign governments in the integrity of the procedures under which privileged or confidential information may be provided, fulfill commitments made to sources to protect their identities and the confidentiality of information, and avoid endangering sources and law enforcement personnel.

    For additional background, see the NPRM published on September 9, 2015. (80 FR 54256) and the system of records notice published on January 5, 2009 (74 FR 330). The Department received no public comments on these documents.

    List of Subjects in 22 CFR Part 171

    Privacy.

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, 22 CFR part 171 is amended as follows:

    PART 171—[AMENDED] 1. The authority citation for part 171 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 552, 552a; 22 U.S.C. 2651a; Pub. L. 95-521, 92 Stat. 1824, as amended; E.O. 13526, 75 FR 707; E.O. 12600, 52 FR 23781, 3 CFR, 1987 Comp., p. 235.

    § 171.36 [Amended]
    2. Section 171.36 is amended by adding an entry, in alphabetical order, for “Family Advocacy Case Records, State-75” to the lists in paragraphs (b)(1) and (2)
    Joyce A. Barr, Assistant Secretary for Administration, U.S. Department of State.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03630 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4710-36-P
    DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY Internal Revenue Service 26 CFR Part 1 [TD 9752] RIN 1545-BM54 Reporting of Specified Foreign Financial Assets AGENCY:

    Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury.

    ACTION:

    Final regulations.

    SUMMARY:

    This document contains final regulations providing guidance regarding the requirements for certain domestic entities to report specified foreign financial assets to the Internal Revenue Service. These regulations set forth the conditions under which a domestic entity will be considered a specified domestic entity required to undertake such reporting. These regulations affect certain domestic corporations, partnerships, and trusts.

    DATES:

    Effective date: These regulations are effective on February 23, 2016.

    Applicability date: For dates of applicability, see §§ 1.6038D-2(g) and 1.6038D-6(e).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Joseph S. Henderson, (202) 317-6942 (not a toll-free number).

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Background

    Section 6038D was enacted by section 511 of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, Public Law 111-147 (124 Stat. 71). Section 6038D(a) requires certain individuals to report information about specified foreign financial assets. Section 6038D(f) provides that, to the extent provided by the Secretary in regulations or other guidance, section 6038D shall apply to any domestic entity which is formed or availed of for purposes of holding, directly or indirectly, specified foreign financial assets, in the same manner as if the entity were an individual.

    On December 19, 2011, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury Department) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published temporary regulations (the “2011 temporary regulations”) (TD 9567) and a notice of proposed rulemaking by cross-reference to temporary regulations (REG-130302-10) in the Federal Register (76 FR 78553 and 76 FR 78594, respectively) addressing the reporting requirements under section 6038D. The notice of proposed rulemaking also included proposed § 1.6038D-6, which set forth the conditions under which a domestic entity will be considered a specified domestic entity and, therefore, required to report specified foreign financial assets in which it holds an interest. Corrections to the 2011 temporary regulations were published on February 21, 2012, in the Federal Register (77 FR 9845). Corrections to proposed § 1.6038D-6 were published on February 21, 2012, and February 22, 2012, in the Federal Register (77 FR 9877 and 77 FR 10422, respectively). The 2011 temporary regulations were issued as final regulations (TD 9706; 79 FR 73817) on December 12, 2014 (the “2014 final regulations”). The Treasury Department and the IRS did not adopt proposed § 1.6038D-6 (REG-144339-14) as a final regulation at that time.

    The Treasury Department and the IRS received written comments on proposed § 1.6038D-6. All comments are available at www.regulations.gov or upon request. Because no requests to speak were received, no public hearing was held. After consideration of the comments received, the Treasury Department and the IRS adopt proposed § 1.6038D-6 as a final regulation with the modifications described herein.

    Summary of Comments and Explanation of Revisions I. Organizational Changes Regarding the Reporting Threshold

    Proposed §§ 1.6038D-6(b)(1)(i) and 1.6038D-6(c)(1) provide that, in order to be treated as a specified domestic entity, an entity must have an interest in specified foreign financial assets (excluding assets excepted under § 1.6038D-7T) that exceeds the reporting threshold in § 1.6038D-2T(a)(1). Under the proposed regulations, a domestic entity applies the reporting threshold in § 1.6038D-2T(a)(1) to determine whether it is a specified domestic entity. In making this determination, the proposed regulations require a corporation or partnership to take into account the aggregation rules in proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(4)(i). Proposed §§ 1.6038D-6(b)(1)(i) and 1.6038D-6(c)(1), however, suggested that a specified domestic entity is required to again apply § 1.6038D-2T(a)(1) to determine whether it has a reporting requirement.

    The Treasury Department and the IRS did not intend for domestic entities to apply the reporting threshold described in § 1.6038D-2(a)(1) twice in order to determine their section 6038D reporting responsibilities. Therefore, these final regulations eliminate the requirement to apply § 1.6038D-2(a)(1) as part of determining whether an entity is a specified domestic entity. Instead, a domestic entity that meets the definition of a specified domestic entity, which under these final regulations is determined without regard to whether the reporting threshold in § 1.6038D-2(a)(1) is met, applies the reporting threshold under § 1.6038D-2(a)(1) once, as part of determining whether it has a filing obligation. The aggregation rule for corporations and partnerships and the rule excluding assets excepted under § 1.6038D-7 from the reporting threshold have been moved to § 1.6038D-2(a)(6). These changes are organizational and no change is intended to the substantive reporting requirements for a specified domestic entity.

    II. Elimination of Principal Purpose Test

    Proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(1)(iii) provides that a corporation or partnership is treated as formed or availed of for purposes of holding, directly or indirectly, specified foreign financial assets if either: (1) At least 50 percent of the corporation or partnership's gross income or assets is passive; or (2) at least 10 percent of the corporation or partnership's gross income or assets is passive and the corporation or partnership is formed or availed of by a specified individual with a principal purpose of avoiding section 6038D (the principal purpose test). Under proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(1)(iii), all facts and circumstances are taken into account to determine whether a specified individual has a principal purpose of avoiding section 6038D.

    The Treasury Department and the IRS believe that a 50-percent passive assets or income threshold appropriately captures situations in which specified individuals may use a domestic corporation or partnership to circumvent the reporting requirements of section 6038D. Furthermore, the Treasury Department and the IRS have concluded that taxpayers should be able to determine their reporting requirements under section 6038D based on objective requirements rather than a subjective principal purpose test. Therefore, these final regulations eliminate the principal purpose test for determining whether a corporation or partnership is a specified domestic entity. However, the Treasury Department and the IRS will continue to monitor whether domestic corporations and partnerships not required to report under these final regulations are being used inappropriately by specified individuals to avoid reporting under section 6038D. If needed, the Treasury Department and the IRS may expand the definition of a specified domestic entity in future guidance.

    III. Definition of Passive Income

    Proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(2) defines “passive income” by listing specific items of income that are treated as passive. Following the issuance of proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(2), on February 15, 2012, comprehensive regulations (77 FR 9022 (REG-121647-10)) were proposed under sections 1471 through 1474, which were also enacted as part of the HIRE Act that enacted section 6038D. A definition of passive income was included in the proposed regulations under section 1472 for purposes of identifying certain active nonfinancial foreign entities (NFFEs), which are excepted from withholding under section 1472(a) and therefore do not have to report their substantial U.S. owners in order to avoid withholding. The definition of passive income in proposed § 1.1472-1(c)(1)(v) contained a list of items that was similar, although not identical, to the list contained in proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(2). On January 28, 2013, the proposed regulations under sections 1471 through 1474 were finalized (78 FR 5874, TD 9610). In the final regulations, the Treasury Department and the IRS clarified the scope of the definition of passive income, made modifications in response to comments received, and moved the provision to § 1.1472-1(c)(1)(iv)(A). In addition, exceptions for look-through payments and dealers were added in § 1.1472-1(c)(1)(iv)(B).

    The definitions of passive income under sections 1472 and 6038D serve a similar function, which is to identify entities that have a high risk of being used for tax evasion and to reduce compliance burdens for active entities. Therefore, these final regulations in § 1.6038D-6(b)(2) adopt several of the modifications to the term “passive income” that were included in § 1.1472-1(c)(1)(iv)(A). Specifically, these modifications: (1) Clarify that “dividends” includes substitute dividends and expand “interest” to cover income equivalent to interest, including substitute interest, (2) add a new exception for certain active business gains or losses from the sale of commodities, and (3) define notional principal contracts by adding a reference to § 1.446-3(c)(1). In addition, these final regulations add the exception for dealers that is described in § 1.1472-1(c)(1)(iv)(B)(2).

    In addition, the proposed regulations under both sections 1472 and 6038D excluded from the definition of passive income rents or royalties derived in the active conduct of a trade or business conducted by employees of the relevant entity. A comment submitted in response to proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(2)(iii) expressed concern that the exception applies only to rents and royalties derived in an active trade or business conducted exclusively by a corporation's or partnership's employees, and noted that it is difficult to find a trade or business that is conducted solely by a business's employees. These final regulations provide, consistent with § 1.1472-1(c)(1)(iv)(A)(4), that rents and royalties derived in the active conduct of a trade or business conducted “at least in part” by employees of the corporation or partnership will not be considered passive income.

    The exception for certain look-through income from related persons in § 1.1472-1(c)(1)(iv)(B)(1) is not adopted in these final regulations because § 1.6038D-6(b)(3)(ii) already eliminates passive income or assets arising from related party transactions for purposes of applying the passive income and asset thresholds to a corporation or partnership with related entities.

    Finally, the proposed regulations did not specify how to determine whether 50 percent of a corporation's or partnership's assets are passive assets. The Treasury Department and the IRS believe that the weighted average test for active NFFEs in the regulations under section 1472 provides an administrable way to determine the passive asset percentage. Therefore, these final regulations provide that the passive asset percentage is determined based on a weighted average approach similar to the rule in § 1.1472-1(c)(1)(iv). Under this test, corporations or partnerships may use either fair market value or book value (as reflected on the entity's balance sheet and as determined under either a U.S. or an international financial accounting standard) to determine the value of their assets. Corporations or partnerships may be required to substantiate their determination of the passive asset percentage upon request by the IRS. See section 6001.

    IV. Annual Determination of Specified Person's Interest in a Domestic Partnership

    Proposed § 1.6038D-6(a) provides that whether a domestic partnership is a specified domestic entity is determined annually, and proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(3)(ii) provides that a partnership is closely held if at least 80 percent of the capital or profits interest in the partnership is held directly, indirectly, or constructively by a specified individual on the last day of the partnership's taxable year.

    A commenter recommended that a partner's interest in a partnership should be calculated on a year-by-year basis for purposes of determining whether a domestic partnership is a specified domestic entity. The comment noted that it is often difficult to determine the precise capital or profits interest of a partner because it may shift depending on the performance of the partnership.

    The requirement to determine a partner's capital or profits interest on a particular day is present in other provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, Treasury regulations, and published guidance, and the Treasury Department and the IRS believe it is an appropriate measure of an individual's economic interest in a partnership and, in general, is not overly complex. Accordingly, these final regulations retain the rule in the proposed regulations for determining if a domestic partnership is closely held.

    V. Clarification to Aggregation Rules

    Proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(4) provides aggregation rules for purposes of applying proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(1)(i), the § 1.6038D-2(a)(1) reporting threshold, and the passive income and asset thresholds under proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(1)(iii). The proposed regulations provide that, for purposes of applying proposed § 1.6038D-6(b)(1)(i) and the reporting threshold, all domestic corporations and domestic partnerships that have an interest in specified foreign financial assets and are closely held by the same specified individual are treated as a single entity, and each such related corporation or partnership is treated as owning the specified foreign financial assets held by all such related corporations or partnerships. Similarly, the proposed regulations provide that, for purposes of applying the passive income and asset thresholds, all domestic corporations and domestic partnerships that are closely held by the same specified individual and connected through stock or partnership interest ownership with a common parent corporation or partnership are treated as a single entity, and each member of such a group is treated as owning the combined assets and receiving the combined income of all members of that group.

    The Treasury Department and the IRS have determined that it is not necessary both to treat a group as a single entity and to attribute the assets or income of members of the group to an entity. Therefore, these final regulations simplify the aggregation rules by eliminating the reference to treating all domestic corporations and partnerships as a single entity.

    VI. Domestic Trusts

    Proposed § 1.6038D-6(c) provides that a trust described in section 7701(a)(30)(E) is a specified domestic entity if and only if the trust has one or more specified persons as a current beneficiary. The term current beneficiary means, with respect to the taxable year, any person who at any time during such taxable year is entitled to, or at the discretion of any person may receive, a distribution from the principal or income of the trust (determined without regard to any power of appointment to the extent that such power remains unexercised at the end of the taxable year). The Treasury Department and the IRS intend that a specified domestic entity include a trust whereby a specified person has an immediately exercisable general power of appointment, even if such specified person is not technically a beneficiary. Therefore, these final regulations clarify that the term current beneficiary also includes any holder of a general power of appointment, whether or not exercised, that was exercisable at any time during the taxable year, but does not include any holder of a general power of appointment that is exercisable only on the death of the holder.

    VII. Expanding the Exceptions for Domestic Entities

    Proposed § 1.6038D-6(d) excepts certain entities from being treated as a specified domestic entity. A commenter recommended that the final regulations expand proposed § 1.6038D-6(d) to also except certain domestic trusts that are not required to file a Form 1041, “U.S. Fiduciary Income Tax Return,” or any information returns. The Treasury Department and the IRS do not adopt this comment because the 2014 final regulations already address the commenter's concerns. The 2014 final regulations provide in § 1.6038D-2(a)(7) that a specified person, including a specified domestic entity, is not required to file Form 8938, “Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets,” with respect to a taxable year if the specified person is not required to file an annual return with the IRS with respect to that taxable year. In the case of a specified domestic entity, the term “annual return” means an annual federal income tax return or information return filed with the IRS, including returns required under section 6012. See § 1.6038D-1(a)(11). A Form 1041 is an annual return for purposes of § 1.6038D-1(a)(11) of the final regulations.

    A commenter recommended that the final regulations except publicly traded partnerships from being specified domestic entities because they are similar to publicly traded corporations described in section 1473(3), which are excepted from the definition of specified domestic entity under proposed § 1.6038D-6(d)(1). The Treasury Department and the IRS do not adopt this comment. The requirement under proposed § 1.6038D-6(b) that to be a specified domestic entity at least 80 percent of the capital or profits interest in a partnership must be held by a specified individual on the last day of the partnership's taxable year establishes appropriate general criteria that, as a practical matter, should exempt most publicly traded partnerships from being specified domestic entities.

    A commenter recommended that the final regulations except an employer trust established for the benefit of more than a minimum number of employees, such as 50, from being a specified domestic entity even if the employer trust holds stock of a foreign company. The Treasury Department and the IRS believe the exception under proposed § 1.6038D-6(d)(1) for domestic entities that are not “specified United States persons” pursuant to section 1473(3), together with the exception for trusts whose trustees satisfy the supervisory oversight requirements and the income tax and information return filing requirements under proposed § 1.6038D-6(d)(2), are sufficiently broad to except employer trusts that represent a low risk of tax avoidance from characterization as a specified domestic entity. Therefore, this comment is not adopted.

    Special Analyses

    Certain IRS regulations, including this one, are exempt from the requirements of Executive Order 12866, as supplemented and reaffirmed by Executive Order 13563. Therefore, a regulatory impact assessment is not required.

    It is hereby certified that these regulations will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities within the meaning of section 601(6) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 6). In the case of domestic corporations and partnerships, these regulations apply only when two separate tests are met. The first requires that at least 80 percent of the entity must be owned, directly, indirectly, or constructively, by a specified individual, generally a U.S. citizen or resident. The second test compares the entity's business income and assets with its passive income and assets. If more than 50 percent of the entity's annual gross income for the year is active business income and more than 50 percent of its assets for the taxable year are assets that produce or are held for the production of active income, then the entity is not subject to the reporting requirements under section 6038D. This two-part test reduces the burden imposed by these final regulations on domestic small business entities because closely-held domestic corporations and partnerships that are predominantly engaged in an active business generally will be excluded from reporting. Furthermore, small not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code and small governmental jurisdictions are not subject to these regulations.

    For closely-held domestic corporations and partnerships that meet both tests, these final regulations limit the burden imposed. First, reporting is required only when the aggregate value of the entity's interests in specified foreign financial assets exceeds the reporting threshold under § 1.6038D-2(a)(1). Second, the final regulations exclude the value of specified foreign financial assets reported on one or more of the following forms from being taken into consideration in determining whether the small entity satisfies the reporting threshold under § 1.6038D-2(a)(1): Form 3520, “Annual Return To Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts“; Form 3520-A, “Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner”; Form 5471, “Information Return of U.S. Persons With Respect To Certain Foreign Corporations”; Form 8621, “Information Return by a Shareholder of a Passive Foreign Investment Company or Qualified Electing Fund”; or Form 8865, “Return of U.S. Persons With Respect to Certain Foreign Partnerships.” Third, small entities that hold specified foreign financial assets generally will be excepted from reporting such assets if the assets are reported on one or more of the these forms, thereby further limiting the burden imposed by the final regulations on small entities. Therefore, a Regulatory Flexibility Analysis under the Regulatory Flexibility Act is not required. Pursuant to section 7805(f) of the Code, the notice of proposed rulemaking preceding this regulation was submitted to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration for comment on its impact on small business.

    Drafting Information

    The principal author of these regulations is Joseph S. Henderson, Office of Associate Chief Counsel (International). However, other personnel from the IRS and Treasury Department participated in their development.

    List of Subjects in 26 CFR Part 1

    Income taxes, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Adoption of Amendments to the Regulations

    Accordingly, 26 CFR part 1 is amended as follows:

    PART 1—INCOME TAXES Paragraph 1. The authority citation for part 1 is amended by adding an entry for § 1.6038D-6 in numerical order to read in part as follows: Authority:

    26 U.S.C. 7805 * * *

    Section 1.6038D-6 is also issued under 26 U.S.C. 6038D.

    Par. 2. Section 1.6038D-0 is amended by: 1. Revising the entry for § 1.6038D-1(a)(12). 2. Adding entries for § 1.6038D-2(a)(6)(i) and (ii). 3. Revising the entry for § 1.6038D-6.

    The revisions and additions read as follows:

    § 1.6038D-0 Outline of regulation provisions
    § 1.6038D-1 Reporting with respect to specified foreign financial assets, definition of terms.

    (a) * * *

    (12) Specified domestic entity.

    § 1.6038D-2 Requirement to report specified foreign financial assets.

    (a) * * *

    (6) * * *

    (i) Specified individual.

    (ii) Specified domestic entity.

    § 1.6038D-6 Specified domestic entities.

    (a) Specified domestic entity.

    (b) Corporations and partnerships.

    (1) Formed or availed of.

    (2) Closely held.

    (i) Domestic corporation.

    (ii) Domestic partnership.

    (iii) Constructive ownership.

    (3) Determination of passive income and assets.

    (i) Definition of passive income.

    (ii) Exception from passive income treatment for dealers.

    (iii) Related entities.

    (4) Examples.

    (c) Domestic trusts.

    (d) Excepted domestic entities.

    (1) Certain persons described in section 1473(3).

    (2) Certain domestic trusts.

    (3) Domestic trusts owned by one or more specified persons.

    (e) Effective/applicability dates.

    Par. 3. Section 1.6038D-1(a)(12) is revised to read as follows:
    § 1.6038D-1 Reporting with respect to specified foreign financial assets, definition of terms.

    (a) * * *

    (12) Specified domestic entity. The term specified domestic entity has the meaning set forth in § 1.6038D-6.

    Par. 4. Section 1.6038D-2 is amended by: 1. Redesignating the text of paragraph (a)(6) as paragraph (a)(6)(i) and adding a paragraph heading to newly redesignated paragraph (a)(6)(i). 2. Adding paragraph (a)(6)(ii). 3. Revising paragraph (g).

    The additions and revision read as follows:

    § 1.6038D-2 Requirement to report specified foreign financial assets.

    (a) * * *

    (6) Aggregate value calculation in case of specified foreign financial asset excluded from reporting—(i) Specified individual. * * *

    (ii) Specified domestic entity. The value of any specified foreign financial asset in which a specified domestic entity has an interest and that is excluded from reporting on Form 8938 pursuant to § 1.6038D-7(a) (concerning certain assets reported on another form) is excluded for purposes of determining the aggregate value of specified foreign financial assets. For purposes of determining the aggregate value of specified foreign financial assets, a specified domestic entity that is a corporation or partnership and that has an interest in any specified foreign financial asset is treated as owning all the specified foreign financial assets (excluding specified foreign financial assets excluded from reporting on Form 8938 pursuant to § 1.6038D-7(a)) held by all domestic corporations and domestic partnerships that are closely held by the same specified individual as determined under § 1.6038D-6(b)(2).

    (g) Effective/applicability dates. This section, with the exception of § 1.6038D-2(a)(6)(ii), applies to taxable years ending after December 19, 2011. Section 1.6038D-2(a)(6)(ii) applies to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2015. Taxpayers may elect to apply the rules of this section, with the exception of § 1.6038D-2(a)(6)(ii), to taxable years ending on or prior to December 19, 2011.

    Par 5. Section 1.6038D-6 is added to read as follows:
    § 1.6038D-6 Specified domestic entities.

    (a) Specified domestic entity. A specified domestic entity is a domestic corporation, a domestic partnership, or a trust described in section 7701(a)(30)(E), if such corporation, partnership, or trust is formed or availed of for purposes of holding, directly or indirectly, specified foreign financial assets. Whether a domestic corporation, a domestic partnership, or a trust described in section 7701(a)(30)(E) is a specified domestic entity is determined annually.

    (b) Corporations and partnerships—(1) Formed or availed of. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (d) of this section, a domestic corporation or a domestic partnership is formed or availed of for purposes of holding, directly or indirectly, specified foreign financial assets if and only if—

    (i) The corporation or partnership is closely held by a specified individual as determined under paragraph (b)(2) of this section; and

    (ii) At least 50 percent of the corporation's or partnership's gross income for the taxable year is passive income or at least 50 percent of the assets held by the corporation or partnership for the taxable year are assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income as determined under paragraph (b)(3) of this section (passive assets). For purposes of this paragraph (b)(1)(ii), the percentage of passive assets held by a corporation or partnership for a taxable year is the weighted average percentage of passive assets (weighted by total assets and measured quarterly), and the value of assets of a corporation or partnership is the fair market value of the assets or the book value of the assets that is reflected on the corporation's or partnership's balance sheet (as determined under either a U.S. or an international financial accounting standard).

    (2) Closely held—(i) Domestic corporation. A domestic corporation is closely held by a specified individual if at least 80 percent of the total combined voting power of all classes of stock of the corporation entitled to vote, or at least 80 percent of the total value of the stock of the corporation, is owned, directly, indirectly, or constructively, by a specified individual on the last day of the corporation's taxable year.

    (ii) Domestic partnership. A partnership is closely held by a specified individual if at least 80 percent of the capital or profits interest in the partnership is held, directly, indirectly, or constructively, by a specified individual on the last day of the partnership's taxable year.

    (iii) Constructive ownership. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(2), sections 267(c) and (e)(3) apply for the purpose of determining the constructive ownership of a specified individual in a corporation or partnership, except that section 267(c)(4) is applied as if the family of an individual includes the spouses of the individual's family members.

    (3) Determination of passive income and assets—(i) Definition of passive income. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(3)(ii) of this section, for purposes of paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, passive income means the portion of gross income that consists of—

    (A) Dividends, including substitute dividends;

    (B) Interest;

    (C) Income equivalent to interest, including substitute interest;

    (D) Rents and royalties, other than rents and royalties derived in the active conduct of a trade or business conducted, at least in part, by employees of the corporation or partnership;

    (E) Annuities;

    (F) The excess of gains over losses from the sale or exchange of property that gives rise to passive income described in paragraphs (b)(3)(i)(A) through (b)(3)(i)(E) of this section;

    (G) The excess of gains over losses from transactions (including futures, forwards, and similar transactions) in any commodity, but not including—

    (1) Any commodity hedging transaction described in section 954(c)(5)(A), determined by treating the corporation or partnership as a controlled foreign corporation; or

    (2) Active business gains or losses from the sale of commodities, but only if substantially all the corporation or partnership's commodities are property described in paragraph (1), (2), or (8) of section 1221(a);

    (H) The excess of foreign currency gains over foreign currency losses (as defined in section 988(b)) attributable to any section 988 transaction; and

    (I) Net income from notional principal contracts as defined in § 1.446-3(c)(1).

    (ii) Exception from passive income treatment for dealers. Notwithstanding paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this section, in the case of a corporation or partnership that regularly acts as a dealer in property described in paragraph (b)(3)(i)(F) of this section (referring to the sale or exchange of property that gives rise to passive income), forward contracts, option contracts, or similar financial instruments (including notional principal contracts and all instruments referenced to commodities), the term passive income does not include—

    (A) Any item of income or gain (other than any dividends or interest) from any transaction (including hedging transactions and transactions involving physical settlement) entered into in the ordinary course of such dealer's trade or business as such a dealer; and

    (B) If such dealer is a dealer in securities (within the meaning of section 475(c)(2)), any income from any transaction entered into in the ordinary course of such trade or business as a dealer in securities.

    (iii) Related entities. For purposes of applying the passive income and asset thresholds of paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, all domestic corporations and domestic partnerships that are closely held by the same specified individual as determined under paragraph (b)(2) of this section and that are connected through stock or partnership interest ownership with a common parent corporation or partnership are treated as owning the combined assets and receiving the combined income of all members of that group. For purposes of the preceding sentence, assets relating to any contract, equity, or debt existing between members of such a group, as well as any items of gross income arising under or from such contract, equity, or debt, are eliminated. A domestic corporation or a domestic partnership is considered connected through stock or partnership interest ownership with a common parent corporation or partnership if stock representing at least 80 percent of the total combined voting power of all classes of stock of the corporation entitled to vote or of the value of such corporation, or partnership interests representing at least 80 percent of the profits interests or capital interests of such partnership, in each case other than stock of or partnership interests in the common parent, is owned by one or more of the other connected corporations, connected partnerships, or the common parent.

    (4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the application of this section:

    Example 1.

    Closely held and constructive ownership. (i) Facts. DC1 is a domestic corporation the total value of the stock of which is owned 60% by A, a specified individual, 30% by B, a member of A's family for purposes of section 267(c)(2) who is not a specified individual, and 10% by FC1, a foreign corporation. DC1 owns 90% of the total value of the stock of DC2, a domestic corporation. FC2, a foreign corporation, owns 10% of DC2. Neither A nor B owns, directly, indirectly, or constructively, any stock in FC1 or FC2.

    (ii) Closely held ownership determination. A is considered to own 90% and 81% of the total value of DC1 and DC2, respectively, by application of the rules of section 267(c) and this section. DC1 and DC2 are closely held by A within the meaning of paragraph (b)(2) of this section because A, a specified individual, is considered to own more than 80% of their total value.

    Example 2.

    Application of aggregation rule and reporting threshold. (i) Facts. L is a specified individual. In Year X, L wholly owns DC1, a domestic corporation, and also owns a 90% capital interest in DP, a domestic partnership. DC1 owns 80% of the sole class of stock of DC2, a domestic corporation. DC1 has no assets other than its interest in DC2. DC2's only assets are assets that produce passive income, with a maximum value in Year X of $40,000 on October 12. DC2's assets are comprised in relevant part of specified foreign financial assets with a maximum value in Year X of $15,000 on October 12. DP's only assets are assets that produce passive income and that are specified foreign financial assets with a maximum value of $90,000 in Year X on October 12.

    (ii) Specified domestic entity status—(A) DC1 and DC2. DC1 and DC2 are closely held by a specified individual for purposes of paragraph (b)(2) of this section. DC1 and DC2 are considered related entities that are connected through stock ownership with a common parent corporation under paragraph (b)(3)(iii) of this section, because DC1 and DC2 are closely held by L, and DC2 is connected with DC1 through DC1's ownership of stock of DC2 representing at least 80% of the voting power or value of DC2. As a result, for purposes of applying paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, each of DC1 and DC2 is considered as owning the combined assets, and receiving the combined income, of both DC1 and DC2; however, DC1's equity interest in DC2 is disregarded for this purpose under paragraph (b)(3)(iii) of this section. Therefore, DC1 and DC2 each satisfies the passive asset threshold of paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, because 100 percent of each company's assets is passive. DC1 and DC2 are specified domestic entities for Year X.

    (B) DP. DP is closely held by a specified individual for purposes of paragraph (b)(2) of this section. DP is not considered a related entity with DC1 and DC2 under paragraph (b)(3)(iii) of this section, because DC1 and DP are not owned by a common parent corporation or partnership. As a result, whether the passive income or passive asset threshold of paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section is met with respect to DP is determined solely by reference to DP's separately earned passive income and separately held passive assets. DP holds only passive assets during Year X and therefore satisfies paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section. DP is a specified domestic entity for Year X.

    (iii) Reporting requirements—(A) DC1. Under § 1.6038D-2(a)(6)(ii), DC1 is not treated as owning the specified foreign financial assets held by DC2 and DP for purposes of applying the reporting threshold of § 1.6038D-2(a)(1), because DC1 does not have an interest in any specified foreign financial assets. DC1 is not required to file Form 8938 because DC1 does not satisfy the reporting threshold of § 1.6038D-2(a)(1).

    (B) DC2 and DP. Under § 1.6038D-3, DC2 and DP each has an interest in specified foreign financial assets. For purposes of applying the reporting threshold of § 1.6038D-2(a)(1), § 1.6038D-2(a)(6)(ii) provides that DC2 is treated as owning in addition to its own assets the assets of DP, and DP is treated as owning in addition to its own assets the assets of DC2. As a result, DC2 and DP each satisfies the reporting threshold of § 1.6038D-2(a)(1), because the value of the specified foreign financial assets each is considered as owning for purposes of § 1.6038D-2(a)(1) is $105,000 on October 12, Year X, which exceeds DC2's and DP's $75,000 reporting threshold. DC2 and DP must each file Form 8938 for Year X to report their respective specified foreign financial assets in which they have an interest and disclose their maximum values as provided in § 1.6038D-4 ($15,000 in the case of DC2 and $90,000 in the case of DP).

    Example 3.

    Application of aggregation rule and entity with an active trade or business. (i) Facts. The facts are the same as in Example 2, except that DC2 also owns an active business. The assets attributable to the business are not passive assets and constitute at least 60% of the value of DC2's assets at all times during Year X. The income from the business is not passive income and constitutes at least 60% of the gross income generated by DC2 in Year X.

    (ii) Specified domestic entity status—(A) DC1 and DC2. DC1 and DC2 are considered related entities that are connected through stock ownership with a common parent corporation under paragraph (b)(3)(iii) of this section because DC1 and DC2 are closely held by L, and DC2 is connected with DC1 though DC1's ownership of stock of DC2 representing at least 80% of the voting power or value of DC2. As a result, for purposes of applying paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section, each of DC1 and DC2 is treated as owning the combined assets, and receiving the combined income, of both DC1 and DC2; however, DC1's equity interest in DC2 is disregarded for this purpose under paragraph (b)(3)(iii) of this section. As a result, no more than 40 percent of the value of DC1's and DC2's assets at all times during Year X are passive and no more than 40 percent of DC1's and DC2's gross income for Year X is passive. DC1 and DC2 do not satisfy the passive income or passive asset threshold in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section for Year X. DC1 and DC2 are not specified domestic entities for Year X.

    (B) DP. For the reasons described in paragraph (ii)(B) of Example 2, DP is a specified domestic entity for Year X.

    (iii) Reporting requirements—(A) DC1 and DC2. DC1 and DC2 are not specified domestic entities for Year X, and are not required to file Form 8938.

    (B) DP. Under § 1.6038D-3, DP has an interest in specified foreign financial assets. Under § 1.6038D-2(a)(6)(ii), DP is treated as owning in addition to its own assets the assets of DC2. As a result, DP satisfies the reporting threshold of § 1.6038D-2(a)(1) because the value of the specified foreign financial assets it is considered to own for purposes of § 1.6038D-2(a)(1) is $105,000 on October 12, Year X, which exceeds DP's $75,000 reporting threshold. DP must file Form 8938 for Year X to report the specified foreign financial assets in which it has an interest and disclose their maximum values as provided in § 1.6038D-4, which is $90,000.

    (c) Domestic trusts. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (d) of this section, a trust described in section 7701(a)(30)(E) is formed or availed of for purposes of holding, directly or indirectly, specified foreign financial assets if and only if the trust has one or more specified persons as a current beneficiary. The term current beneficiary means, with respect to the taxable year, any person who at any time during such taxable year is entitled to, or at the discretion of any person may receive, a distribution from the principal or income of the trust (determined without regard to any power of appointment to the extent that such power remains unexercised at the end of the taxable year). The term current beneficiary also includes any holder of a general power of appointment, whether or not exercised, that was exercisable at any time during the taxable year, but does not include any holder of a general power of appointment that is exercisable only on the death of the holder.

    (d) Excepted domestic entities. An entity is not considered to be a specified domestic entity if the entity is—

    (1) Certain persons described in section 1473(3). An entity, except for a trust that is exempt from tax under section 664(c), that is excepted from the definition of the term “specified United States person” under section 1473(3) and the regulations issued under that section;

    (2) Certain domestic trusts. A trust described in section 7701(a)(30)(E) provided that the trustee of the trust—

    (i) Has supervisory authority over or fiduciary obligations with regard to the specified foreign financial assets held by the trust;

    (ii) Timely files (including any applicable extensions) annual returns and information returns on behalf of the trust; and

    (iii) Is—

    (A) A bank that is examined by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or the National Credit Union Administration;

    (B) A financial institution that is registered with and regulated or examined by the Securities and Exchange Commission; or

    (C) A domestic corporation described in section 1473(3)(A) or (B), and the regulations issued with respect to those provisions.

    (3) Domestic trusts owned by one or more specified persons. A trust described in section 7701(a)(30)(E) to the extent such trust or any portion thereof is treated as owned by one or more specified persons under sections 671 through 678 and the regulations issued under those sections.

    (e) Effective/applicability dates. This section applies to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2015.

    Karen M. Schiller, Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement. Approved: January 19, 2016. Mark J. Mazur, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (Tax Policy).
    [FR Doc. 2016-03795 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4830-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Coast Guard 33 CFR Part 117 [Docket No. USCG-2016-0113] Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Cape Fear River, Wilmington, NC AGENCY:

    Coast Guard, DHS.

    ACTION:

    Notice of deviation from drawbridge regulation.

    SUMMARY:

    The Coast Guard has issued a temporary deviation from the operating schedule that governs the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge which carries US 17 across the Cape Fear River, mile 26.8, at Wilmington, North Carolina. The deviation is necessary to facilitate routine biennial maintenance and inspection of the lift span for the bridge. This deviation allows the bridge to open with an advanced notice instead of opening on signal.

    DATES:

    This deviation is effective from 9 a.m. on March 7, 2016, through 4 p.m. on March 17, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    The docket for this deviation, [USCG-2016-0113] is available at 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 deviation.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    If you have questions on this rule, call or email Mrs. Jessica Shea, Fifth Coast Guard District (dpb), at (757) 398-6422, email [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The North Carolina Department of Transportation has requested a temporary deviation from the current operating schedule for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge that carries US 17 across the Cape Fear River, mile 26.8, at Wilmington, NC. The requested deviation will accommodate the routine biennial maintenance and inspection of the vertical lift span for the drawbridge. To facilitate this work, the draw of the bridge will be maintained in the closed-to-navigation position every day from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. March 7 through 10, 2016 and again every day from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. March 14 through 17, 2016. The bridge will open on signal at all other times.

    The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge has a vertical clearance of 65 feet above mean high water (MHW) in the closed position and 135 feet above MHW in the open position. It also has an operating schedule set out in 33 CFR 117.822; however this deviation will have no effect on that schedule.

    Due to the nature of the work, vessels that require less than 45 feet of clearance do not need to request an opening and may transit safely under the bridge in the closed position. Vessels that require more than 45 feet of clearance but less than 65 feet must provide 30 minutes advanced notice of their transit. The snooper crane that will hang over the side of the bridge to inspect the bridge will be removed to allow for safe transit. Vessels that require 65 feet or greater of clearance must provide one hour advance notice so equipment and personnel can be moved to a safe location to allow for vessel transit. The bridge will be able to open for emergencies and there is no alternate route for vessels. Most waterway traffic consists of recreational boats with a few barges and tugs. The Coast Guard will also inform the users of the waterways through our Local and Broadcast Notice to Mariners of the change in operating schedule for the bridge so that vessel operators can arrange their transits to minimize any impact caused by this temporary deviation.

    In accordance with 33 CFR 117.35(e), the drawbridge must return to its regular operating schedule immediately at the end of this effective period of this temporary deviation. This deviation from the operating regulations is authorized under 33 CFR 117.35.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Hal R. Pitts, Bridge Program Manager, Fifth Coast Guard District.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03723 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110-04-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Coast Guard 33 CFR Part 117 [Docket No. USCG-2016-0058] RIN 1625-AA09 Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Acushnet River, New Bedford and Fairhaven, MA AGENCY:

    Coast Guard, DHS.

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Coast Guard is making a correction to the operating schedule that governs the New Bedford-Fairhaven Rt-6 Bridge, mile 0.0, across the Acushnet River, between New Bedford and Fairhaven, MA. On July 1, 2013, a technical amendment was published that updated the name of the bridge, however, the requested correction was drafted incorrectly and three subparagraphs were inadvertently removed from the section.

    DATES:

    This rule is effective February 23, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    To view documents mentioned in this preamble as being available in the docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov, type [USCG-2016-0058]. In the “SEARCH” box and click “SEARCH.” Click on Open Docket Folder on the line associated with this rulemaking.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    If you have questions on this rule, call or email Mr. Christopher J. Bisignano, Supervisory Bridge Management Specialist, First Coast Guard District, Coast Guard; telephone (212) 514-4331 or email [email protected].

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    I. Table of Abbreviations CFR Code of Federal Regulations DHS Department of Homeland Security FR Federal Register NPRM Notice of proposed rulemaking § Section U.S.C. United States Code II. Background Information and Regulatory History

    Each year on July 1, the printed edition of Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is recodified. On July 1, 2013, the Coast Guard published a Final Rule entitled, “Navigation and Navigable Waters; Technical, Organizational, and Conforming Amendments” in the Federal Register (78 FR 39163). This 2013 rule made technical and editorial corrections throughout Title 33 but did not create any substantive requirements. In this rule the Coast Guard requested that the term “drawspan” be replaced with the actual name of the bridge (New Bedford-Fairhaven Rt-6 Bridge) in 33 CFR 117.585(a). However, misinterpretation of the asterisks in the regulatory text, which were used to denote that all paragraphs and subordinate paragraphs after paragraph (a) in § 117.585 were to remain unchanged, caused the subparagraphs (1) through (3) to be removed.

    The Coast Guard is issuing this final rule without prior notice and opportunity to comment pursuant to authority under section 4(a) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) (5 U.S.C. 553(b)). This provision authorizes an agency to issue a rule without prior notice and opportunity to comment when the agency for good cause finds that those procedures are “impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.” Under 5 U.S.C. 553(b), the Coast Guard finds that good cause exists for not publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) with respect to this rule because the publishing of the Final Rule entitled, “Navigation and Navigable Waters; Technical, Organizational, and Conforming Amendments,” in the Federal Register (78 FR 39163) on July 1, 2013, inadvertently removed established regulatory language. The three subparagraphs under 33 CFR 117.585(a) were inadvertently removed from the CFR. Therefore, it is unnecessary to issue a rule without prior notice and opportunity to comment.

    We are issuing this rule under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), the Coast Guard finds that good cause exists for making this rule effective in less than 30 days after publication in the Federal Register for the same reasons as stated above.

    III. Legal Authority and Need for Rule

    The Coast Guard is issuing this rule under authority 33 U.S.C. 499.

    The purpose of this rule is to correct an error that occurred in the publication of the Final Rule on July 1, 2013, entitled, “Navigation and Navigable Waters; Technical, Organizational, and Conforming Amendments,” in the Federal Register (78 FR 39163). The use of the asterisks in the regulatory text were misinterpreted causing subparagraphs (1) through (3) to be inadvertently removed from 33 CFR 117.585(a).

    The New Bedford-Fairhaven Rt-6 Bridge remains an active bridge and subparagraph's (1) through (3) contain the actual operating schedule for the bridge. The bridge continues to operate under that schedule and the subparagraphs need to be reinserted into 33 CFR 117.585(a) to inform the public of the legal operating schedule of the bridge.

    IV. Discussion of Final Rule

    This rule will correct 33 CFR 117.585(a) by restoring subparagraphs (1) through (3) which contain the actual operating schedule for the New Bedford-Fairhaven Rt-6 Bridge. As paragraph (a) is currently codified in the rule, there is only the introductory language. This language by itself does not explain to the public the operating schedule for the bridge. The intention of this rule is to restore the operating language to 33 CFR 117.585(a) as it appeared immediately prior to the July 1, 2013, codification of 33 CFR.

    V. 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 and Executive Orders, and we discuss First Amendment rights of protesters.

    A. Regulatory Planning and Review

    Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess the costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits. Executive Order 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. This rule has not been designated a “significant regulatory action,” under Executive Order 12866. Accordingly, it has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.

    The Coast Guard does not consider this rule to be “significant” under that Order because it corrects inadvertently omitted language that is consistent with the current operation of the bridge. Therefore, this rule does not affect the way vessels operate on the waterway near and through the bridge.

    B. 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.

    While some owners or operators of vessels intending to transit the bridge may be small entities, for the reasons stated in section V.A. above, this rule will not have a significant economic impact on any vessel owner or operator. While the operating schedule was inadvertently removed from the rule, the bridge continues to operate as it had prior to the removal of the operating schedule in the CFR.

    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.

    C. Collection of Information

    This rule calls for no new collection of information under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520).

    D. Federalism and Indian Tribal Government

    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 have determined that it is consistent with the fundamental federalism principles and preemption requirements described in Executive Order 13132.

    Also, 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.

    E. 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 expenditure, we do discuss the effects of this rule elsewhere in this preamble.

    F. Environment

    We have analyzed this rule under Department of Homeland Security Management Directive 023-01 and Commandant Instruction M16475.lD, which guides the Coast Guard in complying with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321-4370f), and have made a determination that this action is one of a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment. This rule simply promulgates the operating regulations or procedures for drawbridges. This action is categorically excluded from further review, under figure 2-1, paragraph (32)(e), of the Instruction.

    Under figure 2-1, paragraph (32)(e), of the Instruction, an environmental analysis checklist and a categorical exclusion determination are not required for this rule.

    G. 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.

    List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 117

    Bridges.

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Coast Guard amends 33 CFR part 117 as follows:

    PART 117—DRAWBRIDGE OPERATION REGULATIONS 1. The authority citation for part 117 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    33 U.S.C. 499; 33 CFR 1.05-1; Department of Homeland Security Delegation No. 0170.1.

    2. Revise § 117.585(a) to read as follows:
    § 117.585 Acushnet River.

    (a) The New Bedford-Fairhaven RT-6 Bridge, mile 0.0 will be opened promptly, provided proper signal is given, on the following schedule:

    (1) On the hour between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. inclusive.

    (2) At a quarter past the hour between 11:15 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. inclusive.

    (3) At all other times on call.

    Dated: February 8, 2016. L.L. Fagan, Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard, Commander, First Coast Guard District.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03789 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9110-04-P
    FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION 47 CFR Part 73 [GN Docket No. 12-268; FCC 16-12] Expanding the Economic and Innovation Opportunities of Spectrum Through Incentive Auctions AGENCY:

    Federal Communications Commission.

    ACTION:

    Final rule; petition for reconsideration.

    SUMMARY:

    In this document, the Commission dismisses, and on separate grounds, denies petitions for reconsideration seeking reconsideration of the Commission's decisions in the Incentive Auction R&O and the Incentive Auction Second Order on Reconsideration not to protect certain broadcast television stations (WOSC-CD, Pittsburgh, PA; WPTG-CD, Pittsburgh, PA; WIAV-CD, Washington, DC; and KKYK-CD, Little Rock, AK) in the repacking process or make them eligible for the reverse auction. The Commission also concludes that WDYB-CD, Daytona Beach, Florida is not entitled to discretionary repacking protection or eligible to participate in the reverse auction.

    DATES:

    Effective February 23, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Lynne Montgomery, (202) 418-2229, or by email at [email protected], Media Bureau; Joyce Bernstein, (202) 418-1647, or by email at [email protected], Media Bureau.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    This is a summary of the Commission's Order on Reconsideration in GN Docket No. 12-268, FCC 16-12, adopted on February 8, 2016 and released on February 12, 2016. The full text may also be downloaded at: www.fcc.gov. People with Disabilities: To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an email to [email protected] or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (tty).

    Synopsis of Order on Reconsideration I. Introduction

    1. Petitioners The Videohouse, Inc. (Videohouse), Abacus Television (Abacus), WMTM, LLC (WMTM), and KMYA, LLC (KMYA) seek reconsideration of the Commission's decision, on procedural and substantive grounds, not to protect their broadcast television stations in the repacking process or make them eligible for the reverse auction. At the time the Petition was filed, Videohouse, Abacus, WMTM, and KMYA were the licensees of the following stations, respectively: WOSC-CD, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; WPTG-CD, Pittsburgh; WIAV-CD, Washington, DC; and KKYK-CD, Little Rock, Arkansas. WPTG-CD and KKYK-CD have since been acquired by Fifth Street Enterprise, LLC and Kaleidoscope Foundation, Inc., respectively. We dismiss and, on alternative and independent grounds, deny the Petition. For the reasons below, we also conclude that WDYB-CD, Daytona Beach, Florida, licensed to Latina Broadcasters of Daytona Beach, LLC (Latina), is not entitled to discretionary repacking protection or eligible to participate in the reverse auction.

    II. Background

    2. In the Incentive Auction R&O, the Commission concluded that the Spectrum Act mandates that the Commission make all reasonable efforts to preserve, in the repacking process associated with the broadcast television spectrum incentive auction, the coverage area and population served of only full power and Class A broadcast television facilities (1) licensed as of February 22, 2012, the date of enactment of the Spectrum Act, or (2) for which an application for a license to cover was on file as of February 22, 2012. The Commission did not interpret the Spectrum Act, however, as precluding it from exercising discretion to protect additional facilities beyond the statutory floor. The Commission granted discretionary protection to a handful of categories of facilities, based on a careful balancing of different factors in order to achieve the goals of the Spectrum Act and other statutory and Commission goals.

    3. One category to which the Commission declined to extend discretionary protection was “out-of-core” Class A-eligible LPTV stations”: Low power television (LPTV) stations that operated on “out-of-core” channels (channels 52-69) when the Community Broadcasters Protection Act (CBPA) was enacted in 1999 and obtained an authorization for an “in-core” channel (channels 2-51), but did not file for a Class A license to cover by February 22, 2012. The CBPA accorded “primary” or protected Class A status to certain qualifying LPTV stations. Although the statute prohibited granting Class A status to LPTV stations on out-of-core channels, it provided such stations with an opportunity to achieve Class A status on an in-core channel. The Commission explained that protecting these stations, which numbered approximately 100, would encumber additional broadcast television spectrum, thereby increasing the number of constraints on the repacking process and limiting the Commission's flexibility to repurpose spectrum for flexible use. The Commission recognized that these stations had made investments in their facilities, but concluded that this equitable interest did not outweigh the “significant detrimental impact on repacking flexibility that would result from protecting them,” especially in light of their failure to take the necessary steps to obtain a Class A license and eliminate their secondary status during the ten-plus years between passage of the CBPA and the Spectrum Act. The Commission did decide to protect one station in this category, KHTV-CD, based on licensee Venture Technologies Group, LLC's (Venture) showing in response to the Incentive Auction NPRM that discretionary protection of KHTV-CD was warranted, based upon the fact that it made repeated efforts over the course of a decade to find an in-core channel, had a Class A construction permit application on file certifying that it was meeting the regulatory requirements applicable to Class A stations prior to enactment of the Spectrum Act, and filed an application for a license to cover a Class A facility on February 24, 2012, just two days after the Spectrum Act was enacted.

    4. Abacus and Videohouse, licensees of two stations in the out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV station category, filed petitions for reconsideration of the Incentive Auction R&O asking the Commission to protect their stations in the repacking process and make them eligible for the reverse auction. The Commission rejected their claims that they are entitled to repacking protection under the CBPA. The Commission dismissed on procedural grounds their claims that they should be protected because they are similarly situated to KHTV-CD, but also considered and rejected the claims on the merits. In addition, the Commission rejected arguments disputing its estimate that the category of out-of-core Class A-eligible stations included approximately 100 stations. Asiavision, Inc, the previous licensee of WIAV-CD, submitted a responsive filing raising arguments similar to those raised by Abacus and Videohouse and the Commission dismissed this filing as a late-filed petition for reconsideration but nonetheless treated it as an informal comment.

    5. In the Reconsideration Order, the Commission also clarified that a Class A station that had an application for a license to cover a Class A facility on file or granted as of February 22, 2012 is entitled to mandatory protection, but that a Class A station that had an application for a Class A construction permit on file or granted as of that date would not be entitled to such protection. An application for a license to cover a Class A facility signifies that the Class A-eligible LPTV station has constructed its authorized Class A facility, and authorizes operation of the facility. A Class A construction permit application seeks to convert an LPTV construction permit to a Class A permit. Grant of a construction permit standing alone does not authorize operation of the authorized facility. Based on a careful balancing of relevant factors, it also decided to extend discretionary protection to stations in the latter category—stations that did not construct in-core Class A facilities until after February 22, 2012 but requested Class A construction permits prior to that date. The Commission reasoned that these stations are similarly situated to KHTV-CD because as of February 22, 2012, the date established by Congress for determining which stations are entitled to repacking protection, these stations had certified in an application filed with the Commission that they were acting like Class A stations. By filing an application for a Class A construction permit prior to February 22, 2012, each of these stations documented efforts prior to passage of the Spectrum Act to remove their secondary status and avail themselves of Class A status. Under the Commission's rules, these stations were required to make the same certifications as if they had applied for a license to cover a Class A facility. Among other things, each was required to certify that it `does, and will continue to, broadcast' a minimum of 18 hours per day and an average of at least three hours per week of local programming and that it complied with requirements applicable to full-power stations that apply to Class A stations. The Commission concluded that there were significant equities in favor of protecting the approximately 12 stations in this category that outweighed the limited adverse impact that such protection would have on its flexibility to repurpose spectrum for flexible use through the incentive auction. The Commission also recognized that, having first filed a Class A construction permit application prior to February 22, 2012, the licensees of these stations may not have realized that the stations were not entitled to mandatory protection under the Spectrum Act. Conversely, the Commission explained, Abacus and Videohouse did not certify continuing compliance with Class A requirements until after the enactment of the Spectrum Act.

    6. Abacus, Videohouse, and the licensees of two other stations in the out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV category that did not seek to obtain Class A status until after February 22, 2012, seek reconsideration of the Reconsideration Order. Petitioners also attached to the Petition a copy of each of their Petitions for Eligible Entity Status (“Eligibility Petition”) filed July 9, 2015 in GN Docket No. 12-268 in response to the Media Bureau's June 9, 2015 Public Notice. They argue that the Commission erred procedurally by dismissing the 2014 Petitions, and exceeded its authority by extending protection to a different group of Class A stations that had not asked for reconsideration. On the merits, they contend that their stations are no different from the out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations that the Commission decided to protect, and that extending protection to their stations would not adversely impact the Commission's repacking flexibility. They claim the equities weigh in favor of protecting stations that obtained a Class A license by the Pre-Auction Licensing Deadline (May 29, 2015) and met other auction-related filing requirements. For the reasons below, we affirm our action in the Reconsideration Order.

    III. Discussion

    7. Petitioners' claims are both procedurally and substantively defective and we therefore dismiss their claims and, in the alternative, deny them on the merits.

    A. Petitioners' Claims Are Procedurally Improper

    8. First, as we explained in the Reconsideration Order, the Commission squarely raised the question of which broadcast television facilities to protect in the repacking process in the Incentive Auction NPRM, but none of the Petitioners presented facts or arguments as to why its station should be protected until after the Commission adopted the Incentive Auction R&O, although all of the facts and arguments they now present existed beforehand. While Videohouse notes that its owner on behalf of a related entity (Bruno Goodworth Network, Inc.) filed reply comments in response to the Incentive Auction NPRM, those comments did not pertain to out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations generally or to its station in particular. Videohouse also claims that it discussed out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations with Commission staff at an industry forum in April 2013, but Videohouse never made these statements part of the record of this proceeding until July 2015, over a year after adoption of the Incentive Auction R&O. Abacus refers to an email it sent Commission staff in March 2014, but Abacus never filed this email in the record, and the first reference to it in the record was not until July 2015. In contrast, Venture submitted comments in response to the Incentive Auction NPRM regarding the particular facts and circumstances that it maintained—and the Commission agreed—justified protection of KHTV-CD. Contrary to Petitioners' arguments, therefore, the Commission did not err in dismissing the 2014 Petitions, and the current Petition likewise is subject to dismissal. In addition, the facts and arguments put forth in the Petition are repetitious with regard to Abacus, Videohouse, and WMTM, each of whom sought reconsideration of the Incentive Auction R&O: The Commission considered and rejected those facts and arguments in the Reconsideration Order. Asiavision, the previous licensee of WIAV-CD, now licensed to WMTM, filed informal comments in response to the 2014 Petitions.

    9. For reasons similar to those on which we relied in the Reconsideration Order, we also reject Petitioners' new argument that, notwithstanding their failure to advocate protection of their stations in a timely manner, their claims were procedurally proper because other parties generally advocated protection of Class A stations in response to the Incentive Auction NPRM. Contrary to Petitioners' argument, no commenter generally advocated discretionary protection of out-of-core Class A-eligible stations. With the exception of the Venture Reply Comments, which pertain specifically to KHTV-CD only, none of the comments in response to the Incentive Auction NPRM cited by Petitioners address out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations at all. As we previously explained, Venture put forth particular facts in response to the Incentive Auction NPRM demonstrating why KHTV-CD should be afforded discretionary protection. The decision to protect KHTV-CD was based in part on this evidence. Petitioners now argue that, like KHTV-CD, each of their stations faced “unique” “hardships and obstacles.” But as we noted in the Reconsideration Order, Petitioners did not attempt to demonstrate in response to the Incentive Auction NPRM why they should be afforded discretionary protection. Venture's presentation regarding KHTV-CD's unique circumstances does not bear at all on Petitioners' stations and did not constitute an “opportunity [for the Commission] to pass” on the facts and arguments that Petitioners now rely on. We note that whether the Commission had an “opportunity to pass” on an issue is not the relevant statutory test. Rather, Section 405(a) provides that “no evidence other than newly discovered evidence, evidence which has become available only since the original taking of evidence, or evidence which the Commission or designated authority within the Commission believes should have been taken in the original proceeding shall be taken on any reconsideration.” Additionally, as discussed below, Petitioners fail to meet the test for discretionary protection adopted in the Reconsideration Order.

    10. While the rules allow petitioners to raise facts or arguments on reconsideration that have not previously been presented under certain circumstances, Petitioners have not demonstrated such circumstances, and their reliance on section 1.429(b)(1) is therefore misplaced. Contrary to Petitioners' claims, the July 9, 2015 deadline for submission of the Pre-Auction Technical Certification Form is not a relevant event that has occurred since their last opportunity to present facts or arguments. That date would be relevant only if we agreed with their challenges. As we do not, the July 9, 2015 deadline is not a relevant circumstance for purposes of section 1.429(b)(1). We also reject Petitioners' argument that the public interest would be served by reconsideration. The Commission has a “well-established policy of not considering matters that are first raised on reconsideration,” premised on the statutory goals of “procedural regularity, administrative efficiency, and fundamental fairness.” Those goals would not be served by allowing Petitioners to sit back and hope for a decision in their favor, and only then, when the decision is adverse to them, to offer evidence of why they should be treated differently. We also reject Petitioners' claim that section 1.429(b)(2) is met here because they could not have known that the Commission would reject their Petition and extend protection to a different group of Class A stations. As explained below, our decision in the Reconsideration Order to extend protection to certain stations but not to Petitioners' was a logical outgrowth of the proposals in the Incentive Auction NPRM and consistent with our statutory authority. Accordingly, it does not furnish a basis for reconsideration under section 1.429(b)(2).

    B. Petitioners' Claims Fail on Substantive Grounds

    11. As an alternative and independent ground for our decision, we consider and deny Petitioners' claims that discretionary protection of their stations is warranted. Petitioners argue that the Commission failed to distinguish their efforts to demonstrate compliance with the regulatory requirements applicable to Class A stations from those of the out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations that it decided to protect. On the contrary, we clearly explained in the Reconsideration Order that KHTV-CD and the other stations in the protected group filed applications for a Class A construction permit (FCC Form 302-CA) before February 22, 2012, and Petitioners did not. The Form 302-CA requires the applicant to certify that it “does, and will continue to” meet all of the full power and Class A regulatory requirements that are applicable to Class A stations, subject to significant penalties for willful false statements. Thus, as of February 22, 2012, the date established by Congress for determining which stations are entitled to repacking protection, these stations had on file with the Commission certifications that they were operating like Class A stations. Petitioners concede that they did not file a Form 302-CA application before February 22, 2012. Videohouse identifies no reasonable basis for its claim that it believed it could not file a Form 302-CA application in March 2009 because it was not certain the in-core channel it proposed in its LPTV construction permit application was feasible. With respect to Abacus and WMTM, we previously addressed their claims that Commission staff advised them not to file a Form 302-CA until after their in-core facilities were licensed as LPTV stations. In addition, to the extent these entities relied on informal staff advice, they did so at their own risk. KMYA offers no explanation for failing to file a Form 302-CA application before February 22, 2012. Their other pre-February 22, 2012 filings on which they rely do not demonstrate that their stations were operating like Class A stations. Unlike the Form 302-CA, the documents Petitioners placed in their public inspection files before February 22, 2012 did not certify that their stations were in compliance with the full power requirements that apply to Class A stations. Petitioners claim to have met one requirement applicable to full power stations: The airing of children's programming. In the cases of Abacus and Videohouse, however, the required children's television reporting forms (FCC Form 398) were not filed until the second half of 2012, purporting to cover periods dating back to 2006. Moreover, Videohouse's FCC Forms 398 concede that WOSC-CD did not comply with certain children's television requirements because the station “has not filed its application for a Class A license.” In the case of Petitioner WMTM, the FCC Forms 398 in WIAV's online public file commence in the first quarter of 2013, and say nothing as to whether it was complying with children's programming requirements as of February 22, 2012. Also unlike the Form 302-CA, the certifications contained in these documents as to compliance with regulatory requirements that apply to Class A stations only were voluntary and unenforceable, making them less reliable indicators as to whether the stations were providing the service required of a Class A station as of February 22, 2012. In addition, Form 302-CA must be filed with the Commission, whereas there is no means to verify when Petitioners' certifications were placed in their public files. In their most recent filing, Petitioners for the first time claim that KKYK-CD obtained a Class A construction permit on February 16, 2012, prior to the statutory enactment date. This claim is unsupported by an examination of the Commission's records. Petitioners' apparent attempt to recast the history of KKYK-CD, like their efforts to demonstrate that they were acting like Class A stations prior to February 22, 2012 based on post-dated public file submissions, illustrate the reasonableness of the Commission's bright-line test based on the filing of FCC Form 302-CA.

    12. Contrary to Petitioners' arguments, it was reasonable for us to limit discretionary repacking protection and auction eligibility to out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations that filed a Form 302-CA application before February 22, 2012, because that is the date established by Congress for determining which stations are entitled to repacking protection. A station that filed a Form 302-CA application before February 22, 2012, demonstrated that it sought to avail itself of Class A status as of that date, and thus warranted protection and auction eligibility under the statutory scheme. Conversely, Petitioners neither requested Class A status, nor demonstrated that they were providing Class A service, until after passage of the Spectrum Act created the potential for Class A status to yield substantial financial rewards through auction participation—over ten years after the CBPA made them eligible for such status. On the date of enactment of the Spectrum Act, Petitioners operated LPTV stations. Congress did not include LPTV stations within the definition of broadcast television licensees entitled to repacking protection, and protecting them as a matter of discretion would significantly constrain the Commission's repacking flexibility. In addition, Petitioners' stations are particularly likely to impact repacking flexibility because they are located in congested markets such as Pittsburgh and Washington, DC where the constraints on the Commission's ability to repurpose spectrum through the auction will be greater than in less congested markets. Accordingly, we reject the comments of the LPTV Coalition and WatchTV alleging that the Petitioners' four stations would have little or no impact on repacking flexibility. While some of the protected Class A stations also are located in congested markets, the impact on repacking flexibility is just one of the factors we must consider.

    13. While Petitioners are correct that there was no deadline for out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations to file an application for a Class A construction permit (or an application for a license to cover a Class A facility), a Class A-eligible LPTV station with a Form 302-CA application pending or granted as of February 22, 2012 demonstrated objective steps, prior to enactment of the Spectrum Act, to avail itself of Class A status, subject to all of the regulatory requirements that status entails. Prior to February 22, 2012, these stations invested in broadcast television facilities based on the expectation that the facilities would receive protection as “primary” Class A stations. In contrast, Petitioners only sought Class A status after Congress designated such stations as eligible to participate in the auction—and after the date set by Congress to establish entitlement to repacking protection and auction eligibility.

    14. We also reject Petitioners' argument that, regardless of whether they demonstrated that their stations were acting like Class A stations as of February 22, 2012, discretionary protection is warranted based on their overall efforts to achieve Class A status. Soon after enactment of the CBPA in 1999, the Commission warned that “it would be in the best interest of qualified LPTV stations operating outside the core to try to locate an in-core channel now, as the core spectrum is becoming increasingly crowded and it is likely to become increasingly difficult to locate an in-core channel in the future.” Unlike KHTV-CD, which demonstrated that it commenced efforts to achieve Class A status soon after enactment of the CBPA, Petitioners are silent as to any such efforts before 2009, almost a decade after enactment of the CBPA. Videohouse claims that it had to wait until the DTV transition ended in 2009 to seek a new channel because it operated in a “highly congested market” (Pittsburgh), yet Venture demonstrated efforts to find a new channel for KHTV-CD in the even more congested Los Angeles market despite the DTV transition. Furthermore, as discussed above, the evidence presented by Petitioners regarding their efforts to obtain Class A status between 2009 and February 22, 2012 does not demonstrate that they acted like Class A stations during that time period. Granting discretionary protection based on Petitioners' initiation of Class A service after February 22, 2012 would not serve Congress's goal of preserving full power and Class A service as of the Spectrum Act's enactment date. We also reject KMYA's claim that it is entitled to protection under the terms of the Incentive Auction R&O and CBPA. KMYA is not entitled to protection under section 336(f)(6)(A) of the CBPA because it did not file an application for a Class A authorization (either a Class A license or a Class A construction permit) with its application for a construction permit to move to an in-core channel. Rather, KMYA did not file an application for a Class A authorization until July 2012, after enactment of the Spectrum Act.

    15. We reject Petitioners' claim that the equities weigh in favor of granting discretionary protection to stations that obtained a Class A license by the Pre-Auction Licensing Deadline (May 29, 2015) and met other auction-related filing requirements. Petitioners have conveniently found a line that would protect their stations, but the Commission never linked the May 29, 2015 Pre-Auction Licensing Deadline to repacking protection for out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations. On the contrary, the Commission plainly stated that it would not protect such stations based on their obtaining Class A licenses by that deadline. By contrast, the line the Commission chose is tied directly to the date established by Congress for repacking protection. As discussed above, Petitioners have not shown that their stations provided the service required of Class A stations before that date, or that they took steps to avail themselves of Class A status until it was clear that doing so could yield substantial financial rewards through auction participation. Accordingly, we reject the contention that the equities weigh in favor of granting the relief Petitioners seek.

    16. Petitioners attempt to buttress their argument for discretionary protection by questioning the validity of the Commission's statement that approximately 100 stations would be eligible for protection if it protected out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations that obtained Class A licenses after February 22, 2012, as Petitioners advocate. But that statement does not bear on the decisional issue presented by the Petition: The reasonableness of the Commission's determination not to protect Petitioners' four stations. As set forth above, the equities do not weigh in favor of granting such protection, regardless of how many stations fell into the relevant category at the time the Incentive Auction R&O was adopted.

    17. In any event, Petitioners' complaints regarding the Commission's estimate—that it never provided a list of the stations, and that its explanation of how interested parties could identify the stations is unworkable—lack merit. Interested parties were free to compile their own station lists from publicly available data. We explained in the Reconsideration Order that the stations can be identified by comparing the publicly available list of LPTV stations whose certifications of Class A eligibility were accepted by the Commission in 2000 to the public records in the Commission's Consolidated Database System (CDBS) to determine which LPTV stations were on out-of-core channels and obtained authorizations for in-core channels, and then determining when the station filed an application for a license to cover a Class A facility. Those stations (both Class A and Class A-eligible LPTV stations) that did not file such an application by February 22, 2012 (with the exception of KHTV-CD) fall into the category identified by the Commission. Petitioners mistakenly argue that the 2000 list cannot be compared to the CDBS records because many stations have converted from analog to digital using a digital companion channel since 2000 and were assigned a new digital facility ID number and call sign in CDBS that cannot be matched with the 2000 list. The new digital facility ID numbers are linked to the former analog facility ID numbers in CDBS, meaning that any change in facility ID numbers does not impede matching stations to the 2000 list. In addition, despite Petitioners' claims, Commission staff has never deleted an underlying analog facility ID number associated with a station. Similarly, while a call sign may be “deleted” through the entry of a “D” before a cancelled or revoked station's call sign, the call sign nonetheless remains in the station's record in CDBS. Moreover, after filing the Petition, Petitioners developed their own list of stations based on analysis of the 2000 list and CDBS. Petitioners' November 2015 List confirms that any interested party could have conducted the same exercise as the Commission using publicly-available data. Although Petitioners' analysis does not match the Commission's estimate of approximately 100 stations because Petitioners sought to demonstrate something different, even their analysis does reflect that there are at least 55 stations in the category the Commission defined.

    18. We also reject Petitioners' claim that our “refus[al] to consider” their claims on procedural grounds, while at the same time extending discretionary protection to other stations that never filed for reconsideration, arbitrarily discriminated against them. As an initial matter, we did not “refuse to consider” Petitioners' claims. While we dismissed certain claims on procedural grounds, we went on to consider all of their claims (including those we dismissed) on the merits. In any event, the Commission acted within its authority in dismissing or denying Abacus's and Videohouse's 2014 Petitions in the Reconsideration Order, but extending protection to other stations that did not ask for reconsideration. First, the Commission did not reconsider the Incentive Auction R&O in clarifying that out-of-core Class A-eligible stations that had a Class A construction permit application pending or granted as of February 22, 2012 and now hold a Class A license are not entitled to mandatory repacking protection. The Commission may act on its own motion to issue a declaratory ruling removing uncertainty at any time. The Commission's authority to issue declaratory rulings to remove uncertainty is well-established. The lack of a citation to Section 1.2 of the rules in the Reconsideration Order did not undermine the Commission's authority to issue a declaratory ruling. Petitioners are mistaken that there was no ambiguity in the Incentive Auction R&O that required clarification. The Incentive Auction R&O explained that stations would be entitled to mandatory protection if they held a Class A license or had a “Class A license application” on file as of February 22, 2012. The Incentive Auction R&O was ambiguous, however, as to whether a “Class A license application” meant only an application for a license to cover a Class A facility or whether it also meant a Class A construction permit application. Examination of the record also reflected uncertainty as to the scope of mandatory protection under the terms of the Incentive Auction R&O. The Reconsideration Order clarified this ambiguity.

    19. Second, in extending discretionary protection to these stations, the Commission acted well within its authority to act on reconsideration. The Commission is “free to modify its rule on a petition for reconsideration as long as the modification was a `logical outgrowth' of the earlier version of the rule, . . . and provided the agency gave a reasoned explanation for its decision that is supported by the record.” Here, the issue of which Class A stations to protect in the repacking process, either as required by the Spectrum Act or as a matter of discretion, was squarely within the scope of the Incentive Auction NPRM. There is no support for Petitioners' contention that the Commission on reconsideration is limited to either granting or denying the specific relief requested in a petition for reconsideration. The D.C. Circuit rejected this claim in Globalstar. Petitioners attempt to distinguish Globalstar by arguing that the petitioner in that case requested broadly that the Commission “reverse” its decision, whereas Abacus and Videohouse asked the Commission to extend discretionary protection only to their stations in the 2014 Petitions. This is a distinction without a difference. The 2014 Petitions asked the Commission to reconsider the scope of discretionary protection for out-of-core Class A-eligible LPTV stations that now hold Class A licenses. Both Abacus and Videohouse stated in sweeping terms that the Commission “should exercise its discretion to ensure that similarly situated entities are not subject to arbitrarily disparate treatment.” In response, the Commission appropriately reconsidered the scope of discretionary protection for stations in that category and extended protection to a number that it concluded are similarly situated to KHTV-CD, the station in the same category that it already had accorded such protection. Because the Commission addressed the specific issue that was presented by the 2014 Petitions, the suggestion that the Commission exercised “unbounded discretion” on reconsideration lacks merit.

    20. Finally, Petitioners complain that the Commission “[w]ithout any explanation” included WDYB-CD on the June 30, 2015 list of eligible stations although, like Petitioners, WDYB-CD's current licensee, Latina, did not file an application for a license to cover a Class A facility until after February 22, 2012 or advocate for protection of its station until after adoption of the Incentive Auction R&O. WDYB-CD was included on the June 30, 2015 list in light of our decision to protect stations that “hold a Class A license today and that had an application for a Class A construction permit pending or granted as of February 22, 2012.” Further examination of the record reveals, however, that WDYB-CD did not have an application for a Class A authorization pending or granted as of February 22, 2012. WDYB-CD's prior licensee obtained a Class A construction permit prior to that date, but the permit expired in December 2011. Instead of constructing the Class A station, Latina filed an application for an LPTV construction permit for WDYB-CD in February 2011, which superseded the Class A construction permit. The LPTV application did not require a certification that WDYB-CD was and would continue to meet all of the full power and Class A regulatory requirements that are applicable to Class A stations. WDYB-CD was constructed and operated as an LPTV station until November 2012. Thus, Latina was not pursuing Class A status before the Commission as of February 22, 2012.

    21. We disagree with Latina that WDYB-CD properly was included in the eligible stations list simply because it had a Class A authorization prior to February 22, 2012, regardless of its status as of that date. Latina's argument that our authority on reconsideration is limited to granting or denying the relief requested by Petitioners fails for the same reasons as Petitioners' arguments regarding our authority to act on reconsideration. We also find unpersuasive Latina's recent estoppel and notice arguments. Latina maintains that it relied on the standard the Commission announced in the Second Order on Reconsideration, its inclusion in eligibility notices beginning in June 2015, and the Commission's statements regarding WDYB-CD in litigation. Latina's reliance on the Second Order on Reconsideration was misplaced: As Petitioners point out, the Commission specifically rejected Latina's argument that it was entitled to protection because it was similarly situated to Petitioners, and Latina never argued that it was entitled to protection on any other basis until filing its 1/22 Ex Parte Letter. The eligibility notices that Latina cites emphasized that they were neither final nor intended to decide eligibility issues. For example, the June 9, 2015 public notice stated that it was “not intended to pre-judge [the] outcome” of pending reconsideration petitions regarding the scope of protection, a June 30, 2015 public notice emphasized that “the list of stations included in the baseline data released today is not the final list of stations eligible for repacking protection,” and the most recent public notice listing eligible stations noted the possibility of revisions to the baseline data. Finally, before the D.C. Circuit, the Commission merely pointed out that, unlike Petitioners' stations, Class A construction permits had been obtained for WDYB-CD prior to February 22, 2012, without stating that this factual distinction entitled WDYB-CD to protection under the standard in the Second Order on Reconsideration. We therefore conclude that WDYB-CD is not entitled to discretionary repacking protection or eligible to participate in the reverse auction.

    22. In the Incentive Auction Report and Order, and again in the Second Reconsideration Order, the Commission determined that if a Class A station obtains a license after February 22, 2012, but is displaced by the auction repacking process, it will be eligible to file for a new channel in one of the first two filing opportunities for alternate channels. WDYB-CD would be eligible to file such a displacement application. Previously, we delegated authority to the Media Bureau to determine whether such stations should be allowed to file during the first or the second filing opportunity. We now direct the Media Bureau to allow such stations to file during the first filing opportunity. In the event of mutual exclusivity with an application from a full power or Class A station entitled to repacking protection the application of the full power or Class A station will prevail.

    23. This document does not contain new or modified information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), Public Law 104-13. In addition, therefore, it does not contain any new or modified information collection burden for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees, pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198, see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4).

    24. The Commission will not send a copy of this Order pursuant to the Congressional Review Act, see 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A) because no rules are being adopted by the Commission.

    IV. Ordering Clauses

    25. It is ordered that, pursuant to section 405 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 405, and section 1.429 of the Commission's rules, 47 CFR 1.429, the Petition for Reconsideration filed by The Videohouse, Inc., Abacus Television, WMTM, LLC, and KMYA, LLC is dismissed and/or denied to the extent described herein.

    26. It is further ordered that WDYB-CD, Daytona Beach, Florida, which is licensed to Latina Broadcasters of Daytona Beach, LLC, is not entitled to discretionary repacking protection or eligible to participate in the reverse auction.

    27. It is further ordered that this Order on Reconsideration shall be effective upon release.

    Federal Communications Commission. Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03801 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6712-01-P
    SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD 49 CFR Parts 1001, 1002, 1005, 1007, 1011, 1012, 1013, 1014, 1016, 1017, 1018, 1019, 1021, 1034, 1035, 1039, 1090, 1101, 1102, 1103, 1104, 1105, 1110, 1111, 1113, 1114, 1115, 1118, 1139, 1144, 1146, 1150, 1151, 1152, 1180, 1241, 1242, 1243, 1244, 1245, 1246, 1247, 1248, and 1253 [Docket No. EP 712] Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review AGENCY:

    Surface Transportation Board.

    ACTION:

    Final rules.

    SUMMARY:

    The Surface Transportation Board (Board) is revising, correcting, and updating its regulations. These modifications include replacing obsolete statutory references, updating office and address references, and correcting spelling, grammatical, terminology, explanatory, and typographical errors. The Board is also making changes to certain authority citations and to certain regulations related to reporting requirements.

    DATES:

    Effective March 25, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Allison Davis: (202) 245-0378. Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) for the hearing impaired: (800) 877-8339.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    In accordance with Executive Order 13563, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,” and Executive Order 13579, “Regulation and Independent Regulatory Agencies,” the Board began this proceeding on October 12, 2011, to review its existing regulations and sought public comments on whether any of its regulations may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and how to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them, as appropriate. See Exec. Order No. 13563, 76 FR 3821 (Jan. 21, 2011); Exec. Order No. 13579, 76 FR 41587 (Jul. 14, 2011). In this decision, we are revising, correcting, and updating our regulations in 49 CFR Chapter X, pursuant to the comments received and the Board's own internal review of its regulations.

    The changes made by this decision generally fall into the following categories: Eliminating or changing obsolete agency/office titles (e.g., 49 CFR 1007.6(a)(8)); making spelling, grammatical, terminology, explanatory, and typographical changes (e.g., 49 CFR 1016.105(a)); correcting references to United States Code or Code of Federal Regulations sections that have been moved or are otherwise incorrect (e.g., 49 CFR 1013.2(d), 49 CFR 1018.6(a)); 1 and amending rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice (e.g., 49 CFR 1011.7(a), 49 CFR 1111.1(a)). Additionally, this decision makes certain nonsubstantive updates related to the Board's reporting requirements, including adding the option of electronic submissions and eliminating language requiring the filing of duplicate copies (e.g., 49 CFR 1243.1), and updating form titles (e.g., 49 CFR 1245.2).2

    1 We recognize that the recently enacted Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015, Pub. L. 114-110, recodifies provisions of title 49, United States Code. To the extent those provisions are referenced in our regulations, the Board will address those and other changes to the Code of Federal Regulations stemming from that Act at a later date.

    2 These changes were proposed in Accelerating Reporting Requirements for Class I Railroads, EP 701 (STB served July 8, 2015).

    Because these changes either remove obsolete regulations, make revisions that are not substantive, or update rules to reflect current agency practice, we find good cause to dispense with notice and comment under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(3)(A) and (B). These changes are not intended to be a comprehensive response to the comments received in this docket; the Board will continue to evaluate those comments and review its regulations, and may promulgate additional revisions at a later date.

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, 5 U.S.C. 601-612, generally requires an agency to prepare a regulatory flexibility analysis of any rule subject to notice and comment rulemaking requirements, unless the agency certifies that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Because the Board has determined that notice and comment are not required under the APA for this rulemaking, the requirements of the RFA do not apply.

    These final rules do not contain a new or amended information collection requirement subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 U.S.C. 3501-3549.

    It is ordered:

    1. The rule modifications set forth below are adopted as final rules.

    2. This decision is effective March 25, 2016.

    List of Subjects 49 CFR Part 1001

    Administrative practice and procedure, Confidential business information, Freedom of information.

    49 CFR Part 1002

    Administrative practice and procedure, Common carriers, Freedom of information.

    49 CFR Part 1005

    Claims, Freight, Investigations, Maritime carriers, Motor carriers, Railroads.

    49 CFR Part 1007

    Privacy.

    49 CFR Part 1011

    Administrative practice and procedure, Authority delegations (Government agencies), Organization and functions (Government agencies).

    49 CFR Part 1012

    Sunshine Act.

    49 CFR Part 1013

    Common carriers, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Securities, Trusts and trustees.

    49 CFR Part 1014

    Administrative practice and procedure, Civil rights, Equal employment opportunity, Federal buildings and facilities, Individuals with disabilities.

    49 CFR Part 1016

    Claims, Equal access to justice, Lawyers.

    49 CFR Part 1017

    Claims, Government employees, Wages.

    49 CFR Part 1018

    Claims, Income taxes.

    49 CFR Part 1019

    Conflict of interests.

    49 CFR Part 1021

    Claims.

    49 CFR Part 1034

    Railroads.

    49 CFR Part 1035

    Maritime carriers, Railroads.

    49 CFR Part 1039

    Agricultural commodities, Intermodal transportation, Railroads.

    49 CFR Part 1090

    Freight, Intermodal transportation, Maritime carriers, Motor carriers, Railroads.

    49 CFR Part 1101

    Administrative practice and procedure.

    49 CFR Part 1102

    Administrative practice and procedure.

    49 CFR Part 1103

    Administrative practice and procedure, Lawyers.

    49 CFR Part 1104

    Administrative practice and procedure.

    49 CFR Part 1105

    Environmental impact statements, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    49 CFR Part 1110

    Administrative practice and procedure.

    49 CFR Part 1111

    Administrative practice and procedure, Investigations.

    49 CFR Part 1113

    Administrative practice and procedure.

    49 CFR Part 1114

    Administrative practice and procedure.

    49 CFR Part 1115

    Administrative practice and procedure.

    49 CFR Part 1118

    Administrative practice and procedure.

    49 CFR Part 1139

    Administrative practice and procedure, Buses, Freight, Motor carriers, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    49 CFR Part 1144

    Railroads.

    49 CFR Part 1146

    Railroads.

    49 CFR Part 1150

    Administrative practice and procedure, Railroads.

    49 CFR Part 1151

    Administrative practice and procedure, Railroads.

    49 CFR Part 1152

    Administrative practice and procedure, Railroads, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Uniform System of Accounts.

    49 CFR Part 1180

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

    49 CFR Part 1241

    Railroads, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    49 CFR Part 1242

    Railroads, Taxes.

    49 CFR Part 1243

    Railroads, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    49 CFR Part 1244

    Freight, Railroads, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    49 CFR Part 1245

    Railroad employees, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Wages.

    49 CFR Part 1246

    Railroad employees, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    49 CFR Part 1247

    Freight, Railroads, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    49 CFR Part 1248

    Freight, Railroads, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Statistics.

    49 CFR Part 1253

    Freight forwarders, Maritime carriers, Motor carriers, Pipelines, Railroads, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Decided: February 11, 2016.

    By the Board, Chairman Elliott, Vice Chairman Miller, and Commissioner Begeman. Commissioner Begeman commented with a separate expression.

    Kenyatta Clay, Clearance Clerk.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, under the authority of 49 U.S.C. 1321, title 49, chapter X, parts 1001, 1002, 1005, 1007, 1011, 1012, 1013, 1014, 1016, 1017, 1018, 1019, 1021, 1034, 1035, 1039, 1090, 1101, 1102, 1103, 1104, 1105, 1110, 1111, 1113, 1114, 1115, 1118, 1139, 1144, 1146, 1150, 1151, 1152, 1180, 1241, 1242, 1243, 1244, 1245, 1246, 1247, 1248, and 1253 of the Code of Federal Regulations are amended as follows:

    PART 1001—INSPECTION OF RECORDS 1. The authority citation for part 1001 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 552, 49 U.S.C. 702, and 49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1001.3 [Amended]
    2. In § 1001.3, remove the words “within 10 days of receipt of a request” and add in their place the words “within 20 days of receipt of a request”.
    PART 1002—FEES 3. The authority citation for part 1002 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(A) and 553; 31 U.S.C. 9701; and 49 U.S.C. 721. Section 1002.1(g)(11) is also issued under 5 U.S.C. 5514 and 31 U.S.C. 3717.

    § 1002.2 [Amended]
    4. In § 1002.2(f)(78), add “($26 flat fee for electronic filing.)” following “($26 min. charge.)”
    PART 1005—PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES FOR THE INVESTIGATION AND VOLUNTARY DISPOSITION OF LOSS AND DAMAGE CLAIMS AND PROCESSING SALVAGE 5. The authority citation for Part 1005 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 11706, 14706, 15906.

    6. Revise § 1005.5 to read as follows:
    § 1005.5 Disposition of claims.

    Each carrier subject to the Interstate Commerce Act which receives a written or electronically transmitted claim for loss or damage to baggage or for loss, damage, injury, or delay to property transported shall pay, decline, or make a firm compromise settlement offer in writing or electronically to the claimant within 120 days after receipt of the claim by the carrier; provided, however, that, if the claim cannot be processed and disposed of within 120 days after the receipt thereof, the carrier shall at that time and at the expiration of each succeeding 60-day period while the claim remains pending, advise the claimant in writing or electronically of the status of the claim and the reason for the delay in making the final disposition thereof, and it shall retain a copy of such advice to the claimant in its claim file thereon.

    PART 1007—RECORDS CONTAINING INFORMATION ABOUT INDIVIDUALS 7. The authority citation for Part 1007 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 552, 49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1007.6 [Amended]
    8. In § 1007.6: a. In paragraph (a)(8), remove the title “National Archives of the United States” and add in its place “National Archives and Records Administration” and remove the title “Administrator of General Services” and add in its place “Archivist of the United States”. b. In paragraph (a)(11), remove the title “General Accounting Office” and add in its place “Government Accountability Office”.
    PART 1011—BOARD ORGANIZATION; DELEGATIONS OF AUTHORITY 9. The authority citation for Part 1011 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 553; 31 U.S.C. 9701; 49 U.S.C. 701, 721, 11123, 11124, 11144, 14122, and 15722.

    10. Revise the first sentence of § 1011.2(a)(7) to read as follows:
    § 1011.2 The Board.

    (a) * * *

    (7) All appeals of initial decisions issued by the Director of the Office of Proceedings under the authority delegated by § 1011.7(a), and all appeals of initial decisions issued by the Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance under the authority delegated by § 1011.7(b). * * *

    § 1011.4 [Amended]
    11. In § 1011.4(a)(7), remove “section 308 of the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973” and add in its place “section 308 of the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973, 45 U.S.C. 748,”.
    § 1011.6 [Amended]
    12. In § 1011.6(h), remove “section 308 of the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973” and add in its place “section 308 of the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973, 45 U.S.C. 748,”.
    13. In § 1011.7: a. Revise paragraph (a)(1). b. In paragraph (a)(2)(xvii), remove the word “meditation” and add in its place the word “mediation”. c. Add paragraph (b)(6).

    The revision and addition read as follows:

    § 1011.7 Delegations of authority by the Board to specific offices of the Board.

    (a) Office of Proceedings. (1) The Director of the Office of Proceedings is delegated the authority to determine (in consultation with involved Offices) whether to waive filing fees set forth at 49 CFR 1002.2(f).

    (b) * * *

    (6) Issue, on written request, informal opinions and interpretations which are not binding on the Board. In issuing informal opinions or interpretations, the Director of the Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance shall consult with the Directors of the appropriate Board offices. Such requests must be directed to the Director of the Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    PART 1012—MEETINGS OF THE BOARD 14. The authority citation for Part 1012 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 552b(g), 49 U.S.C. 701, 721.

    § 1012.3 [Amended]
    15. In § 1012.3: a. In paragraph (c), remove the words “in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section” and add in their place the words “in paragraph (d) of this section”. b. Remove paragraph (d). c. Redesignate paragraph (e) as paragraph (d). d. Redesignate paragraph (f) as paragraph (e).
    PART 1013—GUIDELINES FOR THE PROPER USE OF VOTING TRUSTS 16. The authority citation for Part 1013 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 13301(f).

    § 1013.2 [Amended]
    17. In § 1013.2(d), remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 11343” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 11323”.
    18. Revise § 1013.3(c) to read as follows:
    § 1013.3 Review and reporting requirements for regulated carriers.

    (c) Any carrier required to file a Schedule 13D with the Securities and Exchange Commission (17 CFR 240.13d-1) which reports the purchase of 5 percent or more of the registered securities of another Board regulated carrier (or the listed shares of a company controlling 10 percent or more of the stock of a Board regulated carrier), must simultaneously file a copy of that schedule with the Board, along with any supplements to that schedule.

    PART 1014—ENFORCEMENT OF NONDISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF HANDICAP IN PROGRAMS OR ACTIVITIES CONDUCTED BY THE SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD 19. The authority citation for Part 1014 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    29 U.S.C. 794.

    § 1014.110 [Removed]
    20. Remove § 1014.110.
    PART 1016—SPECIAL PROCEDURES GOVERNING THE RECOVERY OF EXPENSES BY PARTIES TO BOARD ADJUDICATORY PROCEEDINGS 21. The authority citation for Part 1016 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 504(c)(1), 49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1016.103 [Amended]
    22. In § 1016.103(a), remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 10925” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 13905” and remove the reference to “49 CFR 1100.11” and add in its place “49 CFR 1103.5”.
    § 1016.105 [Amended]
    23. In § 1016.105: a. In paragraph (a), remove “The term `party'is defined” and add in its place “The term `party' is defined”. b. In paragraph (b)(3), remove the reference to “Internal Revenue Code of 1954” and add in its place “Internal Revenue Code of 1986”.
    24. Revise the first sentence of § 1016.107(b) to read as follows:
    § 1016.107 Allowable fees and expenses.

    (b) No award for the fee of an attorney or agent under these rules may exceed the amount specified by 5 U.S.C. 504(b)(1)(A), unless a higher fee is justified. * * *

    § 1016.202 [Amended]
    25. In § 1016.202(a), remove the reference to “§ 1016.105(f)” and add in its place “§ 1016.105(e)”.
    PART 1017—DEBT COLLECTION—COLLECTION BY OFFSET FROM INDEBTED GOVERNMENT AND FORMER GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES 26. Revise the authority citation for Part 1017 to read as follows: Authority:

    31 U.S.C. 3716, 5 U.S.C. 5514; Pub. L. 97-365; 31 CFR parts 900-904; 5 CFR part 550.

    § 1017.9 [Amended]
    27. In § 1017.9(b)(2), remove the reference to “5 CFR 1108” and add in its place “5 CFR 550.1109” and remove the word “provided” and add in its place “followed”.
    PART 1018—DEBT COLLECTION 28. Revise the authority citation for Part 1018 to read as follows: Authority:

    31 U.S.C. 3701, 31 U.S.C. 3711 et seq., 49 U.S.C. 721, 31 CFR parts 900-904.

    29. Revise § 1018.3 to read as follows:
    § 1018.3 Communications.

    Unless otherwise specified, all communications concerning the regulations in this part should be addressed to the Chief, Section of Financial Services, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    § 1018.6 [Amended]
    30. In § 1018.6(a), remove the reference to “4 CFR parts 101 through 105” and add in its place “31 CFR parts 900 through 904”.
    § 1018.8 [Amended]
    31. In § 1018.8, remove the words “compromising or suspending or terminating collection” and add in their place “compromising, suspending, or terminating”.
    § 1018.20 [Amended]
    32. In § 1018.20: a. In paragraph (a)(4), remove the reference to “4 CFR 102.13” and add in its place “31 CFR 901.9”. b. In paragraph (b)(3)(iii), remove the reference to “4 CFR 102.5” and add in its place “31 CFR 901.4”.
    § 1018.25 [Amended]
    33. In § 1018.25: a. In paragraph (a), remove “a certified or cashier's check or a money order” and add in its place “a certified check, cashier's check, or money order”. b. In paragraph (a), remove the words “or insurance filing fee”. c. In paragraph (b), remove the words “or insurance” wherever they appear. d. In paragraph (d), remove the words “or insurance” wherever they appear. e. In the heading of paragraph (d), remove the words “privileges or certificates,” and add in their place “privileges, certificates,”.
    § 1018.28 [Amended]
    34. In § 1018.28: a. In paragraph (a), remove the reference to “4 CFR 102.2, 102.3, and 102.4” and add in its place “31 CFR 901.2 and 901.3”. b. In paragraph (b), remove the reference to “4 CFR 102.4” and add in its place “31 CFR 901.3(e)”. c. In paragraph (d)(1)(vi), remove the reference to “4 CFR 102.3(c)” and add in its place “31 CFR 901.3(e)”.
    § 1018.30 [Amended]
    35. In § 1018.30: a. In paragraph (a), remove the reference to “4 CFR 102.13” and add in its place “31 CFR 901.9”. b. In paragraph (b), remove the reference to “4 CFR 102.2 and 102.13” and add in its place “31 CFR 901.2 and 901.9”.
    § 1018.51 [Amended]
    36. In § 1018.51: a. In paragraph (a)(3), remove the reference to “4 CFR 103.4” and add in its place “31 CFR 902.2”. b. In paragraph (b), remove the reference to “4 CFR part 103” and add in its place “31 CFR part 902”.
    § 1018.72 [Amended]
    37. In § 1018.72(d), remove the reference to “4 CFR 105.2” and add in its place “31 CFR 904.2”.
    38. Amend § 1018.91 as follows: a. At the end of paragraphs (b)(3) and (b)(4), remove the periods and add semicolons in their place. b. Revise paragraph (b)(7). c. In paragraph (b)(8), remove the reference to “26 CFR 301.6402-6T” and add in its place “26 CFR 301.6402-6”.

    The revision reads as follows:

    § 1018.91 Applicability and scope.

    (b) * * *

    (7) Is at least $25.00; and

    PART 1019—REGULATIONS GOVERNING CONDUCT OF SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD EMPLOYEES 39. The authority citation for Part 1019 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1019.2 [Amended]
    40. In § 1019.2(a), remove the title “Executive Counsel” and add in its place “General Counsel”.
    PART 1021—ADMINISTRATIVE COLLECTION OF ENFORCEMENT CLAIMS 41. The authority citation for Part 1021 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    31 U.S.C. 3701, 3711, 3717, 3718.

    42. Revise § 1021.1 to read as follows:
    § 1021.1 Standards.

    The regulations issued jointly by the Comptroller General of the United States and the Attorney General of the United States under section 3 of the Federal Claims Collection Act of 1966, as amended, (31 U.S.C. 3701 et seq.) and published in 31 CFR parts 900 through 904 are hereby adopted by the Surface Transportation Board for the administrative collection of enforcement claims.

    PART 1034—ROUTING OF TRAFFIC 43. The authority citation for Part 1034 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 11123.

    § 1034.1 [Amended]
    44. In § 1034.1: a. In paragraph (a), remove the words “submit a written or telegraphic notice” and add in their place “submit a written or electronic notice” and remove the title “Office of Compliance and Enforcement” and add in its place “Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance”. b. In paragraph (c), remove the title “Office of Compliance and Enforcement” and add in its place “Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance”.
    PART 1035—BILLS OF LADING 45. The authority citation for Part 1035 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 11706, 14706.

    46. In Appendix A to Part 1035 remove “, 19__” and add in its place “, 20____”. 47. In Appendix B to Part 1035, remove “4. (a)” and add in its place “Sec. 4. (a)”. PART 1039—EXEMPTIONS 48. The authority citation for Part 1039 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 10502, 13301.

    § 1039.12 [Removed]
    49. Remove § 1039.12.
    § 1039.14 [Amended]
    50. Amend § 1039.14 by removing “.” and adding in its place “;” at the end of paragraphs (b)(1) through (4) and removing “.”and adding in its place “; and” at the end of paragraph (b)(5).
    § 1039.21 [Removed]
    51. Remove § 1039.21.
    § 1039.22 [Amended]
    52. In § 1039.22(a)(2), remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 10713” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 10709”, remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 10761(a)” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 13702(a)”, and remove the reference to “10762(a)(1)” and add in its place “13702(b)-(d)”.
    PART 1090—PRACTICES OF CARRIERS INVOLVED IN THE INTERMODAL MOVEMENT OF CONTAINERIZED FREIGHT 53. The authority citation for Part 1090 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1090.2 [Amended]
    54. In § 1090.2, remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 10505(e) and (g), 109229(1), and 10530” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 10502(e) and (g) and 13902”.
    PART 1101—DEFINITIONS AND CONSTRUCTION 55. The authority citation for Part 1101 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1101.2 [Amended]
    56. In § 1101.2(e)(1), remove the reference to “1130.3” and add in its place “1130.2”.
    PART 1102—COMMUNICATIONS 57. The authority citation for Part 1102 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1102.2 [Amended]
    58. In § 1102.2(c)(1) and (2), remove the words “joint board member, employee board member”.
    PART 1103—PRACTITIONERS 59. The authority citation for Part 1103 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    21 U.S.C. 862; 49 U.S.C. 703(e), 721.

    60. In § 1103.3: a. In paragraph (d), remove the reference to “49 CFR 1002.2(f)(100)” and add in its place “49 CFR 1002.2(f)(99)(i)”. b. Revise paragraph (h). c. In paragraphs (l), (m), and (n), remove the reference to “49 CFR 1002.2(f)(100)” and add in its place “49 CFR 1002.2(f)(99)(i)”. d. Revise paragraph (o).

    The revisions read as follows:

    § 1103.3 Persons not attorneys-at-law—qualifications and requirements for practice before the Board.

    (h) Location of examination. Examinations will be conducted at the Board's office in Washington, DC.

    (o) Content and grading of examination. A Board staff member is responsible, under the general supervision of the Vice Chairman, for the examination of non-attorney applicants, the preparation of examination questions, and the grading of examinations. The staff member is appointed by the Chairman, with the approval of the Board. The staff member must be an attorney and must have at least two years of experience with the Board.

    § 1103.16 [Amended]
    61. In § 1103.16(c), remove the words “secrets or confidence” and add in their place “secrets or confidences”.
    62. In § 1103.20: a. Revise paragraph (b). b. In paragraph (g), remove “in behalf of the client” and add in its place “on behalf of the client”.

    The revision reads as follows:

    § 1103.20 Practitioner's fees and related practices.

    (b) Compensation, commission, and rebates. A practitioner shall accept no compensation, commission, rebates, or other advantages from the parties in a proceeding other than his client without the knowledge and consent of his client after full disclosure.

    PART 1104—FILING WITH THE BOARD-COPIES-VERIFICATION-SERVICE-PLEADINGS, GENERALLY 63. The authority citation for Part 1104 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 553 and 559; 18 U.S.C. 1621; 21 U.S.C. 862; and 49 U.S.C. 721.

    64. Amend § 1104.3(a) by adding the following sentence at the end of the paragraph:
    § 1104.3 Copies.

    (a)* * * When confidential documents are filed, redacted versions must also be filed.

    65. Revise § 1104.5(c) to read as follows:
    § 1104.5 Affirmation or declarations under penalty of perjury in accordance with 18 U.S.C. 1621 in lieu of oath.

    (c) Knowing and willful misstatements or omissions of material facts constitute federal criminal violations punishable under 18 U.S.C. 1001. Additionally, these misstatements are punishable as perjury under 18 U.S.C. 1621.

    § 1104.6 [Amended]
    66. In the last sentence of § 1104.6, remove “5 p.m.” and add in its place “11:59 p.m.”
    67. In § 1104.12: a. Amend § 1104.12(a) by adding a sentence at the end of the paragraph. b. In the parenthetical, remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 10321” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 721”.

    The addition reads as follows:

    § 1104.12 Service of pleadings and papers.

    (a) * * * If a document is filed with the Board through the e-filing process, a copy of the e-filed document should be emailed to other parties, or a paper copy of the document should be personally served on the other parties, but if neither email nor personal service is feasible, service of a paper copy should be by first-class or express mail.

    68. Amend § 1104.14(a) by adding a sentence at the end of the paragraph to read as follows:
    § 1104.14 Protective orders to maintain confidentiality.

    (a) * * * When confidential documents are filed, redacted versions must also be filed.

    PART 1105—PROCEDURES FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS 69. Revise the authority citation for Part 1105 to read as follows: Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 1456 and 1536; 42 U.S.C. 4332 and 6362(b); 49 U.S.C. 701 note (1995) (Savings Provisions), 721(a), 10502, and 10903-10905; 54 U.S.C. 306108.

    70. Revise § 1105.2 to read as follows:
    § 1105.2 Responsibility for administration of these rules.

    The Director of the Office of Environmental Analysis is delegated the authority to sign, on behalf of the Board, memoranda of agreement entered into pursuant to 36 CFR 800.5(e)(4) regarding historic preservation matters. The Director of the Office of Environmental Analysis is responsible for the preparation of documents under these rules and is delegated the authority to provide interpretations of the Board's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, to render initial decisions on requests for waiver or modification of any of these rules for individual proceedings, and to recommend rejection of environmental reports not in compliance with these rules. This delegated authority shall be used only in a manner consistent with Board policy. Appeals to the Board will be available as a matter of right.

    71. Revise § 1105.3 to read as follows:
    § 1105.3 Information and assistance.

    Information and assistance regarding the rules and the Board's environmental and historic review process is available by writing or calling the Office of Environmental Analysis.

    72. In § 1105.4: a. Revise paragraph (i). b. In paragraph (j), remove the references to “SEA's” wherever they appear and add in their place “OEA's”.

    The revision reads as follows:

    § 1105.4 Definitions.

    (i) Office of Environmental Analysis or “OEA” means the Office that prepares the Board's environmental documents and analyses.

    § 1105.5 [Amended]
    73. In § 1105.5(c)(3), remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 10905” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 10904”.
    § 1105.6 [Amended]
    74. In § 1105.6: a. In paragraph (b)(4) introductory text, remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 10901 or 10910” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 10901, 10902, or 10907”, and remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 11343” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 11323 and 14303.” b. In paragraph (b)(5), add “and” following “environmental impacts;”. c. Remove paragraph (b)(6). d. Redesignate paragraph (b)(7) as paragraph (b)(6). e. Remove paragraph (c)(1). f. Redesignate paragraphs (c)(2) through (7) as paragraphs (c)(1) through (6). g. In newly redesignated paragraph (c)(1)(i), remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 10901 or 10910” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 10901, 10902, or 10907”, and remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 11343” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 11323 and 14303.” h. Remove newly redesignated paragraph (c)(1)(v). i. Further redesignate newly redesignated paragraph (c)(1)(vi) as paragraph (c)(1)(v).
    75. Amend § 1105.7 as follows: a. Add a sentence to the end of paragraph (a). b. In paragraph (e)(3)(iv), remove the reference “49 U.S.C. 10906” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 10905”.

    The addition reads as follows:

    § 1105.7 Environmental reports.

    (a) Filing. * * * The Environmental Report may be filed with the Board electronically.

    76. Amend § 1105.8(a) by adding a sentence at the end of the paragraph to read as follows:
    § 1105.8 Historic Reports.

    (a) Filing. * * * The Historic Report may be filed with the Board electronically.

    § 1105.10 [Amended]
    77. In § 1105.10: a. In paragraphs (b) and (d), remove the references to “SEA” wherever they appear and add in their place “OEA”. b. In paragraph (d), remove the references to “SEA's” wherever they appear and add in their place “OEA's”. c. In paragraph (f), remove the abbreviation “CZMA” and add in its place “Coastal Zone Management Act”.
    § 1105.11 [Amended]
    78. In the appendix to § 1105.11, remove the reference to “the Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA), Surface Transportation Board, 1925 K Street, NW., Washington, DC 20423” and add in its place “the Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA), Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC”.
    § 1105.12 [Amended]
    79. In the appendix to § 1105.12: a. In the Sample Local Newspaper Notice for Out-of-Service Abandonment Exemptions: i. In the first paragraph, remove the zip code “20423”. ii. In the second paragraph, remove the references to “Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA)” wherever they appear and add in their place “Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA)”; and remove the zip code “20423”. iii. In the third paragraph remove the reference to “Section of Administration, Office of Proceedings, 395 E Street, SW., Washington, DC 20423-0001” and add in its place “Office of Proceedings, Washington, DC”. b. In the Sample Local Newspaper Notice for Petitions for Abandonment Exemptions: i. In the first paragraph, remove the zip code “20423”. ii. In the second paragraph, remove the references to “Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA)” wherever they appear and add in their place “Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA)”; and remove the zip code “20423”. iii. In the third paragraph remove the reference to “Section of Administration, Office of Proceedings, 395 E Street SW., Washington, DC 20423-0001” and add in its place “Office of Proceedings, Washington, DC”.
    PART 1110—PROCEDURES GOVERNING INFORMAL RULEMAKING PROCEEDINGS 80. The authority citation for Part 1110 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721.

    81. Amend § 1110.2 by revising paragraphs (b) and (c)(1) to read as follows:
    § 1110.2 Opening of proceeding.

    (b) Any person may petition the Board to open a proceeding to issue, amend, or repeal a rule.

    (c) * * *

    (1) Be submitted, along with 15 copies, to the Chief, Section of Administration, Office of Proceedings, Surface Transportation Board, Washington DC;

    § 1110.5 [Amended]
    82. In § 1110.5, remove the word “additional” and add in its place “undue”.
    PART 1111—COMPLAINT AND INVESTIGATION PROCEDURES 83. The authority citation for Part 1111 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 10704, and 11701.

    § 1111.1 [Amended]
    84. In § 1111.1: a. In paragraph (a), remove the words “at the hearing”. b. In paragraph (e), remove the reference to “49 CFR 1244.8” and add in its place “49 CFR 1244.9”.
    PART 1113—ORAL HEARING 85. The authority citation for Part 1113 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 559; 49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1113.2 [Amended]
    86. In § 1113.2: a. In paragraph (d), remove “return on the subpoena” and add in its place “return of the subpoena”. b. In paragraph (e), remove “at whose instance” and add in its place “at whose insistence”.
    § 1113.3 [Amended]
    87. In § 1113.3(c)(2), remove “after the close of hearing” and add in its place “after the close of the hearing”.
    § 1113.8 [Amended]
    88. In § 1113.8, remove “in whose behalf” and add in its place “on whose behalf”.
    § 1113.11 [Amended]
    89. In § 1113.11, remove “damage” and add in its place “damages”.
    PART 1114—EVIDENCE; DISCOVERY 90. The authority citation for Part 1114 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 559; 49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1114.21 [Amended]
    91. In § 1114.21(a)(1), remove the reference to “§ 1011.6” and add in its place “§ 1011.5”.
    § 1114.24 [Amended]
    92. In § 1114.24(g), remove “(1) Not a relative” and add in its place “(1) not a relative”.
    § 1114.25 [Amended]
    93. In § 1114.25: a. In paragraph (b)(2), remove “seasonable” and add in its place “reasonable”. b. In paragraph (c), remove “Errors and irregularities” and add in its place “Objections to errors and irregularities”.
    § 1114.26 [Amended]
    94. In § 1114.26(a), remove the reference to “§ 1114.21(b)(2)” and add in its place “§ 1114.21(a)”.
    § 1114.27 [Amended]
    95. In § 1114.27(a), remove the reference to “§ 1114.21(b)(2)” and add in its place “§ 1114.21(a)”.
    PART 1115—APPELLATE PROCEDURES 96. The authority citation for Part 1115 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 559; 49 U.S.C. 721.

    § 1115.2 [Amended]
    97. In § 1115.2(b)(3), remove the words “governing precedent;” and add in their place “governing precedent; or”.
    PART 1118—PROCEDURES IN INFORMAL PROCEEDINGS BEFORE EMPLOYEE BOARDS 98. Under the authority of 49 U.S.C. 1321, Part 1118 is removed. PART 1139—PROCEDURES IN MOTOR CARRIER REVENUE PROCEEDINGS 99. Under the authority of 49 U.S.C. 1321, Part 1139 is removed. PART 1144—INTRAMODAL RAIL COMPETITION 100. The authority citation for Part 1144 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 10703, 10705, and 11102.

    § 1144.2 [Amended]
    101. In § 1144.2: a. In paragraph (a) introductory text, remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 11102” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 11102(c)”. b. In paragraph (a)(1), remove the reference to “and 11102” and add in its place “and 11102(c)”.
    PART 1146—EXPEDITED RELIEF FOR SERVICE EMERGENCIES 102. The authority citation for Part 1146 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 11101, and 11123.

    § 1146.1 [Amended]
    103. In § 1146.1(d)(1), remove “Carrier are” and add in its place “Carriers are”.
    PART 1150—CERTIFICATE TO CONSTRUCT, ACQUIRE, OR OPERATE RAILROAD LINES 104. The authority citation for Part 1150 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721(a), 10502, 10901, and 10902.

    § 1150.3 [Amended]
    105. In § 1150.3(h), remove the reference to “paragraphs (e) or (f)” and add in its place “paragraphs (f) or (g)”.
    106. In § 1150.21 revise the second sentence to read as follows:
    § 1150.21 Scope of rules.

    * * * The rail line must have been fully abandoned, or approved for abandonment by the Board or a bankruptcy court. * * *

    § 1150.31 [Amended]
    107. In § 1150.31(b), remove the words “and the from securities regulation at 49 CFR part 1175” and add in their place “and the exemption from securities regulation at 49 CFR part 1177”.
    108. In § 1150.35: a. Revise paragraph (b) introductory text. b. In paragraph (f), remove the sentence “Stay petitions must be filed within 7 days of the filing of the notion of exemption.” c. In paragraph (g), remove the reference to “§ 1150.33(g)” and add in its place “§ 1150.32(d)”.

    The revision reads as follows:

    § 1150.35 Procedures and relevant dates—transactions that involve creation of Class I or Class II carriers.

    (b) The notice of intent must contain all of the information required in § 1150.33, exclusive of § 1150.33(g), plus:

    § 1150.42 [Amended]
    109. Remove the last sentence of § 1150.42(a).
    PART 1151—FEEDER RAILROAD DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM 110. The authority citation for Part 1151 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 10907.

    111. Amend § 1151.3 by revising the last sentence in paragraphs (a)(9) and (12) and revising the first sentence in paragraph (a)(14) introductory text to read as follows:
    § 1151.3 Contents of application.

    (a) * * *

    (9) * * * (This statement will be binding upon applicant if the application is approved.)

    (12) * * * (This statement will be binding upon applicant if the application is approved.)

    (14) If applicant requests Board-prescribed joint rates and divisions in the feeder line proceeding, a description of any joint rate and division agreement must be included in the application. * * *

    § 1151.4 [Amended]
    112. In § 1151.4(e), remove the reference to “49 U.S.C. 10709(d)(2)” and add in its place “49 U.S.C. 10707”.
    PART 1152—ABANDONMENT AND DISCONTINUANCE OF RAIL LINES AND RAIL TRANSPORTATION UNDER 49 U.S.C. 10903 113. The authority citation for Part 1152 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    11 U.S.C. 1170; 16 U.S.C. 1247(d) and 1248; 45 U.S.C. 744; and 49 U.S.C. 701 note (1995) (section 204 of the ICC Termination Act of 1995), 721(a), 10502, 10903-10905, and 11161.

    114. In § 1152.30: a. In paragraph (b), remove the reference to “49 CFR part 1201” and add in its place “49 CFR part 1201, subpart B”. b. Revise paragraph (c)(1) to read as follows:
    § 1152.30 General.

    (c) Final payment of financial assistance. (1) When a financial assistance agreement to subsidize is concluded, the final payment will be adjusted to reflect the actual revenues derived, avoidable costs incurred, and value of the properties used in the subsidy year.

    § 1152.32 [Amended]
    115. In § 1152.32: a. In paragraph (j)(4), remove the reference to “paragraphs (f)(2) or (3)” and add in its place “paragraphs (j)(2) or (3)”. b. In paragraph (o) introductory text, remove the words “depreciation cost” and add in their place “depreciation expense”.
    PART 1180—RAILROAD ACQUISITION, CONTROL, MERGER, CONSOLIDATION PROJECT, TRACKAGE RIGHTS, AND LEASE PROCEDURES 116. The authority citation for Part 1180 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    5 U.S.C. 553 and 559; 11 U.S.C. 1172; 49 U.S.C. 721, 10502, 11323-11325.

    § 1180.3 [Amended]
    117. In § 1180.3(h), remove the reference to “1180.4(d)(4)(ii)” and add in its place “1180.4(d)(2)”.
    118. In § 1180.4(c)(8), revise the last sentence of the paragraph to read as follows:
    § 1180.4 Procedures

    (c) * * *

    (8) * * * See Railroad Consolidation Procedures, 363 I.C.C. 767 (1980).

    PARTS 1240-1259—REPORTS 119. Revise the note for Parts 1240-1259 to read as follows: Note:

    The report forms prescribed by parts 1240-1259 are available upon request from the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    PART 1241—ANNUAL, SPECIAL, OR PERIODIC REPORTS—CARRIERS SUBJECT TO PART I OF THE INTERSTATE COMMERCE ACT 120. The authority citation for Part 1241 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 11145.

    121. Revise the note for Part 1241 to read as follows: Note:

    The report forms prescribed by part 1241 are available upon request from the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    § 1241.11 [Amended]
    122. In § 1241.11(a), remove the title “Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis, and Administration” and add in its place “Office of Economics” and remove the zip code “20423”.
    § 1241.15 [Amended]
    123. In § 1241.15, remove the title “Bureau of Accounts” and add in its place “Office of Economics” and remove the zip code “20423”.
    PART 1242—SEPARATION OF COMMON OPERATING EXPENSES BETWEEN FREIGHT SERVICE AND PASSENGER SERVICE FOR RAILROADS 124. The authority citation for Part 1242 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 11142.

    125. Revise the note for Part 1242 to read as follows: Note:

    The report forms prescribed by part 1242 are available upon request from the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    126. In the note to § 1242.87, remove the title “Bureau of Accounts” and add in its place “Office of Economics”. PART 1243—QUARTERLY OPERATING REPORTS—RAILROADS 127. The authority citation for Part 1243 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 11145.

    128. Revise the note for Part 1243 to read as follows: Note:

    The report forms prescribed by part 1243 are available upon request from the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    129. In § 1243.1, revise the last sentence to read as follows:
    § 1243.1 Revenues, expenses and income.

    * * * Such quarterly reports shall be submitted, in paper or electronically, to the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC, within 30 days after the end of the quarter to which they relate.

    130. In § 1243.2, revise the last sentence to read as follows:
    § 1243.2 Condensed balance sheet.

    * * * Such quarterly reports shall be submitted, in paper or electronically, to the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC, within 30 days after the end of the quarter to which they relate.

    131. In § 1243.3, revise the last sentence of the introductory text to read as follows:
    § 1243.3 Report of fuel cost, consumption, and surcharge revenue.

    * * * Such reports shall be submitted, in paper or electronically, to the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC, within 30 days after the end of the quarter reported.

    PART 1244—WAYBILL ANALYSIS OF TRANSPORTATION OF PROPERTY—RAILROADS 132. The authority citation for Part 1244 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 10707, 11144, 11145.

    § 1244.3 [Amended]
    133. In § 1244.3(b)(4), remove the title “Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis, and Administration” and add in its place “Office of Economics” and remove the zip code “20423-0001”.
    § 1244.9 [Amended]
    134. In § 1244.9: a. In paragraph (a), remove the title “Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis, and Administration” and add in its place “Office of Economics”. b. In paragraph (d)(2), remove the title “Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis, and Administration” and add in its place “Office of Economics”. c. In paragraph (d)(3)(ii), remove the title “Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis, and Administration” and add in its place “Office of Economics” and remove the zip code “20423”. d. In paragraph (d)(4)(i), remove the title “Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis, and Administration” and add in its place “Office of Economics”. e. In paragraph (e)(2), remove the title “Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis, and Administration” and add in its place “Office of Economics” and remove the zip code “20423”. f. In paragraph (f)(4), remove the title “OTA” and add in its place “Office of Economics”. g. In paragraph (g)(3), remove the title “Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis, and Administration” and add in its place “Office of Economics” and remove the zip code “20423”.
    PART 1245—CLASSIFICATION OF RAILROAD EMPLOYEES; REPORTS OF SERVICE AND COMPENSATION 135. The authority citation for Part 1245 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 11145.

    136. Revise the note for Part 1245 to read as follows: Note:

    The report forms prescribed by part 1245 are available upon request from the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    137. Revise § 1245.2 to read as follows:
    § 1245.2 Reports of railroad employees, service and compensation.

    Each Class I railroad is required to file a Quarterly Report of Railroad Employees, Service, and Compensation, (Quarterly Wage Forms A & B). In addition, such carriers shall also file an Annual Report of Railroad Employees, Service, and Compensation, (Annual Wage Forms A & B) for each calendar year. Both reports shall be submitted, in paper or electronically, to the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC. The quarterly report shall be submitted within 30 days after the end of each calendar quarter. The annual report shall be submitted within 45 days after the end of the reporting year.

    PART 1246—NUMBER OF RAILROAD EMPLOYEES 138. The authority citation for Part 1246 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 11145.

    139. Revise § 1246.1 to read as follows:
    § 1246.1 Monthly report of number of railroad employees.

    Each Class I railroad shall file a Monthly Report of Number of Railroad Employees (Form C) each month. The report should be submitted, in paper or electronically, to the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC, by the end of the month to which it applies.

    140. Revise the note for part 1246 to read as follows: Note:

    The report forms prescribed by part 1246 are available upon request from the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    PART 1247—REPORT OF CARS LOADED AND CARS TERMINATED 141. The authority citation for Part 1247 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 10707, 11144, 11145.

    § 1247.1 [Amended]
    142. In § 1247.1: a. Remove the title “Office of Economics, Environmental Analysis, and Administration (OEEAA)” and add in its place “Office of Economics”. b. Remove the zip code “20243”. c. In the last sentence, remove “(http://www.stb.dot.gov/infoex1.htm#forms)” and add in its place “(http://www.stb.dot.gov)”. d. Remove “OEEAA” and add in its place “the Office of Economics”.
    PART 1248—FREIGHT COMMODITY STATISTICS 143. The authority citation for Part 1248 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 11144 and 11145.

    144. Revise the note for Part 1248 to read as follows: Note:

    The report forms prescribed by part 1248 are available upon request from the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    145. In § 1248.5(a), revise the first sentence to read as follows:
    § 1248.5 Report forms and date of filing.

    (a) Reports required from Class I carriers by this section shall be submitted, in paper or electronically, to the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC, on forms which will be furnished to the carriers. * * *

    PART 1253—RATE-MAKING ORGANIZATION; RECORDS AND REPORTS 146. The authority citation for Part 1253 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    49 U.S.C. 721, 10706, 13703, 11144 and 11145.

    147. Revise the note for Part 1253 to read as follows: Note:

    The report forms prescribed by part 1253 are available upon request from the Office of Economics, Surface Transportation Board, Washington, DC.

    Note:

    The following comment will not appear in the Code of Federal Regulations.

    COMMISSIONER BEGEMAN, commenting:

    It is disappointing that today's decision is all we can muster up more than four years after receiving public comments on whether any of the Board's regulations are “ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and how to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them. . . .” I certainly don't object to replacing obsolete references and correcting spelling and other errors, but we should be doing so as a matter of course. Today's decision is simply not responsive to what we set out to do in 2011. Nor does it meet the spirit—let alone achieve the purpose—of the President's two Executive Orders.

    [FR Doc. 2016-03298 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4915-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 660 [Docket No. 150708591-6096-02] RIN 0648-XE043 Fisheries Off West Coast States; Coastal Pelagic Species Fisheries; Annual Specifications AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Final rule.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS issues this final rule to implement annual management measures and harvest specifications to establish the allowable catch levels (i.e. annual catch limit (ACL)/harvest guideline (HG)) for Pacific mackerel in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the Pacific Coast for the fishing season of July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. This rule is implemented pursuant to the Coastal Pelagic Species (CPS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The 2015-2016 HG for Pacific mackerel is 21,469 metric tons (mt). This is the total commercial fishing target level. This action also implements an annual catch target (ACT), of 20,469 mt. If the fishery attains the ACT, the directed fishery will close, reserving the difference between the HG (21,469 mt) and ACT as a 1,000 mt set-aside for incidental landings in other CPS fisheries and other sources of mortality. This final rule is intended to conserve and manage the Pacific mackerel stock off the U.S. West Coast.

    DATES:

    Effective March 24, 2016 through June 30, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Joshua Lindsay, West Coast Region, NMFS, (562) 980-4034 [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    During public meetings each year, the estimated biomass for Pacific mackerel is presented to the Pacific Fishery Management Council's (Council) CPS Management Team (Team), the Council's CPS Advisory Subpanel (Subpanel) and the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and the biomass and the status of the fishery are reviewed and discussed. The biomass estimate is then presented to the Council along with the recommended overfishing limit (OFL) and acceptable biological catch (ABC) calculations from the SSC, along with the calculated ACL, HG and ACT recommendations, and comments from the Team and Subpanel. Following review by the Council and after reviewing public comment, the Council adopts a biomass estimate and makes its catch level recommendations to NMFS. NMFS manages the Pacific mackerel fishery in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific Coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) in accordance with the FMP. Annual specifications published in the Federal Register establish the allowable harvest levels (i.e. OFL/ACL/HG) for each Pacific mackerel fishing year. The purpose of this final rule is to implement the 2015-2016 ACL, HG, ACT and other annual catch reference points, including OFL and an ABC that takes into consideration uncertainty surrounding the current estimate of biomass for Pacific mackerel in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific Coast.

    The CPS FMP and its implementing regulations require NMFS to set these annual catch levels for the Pacific mackerel fishery based on the annual specification framework and control rules in the FMP. These control rules include the HG control rule, which in conjunction with the OFL and ABC rules in the FMP, are used to manage harvest levels for Pacific mackerel, in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. According to the FMP, the quota for the principal commercial fishery is determined using the FMP-specified HG formula. The HG is based, in large part, on the current estimate of stock biomass. The annual biomass estimates are an explicit part of the various harvest control rules for Pacific mackerel, and as the estimated biomass decreases or increases from one year to the next, the resulting allowable catch levels similarly trend. The harvest control rule in the CPS FMP is HG = [(Biomass-Cutoff) * Fraction * Distribution] with the parameters described as follows:

    1. Biomass. The estimated stock biomass of Pacific mackerel. For the 2015-2016 management season this is 120,435 mt.

    2. Cutoff. This is the biomass level below which no commercial fishery is allowed. The FMP established this level at 18,200 mt.

    3. Fraction. The harvest fraction is the percentage of the biomass above 18,200 mt that may be harvested.

    4. Distribution. The average portion of the Pacific mackerel biomass estimated in the U.S. EEZ off the Pacific Coast is 70 percent and is based on the average historical larval distribution obtained from scientific cruises and the distribution of the resource according to the logbooks of aerial fish-spotters.

    At the June 2015 Council meeting, the Council adopted the “Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicus) Stock Assessment for USA Management in the 2015-16 and 2016-2017 Fishing Years” (completed by NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center) and the resulting Pacific mackerel biomass estimate for use in the 2015-2016 fishing year of 120,435 mt. Based on recommendations from its SSC and other advisory bodies, the Council recommended, and NMFS is implementing, an OFL of 25,291 mt, an ABC and ACL of 23,104 mt, a HG of 21,469 mt, and an ACT of 20,469 mt for the fishing year of July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016. As of the publication of this final rule, the level of Pacific mackerel harvest since July 1, 2015, in the EEZ off the Pacific Coast has not reached 20,469 mt; Pacific mackerel harvested in this area between July 1, 2015, and the effective date of this final rule will count toward the 20,469 mt ACT. Additionally, the Council also adopted and recommended harvest specifications for the 2016-2017 fishing year; however, currently NMFS is only implementing the annual harvest measures for the 2015-2016 fishing year. A subsequent rule will be published later in the year that will propose the Council's recommendations for the 2016-2017 fishing year.

    Upon attainment of the ACT, the directed fishing would close, reserving the difference between the HG and ACT (1,000 mt) as a set aside for incidental landings in other CPS fisheries and other sources of mortality. For the remainder of the fishing year incidental landings would also be constrained to a 45 percent incidental catch allowance when Pacific mackerel are landed with other CPS (in other words, no more than 45 percent by weight of the CPS landed per trip may be Pacific mackerel), except that up to 3 mt of Pacific mackerel could be landed incidentally without landing any other CPS. Upon attainment of the HG (21,469 mt), no retention of Pacific mackerel would be allowed in CPS fisheries. In previous years, the incidental set-aside established in the mackerel fishery has been, in part, to ensure that if the directed quota for mackerel was reached that the operation of the Pacific sardine fishery was not overly restricted. There is no directed Pacific sardine fishery for the 2015-2016 season, therefore the need for a high incidental set-aside is reduced. The purpose of the incidental set-aside is to manage incidental landings of Pacific mackerel in other fisheries, particularly other CPS fisheries, when the directed fishery is closed to reduce potential discard of Pacific mackerel and allow for continued prosecution of other important CPS fisheries in which incidental catch of Pacific mackerel cannot be avoided.

    The NMFS West Coast Regional Administrator will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the date of any closure to either directed or incidental fishing. Additionally, to ensure the regulated community is informed of any closure, NMFS will also make announcements through other means available, including fax, email, and mail to fishermen, processors, and state fishery management agencies.

    On September 10, 2015, a proposed rule was published for this action and public comments solicited (80 FR 54507), with a comment period that ended on October 13, 2015. NMFS received two comments, explained below, regarding the proposed Pacific mackerel specifications. After consideration of public comment, no changes were made from the proposed rule. Detailed information on the fishery and the stock assessment are found in the reports “Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicus) Stock Assessment for USA Management in the 2015-16 Fishing Year” and “Pacific Mackerel Biomass Projection Estimate for USA Management (2015-16)” (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

    Comments and Responses

    Comment 1: The commenter expressed general support for this action, but only if the fishery is potentially subject to overfishing or if the decrease in harvest levels does not put people out of work.

    Response: Fisheries have the potential to overfish Pacific mackerel if unregulated. NMFS does not anticipate that this action will have a significant adverse economic impact on fishermen in this fishery.

    Comment 2: The commenter did not comment on the proposed action specifically, but discussed the management of commercial forage fish off the West Coast generally, specifically referencing concern over the status of Pacific sardine and northern anchovy stocks.

    Response: NMFS notes that Pacific mackerel is not overfished, that overfishing is not occurring, and that the best available science was used in the determination of these catch levels. NMFS agrees that the consideration of ecosystem interactions, such as the role of forage species and ecological conditions, along with social and economic factors are critical when making fishery management decisions. As such, NMFS has been working to better understand diet linkages between forage fish species and higher order predators to enhance the ecosystem science used in our fisheries management.

    Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Assistant Administrator, NMFS, has determined that this final rule is consistent with the CPS FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other applicable law.

    These specifications are exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared.

    This action does not contain a collection-of-information requirement for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act.

    Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: February 12, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03610 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 [Docket No. 140918791-4999-02] RIN 0648-XE457 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Cod by Vessels Using Pot Gear in the Western 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 pot gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the A season allowance of the 2016 Pacific cod total allowable catch apportioned to vessels using pot gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the GOA.

    DATES:

    Effective 1200 hours, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), February 19, 2016, through 1200 hours, A.l.t., June 10, 2016.

    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 2016 Pacific cod total allowable catch (TAC) apportioned to vessels using pot gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the GOA is 5,417 metric tons (mt), as established by the final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications for groundfish of the GOA (80 FR 10250, February 25, 2015) and inseason adjustment (81 FR 188, January 5, 2016).

    In accordance with § 679.20(d)(1)(i), the Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS (Regional Administrator) has determined that the A season allowance of the 2016 Pacific cod TAC apportioned to vessels using pot gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the GOA will soon be reached. Therefore, the Regional Administrator is establishing a directed fishing allowance of 5,407 mt and is setting aside the remaining 10 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 pot gear in the Western 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 pot gear in the Western 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 17, 2016.

    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: February 18, 2016. Alan D. Risenhoover, Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03732 Filed 2-18-16; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    81 35 Tuesday, February 23, 2016 Proposed Rules DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Agricultural Marketing Service 7 CFR Part 1218 [Document No. AMS-SC-15-0076] Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order; Continuance Referendum AGENCY:

    Agricultural Marketing Service USDA.

    ACTION:

    Referendum order.

    SUMMARY:

    This document directs that a referendum be conducted among eligible producers and importers of highbush blueberries to determine whether they favor continuance of the Blueberry Promotion, Research and Information Order (Order).

    DATES:

    The referendum will be conducted by mail ballot from July 5 through July 28, 2016. To be eligible to vote, blueberry producers and importers must have produced or imported 2,000 pounds or more of highbush blueberries during the representative period of January 1 through December 31, 2015, paid assessments during that period, and must currently be producers or importers of highbush blueberries subject to assessment under the Order. Ballots must be received by the referendum agents no later than the close of business on July 28, 2016, to be counted.

    ADDRESSES:

    Copies of the Order may be obtained from: Referendum Agent, Promotion and Economics Division, Specialty Crops Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 1406-S, Stop 0244, Washington, DC 20250-0244, telephone: (202) 720-9915; facsimile: (202) 205-2800; or contact Maureen Pello at (503) 632-8848 or via electronic mail: [email protected]

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Maureen Pello, Marketing Specialist, PED, SC, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 1406-S, Stop 0244, Washington, DC 20250-0244; telephone: (202) 720-9915, (503) 632-8848 (direct line); facsimile: (202) 205-2800; or electronic mail: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Pursuant to the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 7411-7425) (Act), it is hereby directed that a referendum be conducted to ascertain whether continuance of the Order (7 CFR part 1218) is favored by eligible producers and importers of highbush blueberries. The Order is authorized under the Act.

    The representative period for establishing voter eligibility for the referendum shall be the period from January 1 through December 31, 2015. Persons who produced or imported 2,000 pounds or more of highbush blueberries during the representative period, paid assessments during that period, and are currently highbush blueberry producers or importers subject to assessment under the Order are eligible to vote. Persons who received an exemption from assessments for the entire representative period are ineligible to vote. The referendum will be conducted by mail ballot from July 5 through July 28, 2016.

    Section 518 of the Act authorizes continuance referenda. Under § 1218.71(b) of the Order, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must conduct a referendum every 5 years to determine whether persons subject to assessment favor continuance of the Order. The last referendum was held in 2011. USDA would continue the Order if continuance is favored by a majority of the producers and importers voting in the referendum, who also represent a majority of the volume of blueberries represented in the referendum.

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. chapter 35), the referendum ballot has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and assigned OMB No. 0581-0093. It has been estimated that there are approximately 1,860 producers and 180 importers who will be eligible to vote in the referendum. It will take an average of 15 minutes for each voter to read the voting instructions and complete the referendum ballot.

    Referendum Order

    Maureen Pello, Marketing Specialist, and Heather Pichelman, Director, PED, SC, AMS, USDA, Stop 0244, Room 1406-S, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-0244, are designated as the referendum agents to conduct this referendum. The referendum procedures at 7 CFR 1218.100 through 1218.107, which were issued pursuant to the Act, shall be used to conduct the referendum.

    The referendum agent will mail the ballots to be cast in the referendum and voting instructions to all known, eligible highbush blueberry producers and importers prior to the first day of the voting period. Persons who produced or imported 2,000 more pounds of highbush blueberries during the representative period, paid assessments during that period, and are currently highbush blueberry producer or importers subject to assessment under the Order are eligible to vote. Persons who received an exemption from assessments during the entire representative period are ineligible to vote. Any eligible producer or importer who does not receive a ballot should contact the referendum agent no later than one week before the end of the voting period. Ballots must be received by the referendum agent by 4:30 p.m. Eastern time, July 28, 2016, in order to be counted.

    List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 1218

    Administrative practice and procedure, Advertising, Blueberry promotion, Consumer information, Marketing agreements, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Authority:

    7 U.S.C. 7411-7425; 7 U.S.C. 7401.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Erin Morris, Associate Administrator.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03806 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-02-P
    FARM CREDIT ADMINISTRATION 12 CFR Part 652 RIN 3052-AC86 Organization; Funding and Fiscal Affairs, Loan Policies and Operations, and Funding Operations; Farmer Mac Investment Eligibility AGENCY:

    Farm Credit Administration.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    The Farm Credit Administration (FCA, Agency, us, our, or we) proposes to amend our regulations governing the eligibility of non-program investments held by the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (Farmer Mac). We propose to revise these regulations to comply with section 939A of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act or DFA) by removing references to, and requirements relating to, credit ratings. We are also proposing a delayed compliance date for the rule.

    DATES:

    You may send us comments by April 25, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    We offer a variety of methods for you to submit comments on this proposed rule. For accuracy and efficiency reasons, commenters are encouraged to submit comments by email or through the Agency's Web site. As facsimiles (fax) are difficult for us to process and achieve compliance with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, we are no longer accepting comments submitted by fax. Regardless of the method you use, please do not submit your comment multiple times via different methods. You may submit comments by any of the following methods:

    Email: Send us an email at [email protected]

    FCA Web site: http://www.fca.gov. Select “Public Commenters,” then “Public Comments,” and follow the directions for “Submitting a Comment.”

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Mail: Laurie A Rea, Director, Office of Secondary Market Oversight, Farm Credit Administration, 1501 Farm Credit Drive, McLean, VA 22102-5090.

    You may review copies of all comments we receive at our office in McLean, Virginia, or on our Web site at http://www.fca.gov. Once you are in the Web site, select “Public Commenters,” then “Public Comments,” and follow the directions for “Reading Submitted Public Comments.” We will show your comments as submitted, but for technical reasons we may omit items such as logos and special characters. Identifying information that you provide, such as phone numbers and addresses, will be publicly available. However, we will attempt to remove email addresses to help reduce Internet spam.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joseph T. Connor, Associate Director for Policy and Analysis, Office of Secondary Market Oversight, Farm Credit Administration, McLean, VA 22102-5090, (703) 883-4364, TTY (703) 883-4056; or Laura McFarland, Senior Counsel, Office of General Counsel, Farm Credit Administration, McLean, VA 22102-5090, (703) 883-4020, TTY (703) 883-4056.
    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    I. Objective

    The purpose of this proposed rule is to replace references to credit rating agencies in existing Farmer Mac investment regulations with other appropriate standards to determine the creditworthiness of investments and to revise exposure limits for investments involving one obligor. Section 939A of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act or DFA) requires agencies to remove references to, and requirements relating to, credit ratings. This proposal would substitute other appropriate standards of creditworthiness. The proposed rule would also replace the table in existing regulations that sets forth criteria for non-program investment eligibility with standards that place a greater emphasis on management's due diligence responsibility in ascertaining credit quality of non-program investments so that only high quality investments are purchased and held. The proposed rule would also clarify how other non-program investments are treated and revise exposure limits for investments involving one obligor. We are also proposing a delayed compliance date for the rule.

    II. Background

    Farmer Mac is an institution of the Farm Credit System, regulated by FCA through the FCA Office of Secondary Market Oversight (OSMO). Farmer Mac was established and chartered by Congress to create a secondary market for agricultural real estate mortgage loans, rural housing mortgage loans, and rural utilities loans, and it is a stockholder-owned instrumentality of the United States. Title VIII of the Farm Credit Act of 1971, as amended, (Act) governs Farmer Mac.1

    1 Public Law 92-181, 85 Stat. 583, 12 U.S.C. 2001 et seq.

    On July 21, 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act was enacted, and section 939A of the Dodd-Frank Act requires Federal agencies to review all regulatory references to nationally recognized statistical ratings organizations (NRSRO or credit rating agency) and replace those references with other appropriate standards for determining creditworthiness.2 The Dodd-Frank Act further provides that, to the extent feasible, agencies should adopt a uniform standard of creditworthiness for use in regulations, taking into account the entities regulated and the purposes for which such regulated entities would rely on the creditworthiness standard.

    2 Public Law 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376, (H.R. 4173), July 21, 2010.

    The existing rules on non-program investments for Farmer Mac are contained in 12 CFR part 652, subpart A, and rely, in part, on NRSRO credit ratings to characterize relative credit quality of various instruments. On June 16, 2011, we issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) soliciting comments on suitable alternatives to NRSRO credit ratings.3 On November 18, 2011, as part of another rulemaking, we again requested comment on potential sources of market-derived information that could be used to replace NRSRO credit ratings in part 652 of our rules.4 In developing this proposed rule, we considered all suggestions from comments received and incorporated those we believed best addressed the objective of this rulemaking. In addition to these comments, we also considered the creditworthiness standards we proposed in a separate rulemaking for Farm Credit banks and associations 5 in compliance with provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act directing agencies, to the extent feasible, to adopt a uniform standard of creditworthiness among regulated entities.

    3 76 FR 35138, June 16, 2011.

    4Refer to Proposed rule, “Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation Funding and Fiscal Affairs; Farmer Mac Investments and Liquidity Management” (76 FR 71798, Nov. 18, 2011).

    5 79 FR 43301, July 25, 2014.

    III. Section-by-Section

    The proposed rule would revise portfolio diversification requirements and revise the credit quality standards for eligible non-program investments that Farmer Mac may hold by replacing the reliance on NRSRO credit ratings and clarifying terminology.

    A. Definitions [Existing § 652.5]

    In § 652.5, we propose removing existing terminology, adding new terms, and revising existing definitions. We propose removing as obsolete several terms from the list of definitions in § 652.5. We also propose removing terms from § 652.5 because they do not require a separate definition. The specific terms we propose removing are:

    • “Contingency Funding Plan (CFP)”,

    • “Eurodollar time deposit”,

    • “Final maturity”,

    • “General obligations”,

    • “Liability Maturity Management Plan (LMMP)”,

    • “Liquid investments”,

    • “Liquidity reserve”,

    • “Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization (NRSRO)”,

    • “Revenue bond”, and

    • “Weighted average life (WAL).”

    We propose making conforming changes to § 652.20 to remove these terms where they appear.

    We next propose adding two new terms to the list of definitions to address other proposed changes in this rulemaking: “Diversified investment fund” and “Obligor.” We propose to define a “diversified investment fund” (DIF) as an investment company registered under section 8 of the Investment Company Act of 1940, 15 U.S.C. 80a-8. We selected this definition based on our current use of it in § 615.5140(a)(8) of our investment rules for Farm Credit banks and associations. We propose to define the term “obligor” because our current regulations use this term but do not define it. We propose defining “obligor” as an issuer, guarantor, or other person or entity who has an obligation to pay a debt, including interest due, by a specified date or when payment is demanded. This definition would include the debtor or immediate party that is obligated to pay a debt, as well as a guarantor of the debt. The proposed definition would also clarify that both a DIF and the entity or entities obligated to pay the underlying debt are treated as a single obligor. This clarification is intended to ensure DIF investments do not become an excessively concentrated part of the investment portfolio.

    Lastly, we propose changing three existing terms and their definitions to improve clarity: “Government agency”, “Government-sponsored agency”, and “mortgage securities.” We propose replacing the existing term “Government-sponsored agency” with “Government-sponsored enterprise (GSE)” and defining a GSE as an entity established or chartered by the U.S. Government to serve public purposes specified by the U.S. Congress but whose debt obligations are not explicitly guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government. We also propose replacing “Government agency” with “U.S. Government agency.” The proposed definition for U.S. Government agency would explain that it means an instrumentality of the United States Government whose obligations are fully guaranteed as to the timely payment of principal and interest by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government. Finally, we propose replacing the term “mortgage securities” with “mortgage-backed securities (MBS)” as this term is more widely used in the financial sector. We propose applying the existing definition for “mortgage securities” to the new MBS term. We propose a conforming change to the definition of “asset-backed securities”, which uses “mortgage securities” in its definition.

    B. Concentration Risk [New § 652.10(c)(5)]

    We propose revising existing § 652.10 to address concentration risk through portfolio diversification and obligor limits in new paragraph (c)(5). Portfolio diversification is crucial to safe and sound investment management and is achieved by the appropriate distribution of risk exposures across reasonably uncorrelated industries and obligors. When a portfolio is properly diversified, a crisis within one industry sector or the sudden weakening or default of one obligor should not significantly destabilize the financial condition of the investor. In new § 652.10(c)(5), we propose specifying that Farmer Mac's investment policies address concentration risk by setting diversification standards. We propose that the diversification calculation used when setting these standards be based on the carrying value of the investment on Farmer Mac's balance sheet. By carrying value, we mean the amount an investment contributes to the asset section of Farmer Mac's balance sheet under GAAP, net of any impairment estimate or valuation allowance. We believe the carrying value would, when applied for this purpose, appropriately capture the value of capital at risk for an investment at any given time. We also propose the following parameters for Farmer Mac's establishment of these standards:

    • Basing calculation of an investment's compliance with diversification requirements on the investment's carrying value;

    • Limiting investments in one obligor to no more than 10 percent of regulatory capital, unless the investments are obligations backed by U.S. Government agencies or GSEs; and

    • Limiting the percentage of GSE-issued mortgage-backed securities that may comprise Farmer Mac's entire investment portfolio to 50 percent.

    We believe these parameters will not require changes in the current investment portfolio held by Farmer Mac and discuss them more fully below.

    We believe by placing specific diversification limits within the section that generally requires Farmer Mac to set diversification limits will improve the organization of the rule.

    We also propose removing the reference to geographic areas in existing § 652.10(c)(1)(i). Farmer Mac should consider diversification by geographic location of issuer as appropriate based on the nature of its investment portfolio. For example, in the case of investments in municipal securities, geographic location might be an important consideration. However, we propose removing this specific category in the regulation to avoid misinterpretation. For example, we do not see the need to restrict obligors solely on the basis of where they happen to be headquartered or the location of an issuer's operations. The proposed change in the level of the single obligor limit is discussed below in section III.B.1.

    1. Obligor Limit

    We propose to move the obligor limit from § 652.20(d)(1) and reduce the current limit to 10 percent of regulatory capital. The proposed 10-percent obligor limit in new § 652.10(c)(5)(i) would enhance Farmer Mac's long-term safety and soundness by ensuring that if an obligor were to default, only a modest portion of capital would be at risk. Currently, the proposed 10-percent obligor limit equates to an amount that is less than Farmer Mac's capital surplus and well within its risk-bearing capacity based on its current level of regulatory capital. Whereas, the current 25-percent obligor limit could expose Farmer Mac to financial challenges if it experienced an event of multiple defaults in its liquidity portfolio during a short time period (e.g., such as during the 2008 financial crisis), given the historical relationship between Farmer Mac's capital surplus over the minimum requirement and the dollar value of the 25-percent limit. Thus, we expect that the proposed 10-percent maximum will provide reasonable assurance that a single default will not significantly increase the risk of Farmer Mac's being unable to comply with the minimum capital requirement.

    This proposed obligor limit would recognize that the credit performance of a single obligor (unlike, for example, a single industry sector) is binary in nature, (i.e., the investment is either performing or it is in default) with potentially very low recovery rates. For that reason, we believe a cautious approach is warranted regarding the management of exposure concentrations in an individual obligor. We also believe the proposed obligor limit retains sufficient flexibility for Farmer Mac to manage its investment portfolio and still maintain adequate diversification. While the proposed obligor limit would be a regulatory maximum, Farmer Mac should consider establishing lower obligor limits to fit its overall risk profile and risk-bearing capacity, including earnings capacity, as well as the risks in individual types and classes of investments.

    We seek specific comments and suggestions on how FCA might modify or adjust the obligor limit to make it more risk sensitive while achieving the overarching objectives of the limit for example, by scaling or risk-weighting assets based on internal or standardized models or other criteria such as the magnitude of Farmer Mac's surplus over the minimum capital requirement.

    The proposed § 652.10(c)(5) would retain the existing exemption from the obligor limit, currently located in § 652.20(d)(1), for investments that are backed by a U.S. Government agency or GSEs.

    2. Asset Class Limits

    Existing § 652.20(a) contains a table identifying nine asset classes with different investment portfolio limits. These nine asset classes are:

    • Obligations of the United States,

    • Obligations of GSEs,

    • Municipal Securities,

    • International and Multilateral Development Bank Obligations,

    • Money Market Instruments,

    • Mortgage Securities,

    • Asset-Backed Securities,

    • Corporate Debt Securities, and

    • DIFs.

    Of these, some asset classes have investment portfolio limits of 15 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent, and 50 percent. a. GSE-Issued Mortgage-Backed Securities Limit

    We propose moving to new § 652.10(c)(5)(ii) the current § 652.20(a)(6) 50-percent limit on the volume of GSE-issued mortgage-backed securities that may be held in Farmer Mac's investment portfolio. We believe the risk posed by GSE-backed MBS is significantly lower than other asset classes both in terms of default risk and liquidity risk, which supports retaining this relatively high limit. We also believe this limit is better situated within our rules with other risk tolerance provisions.

    b. Other Asset Class Limits

    In section III.C.1 of this preamble, we discuss the proposed removal of the investment table at § 652.20(a), while retaining some of its requirements. We have not proposed retaining any of the asset class portfolio limits contained in the table except the previously discussed 50-percent portfolio limit for GSE-issued securities. This is because existing § 652.10(c)(1)(i) already requires Farmer Mac to establish within its investment policy concentration limits for “asset classes or obligations with similar characteristics.” We expect that Farmer Mac will review their investment policy limits at least annually and make adjustments based on their current risk profile and risk-bearing capacity, which may suggest lower limits than the current regulatory parameters. Nonetheless, we recognize there may be value in maintaining regulatory limits and, therefore, invite specific comment on whether the following existing asset class limitations should be retained in full or part:

    • Municipal Securities: Revenue bonds limit of 15 percent,

    • Money Market Instruments: Non-callable term Federal funds and Eurodollar time deposits limit of 20 percent,

    • Money Market Instruments: Master notes limit of 20 percent,

    • Mortgage Securities: Non-Government agency or Government-sponsored agency securities that comply with 15 U.S.C. 77d(5) or 15 U.S.C. 78c(a)(41) and Commercial mortgage-backed securities combined 15-percent limit,

    • Asset-Backed Securities limit of 25 percent, and

    • Corporate Debt Securities limit of 25 percent.

    We are also interested in whether any of these limits should be changed and, if so, to what degree. We ask that your comment on this issue include the rationale for your suggestion(s). C. Non-Program Investments [Existing §§ 652.20 and 652.25; New § 652.23] 1. Eligible Non-Program Investments [§ 652.20]

    We propose replacing the existing § 652.20, including removing the “Non-Program Investment Eligibility Criteria Table,” with investment eligibility requirements that place greater responsibility on Farmer Mac management. The replacement of this section will result in removal of all references to NRSRO credit ratings from § 652.20.

    a. Eligible Non-Program Investment Categories [§ 652.20(a)]

    Our existing regulation at § 652.20(a) contains a detailed listing of eligible investment asset classes and types of investments within each asset class. The existing regulation imposes final maturity limits, investment portfolio limits, and other requirements for many of these investments, including credit rating requirements that are based on NRSRO credit ratings. To replace this provision, we propose general categories of eligible non-program investments that Farmer Mac may purchase and hold. The proposed general categories are:

    • Non-convertible senior debt securities,

    • Certain money market instruments,

    • Certain ABS/MBS backed by a U.S. Government-agency or GSE guarantee,

    • Certain senior position mortgage related securities,

    • Obligations of development banks where the United States is a voting member of the bank, and

    • Certain diversified investment funds.

    As proposed in new § 652.20(a)(1), non-convertible senior debt securities (e.g., investments in senior debt securities that cannot be converted to any other type of securities) would be eligible under the proposed provision. This investment category would include non-convertible U.S. Government agency senior debt securities, including U.S. Treasury securities, and senior non-convertible GSE bonds. Senior debt securities could be secured by a specific pool of collateral or may be unsecured with priority of claims over other types of debt securities of the issuer, but would not include those that are convertible into a non-senior security or an equity security.

    In proposed new paragraph (a)(3) and (a)(4), fully government-guaranteed ABS or MBS that are guaranteed as to the payment of principal and interest by a U.S. Government agency or GSE would be eligible securities because of their high credit quality. Farmer Mac would have to verify that securities labeled “government guaranteed” are fully guaranteed as to the payment of principal and interest. Similarly, a GSE “wrap” (guarantee) would not make a security eligible under this proposed provision unless it is a guarantee of all principal and interest of the security. While partial guarantees would not satisfy this proposed requirement, they could be eligible under other criteria.

    We propose in new paragraph (a)(5) permitting investments in ABS and MBS that are not fully guaranteed, but only the senior-most position of such instruments. By senior-most position, we mean the tranche of a structured instrument that is last to experience losses in the event of default and that such losses be shared on a pro rata basis by investors in that tranche. In addition, we propose that for a position in an MBS to be eligible, the MBS must satisfy the securities law definition of “mortgage related security”.6 Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which are re-securitizations that have evolved for the MBS market, would be eligible under this criterion if their underlying collateral is comprised only of the senior-most positions of other securitizations. The underlying collateral of most CDOs consists of lower-rated tranches from other securitizations, and these CDOs would not be eligible under this criterion. Further, private placements may be eligible under this proposed criterion, as long as they satisfy all of the proposed investment eligibility requirements.7 We note, however, that private placements are generally not liquid and would therefore need to be acquired for an authorized purpose unrelated to liquidity.

    6 15 U.S.C. 78c(a)(41).

    7 Private placement refers to the sale of securities to a relatively small number of sophisticated investors without registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission and, in many cases, without the disclosure of detailed financial information or a prospectus.

    We also propose in new paragraph (a)(7) that shares of a DIF would be eligible if the DIF's portfolio consists solely of securities that are eligible under these eligibility criteria. While the proposal for DIF eligibility is unchanged from the existing regulation, we are proposing more restrictive portfolio diversification limits on DIF investments than currently exist.

    b. Investment Quality [§ 652.20(b)]

    We want to retain high creditworthiness standards for Farmer Mac eligible non-program investments.8 Accordingly, we propose in § 652.20(b)(1) requiring that obligors (whether debtor or guarantor) have strong capacity to meet the financial commitment for the expected life of the investment. This standard would apply to all investments, including those that are currently not subject to a NRSRO credit rating requirement. In general, we would view an investment as having met this standard if the expected average cumulative default rate of issuers of similar credit quality is low based on historical default data.9 We would expect Farmer Mac to document the source of its historical data and basis for investment criteria.

    8 Our existing regulations governing Farmer Mac require that certain eligible investments meet the highest or the second highest whole-letter NRSRO rating (e.g., “AAA” or “AA” for Standard & Poors ratings, without regard to “+” or “−” levels within individual whole-letter ratings).

    9 One potential source of historical data for this purpose is the publicly available report entitled “Annual Default Study: Corporate Bond Default and Recovery Rates” which includes data since 1920 and is published by Moody's Investors Service. However, other sources including internally modeled forecasts could be used.

    In addition to imposing standards on obligors, we also propose in § 652.20(b)(2) requiring an eligible investment to exhibit low credit risk and other risk characteristics consistent with the purposes for which it is held. We are not proposing to require that other risks in the investment be low in all cases. Instead, the risk characteristics in the investment must be consistent with the purposes for which the investment is held. For instance, if an investment is held for the purpose of liquidity, it would have to be readily marketable 10 and would generally have to have low price volatility. On the other hand, an investment that is high quality but has high price volatility and questionable marketability may not be appropriate for a liquidity investment. Instead, it might be used effectively to manage interest rate risk. Finally, we propose moving to paragraph (b)(3) the existing requirement that the denomination of all investments must be in U.S. dollars.

    10 Under § 652.40(b), investments used to satisfy the liquidity reserve requirement must be “readily marketable,” as defined by that provision.

    2. Other Non-Program Investments [New § 652.23]

    We propose moving the existing § 652.20(e) provisions on seeking FCA approval for non-program investments that are not already identified in the regulation as an “eligible non-program investment” to new § 652.23. The proposed new § 652.23 explains the minimum considerations we give to such requests and reiterates our authority to impose in writing and enforce conditions of approval. We also add clarifying language that these investments, once approved, will be considered “eligible non-program investments” for purposes of applying the provisions in subpart A of part 652. We believe moving this aspect of the rule to its own section will make the provision easier to find and, along with the proposed clarifications, will facilitate the process by which such requests are submitted and reviewed.

    3. Ineligible Investments [Existing § 652.25]

    We are proposing revisions to existing § 652.25 to conform with other proposed changes in this rulemaking and to add clarity. We propose adding language to clarify that this section applies to both those eligible non-program investments identified in the rule and to individual non-program investments that we approved on request. We also propose clarifying that those investments that were ineligible when purchased may not be used for liquidity purposes, but must still be included as part of the investment portfolio limit until their divestiture. We further propose removing the quarterly reporting requirements for investments that lose their eligibility after purchase.

    4. Reservation of FCA Authority [Existing § 652.25(d); New § 652.27]

    We propose moving the existing § 652.25(d) provisions addressing FCA-required divestiture of an investment to new § 652.27. We believe moving this aspect of the rule to its own section will make the provision easier to find and reduce confusion on its applicability. In addition, we propose to make explicit our authority, on a case-by-case basis, to determine that a particular investment imposes inappropriate risk, notwithstanding that it satisfies the investment eligibility criteria. The proposal also provides that FCA will notify Farmer Mac as to the proper treatment of any such investment. We also propose conforming changes due to other proposed changes in this rulemaking to clarify that FCA-required divestiture may be based on a failure to comply with applicable regulations or written conditions of approval issued in connection with individual non-program investments that we approved on request.

    D. Liquidity Reserve Requirements [Table to § 652.40(c)]

    We propose to make conforming changes in the Table to § 652.40(c). These changes would incorporate the proposed terminology changes of § 652.5. In addition, we propose changes to clarify that MBS must be fully guaranteed by a U.S. Government agency to qualify for Level 2 liquidity and fully guaranteed by a GSE to qualify for Level 3 liquidity.

    IV. Compliance Date

    In order to provide Farmer Mac with sufficient time to bring itself into compliance with these new requirements, we are proposing a 6-month compliance transition period. We invite your specific comments on this compliance timeframe.

    V. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Pursuant to section 605(b) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), FCA hereby certifies that this proposed rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Farmer Mac has assets and annual income in excess of the amounts that would qualify it as a small entity. Therefore, Farmer Mac is not a “small entity” as defined in the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

    List of Subjects 12 CFR Part 652

    Agriculture, Banks, Banking, Capital, Investments, Rural areas.

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, part 652 of chapter VI, title 12 of the Code of Federal Regulations is proposed to be amended as follows:

    PART 652—FEDERAL AGRICULTURAL MORTGAGE CORPORATION FUNDING AND FISCAL AFFAIRS 1. The authority citation for part 652 is revised to read as follows: Authority:

    Secs. 4.12, 5.9, 5.17, 8.11, 8.31, 8.32, 8.33, 8.34, 8.35, 8.36, 8.37, 8.41 of the Farm Credit Act (12 U.S.C. 2183, 2243, 2252, 2279aa-11, 2279bb, 2279bb-1, 2279bb-2, 2279bb-3, 2279bb-4, 2279bb-5, 2279bb-6, 2279cc); sec. 514 of Pub. L. 102-552, 106 Stat. 4102; sec. 118 of Pub. L. 104-105, 110 Stat. 168; sec. 939A of Pub. L. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1326, 1887 (15 U.S.C. 78o-7 note) (July 21, 2010).

    2. Amend § 652.5 by: a. Removing the definitions for “Contingency Funding Plan (CFP)”, “Eurodollar time deposit”, “Final maturity”, “General obligations”, “Government agency”, “Government-sponsored agency”, “Liability Maturity Management Plan (LMMP)”, “Liquid investments”, “Liquidity reserve”, “Mortgage securities”, “Nationally recognized statistical rating organization (NRSRO)”, “Revenue bond”, and “Weighted average life (WAL)”; b. Revising the last sentence to the definition for “Asset-backed securities (ABS)”; and c. Adding alphabetically five definitions to read as follows:
    § 652.5 Definitions.

    For purposes of this subpart, the following definitions will apply:

    Asset-backed securities (ABS) * * * For the purpose of this subpart, ABS excludes mortgage-backed securities that are defined below.

    Diversified investment fund (DIF) means an investment company registered under section 8 of the Investment Company Act of 1940.

    Government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) means an entity established or chartered by the United States Government to serve public purposes specified by the United States Congress but whose debt obligations are not explicitly guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.

    Mortgage-backed securities (MBS) means securities that are either:

    (1) Pass-through securities or participation certificates that represent ownership of a fractional undivided interest in a specified pool of residential (excluding home equity loans), multifamily or commercial mortgages, or

    (2) A multiclass security (including collateralized mortgage obligations and real estate mortgage investment conduits) that is backed by a pool of residential, multifamily or commercial real estate mortgages, pass through MBS, or other multiclass MBS.

    (3) This definition does not include agricultural mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Farmer Mac itself.

    Obligor means an issuer, guarantor, or other person or entity who has an obligation to pay a debt, including interest due, by a specified date or when payment is demanded. For a DIF, both the DIF itself and the entities obligated to pay the underlying debt are considered a single obligor.

    U.S. Government agency means an instrumentality of the U.S. Government whose obligations are fully guaranteed as to the payment of principal and interest by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government.

    3. Amend § 652.10 by: a. Removing the word “four” in the last sentence of the paragraph (c) introductory text; b. Removing the phrase “geographical areas,” in paragraph (c)(1)(i); and c. Adding a new paragraph (c)(5) to read as follows:
    § 652.10 Investment management.

    (c) * * *

    (5) Concentration risk. Your investment policies must set risk diversification standards. Diversification parameters must be based on the carrying value of investments.

    (i) The Corporation's maximum allowable investments in any one obligor may not exceed 10 percent of Regulatory Capital. Only investments in obligations backed by U.S. Government agencies or GSEs may exceed the 10-percent single obligor limit.

    (ii) Not more than 50 percent of the Corporation's entire investment portfolio may be comprised of GSE-issued MBS.

    4. Section 652.20 is revised to read as follows:
    § 652.20 Eligible non-program investments.

    (a) Eligible investments consist of:

    (1) A non-convertible senior debt security.

    (2) A money market instrument with a maturity of 1 year or less.

    (3) A portion of an ABS or MBS that is fully guaranteed by a U.S. Government agency.

    (4) A portion of an ABS or MBS that is fully and explicitly guaranteed as to the timely payment of principal and interest by a GSE.

    (5) The senior-most position of an ABS or MBS that is not fully guaranteed by a U.S. Government agency or fully and explicitly guaranteed as to the timely payment of principal and interest by a GSE, provided that the MBS satisfies the definition of “mortgage related security” in 15 U.S.C. 78c(a)(41).

    (6) An obligation of an international or multilateral development bank in which the U.S. is a voting member.

    (7) Shares of a diversified investment fund, if its portfolio consists solely of securities that satisfy investments listed in paragraphs (b)(1) through (b)(4) of this section.

    (b) Farmer Mac may only purchase those eligible investments satisfying all of the following:

    (1) The obligor(s) of the investment have strong capacity to meet financial commitments for the life of the investment. A strong capacity to meet financial commitments exits if the risk of default by the obligor(s) is very low. Investments whose obligors are located outside the U.S., and whose obligor capacity to meet financial commitments is being relied upon to satisfy this requirement, must also be fully guaranteed by a U.S. Government agency.

    (2) The investment must exhibit low credit risk and other risk characteristics consistent with the purpose or purposes for which it is held. At a minimum, obligors must have strong capacity to meet financial commitments and generally have a very low probability of default throughout the term of the investment even under severely adverse, stressful conditions in the obligors' business environment.

    (3) The investment must be denominated in U.S. dollars.

    5. Add a new § 652.23 to read as follows:
    § 652.23 Other non-program investments.

    (a) Farmer Mac may make a written request for our approval to purchase and hold other non-program investments that do not satisfy the requirements of § 652.20. Your request for our approval to purchase and hold other non-program investments at a minimum must:

    (1) Describe the investment structure;

    (2) Explain the purpose and objectives for making the investment; and

    (3) Discuss the risk characteristics of the investment, including an analysis of the investment's impact to capital.

    (b) We may impose written conditions in conjunction with our approval of your request to invest in other non-program investments.

    (c) For purposes of applying the provisions of this subpart, except § 652.20, investments approved under this section are treated the same as eligible non-program investments unless our conditions of approval state otherwise.

    6. Section 652.25 is revised to read as follows:
    § 652.25 Ineligible investments.

    (a) Investments ineligible when purchased. Non-program investments that do not satisfy the eligibility criteria set forth in § 652.20(a) or have not been approved by the FCA pursuant to § 652.23 at the time of purchase are ineligible. You must not purchase ineligible investments. If you determine that you have purchased an ineligible investment, you must notify us within 15 calendar days after such determination. You must divest of the investment no later than 60 calendar days after you determine that the investment is ineligible unless we approve, in writing, a plan that authorizes you to divest the investment over a longer period of time. Until you divest of the investment, it may not be used to satisfy your liquidity requirement(s) under § 652.40, but must continue to be included in the § 652.15(b) investment portfolio limit calculation.

    (b) Investments that no longer satisfy eligibility criteria. If you determine that a non-program investment no longer satisfies the criteria set forth in § 652.20 or no longer satisfies the conditions of approval issued under § 652.23, you must notify us within 15 calendar days after such determination. If approved by the FCA in writing, you may continue to hold the investment, subject to the following and any other conditions we impose:

    (1) You may not use the investment to satisfy your § 652.40 liquidity requirement(s);

    (2) The investment must continue to be included in your § 652.15 investment portfolio limit calculation; and

    (3) You must develop a plan to reduce the investment's risk to you.

    7. Add a new § 652.27 to read as follows:
    § 652.27 Reservation of authority for investment activities.

    FCA retains the authority to require you to divest of any investment at any time for failure to comply with applicable regulations, for safety and soundness reasons, or failure to comply with written conditions of approval. The timeframe set by FCA for such required divestiture will consider the expected loss on the transaction (or transactions) and the effect on your financial condition and performance. FCA may also, on a case-by-case basis, determine that a particular non-program investment poses inappropriate risk, notwithstanding that it satisfies the investment eligibility criteria or received prior approval from us. If so, we will notify you as to the proper treatment of the investment.

    8. Amend § 652.40 by revising the table in paragraph (c) to read as follows:
    § 652.40 Liquidity reserve requirement and supplemental liquidity. Table to § 652.40(c) Liquidity level Instruments Discount
  • (multiply market value by)
  • Level 1 • Cash, including cash due from traded but not yet settled debt 100 percent. • Overnight money market instruments, including repurchase agreements secured exclusively by Level 1 investments 100 percent. • Obligations of U.S. Government agencies with a final remaining maturity of 3 years or less 97 percent. • GSE senior debt securities that mature within 60 days, excluding securities issued by the Farm Credit System 95 percent. • Diversified investment funds comprised exclusively of Level 1 instruments 95 percent. Level 2 • Additional Level 1 investments Discount for each Level 1 investment applies. • Obligations of U.S. Government agencies with a final remaining maturity of more than 3 years 97 percent. • MBS that are fully guaranteed by a U.S. Government agency 95 percent. • Diversified investment funds comprised exclusively of Level 1 and 2 instruments 95 percent. Level 3 • Additional Level 1 or Level 2 investments Discount for each Level 1 or Level 2 investment applies. • GSE senior debt securities with maturities exceeding 60 days, excluding senior debt securities of the Farm Credit System 93 percent for all instruments in Level 3. • MBS that are fully guaranteed by a GSE as to the timely repayment of principal and interest • Money market instruments maturing within 90 days • Diversified investment funds comprised exclusively of Levels 1, 2, and 3 instruments • Qualifying securities backed by Farmer Mac program assets (loans) guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture (excluding the portion that would be necessary to satisfy obligations to creditors and equity holders in Farmer Mac II LLC) Supplemental Liquidity • Eligible investments under § 652.20 and those approved under § 652.23 90 percent except discounts for Level 1, 2 or 3 investments apply to such investments held as supplemental liquidity.
    Dated: February 12, 2016. Dale L. Aultman, Secretary, Farm Credit Administration Board.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03626 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6705-01-P
    SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 17 CFR Part 240 [Release No. 34-77172; File No. S7-27-15] RIN 3235-AL55 Transfer Agent Regulations; Extension of Comment Period AGENCY:

    Securities and Exchange Commission.

    ACTION:

    Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; Concept release; Request for comment; extension of comment period.

    SUMMARY:

    The Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) is extending the comment period for the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Concept Release and Request for Comment with respect to transfer agent regulations. The original comment period is scheduled to end on February 29, 2016. The Commission is extending the time period in which to provide the Commission with comments by 45 days, until April 14, 2016. This action will allow interested persons additional time to analyze the issues and prepare their comments.

    DATES:

    Comments on the document published December 31, 2015 (80 FR 81948) must be in writing and received by April 14, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:

    Electronic Comments

    • Use the Commission's Internet comment form (http://www.sec.gov/rules/concept.shtml);

    • Send an email to [email protected]. Please include File Number S7-27-15 on the subject line; or

    • Use the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov). Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Paper Comments

    • Send paper comments to: Brent J. Fields, Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street NE., Washington, DC 20549-1090.

    All submissions should refer to File Number S7-27-15. This file number should be included on the subject line if email is used. To help us process and review your comments more efficiently, please use only one method. The Commission will post all comments on the Commission's Internet Web site (http://www.sec.gov/rules/concept.shtml). Comments are also available for Web site viewing and printing in the Commission's Public Reference Room, 100 F Street NE., Washington, DC 20549, on official business days between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. All comments received will be posted without change; the Commission does not edit personal identifying information from submissions. You should submit only information that you wish to make publicly available. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Moshe Rothman, Branch Chief, Thomas Etter, Special Counsel, Catherine Whiting, Special Counsel, Mark Saltzburg, Special Counsel, or Elizabeth de Boyrie, Counsel, Office of Clearance and Settlement, Division of Trading and Markets, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street NE., Washington, DC 20549-7010 at (202) 551-5710.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The Commission has requested comment in its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Concept Release and Request for Comment (“Release”) with respect to transfer agent regulations.1 The Release identifies and seeks comment in various areas, including registration and reporting requirements, safeguarding of funds and securities, standards for restrictive legends, and cybersecurity. Additionally, the Release generally seeks comment on a broad range of topics in the transfer agent space, including the processing of book entry securities, recordkeeping for beneficial owners, administration of issuer plans, and the role of transfer agents to mutual funds and crowdfunding. The Release originally provided that comments must be received by February 29, 2016. The Commission has received requests to extend the comment period.2 The Commission believes that extending the comment period would be appropriate in order to provide the public additional time to consider and comment on the issues addressed in the Release. Therefore, the Commission is extending the public comment period for 45 days, until April 14, 2016.

    1 Securities Exchange Act Release No. 76743 (December 22, 2015), 80 FR 81948 (December 31, 2015).

    2See letters from Todd May, President, Securities Transfer Association, dated January 7, 2016; Martin McHale, President, U.S. Equity Services, Computershare, dated January 15, 2016; Cristeena G. Naser, Vice President and Senior Counsel, Center for Securities, Trust & Investment of the American Bankers Association, dated January 22, 2015; Alvin Santiago, President, Shareholder Services Association, dated January 27, 2016; Thomas F. Price, Manager Director, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, dated February 2, 2016.

    By the Commission.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Brent J. Fields, Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03733 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 8011-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 172 [Docket No. FDA-2015-F-4317] Center for Science in the Public Interest, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Improving Kids' Environment, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense Fund, and James Huff; Filing of Food Additive Petition; Extension of Comment Period AGENCY:

    Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

    ACTION:

    Notification; extension of comment period.

    SUMMARY:

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or we) is extending the comment period for the notice of filing that appeared in the Federal Register of January 4, 2016. In the notice, FDA requested comments on a filed food additive petition (FAP 5A4810), submitted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Improving Kids' Environment, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense Fund, and James Huff, proposing that the food additive regulations be amended to no longer authorize the use of seven listed synthetic flavoring food additives and to establish zero tolerances for the additives. We are taking this action in response to a request for an extension to allow interested persons additional time to submit comments.

    DATES:

    We are extending the comment period on the notice of filing of a food additive petition published on January 4, 2016 (81 FR 42). Submit either electronic or written comments by May 3, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments as follows:

    Electronic Submissions

    Submit electronic comments in the following way:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Comments submitted electronically, including attachments, to http://www.regulations.gov will be posted to the docket unchanged. Because your comment will be made public, you are solely responsible for ensuring that your comment does not include any confidential information that you or a third party may not wish to be posted, such as medical information, your or anyone else's Social Security number, or confidential business information, such as a manufacturing process. Please note that if you include your name, contact information, or other information that identifies you in the body of your comments, that information will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov.

    • If you want to submit a comment with confidential information that you do not wish to be made available to the public, submit the comment as a written/paper submission and in the manner detailed (see “Written/Paper Submissions” and “Instructions”).

    Written/Paper Submissions

    Submit written/paper submissions as follows:

    Mail/Hand delivery/Courier (for written/paper submissions): Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

    • For written/paper comments submitted to the Division of Dockets Management, FDA will post your comment, as well as any attachments, except for information submitted, marked and identified, as confidential, if submitted as detailed in “Instructions.”

    Instructions: All submissions received must include the Docket No. FDA-2015-F-4317 for “Center for Science in the Public Interest, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Improving Kids' Environment, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense Fund, and James Huff, Filing of Food Additive Petition.” Received comments will be placed in the docket and, except for those submitted as “Confidential Submissions,” publicly viewable at http://www.regulations.gov or at the Division of Dockets Management between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    • Confidential Submissions—To submit a comment with confidential information that you do not wish to be made publicly available, submit your comments only as a written/paper submission. You should submit two copies total. One copy will include the information you claim to be confidential with a heading or cover note that states “THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION.” The Agency will review this copy, including the claimed confidential information, in its consideration of comments. The second copy, which will have the claimed confidential information redacted/blacked out, will be available for public viewing and posted on http://www.regulations.gov. Submit both copies to the Division of Dockets Management. If you do not wish your name and contact information to be made publicly available, you can provide this information on the cover sheet and not in the body of your comments and you must identify this information as “confidential.” Any information marked as “confidential” will not be disclosed except in accordance with 21 CFR 10.20 and other applicable disclosure law. For more information about FDA's posting of comments to public dockets, see 80 FR 56469, September 18, 2015, or access the information at: http://www.fda.gov/regulatoryinformation/dockets/default.htm.

    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or the electronic and written/paper comments received, go to http://www.regulations.gov and insert the docket number, found in brackets in the heading of this document, into the “Search” box and follow the prompts and/or go to the Division of Dockets Management, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Judith Kidwell, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (HFS-265), Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy., College Park, MD 20740-3835, 240-402-1071.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    In the Federal Register of January 4, 2016 (81 FR 42), we published a notice of filing of a food additive petition (FAP 5A4810) submitted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Improving Kids' Environment, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense Fund, and James Huff, c/o Mr. Thomas Neltner, 1875 Connecticut Ave. NW., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20009. The notice also invited comments on the petition. The petition proposes to amend 21 CFR 172.515, Synthetic flavoring substances and adjuvants, to no longer provide for the use of seven listed synthetic flavoring food additives and to establish zero tolerances for these additives. Specifically, the petitioners contend that new data establish that these substances are carcinogenic and are, therefore, not safe for use in food pursuant to the Delaney Clause (section 409(c)(3)(A) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 348(c)(3)(A))), which provides that no food additive shall be deemed to be safe if it is found to induce cancer when ingested by man or animal, or if it is found, after tests which are appropriate for the evaluation of the safety of food additives, to induce cancer in man or animal.

    The seven food additives which are the subject of the petition are:

    • Benzophenone (also known as diphenylketone) (CAS No. 119-61-9);

    • Ethyl acrylate (CAS No. 140-88-5);

    • Eugenyl methyl ether (also known as 4-allylveratrole or methyl eugenol) (CAS No. 93-15-2);

    • Myrcene (also known as 7-methyl-3-methylene-1,6-octadiene) (CAS No. 123-35-3);

    • Pulegone (also known as p-menth-4(8)-en-3-one) (CAS No. 89-82-7);

    • Pyridine (CAS No. 110-86-1); and

    • Styrene (CAS No. 100-42-5).

    We have received a request for a 60-day extension of the comment period for the petition. The request conveyed concern that the current 60-day comment period does not allow sufficient time to collect and provide data and information and develop a meaningful and thoughtful response to the assertions set forth in the petition.

    We have considered the request and are extending the comment period for the petition for an additional 60 days, until May 3, 2016. We believe that a 60-day extension allows adequate time for interested persons to submit comments without significantly delaying rulemaking on these important issues.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Dennis M. Keefe, Director, Office of Food Additive Safety, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03708 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4164-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 101 [Docket No. FDA-2014-N-1021] Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented or Hydrolyzed Foods; Reopening of the Comment Period AGENCY:

    Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule; reopening of the comment period.

    SUMMARY:

    In the Federal Register of November 18, 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a proposed rule entitled “Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented or Hydrolyzed Foods.” The proposed rule would establish requirements concerning “gluten-free” labeling for foods that are fermented or hydrolyzed or that contain fermented or hydrolyzed ingredients. We are taking this action to reopen the comment period in response to requests to allow interested persons additional time to submit comments.

    DATES:

    FDA is reopening the comment period on the proposed rule published November 18, 2015 (80 FR 71990). Submit either electronic or written comments by April 25, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments as follows:

    Electronic Submissions

    Submit electronic comments in the following way:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Comments submitted electronically, including attachments, to http://www.regulations.gov will be posted to the docket unchanged. Because your comment will be made public, you are solely responsible for ensuring that your comment does not include any confidential information that you or a third party may not wish to be posted, such as medical information, your or anyone else's Social Security number, or confidential business information, such as a manufacturing process. Please note that if you include your name, contact information, or other information that identifies you in the body of your comments, that information will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov.

    • If you want to submit a comment with confidential information that you do not wish to be made available to the public, submit the comment as a written/paper submission and in the manner detailed (see “Written/Paper Submissions” and “Instructions”).

    Written/Paper Submissions

    Submit written/paper submissions as follows:

    Mail/Hand delivery/Courier (for written/paper submissions): Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

    • For written/paper comments submitted to the Division of Dockets Management, FDA will post your comment, as well as any attachments, except for information submitted, marked and identified, as confidential, if submitted as detailed in “Instructions.”

    Instructions: All submissions received must include the Docket No. FDA-2014-N-1021 for “Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented or Hydrolyzed Foods.” Received comments will be placed in the docket and, except for those submitted as “Confidential Submissions,” publicly viewable at http://www.regulations.gov or at the Division of Dockets Management between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    • Confidential Submissions—To submit a comment with confidential information that you do not wish to be made publicly available, submit your comments only as a written/paper submission. You should submit two copies total. One copy will include the information you claim to be confidential with a heading or cover note that states “THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION.” The Agency will review this copy, including the claimed confidential information, in its consideration of comments. The second copy, which will have the claimed confidential information redacted/blacked out, will be available for public viewing and posted on http://www.regulations.gov. Submit both copies to the Division of Dockets Management. If you do not wish your name and contact information to be made publicly available, you can provide this information on the cover sheet and not in the body of your comments and you must identify this information as “confidential.” Any information marked as “confidential” will not be disclosed except in accordance with 21 CFR 10.20 and other applicable disclosure law. For more information about FDA's posting of comments to public dockets, see 80 FR 56469, September 18, 2015, or access the information at: http://www.fda.gov/regulatoryinformation/dockets/default.htm.

    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or the electronic and written/paper comments received, go to http://www.regulations.gov and insert the docket number, found in brackets in the heading of this document, into the “Search” box and follow the prompts and/or go to the Division of Dockets Management, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Carol D'Lima, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (HFS-820), Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy., College Park, MD 20740, 240-402-2371, FAX: 301-436-2636.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The proposed rule would establish requirements concerning “gluten-free” labeling for foods that are fermented or hydrolyzed or that contain fermented or hydrolyzed ingredients. These additional requirements for the “gluten-free” labeling rule are needed to help ensure that individuals with celiac disease are not misled and receive truthful and accurate information with respect to fermented or hydrolyzed foods labeled as “gluten-free.” We provided a 90-day comment period for the proposed rule.

    We received multiple requests for a 60-day extension of the comment period and one request for a 90-day extension of the comment period for the proposed rule. Each request conveyed concern that the original 90-day comment period does not allow sufficient time to develop a meaningful or thoughtful response to the proposed rule. We have considered the requests and are reopening the comment period for the proposed rule until April 25, 2016. We believe that an additional 60-day period allows adequate time for interested persons to submit comments without significantly delaying rulemaking on these important issues. The period for comments regarding information collection issues under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 remains unchanged, where comments were to be submitted until February 22, 2016 (see 81 FR 3751, January 22, 2016).

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Leslie Kux, Associate Commissioner for Policy.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03716 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4164-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY Internal Revenue Service 26 CFR Part 1 [REG-129067-15] RIN 1545-BM99 Definition of Political Subdivision AGENCY:

    Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury.

    ACTION:

    Notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of public hearing.

    SUMMARY:

    This document contains proposed regulations that provide guidance regarding the definition of political subdivision for purposes of tax-exempt bonds. The proposed regulations are necessary to specify the elements of a political subdivision. The proposed regulations will affect State and local governments that issue tax-exempt bonds and users of property financed with tax-exempt bonds. Under certain transition rules, however, the proposed definition of political subdivision will not apply for determining whether outstanding bonds are obligations of a political subdivision and will not apply to existing entities for a transition period. This document also provides a notice of a public hearing for these proposed regulations.

    DATES:

    Written or electronic comments must be received by May 23, 2016. Request to speak and outlines of topics to be discussed at the public hearing scheduled for June 6, 2016, at 10:00 a.m., must be received by May 23, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Send submissions to: CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-129067-15), Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC 20044. Submissions may be hand delivered to: CC:PA:LPD:PR Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-129067-15), Courier's Desk, Internal Revenue Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC, or sent electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov (REG-129067-15). The public hearing will be held at the Internal Revenue Building, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Concerning the proposed regulations, Spence Hanemann at (202) 317-6980; concerning submissions of comments and the hearing, Oluwafunmilayo (Funmi) Taylor at (202) 317-6901 (not toll-free numbers).

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background

    This document contains proposed amendments to 26 CFR part 1 under section 103 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). Section 103 generally provides that, with certain exceptions, gross income does not include interest on any obligation of a State or political subdivision thereof. Section 1.103-1 of the Income Tax Regulations (the Existing Regulations) defines political subdivision as “any division of any State or local governmental unit which is a municipal corporation or which has been delegated the right to exercise part of the sovereign power of the unit.”

    On a few occasions, Federal courts have ruled on whether an entity qualifies as a political subdivision. E.g., Philadelphia Nat'l Bank v. United States, 666 F.2d 834 (3d Cir. 1981); Comm'r of Internal Revenue v. White's Estate, 144 F.2d 1019 (2d Cir. 1944). The IRS has also addressed this issue in revenue rulings, most recently in 1983. E.g., Rev. Rul. 83-131 (1983-2 CB 184); Rev. Rul. 78-138 (1978-1 CB 314). Because the results in these revenue rulings generally turn on the unique facts and circumstances of the individual cases, numerous entities have sought and received letter rulings on whether they are political subdivisions. Letter rulings, however, are limited to their particular facts, may not be relied upon by taxpayers other than the taxpayer that received the ruling, and are not a substitute for published guidance. See 26 U.S.C. 6110(k)(3) (2015) (providing generally that a ruling, determination letter, or technical advice memorandum may not be used or cited as precedent).

    Commenters have requested additional published guidance, to be applied prospectively, on which facts and circumstances are germane to an entity's status as a political subdivision. The Treasury Department and IRS recognize the need to clarify the definition of political subdivision to provide greater certainty to prospective issuers and to promote greater consistency in how the definition is applied across a wide range of factual situations. These proposed regulations (the Proposed Regulations) would provide a new definition of political subdivision for purposes of tax-exempt bonds and would update and streamline other portions of the Existing Regulations. The definition of political subdivision in the Proposed Regulations does not apply in determining whether an entity is treated as a political subdivision of a State for purposes of section 414(d) of the Code.

    Explanation of Provisions 1. Definition of Political Subdivision

    The Proposed Regulations clarify and further develop the eligibility requirements for a political subdivision. To qualify as a political subdivision under the Proposed Regulations, an entity must meet three requirements, taking into account all of the facts and circumstances: sovereign powers, governmental purpose, and governmental control. The Proposed Regulations also authorize the Commissioner to set forth in future guidance to be published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin additional circumstances in which an entity qualifies as a political subdivision.

    A. Sovereign Powers

    The Proposed Regulations continue, without substantive change, the longstanding requirement that a political subdivision be empowered to exercise at least one of the generally recognized sovereign powers. The three sovereign powers recognized for this purpose are eminent domain, police power, and taxing power. See Comm'r of Internal Revenue v. Shamberg's Estate, 144 F.2d 998 (2d Cir. 1944). The entity must be able to exercise a substantial amount of at least one of these powers. See, e.g., Rev. Rul. 77-164 (1977-1 CB 20); Rev. Rul. 77-165 (1977-1 CB 21).

    B. Governmental Purpose

    In determining whether an entity is a political subdivision, the case law and administrative guidance interpreting the definition of political subdivision in the Existing Regulations commonly consider whether the entity serves a public purpose. Historically, the determination of whether an entity serves a public purpose has focused on the purpose for which the entity was created, usually as set forth in the legislation authorizing creation of the entity, rather than on the entity's conduct after its creation. See, e.g., Shamberg's Estate, 144 F.2d at 1004. The Proposed Regulations require that a political subdivision serve a governmental purpose. A governmental purpose requires, among other things, that the purpose for which the entity was created, as set out in its enabling legislation, be a public purpose and that the entity actually serve that purpose. It also requires that the entity operate in a manner that provides a significant public benefit with no more than incidental benefit to private persons. Cf., Rev. Rul. 90-74 (1990-2 CB 34) (applying an “incidental private benefit” standard for purposes of determining whether income is included in gross income under section 115(1)).

    C. Governmental Control

    The Proposed Regulations provide that a political subdivision must be governmentally controlled. The Proposed Regulations provide rules for determining both what constitutes control and which parties must possess that control.

    i. Definition of Control

    The Proposed Regulations define control to mean ongoing rights or powers to direct significant actions of the entity. Rights or powers to direct the entity's actions only at a particular point in time are not ongoing and, therefore, do not constitute control. For example, the right to approve an entity's plan of operation as a condition of the entity's formation is not an ongoing right. To constitute control, a collection of rights and powers must enable its holder to direct the significant actions of the entity.

    The Proposed Regulations provide three non-exclusive benchmarks of rights or powers that constitute control: (1) The right or power both to approve and to remove a majority of an entity's governing body; (2) the right or power to elect a majority of the governing body of the entity in periodic elections of reasonable frequency; or (3) the right or power to approve or direct the significant uses of funds or assets of the entity in advance of that use. Aside from these three arrangements, the determination of whether a collection of rights and powers constitutes control will depend on the facts and circumstances. Neither the right to dissolve an entity nor procedures designed to ensure the integrity of the entity but not to direct significant actions of the entity are control. Cf., Rev. Rul. 69-453 (1969-2 CB 182) (addressing procedures that do not constitute control in the context of instrumentalities).

    ii. Control Vested in a State or Local Governmental Unit or an Electorate

    Control by a small faction of private individuals, business corporations, trusts, partnerships, or other persons is fundamentally not governmental control. Therefore, the Proposed Regulations generally require that control be vested in either a general purpose State or local governmental unit or in an electorate established under an applicable State or local law of general application. If, however, a small faction of private persons controls an electorate, that electorate's control of the entity does not constitute governmental control of the entity. Accordingly, the Proposed Regulations provide that an entity controlled by an electorate is not governmentally controlled when the outcome of the exercise of control is determined solely by the votes of an unreasonably small number of private persons.

    The determination of whether the number of private persons controlling an electorate is unreasonably small generally depends on all of the facts and circumstances. To provide certainty, the Proposed Regulations limit application of this facts and circumstances test to situations that fall between two quantitative measures of concentration in voting power. The number of private persons controlling an electorate is always unreasonably small if the combined votes of the three voters with the largest shares of votes in the electorate will determine the outcome of the relevant election, regardless of how the other voters vote. The number of private persons controlling an electorate is never unreasonably small if determining the outcome of the relevant election requires the combined votes of more voters than the 10 voters with the largest shares of votes in the electorate. For example, control can always be vested in any electorate comprised of 20 or more voters that each have the right to cast one vote in the relevant election without giving rise to a private faction. For purposes of applying these measures of concentration in voting power, related parties are treated as a single voter and the votes of the related parties are aggregated.

    iii. Possible Relief for Development Districts

    Some observers have suggested that, despite private control, development districts should be political subdivisions during an initial development period in which one or two private developers elect the district's governing body and no other governmental control exists. The Treasury Department and IRS recognize that the governmental control requirement may present challenges for such development districts. In these circumstances, the Treasury Department and IRS are concerned about the potential for excessive private control by individual developers, the attendant impact of excessive issuance of tax-exempt bonds, and inappropriate private benefits from this Federal subsidy. The Treasury Department and IRS seek public comment on whether it is necessary or appropriate to permit such districts to be political subdivisions during an initial development period; how such relief might be structured; what specific safeguards might be included in the recommended relief to protect against potential abuse; and whether the proposed prospective effective dates and transition periods in § 1.103-1(d) of the Proposed Regulations provide sufficient relief.

    2. Streamlining Amendments

    In addition to amending the definition of political subdivision, paragraphs (a) and (b) of the Proposed Regulations update the references in the general provisions of the Existing Regulations to reflect changes to the Code made in the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Public Law 99-514, 100 Stat. 2085, and other laws and regulations since the promulgation of the longstanding Existing Regulations. The Proposed Regulations also streamline these provisions. In general, the Treasury Department and the IRS intend that these proposed amendments not change the meaning of the Existing Regulations. The last sentence of § 1.103-1(a) of the Proposed Regulations, however, clarifies that the continued tax-exemption of an issue of bonds depends on its issuer's continued status as a qualifying issuer of tax-exempt bonds. The Treasury Department and IRS seek comments on the need for remedial action provisions in the event the entity ceases to qualify as a political subdivision and on the substance of any such provisions.

    3. Applicability Dates and Reliance on Proposed Regulations

    Subject to certain transition rules, the Proposed Regulations generally would apply to all entities for all purposes of the tax-exempt bond provisions of sections 103 and 141 to 150 beginning 90 days after the Proposed Regulations are finalized. In order to ease hardship that may arise from the new definition of political subdivision, under proposed transition rules, that definition would not apply for purposes of determining whether outstanding bonds and refunding bonds in which the weighted average maturity is not extended continue to be obligations of a political subdivision. While these transition rules for outstanding bonds and refunding bonds would apply for the purpose of determining whether these bonds continue to be obligations of a political subdivision, the new proposed definition of political subdivision would apply for other purposes under sections 103 and 141 to 150, such as whether a new entity that subsequently became a user of a project financed with such bonds qualified as a State or local governmental unit for purposes of section 141. Furthermore, under another proposed transition rule that would apply to entities in existence prior to 30 days after the Proposed Regulations are published, the proposed definition of political subdivision would not apply for any purpose until three years and ninety days after the Proposed Regulations are finalized. This three-year transition period provides existing entities an opportunity to restructure as necessary to satisfy the new definition of political subdivision and allows existing entities to continue to issue new bonds during the transition period. To enhance certainty, an issuer also may choose to apply the definition of political subdivision in § 1.103-1(c) in the final regulations in circumstances in which that definition otherwise would not apply under the transition rules.

    In addition, prior to the applicability date of the final regulations, issuers may elect to apply the definition of political subdivision in § 1.103-1(c) of the Proposed Regulations in whole, but not in part, for any purpose of sections 103 and 141 through 150, provided such use is applied consistently for all purposes of sections 103 and 141 through 150 to any given entity.

    Special Analyses

    Certain IRS regulations, including this one, are exempt from the requirements of Executive Order 12866, as supplemented and reaffirmed by Executive Order 13563. Therefore, a regulatory impact assessment is not required. It also has been determined that section 553(b) of the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 5) does not apply to these regulations, and because these regulations do not impose a collection of information on small entities, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 6) does not apply. Pursuant to section 7805(f) of the Code, this notice of proposed rulemaking has been submitted to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration for comment on its impact on small entities.

    Comments and Public Hearing

    Before these Proposed Regulations are adopted as final regulations, consideration will be given to any comments that are submitted timely to the IRS as prescribed in this preamble under the “Addresses” heading. The Treasury Department and the IRS request comments on all aspects of the proposed rules. All comments will be available at www.regulations.gov or upon request.

    A public hearing has been scheduled for June 6, 2016, at 10:00 a.m., in the Auditorium of the Internal Revenue Building, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC. Due to building security procedures, visitors must enter at the Constitution Avenue entrance. In addition, all visitors must present photo identification to enter the building. Because of access restrictions, visitors will not be admitted beyond the immediate entrance area more than 30 minutes before the hearing starts. For more information about having your name placed on the building access list to attend the hearing, see the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this preamble.

    The rules of 26 CFR 601.601(a)(3) apply to the hearing. Persons who wish to present oral comments at the hearing must submit an outline of the topics to be discussed and the time to be devoted to each topic by May 23, 2016. Submit a signed paper or electronic copy of the outline as prescribed in this preamble under the “Addresses” heading. A period of 10 minutes will be allotted to each person for making comments. An agenda showing the scheduling of the speakers will be prepared after the deadline for receiving outlines has passed. Copies of the agenda will be available free of charge at the hearing.

    Drafting Information

    The principal authors of these regulations are Spence Hanemann and Timothy Jones, Office of Associate Chief Counsel (Financial Institutions and Products), IRS. However, other personnel from the IRS and the Treasury Department participated in their development.

    Availability of IRS Documents

    IRS revenue rulings cited in this notice of proposed rulemaking are made available by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.

    List of Subjects in 26 CFR Part 1

    Income taxes, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Proposed Amendments to the Regulations

    Accordingly, 26 CFR part 1 is proposed to be amended as follows:

    PART 1—INCOME TAXES Paragraph 1. The authority citation for part 1 continues to read in part as follows: Authority:

    26 U.S.C. 7805 * * *

    Par. 2. Section 1.103-1 is revised to read as follows:
    § 1.103-1 Interest on State or local bonds.

    (a) Interest on State or local bonds. Under section 103(a), except as otherwise provided in section 103(b), gross income does not include interest on any State or local bond. Under section 103(c), the term State or local bond means any obligation (as defined in § 1.150-1(b)) of a State (including for this purpose the District of Columbia or any possession of the United States) or a political subdivision thereof (a State or local governmental unit). Obligations issued by or on behalf of any State or local governmental unit by a constituted authority empowered to issue such obligations are the obligations of such a unit. An obligation qualifies as a State or local bond so long as the issuer of that obligation remains a State or local governmental unit or a constituted authority.

    (b) Certain limitations on interest exclusion. Under section 103(b), the interest exclusion in section 103(a) is inapplicable to a private activity bond under section 141(a) (unless the bond is a qualified bond under section 141(e)), an arbitrage bond under section 148, or a bond which does not meet the applicable requirements of section 149.

    (c) Definition of political subdivision—(1) In general. The term political subdivision means an entity that meets each of the requirements of paragraphs (c)(2) (sovereign powers), (c)(3) (governmental purpose), and (c)(4) (governmental control) of this section, taking into account all of the facts and circumstances, or that is described in published guidance issued pursuant to paragraph (c)(5) of this section. Entities that may qualify as political subdivisions include, among others, general purpose governmental entities, such as cities and counties (whether or not incorporated as municipal corporations), and special purpose governmental entities, such as special assessment districts that provide for roads, water, sewer, gas, light, reclamation, drainage, irrigation, levee, school, harbor, port improvements, and other governmental purposes for a State or local governmental unit.

    (2) Sovereign powers. Pursuant to a State or local law of general application, the entity has a delegated right to exercise a substantial amount of at least one of the following recognized sovereign powers of a State or local governmental unit: The power of taxation, the power of eminent domain, and police power.

    (3) Governmental purpose. The entity serves a governmental purpose. The determination of whether an entity serves a governmental purpose is based on, among other things, whether the entity carries out the public purposes that are set forth in the entity's enabling legislation and whether the entity operates in a manner that provides a significant public benefit with no more than incidental private benefit.

    (4) Governmental control. A State or local governmental unit exercises control over the entity. For this purpose, control is defined in paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section and a State or local governmental unit exercises such control only if the control is vested in persons described in paragraph (c)(4)(ii) of this section.

    (i) Definition of control. Control means an ongoing right or power to direct significant actions of the entity. Rights or powers may establish control either individually or in the aggregate. Among rights or powers that may establish control, an ongoing ability to exercise one or more of the following significant rights or powers, on a discretionary and non-ministerial basis, constitutes control: the right or power both to approve and to remove a majority of the governing body of the entity; the right or power to elect a majority of the governing body of the entity in periodic elections of reasonable frequency; or the right or power to approve or direct the significant uses of funds or assets of the entity in advance of that use. Procedures designed to ensure the integrity of the entity but not to direct significant actions of the entity are insufficient to constitute control of an entity. Examples of such procedures include requirements for submission of audited financial statements of the entity to a higher level State or local governmental unit, open meeting requirements, and conflicts of interest limitations.

    (ii) Control vested in a State or local governmental unit or an electorate. Control is vested in persons described in paragraphs (c)(4)(ii)(A) or (c)(4)(ii)(B) of this section or a combination thereof:

    (A) A State or local governmental unit possessing a substantial amount of each of the sovereign powers and acting through its governing body or through its duly authorized elected or appointed officials in their official capacities; or

    (B) An electorate established under applicable State or local law of general application, provided the electorate is not a private faction (as defined in paragraph (c)(4)(iii) of this section).

    (iii) Definition of private faction—(A) In general. A private faction is any electorate if the outcome of the exercise of control described in paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section is determined solely by the votes of an unreasonably small number of private persons. The determination of whether a number of such private persons is unreasonably small depends on all of the facts and circumstances, including, without limitation, the entity's governmental purpose, the number of members in the electorate, the relationships of the members of the electorate to one another, the manner of apportionment of votes within the electorate, and the extent to which the members of the electorate adequately represent the interests of persons reasonably affected by the entity's actions. For purposes of this definition, the special rules in paragraphs (c)(4)(iii)(B) through (D) of this section apply.

    (B) Treatment of certain limited electorates as private factions. An electorate is a private faction if any three private persons that are members of the electorate possess, in the aggregate, a majority of the votes necessary to determine the outcome of the relevant exercise of control.

    (C) Safe harbor—voting power dispersed among more than 10 persons. An electorate is not a private faction if the smallest number of private persons who can combine votes to establish a majority of the votes necessary to determine the outcome of the relevant exercise of control is greater than 10 persons. For example, if an electorate consists of 20 private persons with equal, five-percent shares of the total votes, that electorate is not a private faction because a minimum of 11 members of that electorate is necessary to have a majority of the votes. By contrast, for example, if an electorate consists of 20 private persons with unequal voting shares in which some combination of 10 or fewer members has a majority of the votes, then that electorate does not qualify for the safe harbor from treatment as a private faction under this paragraph (c)(4)(iii)(C).

    (D) Operating rules. The following rules apply for purposes of determining numbers of voters and voting control in paragraphs (c)(4)(iii)(B) and (C) of this section:

    (1) Related parties (as defined in § 1.150-1(b)) are treated as a single person; and

    (2) In computing the number of votes necessary to determine the outcome of the relevant exercise of control, all voters entitled to vote in an election are assumed to cast all votes to which they are entitled.

    (5) Authority of the Commissioner. In guidance published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, the Commissioner may set forth additional circumstances in which an entity qualifies as a political subdivision of a State or local governmental unit. See § 601.601(d)(2)(ii) of this chapter.

    (d) Applicability dates—(1) In general. Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (d)(2) through (4) of this section, this section applies to all entities for all purposes of sections 103 and 141 through 150 beginning on the date 90 days after the publication of the Treasury decision adopting these rules as final regulations in the Federal Register.

    (2) Applicability date of the definition of political subdivision for outstanding bonds. For purposes of determining whether outstanding bonds of an entity are obligations of a political subdivision under section 103, the definition of political subdivision in paragraph (c) of this section does not apply to that entity with respect to its outstanding bonds that are issued before the general applicability date under paragraph (d)(1) of this section.

    (3) Applicability date of the definition of political subdivision for refunding bonds. For purposes of determining whether refunding bonds of an entity are obligations of a political subdivision under section 103, the definition of political subdivision in paragraph (c) of this section does not apply to that entity with respect to its refunding bonds that are issued on or after the general applicability date under paragraph (d)(1) of this section to refund bonds with respect to which paragraph (c) of this section otherwise does not apply, provided that the weighted average maturity of the refunding bonds is no longer than the remaining weighted average maturity of the refunded bonds.

    (4) Applicability date of the definition of political subdivision for existing entities. For existing entities that are created or organized before March 24, 2016, the definition of political subdivision in paragraph (c) of this section does not apply for any purpose of sections 103 and 141 to 150 during the three-year period beginning on the general applicability date under paragraph (d)(1) of this section.

    (5) Elective application of definition of political subdivision. An issuer may choose to apply the definition of political subdivision in paragraph (c) of this section to an issue of bonds in circumstances in which that section otherwise would not apply to that issue under paragraph (d)(2) or (3) of this section, provided that choice is applied consistently to the issue. An entity may choose to apply the definition of political subdivision in paragraph (c) of this section to an entity in circumstances in which that section otherwise would not apply to that entity under paragraph (d)(4) of this section, provided that choice is applied consistently to the entity.

    John Dalrymple, Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03790 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4830-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 223 and 224 [Docket No. 160105011-6011-01] RIN 0648-XE390 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List Three Manta Rays as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    90-day petition finding; request for information.

    SUMMARY:

    We, NMFS, announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list three manta rays, identified as the giant manta ray (Manta birostris), reef manta ray (M. alfredi), and Caribbean manta ray (M. c.f. birostris), range-wide or, in the alternative, any identified distinct population segments (DPSs), as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and to designate critical habitat concurrently with the listing. We find that the petition and information in our files present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted for the giant manta ray and the reef manta ray. We will conduct a status review of these species to determine if the petitioned action is warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to these two species from any interested party. We also find that the petition and information in our files does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the Caribbean manta ray is a taxonomically valid species or subspecies for listing, and, therefore, it does not warrant listing at this time.

    DATES:

    Information and comments on the subject action must be received by April 25, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments, information, or data on this document, identified by the code NOAA-NMFS-2016-0014, by either any of the following methods:

    Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0014. Click the “Comment Now” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

    Mail: Submit written comments to Maggie Miller, NMFS Office of Protected Resources (F/PR3), 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA.

    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).

    Copies of the petition and related materials are available on our Web site at http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/manta-ray.html.
    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Maggie Miller, Office of Protected Resources, 301-427-8403.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Background

    On November 10, 2015, we received a petition from Defenders of Wildlife to list the giant manta ray (M. birostris), reef manta ray (M. alfredi) and Caribbean manta ray (M. c.f. birostris) as threatened or endangered under the ESA throughout their respective ranges, or, as an alternative, to list any identified DPSs as threatened or endangered. The petition also states that if the Caribbean manta ray is determined to be a subspecies of the giant manta ray and not a distinct species, then we should consider listing the subspecies under the ESA. However, if we determine that the Caribbean manta ray is neither a species nor a subspecies, then the petition requests that we list the giant manta ray, including all specimens in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and southeastern United States, under the ESA. The petition requests that critical habitat be designated concurrently with listing under the ESA. Copies of the petition are available upon request (see ADDRESSES).

    ESA Statutory, Regulatory, and Policy Provisions and Evaluation Framework

    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the ESA of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires, to the maximum extent practicable, that within 90 days of receipt of a petition to list a species as threatened or endangered, the Secretary of Commerce make a finding on whether that petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted, and to promptly publish such finding in the Federal Register (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(A)). When it is found that substantial scientific or commercial information in a petition indicates the petitioned action may be warranted (a “positive 90-day finding”), we are required to promptly commence a review of the status of the species concerned during which we will conduct a comprehensive review of the best available scientific and commercial information. In such cases, we conclude the review with a finding as to whether, in fact, the petitioned action is warranted within 12 months of receipt of the petition. Because the finding at the 12-month stage is based on a more thorough review of the available information, as compared to the narrow scope of review at the 90-day stage, a “may be warranted” finding does not prejudge the outcome of the status review.

    Under the ESA, a listing determination may address a species, which is defined to also include subspecies and, for any vertebrate species, any DPS that interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). A joint NMFS-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (jointly, “the Services”) policy clarifies the agencies' interpretation of the phrase “distinct population segment” for the purposes of listing, delisting, and reclassifying a species under the ESA (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996). A species, subspecies, or DPS is “endangered” if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and “threatened” if it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range (ESA sections 3(6) and 3(20), respectively, 16 U.S.C. 1532(6) and (20)). Pursuant to the ESA and our implementing regulations, we determine whether species are threatened or endangered based on any one or a combination of the following five section 4(a)(1) factors: The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat or range; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; disease or predation; inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and any other natural or manmade factors affecting the species' existence (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(1), 50 CFR 424.11(c)).

    ESA-implementing regulations issued jointly by NMFS and USFWS (50 CFR 424.14(b)) define “substantial information” in the context of reviewing a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species as the amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted. In evaluating whether substantial information is contained in a petition, the Secretary must consider whether the petition: (1) Clearly indicates the administrative measure recommended and gives the scientific and any common name of the species involved; (2) contains detailed narrative justification for the recommended measure, describing, based on available information, past and present numbers and distribution of the species involved and any threats faced by the species; (3) provides information regarding the status of the species over all or a significant portion of its range; and (4) is accompanied by the appropriate supporting documentation in the form of bibliographic references, reprints of pertinent publications, copies of reports or letters from authorities, and maps (50 CFR 424.14(b)(2)).

    At the 90-day finding stage, we evaluate the petitioners' request based upon the information in the petition including its references and the information readily available in our files. We do not conduct additional research, and we do not solicit information from parties outside the agency to help us in evaluating the petition. We will accept the petitioners' sources and characterizations of the information presented if they appear to be based on accepted scientific principles, unless we have specific information in our files that indicates the petition's information is incorrect, unreliable, obsolete, or otherwise irrelevant to the requested action. Information that is susceptible to more than one interpretation or that is contradicted by other available information will not be dismissed at the 90-day finding stage, so long as it is reliable and a reasonable person would conclude it supports the petitioners' assertions. In other words, conclusive information indicating the species may meet the ESA's requirements for listing is not required to make a positive 90-day finding. We will not conclude that a lack of specific information alone negates a positive 90-day finding if a reasonable person would conclude that the unknown information itself suggests an extinction risk of concern for the species at issue.

    To make a 90-day finding on a petition to list a species, we evaluate whether the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the subject species may be either threatened or endangered, as defined by the ESA. First, we evaluate whether the information presented in the petition, along with the information readily available in our files, indicates that the petitioned entity constitutes a “species” eligible for listing under the ESA. Next, we evaluate whether the information indicates that the species faces an extinction risk that is cause for concern; this may be indicated in information expressly discussing the species' status and trends, or in information describing impacts and threats to the species. We evaluate any information on specific demographic factors pertinent to evaluating extinction risk for the species (e.g., population abundance and trends, productivity, spatial structure, age structure, sex ratio, diversity, current and historical range, habitat integrity or fragmentation), and the potential contribution of identified demographic risks to extinction risk for the species. We then evaluate the potential links between these demographic risks and the causative impacts and threats identified in section 4(a)(1).

    Information presented on impacts or threats should be specific to the species and should reasonably suggest that one or more of these factors may be operative threats that act or have acted on the species to the point that it may warrant protection under the ESA. Broad statements about generalized threats to the species, or identification of factors that could negatively impact a species, do not constitute substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. We look for information indicating that not only is the particular species exposed to a factor, but that the species may be responding in a negative fashion; then we assess the potential significance of that negative response.

    Many petitions identify risk classifications made by nongovernmental organizations, such as the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the American Fisheries Society, or NatureServe, as evidence of extinction risk for a species. Risk classifications by other organizations or made under other Federal or state statutes may be informative, but such classification alone may not provide the rationale for a positive 90-day finding under the ESA. For example, as explained by NatureServe, their assessments of a species' conservation status do “not constitute a recommendation by NatureServe for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act” because NatureServe assessments “have different criteria, evidence requirements, purposes and taxonomic coverage than government lists of endangered and threatened species, and therefore these two types of lists should not be expected to coincide” (http://www.natureserve.org/prodServices/pdf/NatureServeStatusAssessmentsListing-Dec%202008.pdf). Additionally, species classifications under IUCN and the ESA are not equivalent; data standards, criteria used to evaluate species, and treatment of uncertainty are also not necessarily the same. Thus, when a petition cites such classifications, we will evaluate the source of information that the classification is based upon in light of the standards on extinction risk and impacts or threats discussed above.

    Taxonomy of the Petitioned Manta Rays

    The petition identifies three manta ray “species” as eligible for listing under the ESA: The giant manta ray (M. birostris), reef manta ray (M. alfredi), and Caribbean manta ray (M. c.f. birostris). Manta is one of two genera under the family Mobulidae, the second being Mobula (commonly referred to as “devil rays”). Collectively, manta and devil rays are referred to as mobulid rays and are often confused with one another. Until recently, all manta rays were considered to be a single species known as Manta birostris (Walbaum 1792). However, in 2009, Marshall et al. (2009) provided substantial evidence to support splitting the monospecific Manta genus into two distinct species. Based on new morphological and meristic data, the authors confirmed the presence of two visually distinct species: Manta birostris and Manta alfredi (Krefft 1868). Manta birostris is the more widely distributed and oceanic of the two species, found in tropical to temperate waters worldwide and common along productive coastlines, particularly off seamounts and pinnacles (Marshall et al. 2009; CITES 2013). Manta alfredi is more commonly observed inshore in tropical waters, found near coral and rocky reefs and also along productive coastlines. It primarily occurs throughout the Indian Ocean and in the eastern and south Pacific, with only a few reports of the species in Atlantic waters (off the Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands and Senegal).While both species are wide-ranging, and are even sympatric in some locations, Marshall et al. (2009) provides a visual key to differentiate these two species based on coloration, dentition, denticle and spine morphology, size at maturity, and maximum disc width. For example, in terms of coloration, M. birostris can be distinguished by its large, white, triangular shoulder patches that run down the middle of its dorsal surface, in a straight line parallel to the edge of the upper jaw. The species also has dark (black to charcoal grey) mouth coloration, medium to large black spots that occur below its fifth gill slits, and a grey V-shaped colored margin along the posterior edges of its pectoral fins (Marshall et al. 2009). In contrast, M. alfredi has pale to white shoulder patches where the anterior margin spreads posteriorly from the spiracle before curving medially, a white to light grey mouth, small dark spots that are typically located in the middle of the abdomen, in between the five gill slits, and dark colored bands on the posterior edges of the pectoral fins that only stretch mid-way down to the fin tip (Marshall et al. 2009). The separation of these two manta species appears to be widely accepted by both taxonomists (with Marshall et al. (2009) published in the international animal taxonomist journal, Zootaxa) and international scientific bodies (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); see CITES (2013) and FAO (2013)), and, as such, we consider both M. birostris and M. alfredi to be taxonomically distinct species eligible for listing under the ESA.

    The petitioners identify a third manta ray species, which they refer to as M. cf. birostris, or the “Caribbean manta ray,” based on their interpretation of data from Clark (2001). Clark (2001) is a Master's thesis that examined the population structure of M. birostris from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This study was conducted prior to the splitting of the monospecific Manta genus, and, as such, all of the manta rays identified in the study are referred to as M. birostris. However, the petitioners argue that the genetic differences between populations discussed in Clark (2001) provide support for the differentiation of the Caribbean manta ray from M. birostris. Clark (2001) examined sequences of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from 18 manta ray individuals and calculated the genetic divergence among haplotypes. Based on these estimates, Clark (2001) divided the 18 individuals into three operational taxonomic units: A Western Pacific unit (which included samples from Hawaii, French Frigate Shoals, Yap, and Fiji; n=5), a Baja unit (which included samples from two individuals from the Gulf of Mexico; n=10), and a Gulf of Mexico unit (n=3). The results showed low genetic divergence among samples from the Western Pacific (0.038-0.076 percent sequence divergence), hence their taxonomic grouping. Based on findings and distribution maps from Marshall et al. (2009), these samples were all likely taken from M. alfredi individuals. Similarly, the Baja samples were likely all from M. birostris individuals. Clark (2001) notes that the mtDNA haplotypes from the five individuals collected in the Gulf of Mexico formed two groups with percent sequence divergence values that were similar in magnitude to estimates obtained from geographically distinct samples. In other words, the mtDNA haplotypes from three of the Gulf of Mexico individuals were as distant genetically from the other two Gulf of Mexico individuals (0.724-0.80 percent sequence divergence) as samples from the Western Pacific unit were compared to the Baja unit (0.609-0.762 percent). Furthermore, the two Gulf of Mexico samples, which had identical sequences, were similar genetically to haplotype samples from Baja (0.076-0.228 percent sequence divergence), with phylogenetic analysis strongly supporting the pooling of these samples with the Baja taxonomic unit. The other Gulf of Mexico group (n=3) showed percent sequence divergence values ranging from 0.647-0.838 percent when compared to the Baja taxonomic unit and to the Western Pacific unit. The most parsimonious tree representing the phylogenic relationship among the mtDNA haplotypes had three well-supported clades that differed from one another by at least 14 nucleotide substitutions: A clade consisting of clustered western Pacific samples, the three Gulf of Mexico samples as another clade, and the third clade represented by the samples from Baja and the two genetically similar Gulf of Mexico samples.

    The petitioners argue that the Gulf of Mexico clade, noted above, represents a third, distinct species of manta ray, which they identify as Manta c.f. birostris. While the genetic divergence between the Gulf of Mexico population and the Baja population (assumed to be M. birostris) was high relative to the intrapopulation values, this analysis was based on an extremely low sample size, with only three samples from the Gulf of Mexico, and thus cannot be reasonably relied upon to support the identification of a new species of manta ray. It is also important to note that this study analyzed only mtDNA. At best, this mtDNA evidence suggests that M. birostris females in the Gulf of Mexico may be philopatric (i.e., returning or remaining near its home area); however, mtDNA does not alone describe population structure. Because mtDNA is maternally inherited, differences in mtDNA haplotypes between populations do not necessarily mean that the populations are substantially reproductively isolated from each other because they do not provide any information on males. As demonstrated in previous findings, in species where female and male movement patterns differ (such as philopatric females but wide-ranging males), analysis of mtDNA may indicate discrete populations, but analysis of nuclear (or bi-parentally inherited) DNA could show homogenous populations as a result of male-mediated gene flow (see e.g., loggerhead sea turtle, 68 FR 53947, September 15, 2003, and sperm whale, 78 FR 68032, November 13, 2013). Although very little is known about the reproductive behavior of the species, the available information suggests that M. birostris is highly migratory, with males potentially capable of reproducing with females in different populations. Manta birostris is a cosmopolitan species, and in the western Atlantic has been documented as far north as Rhode Island and as far south as Uruguay. Marshall et al. (2009) note that the available information indicates that M. birostris is more oceanic than M. alfredi, and undergoes significant seasonal migrations. In a tracking study of six M. birostris individuals from off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, Graham et al. (2012) calculated a maximum distance travelled of 1,151 km (based on cumulative straight line distance between locations), further confirming that the species is capable of fairly long-distance migrations. As such, it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that males from one M. birostris population may breed with females from other populations. We highlight the fact that all of the Gulf of Mexico samples from the Clark (2001) study were taken from the same area, the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, indicating significant overlap and potential for interchange of individuals between M. birostris populations, at least in the western Atlantic. In other words, without nuclear DNA analyses, or additional information on the mating and reproductive behavior of the species, we cannot confidently make conclusions regarding the genetic discreteness or reproductive isolation of the M. birostris populations in the western Atlantic. Therefore, at this time, we do not find that the petition's interpretation of the Clark (2001) results is substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate that M. c.f. birostris is a distinct species under the ESA. Furthermore, based on the conclusions from the widely accepted recent manta ray taxonomy publication (Marshall et al. 2009), to which we defer as the authority and best available scientific information on this topic, there is not enough information at this time to conclude that M. c.f. birostris is a distinct manta ray species. While Marshall et al. (2009) noted the possibility of this third, putative species, the authors were similarly limited by sample size. The authors examined only one physical specimen (an immature male killed in 1949) and concluded that “further examination of specimens is necessary to clarify the taxonomic status of this variant manta ray.” The authors proceed to state:

    At present there is not enough empirical evidence to warrant the separation of a third species of Manta. At minimum, additional examination of dead specimens of Manta sp. cf. birostris are necessary to clarify the taxonomic status of this variant manta ray. Further examinations of the distribution of Manta sp. cf. birostris, as well as, studies of its ecology and behaviour within the Atlantic and Caribbean are also recommended (Marshall et al. 2009).

    We would also like to note that Clark (2001) was cited by Marshall et al. (2009), and, as such, we assume the authors reviewed this paper prior to their conclusions regarding the taxonomy of the manta ray species. Given the above information and analysis, we do not find that information contained in our files or provided by the petitioner presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that M. c.f. birostris, referred to as the “Caribbean manta ray” in the petition, is a valid manta ray species for listing under the ESA. As such, we will consider the information presented in the petition for the Caribbean manta ray as pertaining to the species M. birostris, as requested by the petitioner. We, therefore, proceed with our evaluation of the information in the petition to determine if this information indicates that M. birostris (referred henceforth as the giant manta ray) and M. alfredi (referred henceforth as the reef manta ray) may be warranted for listing throughout all or a significant portion of their respective ranges under the ESA. Range, Distribution and Life History Manta birostris

    The giant manta ray is a circumglobal species found in temperate to tropical waters (Marshall et al. 2009). In the Atlantic, it ranges from Rhode Island to Uruguay in the west and from the Azores Islands to Angola in the east. The species is also found throughout the Indian Ocean, including off South Africa, within the Red Sea, around India and Indonesia, and off western Australia. In the Pacific, the species is found as far north as Mutsu Bay, Aomori, Japan, south to the eastern coast of Australia and the North Island of New Zealand (Marshall et al. 2011a; Couturier et al. 2015). It has also been documented off French Polynesia and Hawaii, and in the eastern Pacific, its range extends from southern California south to Peru (Marshall et al. 2009; Mourier 2012; CITES 2013).

    The species is thought to spend the majority of its time in deep water, but migrates seasonally to productive coastal areas, oceanic island groups, pinnacles and seamounts (Marshall et al. 2009; CITES 2013). Giant manta rays have been observed visiting cleaning stations on shallow reefs (i.e., locations where manta rays will solicit cleaner fish, such as wrasses, shrimp, and gobies, to remove parasitic copepods and other unwanted materials from their body) and are occasionally observed in sandy bottom areas and seagrass beds (Marshall et al. 2011a). While generally known as a solitary species, the giant manta ray has been sighted in large aggregations for feeding, mating, or cleaning purposes (Marshall et al. 2011a). In parts of the Atlantic and Caribbean, there is evidence that some M. birostris populations may exhibit differences in fine-scale and seasonal habitat use (Marshall et al. 2009).

    The general life history characteristics of the giant manta ray are that of a long-lived and slow-growing species, with extremely low reproductive output (Marshall et al. 2011a; CITES 2013). The giant manta ray can grow to over 7 meters (measured by wingspan, or disc width (DW)) with anecdotal reports of the species reaching sizes of up to 9 m DW, and longevity estimated to be at least 40 years old (Marshall et al. 2009; Marshall et al. 2011a). Size at maturity for M. birostris varies slightly throughout its range, with males estimated to mature around 3.8-4 m DW and females at around 4.1-4.7 m DW (White et al. 2006; Marshall et al. 2009). Generally, maturity appears to occur at around 8-10 years (Marshall et al. 2011a; CITES 2013). The giant manta ray is viviparous (i.e., gives birth to live young), with a gestation period of 10-14 months. Manta rays have among the lowest fecundity of all elasmobranchs, typically giving birth to only one pup on average every 2-3 years, which translates to around 5-15 pups total over the course of a female manta ray's lifetime (Couturier et al. 2012; CITES 2013).

    Manta rays are filter-feeders that feed almost entirely on plankton. In a tracking study of M. birostris, Graham et al. (2012) noted that the species exhibited plasticity in its diet, with the ability to switch between habitat and prey types, and fed on three major prey types: Copepods (occurring in eutrophic waters), chaetognaths (predatory marine worms that feed on copepods), and fish eggs (occurring in oligotrophic waters). Because manta rays are large filter-feeders that feed low in the food chain, they can potentially be used as indicator species that reflect the overall health of the ecosystem (CITES 2013).

    Manta alfredi

    The reef manta ray is primarily observed in tropical and subtropical waters. It is widespread throughout the Indian Ocean, from South Africa to the Red Sea, and off Thailand and Indonesia to Western Australia. In the western Pacific, its range extends from the Yaeyama Islands, Japan in the north to the Solitary Islands, Australia in the south, and as far east as French Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands (Marshall et al. 2009; Mourier 2012). Reef manta rays have not been found in the eastern Pacific, and are rarely observed in the Atlantic, with only a few historical reports or photographs of M. alfredi from off the Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, and Senegal (Marshall et al. 2009).

    In contrast to the giant manta ray, M. alfredi is thought to be more of a resident species, commonly observed inshore, around coral and rocky reefs, productive coastlines, tropical island groups, atolls, and bays (Marshall et al. 2009). According to Marshall et al. (2009), the species tends to exhibit smaller home ranges, philopatry, and shorter seasonal migrations compared to M. birostris. However, recent tracking studies, while showing evidence of site fidelity (Couturier et al. 2011; Deakos et al. 2011), also indicate that M. alfredi travels greater distances than previously thought (e.g., >700 km), with distances similar to those exhibited by M. birostris (Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) 2014). Braun et al. (2014) also observed diel behavior in M. alfredi whereby the manta rays occupy shallower waters (such as reef cleaning stations and feeding grounds; <10 m depths) during daylight hours and move toward deeper, offshore pelagic habitats throughout the night. It is thought that this behavior, which has also been reported for M. birostris (CMS 2014), is associated with feeding, with mantas exploiting emergent reef and pelagic plankton that move into the photic zone at night (Braun et al. 2014). The authors also confirmed the capability of M. alfredi to conduct deep-water dives (up to 432 m), the purpose of which has not yet been understood.

    The reef manta ray has a similar life history to that of the giant manta ray; however, M. alfredi grows to a smaller size than M. birostris. Based on observations from southern Mozambique, reef manta rays can grow to slightly over 5 m DW (Marshall et al. 2009). Maturity estimates range from around 2.5-3.0 m DW for males, and 3.0-3.9 m DW for females, which corresponds to around 8-10 years of age (Marshall et al. 2009; Deakos 2010; Marshall and Bennett 2010; Marshall et al. 2011b). Longevity is unknown but is thought to be at least 40 years (Marshall et al. 2011b). The reef manta ray is also viviparous, with a gestation period of around 12 months, and typically gives birth to only one pup on average every 2 years; however, there are reports of individuals reproducing annually in both the wild and captivity (Marshall and Bennett 2010).

    Using estimates of known life history parameters for both giant and reef manta rays, and plausible range estimates for the unknown life history parameters, Dulvy et al. (2014) calculated a maximum population growth rate of Manta spp. and found it to be one of the lowest values when compared to 106 other shark and ray species. Specifically, the median maximum population growth rate (Rmax) was estimated to be 0.116, which is among the lowest calculated for chondrichthyan species and is actually more similar to those estimates calculated for marine mammal species (Croll et al. 2015). Productivity (r) was calculated to be 0.029 (Dulvy et al. 2014). When compared to the productivity parameters and criteria in Musick (1999), manta rays can be characterized as having “very low” productivity (<0.05). Overall, given their life history traits and productivity estimates, manta ray populations (discussed in more detail below) are extremely susceptible to depletion and vulnerable to extirpations (CITES 2013).

    Analysis of Petition and Information Readily Available in NMFS Files

    The petition contains information on the two manta ray species, including their taxonomy, description, geographic distribution, habitat, population status and trends, and factors contributing to the species' declines. According to the petition, all five causal factors in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA are adversely affecting the continued existence of both the giant and reef manta ray: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade factors.

    In the following sections, we summarize and evaluate the information presented in the petition and in our files on the status of M. birostris and M. alfredi and the ESA section 4(a)(1) factors that may be affecting these species' risks of global extinction. Based on this evaluation, we determine whether a reasonable person would conclude that an endangered or threatened listing may be warranted for these two manta ray species.

    Status and Population Trends

    The global abundance of either manta species is unknown, with no available historical baseline population data. Worldwide, only 10 subpopulations of M. birostris and 14 subpopulations of M. alfredi have been identified and studied, and in most cases are comprised of fewer than 1,000 individuals (see Annex V; CITES 2013). An additional 25 more subpopulations are known to exist, and although species-level information is unavailable, these subpopulations are also assumed to consist of very small aggregations. Given this information, it can be inferred that global population numbers of both M. birostris and M. alfredi are likely to be small (CITES 2013).

    For M. birostris, the small subpopulations are thought to be sparsely distributed. In the 10 studied subpopulations mentioned above, the number of recorded individuals ranges from 60 to around 650 (Annex V; CITES 2013). The only subpopulation estimate available is from the aggregation site off southern Mozambique, where 5 years of mark and recapture data (2003-2008) were used to estimate a local subpopulation of 600 individuals (CITES 2013 citing Marshall 2009).

    Reef manta ray subpopulations are also thought to be small and geographically fragmented. The number of individuals recorded from the monitored aggregation sites mentioned above range from 35 to 2,410 (Annex V; CITES 2013). Estimates of subpopulations are available from five aggregation sites, ranging from around 100 individuals in Yap, Micronesia to 5,000 in the Republic of Maldives, which, presently, is the largest known aggregation of manta rays (CITES 2013). Based on mark-recapture data, subpopulations in southern Mozambique and western Australia are estimated to be on the order of around 890 and 1,200-1,500 individuals, respectively, and the subpopulation found off Maui, Hawaii is estimated to comprise around 350 individuals (Annex V; CITES 2013).

    Given the small, sparsely distributed, and highly fragmented nature of these subpopulations, even a small number of mortalities could potentially have significant negative population-level effects that may lead to regional extirpations (CITES 2013; CMS 2014), increasing these species' risks of global extinction. In fact, information from known aggregation sites suggests global abundance may already be declining, with significant subpopulation reductions (as high as 56-86 percent) for both Manta species observed in a number of regions (see Annex VI; CITES 2013). [Note: As the Manta genus was split in 2009, information prior to this year is lumped for both species. Where possible (i.e., in locations where the two species are allopatric or where species is described or assumed), we identify the likely species to which the dataset applies.] For example, based on annual landings data from Lamakera, Indonesia, Manta spp. landings fell from 1,500 individuals in 2001 to only 648 in 2010, a decline of 57 percent in 9 years. Fishing effort was also noted to have increased over those years, from 30 boats in 2001 to 40 boats in 2011, with no other change to gear or fishing practices (CITES 2013), indicating that the observed decline in Manta spp. could likely be attributed to a decrease in abundance of the subpopulation. Similarly, a 57 percent decline in Manta spp. landings in Lombok, Indonesia over the course of 6-7 years was also observed, based on market surveys and fishermen and dealer interviews conducted between 2001-2005 and 2007-2011. In the Philippines, artisanal fishermen indicate declines of up to 50 percent in Manta spp. landings over the course of 30 years.

    Anecdotal reports and professional diver observational data also suggest substantial declines from historical numbers, with significantly fewer diver sightings and overall sporadic observations of manta rays in areas where they were once common (CITES 2013). For example, off southern Mozambique, scuba divers reported an average of 6.8 mantas (likely M. alfredi) per dive, but by 2011, this figure had dropped to less than 1, a decline of 86 percent (CITES 2013 citing Rohner et al. in press). Off the Similan-Surin Islands in Thailand, sightings of manta rays (likely M. birostris) fell from 59 in 2006-2007 to only 14 in 2011-2012, a decline of 76 percent in only 5 years (CITES 2013). Declines were also observed off Japan, with manta ray numbers (likely M. alfredi) sighted by divers dropping from 50 in 1980 to 30 in 1990 (CITES 2013 citing Homma et al. 1999). In Cocos Island National Park, a Marine Protected Area (MPA), White et al. (2015) used diver sighting data to estimate a decline of 89 percent in M. birostris relative abundance, although the authors noted that giant manta rays were observed “only occasionally” in the area over the course of the study. Additionally, in the Sea of Cortez, the subpopulation (of likely M. birostris) is thought to have completely collapsed, with manta rays rarely seen despite being present on every major reef and frequently observed during dives back in the early 1980s (CITES 2013). Anecdotal reports from Madagascar, India, and the Philippines reflect similar situations, with scuba divers and fishermen noting the large declines in the manta ray populations over the past decade and present rarity of the species (CITES 2013).

    Not all subpopulations are declining, though, with information to suggest that those manta ray aggregations not subject to fishing or located within protected areas are presently stable. These include the manta ray aggregations found off Micronesia, Palau, Hawaii, and currently the largest known aggregation off the Maldives (CITES 2013). However, given these species' sensitive life history traits and demographic risks, including small, sparsely distributed, and highly fragmented subpopulations (which inhibit recruitment and recovery following declines), we find that the declining and unknown statuses of the remaining 43 subpopulations to be a concern, especially as it relates to the global extinction risk of these two manta ray species, and thus, further investigation is warranted.

    Analysis of ESA Section 4(a)(1) Factors

    While the petition presents information on each of the ESA Section 4(a)(1) factors, we find that the information presented, including information within our files, regarding the overutilization of these two species for commercial purposes is substantial enough to make a determination that a reasonable person would conclude that these species may warrant listing as endangered or threatened based on this factor alone. As such, we focus our below discussion on the evidence of overutilization for commercial purposes and present our evaluation of the information regarding this factor and its impact on the extinction risk of the two manta ray species.

    Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes

    Information from the petition and in our files suggests that the primary threat to both M. birostris and M. alfredi is overutilization by fisheries. Because both species exhibit affinities for coastal habitats and aggregate in predictable locations, they are especially vulnerable to being caught in numerous types of fishing gear and are both targeted and taken as bycatch in various commercial and artisanal fisheries (CITES 2013; Croll et al. 2015). They have historically been a component of subsistence fishing for decades, primarily fished with simple fishing gear (CITES 2013); however, international demand for manta ray gill rakers (sometimes referred to as “gill plates”—thin, cartilage filaments used to filter plankton out of the water) has led to a significant increase in fishing pressure on both species. The gill rakers are used in Asian medicine and are thought to have healing properties, from curing chicken pox to cancer, with claims that they also boost the immune system, purify the body, enhance blood circulation, remedy throat and skin ailments, cure male kidney issues, and help with fertility problems (Heinrichs et al. 2011). The use of gill rakers as a remedy, which was widespread in Southern China many years ago, has recently gained renewed popularity over the past decade as traders have increased efforts to market its healing and immune boosting properties directly to consumers (Heinrichs et al. 2011). As a result, demand has significantly increased, incentivizing fishermen who once avoided capture of manta rays to directly target these species (Heinrichs et al. 2011; CITES 2013). According to Heinrichs et al. (2011), it is primarily the older population in Southern China as well as Macau, Singapore, and Hong Kong, that ascribe to the belief of the healing properties of the gill rakers; however, the gill rakers are not considered “traditional” or “prestigious” items (i.e., shark fins) and many consumers and sellers are not even aware that gill rakers come from manta or mobula rays (devil rays). Meat, cartilage, and skin of manta rays are also utilized, but valued at significantly less than the gill rakers, and usually enter local trade or are kept for domestic consumption (Heinrichs et al. 2011; CITES 2013).

    In terms of the market and trade of gill rakers, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province in Southern China is considered to be the “epicenter” for trade and consumption, comprising as much as 99 percent of the global gill raker market (Heinrichs et al. 2011). Gill rakers specifically from giant manta rays comprise a large proportion of this trade. Based on market investigations (see Annex VIII; CITES 2013), around 30 percent of the gill raker stock in stores consisted of “large” gill rakers attributed to M. birostris, and had an average sale price in Guangzhou of $251/kg (with some selling for up to $500/kg). Small gill rakers attributed to Manta spp. (including juvenile M. birostris) comprised 4 percent of the stock but sold for the fairly high average price of $177/kg. In total, about 61,000 kg of gill rakers (from both mobula and manta rays) are traded annually. While Manta spp. made up about a third of this total, in terms of total market value, they comprised almost half (45 percent; around $5 million) of the total value of the trade. This indicates the higher value placed on manta ray gill rakers compared to mobula ray gill rakers (Annex VIII; CITES 2013). While this trade does not significantly contribute to the Chinese dried seafood or Traditional Chinese Medicine industries (and amounting to less than 3 percent of the value of the shark fin trade), the numbers of manta rays traded annually, estimated at 4,653 individuals (average), are around three times higher than the vast majority of known subpopulation and aggregation estimates for these two species (CITES 2013). In other words, the amount of manta rays killed every year for the gill raker trade is equivalent to removing multiple subpopulations of these species, and given their demographic risks of extremely low productivity, evidence of declining population abundances, and low spatial structure and connectivity, we conclude that this level of utilization for the gill raker trade is a threat that may be significantly contributing to the extinction risk of M. birostris and M. alfredi and requires further investigation.

    The three countries presently responsible for the largest documented fishing and exporting of Manta spp. are Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India. These countries account for an estimated 90 percent of the world's Manta spp. catch, yet, prior to 2013, when the species complex was added to Appendix II of CITES, lacked any sort of landings restrictions or regulations pertaining to manta rays (CITES 2013). Furthermore, the fact that there is no documented domestic use of gill rakers within these countries, with reports that income from directed fisheries for Manta spp. is unlikely to even cover the cost of fuel without the gill raker trade, further points to the significant and lucrative incentives of the gill raker trade as the primary driver of directed manta ray fisheries (CITES 2013). In fact, prior to the rapid growth of the gill raker trade, fishermen in Sri Lanka would avoid setting nets in known Manta spp. aggregation areas, and release any incidentally caught manta rays alive (Heinrichs et al. 2011). However, with the increase in the international demand and high value for gill rakers, fishermen are now landing all Manta spp. and CITES (2013) warns that directed and opportunistic fisheries may develop elsewhere.

    In the Pacific, directed fisheries for manta rays already exist (or existed) in many areas, including China, Tonga, Peru, and Mexico. In Zhejiang, China, Heinrichs et al. (2011) (citing Hilton 2011) estimate that fisheries currently targeting manta rays land around 100 individuals per year (species not identified). While subpopulation estimates in this area are unknown, it is likely that this level of fishing mortality is contributing to local population declines as evidenced by the fact that sightings of manta rays (likely M. alfredi) at nearby Okinawa Island, Japan, have fallen by over 70 percent since the 1980s (CITES 2013). Directed fisheries in the eastern Pacific may also likely be contributing to the overexploitation of manta ray subpopulations. Heinrichs et al. (2011), citing to a rapid assessment of the mobulid fisheries in the Tumbes and Piura regions of Peru, reported estimated annual landings of M. birostris on the order of 100-220 rays. The petition asserts that this estimate is based on limited data and interviews and, as such, should be viewed as an absolute minimum for the region. Of concern, in terms of risk of extirpations and extinction of M. birostris, is the fact that this assumed minimum level of take is equivalent to about one third of the estimate of the closest known, largest, but also protected aggregation of giant manta rays off the Isla de la Plata, Ecuador. While the manta rays targeted by the Peruvian fishermen may comprise a separate subpopulation, given the seasonal migratory behavior of M. birostris, it is also possible that the take consists of animals from the protected aggregation as they migrate south (Heinrichs et al. 2011). Regardless, given the very small estimated sizes of M. birostris aggregations (range 60-650 individuals) coupled with the species' sensitive life history traits, even low levels of fishing mortality can quickly lead to depletion of subpopulations and drive overall population levels down to functional extinction. In fact, evidence of the rapid decline of M. birostris from directed fishing efforts in the eastern Pacific is most apparent in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. Prior to the start of targeted fishing (which began in the 1980s), the giant manta ray was reportedly common on every major reef in the area. In 1981, a filmmaker reported seeing three to four manta rays during every dive while filming; however, in a follow-up project, conducted only 10 years later, not a single giant manta ray was observed (CITES 2013). Within a decade of the start of directed manta ray fishing, the M. birostris population in the Sea of Cortez had collapsed, and reportedly still has not recovered (CITES 2013), despite a 2007 regulation prohibiting the capture and retention of the species in Mexican waters (NOM-029-PESC-2006).

    Manta rays may also be at risk of extinction in the Indo-Pacific region, where the number of fisheries directly targeting manta species has substantially increased over the past decade, concurrent with the rise in the gill raker trade. This targeted fishing has already led to substantial declines in the numbers and size of Manta populations, particularly off Indonesia. Many shark fishermen have also turned to manta ray targeted fishing following the collapse of shark populations throughout the region (CITES 2013 citing Donnelly et al. 2003). As recently as 2012, Manta spp. fisheries were noted in Lamalera, Tanjung Luar (Lombok), Cilacap (Central Java), Kedonganan (Bali), and the Wayag and Sayan Islands in Raja Ampat, Indonesia (Heinrichs et al. 2011; CITES 2013). In Lamakera, as technology improved and fishermen replaced their traditional dugout canoes with motorized boats, catch rates of Manta spp. increased by an order of magnitude above historical levels (CITES 2013 citing Dewar 2002). This intense fishing pressure on a species that is biologically sensitive to depletion subsequently led to noticeable declines in populations. In Lombok, for example, a survey of fishermen and local processing facilities indicated that manta ray catches have declined in recent years (around 57 percent), with the average size of a manta ray now less than half of what it was historically, a strong indication of overutilization of the species (Heinrichs et al. 2011). Based on data from 2001-2012, Indonesian landings were estimated to be around 1,026 per year, the largest for any country, and attributed to M. birostris, although M. alfredi are also present in this region (Annex VII; CITES 2013). Given the observed declines in both size and catch of manta rays throughout the region, in relatively short periods of time (over 9 years in Lamakera; 6-7 years in Tanjung Luar, Lombok) that are notably less than one generation (~25 years) for either species, we find that the available information indicates that overutilization of manta rays in this region may be a significant threat to both species and is cause for concern.

    Similarly, in the Philippines, recent exploitation of manta rays through targeted fishing efforts has also contributed to significant and concerning declines. Artisanal fishermen note that directed fishing on Manta species (likely M. birostris) in the Bohol Sea started in the 1960s, but really ramped up in the early 1990s and consequently led to population declines of up to 50 percent by the mid-1990s (CITES 2013 citing Alava et al. 2002). Similar declines were observed for the local population of manta rays (species not identified; although petition refers to them as M. alfredi) in the Sulu Sea off Palawan Island, with estimates of between 50 and 67 percent over the course of 7 years (from the 1980s to 1996) (CITES 2013). Although there is presently a ban on catching and selling manta rays in the Philippines, Heinrichs et al. (2011) reports that enforcement varies, with locals continuing to eat manta ray meat in line with their cultural practices. Furthermore, in 2011, Hong Kong traders identified the Philippines as a supplier of dried gill rakers, indicating that fishermen may still be actively targeting the species for trade (Heinrichs et al. 2011). Manta rays are now considered rare throughout the Philippines (CITES 2013), and, as such, any additional mortality on these species, either through incidental fishing or illegally directed fishing, may have significant negative effects on the viability of giant and reef manta ray populations.

    In the Indian Ocean, directed fisheries for manta rays exist in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and are known from several areas in Africa, including Tanzania and Mozambique. As mentioned previously, Sri Lanka is one of the top three nations in terms of manta ray landings, with estimates totaling around 1,055 M. birostris individuals per year (Heinrichs et al. 2011; CITES 2013), the second highest amount behind Indonesia. Historically, fishermen in Sri Lanka would catch manta rays primarily as bycatch or avoid them altogether; however, as the gill raker market took shape and demand increased (with reports of gill rakers selling for as much as 250 times the price of meat), fishermen gained incentive to actively target mobulids (both manta and devil rays) (Heinrichs et al. 2011). As direct targeting of manta rays increased, a corresponding decrease in catches was reported by fishermen, particularly over the past 3-5 years (Heinrichs et al. 2011). Of concern, as it relates to the extinction risk of particularly the giant manta ray, is the fact that a large proportion of the identified M. birostris landings are reportedly immature. Based on available data from Negombo and Mirissa fish market surveys, at least 87 percent (possibly up to 95 percent; CITES 2013) of the M. birostris sold in the markets are juveniles and sub-adults (Heinrichs et al. 2011). Although the proportion of these fish markets to total Sri Lankan manta ray landings is not provided, the direct targeting and removal of immature manta rays can have negative impacts on the recruitment of individuals to the populations, and may likely explain the decrease in catches observed by Sri Lankan fishermen in recent years. Furthermore, these data also suggest that fishermen in Sri Lanka are potentially exploiting a “nursery” ground for manta rays, which, if found to be true, would be the first identified juvenile aggregation site in the world (Heinrichs et al. 2011). In fact, aggregations consisting of primarily immature individuals are extremely rare, with only one other subpopulation identified (off Egypt's Sinai Peninsula) where observations of immature manta rays outnumber adults (CITES 2013). Given the predominance of immature manta rays and recent decreases in catches, we find that present utilization levels and the impacts of this potential nursery ground exploitation, particularly on the manta ray populations in this area (especially M. birostris populations, although M. alfredi is also noted in this region but not identified in the available information), are threats contributing to a risk of extinction that is cause for concern.

    In India, which has the second largest elasmobranch fishery in the world, Heinrichs et al. (2011) report manta ray landings of around 690 individuals per year (based on data from 2003-2004). However, the authors also caution that these landings data from the Indian trawl and gillnet fleets targeting sharks, skates, and rays, are likely largely underreported given the limited oversight of these fisheries. Although the exact extent of utilization of manta ray species in Indian waters is unknown, decreases in overall mobulid catches have been observed in several regions, including Kerala, along the Chennai and Tuticorin coasts, and Mumbai (CITES 2013). These declines are despite increases in fishing effort, suggesting that abundance of mobulids has likely decreased in these areas as a result of heavy fishing pressure and associated levels of fishery-related mortality (CITES 2013).

    Harpoon fisheries that target Manta spp. also exist on both coasts of India, but landings data are largely unavailable. Despite the lack of data, anecdotal reports suggest that the level of utilization by these fisheries may also be contributing to the decline of these species within the region. For example, prior to 1998, landings of manta rays (thought to be M. alfredi) were reportedly abundant in a directed harpoon fishery operating at Kalpeni, off Lakshadweep Islands; however, based on personal communication from a local dive operator, this harpoon fishery no longer operates because manta ray sightings around the Lakshadweep Islands are now a rare occurrence. Similarly, dive operators in Thailand have observed increased fishing for Manta spp. off the Similan Islands, including within Thai National Marine Parks, with corresponding significant declines in sightings (Heinrichs et al. 2011). Specifically, during the 2006-2007 season, professional dive operators sighted 59 Manta individuals; however, 5 years later, sightings had fallen by 76 percent, with only 14 Manta individuals spotted during the 2011-2012 season (CITES 2013).

    Across the Indian Ocean, manta rays are also likely at risk of overutilization; however, data are severely lacking. Off Mozambique, Marshall et al. (2011b) estimate that subsistence fishermen, alone, catch around 20-50 M. alfredi annually in a 100 km area/length of coast. This area corresponds to less than five percent of the coastline; however, fisheries in this region are widespread and, therefore, the actual landings of manta rays are likely significantly more (Marshall et al. 2011b). In fact, based on a study on the abundance of manta rays in southern Mozambique, Rohner et al. (2013) (cited by Croll et al. (2015)) provides evidence of the impact of the current level of utilization on manta ray species. From their findings, the authors report declines of up to 88 percent in the abundance of the heavily fished M. alfredi over the past 8 years (Heinrichs et al. 2011; CITES 2013; Croll et al. 2015), but a relatively stable abundance trend in the un-targeted M. birostris. These data further confirm the extreme vulnerability of the manta ray species to depletion from fisheries-related mortality in relatively short periods of time, and raise significant cause for concern for the species' viability in areas where they are being directly targeted or landed as bycatch.

    In the Atlantic, the only known directed fishing of Manta spp. occurs seasonally off Dixcove, Ghana, where the meat is consumed locally, but manta rays have also been reported as targets of the mesh drift gillnet fishery that operates year-round in this area (Heinrichs et al. 2011; CITES 2013). Manta spp. are also reportedly illegally caught off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula (Graham et al. 2012; CITES 2013), but without additional information, the extent of utilization of the species in this region is unknown.

    In addition to the threat from directed fisheries, manta rays are susceptible to being caught as bycatch in many of the international fisheries operating throughout the world, with present utilization levels contributing to their extinction risk that may be cause for concern. According to Croll et al. (2015), mobulids (manta and devil rays) have been reported as bycatch in 21 small-scale fisheries in 15 countries and 9 large-scale fisheries in 11 countries. In terms of the estimated impact of bycatch rates on extinction risk, the commercial tuna purse seine fisheries are thought to pose one of the most significant threats to mobulids, given the high spatial distribution overlap of tunas and mobulids coupled with the global distribution and significant fishing effort by the tuna purse seine fisheries (Williams and Terawasi 2011; Croll et al. 2015). Based on extrapolations of observer data, Croll et al. (2015) estimated an average annual capture of 2,774 mobulids in the Eastern Pacific, 7,817 in the Western and Central Pacific, 1,936 mobulids in the Indian Ocean, and 558 in the Atlantic Ocean.

    While the above data are lumped for all mobulids, specific observer data on manta rays suggest that present bycatch levels may have potentially serious negative population-level impacts on both manta ray species. In the Atlantic Ocean, for example, observer data from 2003-2007 showed manta rays (presumably M. birostris) represented 17.8 percent of the total ray bycatch in the European purse seine tuna fishery operating between 10° S. and 15° N. latitude off the African coast (Amandè et al. 2010). While only 11 total giant manta rays were observed caught over the study period, observer coverage averaged a mere 2.9 percent (Amandè et al. 2010), suggesting the true extent of M. birostris catch may be significantly greater. In fact, within the Mauritanian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) alone, Zeeberg et al. (2006) estimated an annual removal rate of between 120 and 620 mature manta rays by large foreign trawlers operating off the western coast of Africa, which the authors deemed likely to be an unsustainable rate. This removal rate is especially troubling in terms of its impact on the extinction risk of both species, given that the only known populations of M. alfredi in the Atlantic Ocean occur within this region (off Senegal, Cape Verde and Canary Islands), and that this level of take is equivalent to the subpopulation sizes of M. birostris (estimates of 100-1000) and M. alfredi (100-1500, with the exception of 5,000 in Maldives) found throughout the world. As such, utilization of manta ray species at this level may likely be contributing to population declines in this region for giant manta rays and could easily lead to the extirpation of reef manta rays from the Atlantic Ocean, if this has not already occurred. (Based on information in the petition and in our files, we could not verify the year of the most recent observations of M. alfredi off Cape Verde or the Canary Islands. The evidence of M. alfredi off Senegal is based on historical reports and photos from 1958; (Marshall et al. (2009) citing Cadenat (1958))).

    In the Indian Ocean, manta rays are reportedly taken in large numbers as bycatch in the Pakistani, Indian, and Sri Lankan gillnet fisheries where their meat is used for shark bait or human consumption and their gill rakers are sold in the Asian market. Manta rays have also been identified in U.S. bycatch data from fisheries operating primarily in the Central and Western Pacific Ocean, including the U.S. tuna purse seine fisheries (likely M. birostris; estimates of 1.14 mt in 1999) (Marshall et al. 2011a citing Coan et al. 2000) and the Hawaii-based deep-set and shallow-set longline fisheries for tuna (with 2010 bycatch estimates of 8,510 lbs (3,860 kg) of M. birostris and 2,601 lbs (1,180 kg) of unidentified Mobulidae) (NMFS 2013). While manta rays may have a fairly high survival rate after release (based on 1.4 percent hooking mortality rate in longline gear (Coelho et al. 2012) and 33.7 percent mortality rate in protective shark nets (Marshall et al. (2011a) citing Young 2001)), significant debilitating injuries from entanglements in fishing gear (e.g., gillnets and longlines) have been noted (Heinrichs et al. 2011). The likelihood of bycatch mortality significantly increases when fishing pressure is concentrated in known manta ray aggregation areas. For example, in a major M. birostris aggregation site off Ecuador, researchers have observed large numbers of manta rays with life-threatening injuries as a result of incidental capture in illegal wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) trawl fisheries operating within Machalillia National Park (Heinrichs et al. 2011; Marshall et al. 2011a). Similarly, off Thailand, a significantly higher proportion of manta rays show net and line injuries compared to anywhere else in the world, with the aforementioned exception off Ecuador (Heinrichs et al. 2011). Off Papua New Guinea, manta rays (presumably M. alfredi) are reported as bycatch in purse seines, and from 1994 to 2006 comprised an estimated 1.8 percent of the annual purse seine bycatch. While the condition of the manta rays in these purse seines was not described, by 2005/2006, a sharp decline in the catches of manta rays was observed in these waters, suggesting the population may have been unable to withstand the prior bycatch mortality rates (Marshall et al. 2011b). For the most part, though, manta rays are almost never recorded down to species in bycatch reports, and more often than not tend to be lumped into broader categories such as “Other,” “Rays,” and “Batoids.” As such, the true extent of global manta ray bycatch and associated mortality remains largely unknown.

    Although there are a number of both national and international regulations aimed at protecting manta rays from the above threat of overutilization by fisheries, the petition asserts that these existing regulatory measures, both species-specific and otherwise, do not adequately protect the manta rays. In fact, as of 2013, neither India nor Sri Lanka, two of the top manta ray fishing countries, had implemented any landings restrictions or population monitoring programs for manta ray species (CITES 2013). In terms of national protections, the petition states that due to the recent splitting of the genus, many of the pre-2009 national laws define “manta ray” as a single species, M. birostris, and, therefore, those associated protections fail to protect the newly identified reef manta ray. Furthermore, even where protections exist, there are noted enforcement difficulties in many areas, with the lucrative trade in manta gill rakers driving the illegal fishing of the species. For example, although Indonesia prohibited fishing for manta rays throughout its entire EEZ in 2014, only 2 years prior, it was ranked as likely the most aggressive fishing nation for manta rays (based on landing estimates; see CITES 2013). Based on evidence of enforcement difficulties of prior regulations (particularly relating to manta rays), and citing to examples of illegal fishing in Indonesian waters, the petitioners note that the financial incentive of targeting manta rays will continue to drive their exploitation. In a study on the movement of manta rays between manta ray sanctuaries in Indonesia, Germanov and Marshall (2014) also recognized the inadequacy of existing regulatory measures, noting that although the prohibition was implemented in 2014, “[I]n reality, however, it may be a long time before all manta ray fisheries in Indonesia are completely shut down.” Illegal fishing, landings and trade of manta rays have also been reported from the Philippines, Ecuador, Mexico, and Thailand (Heinrichs et al. 2011; Graham et al. 2012; CITES 2013); however, the true extent of the global illegal trade in manta species is not known (CITES 2013).

    In terms of regulations pertaining to the legal international trade in the species, all manta ray species (Manta spp.) were listed in Appendix II of CITES (with listing effective on September 14, 2014). CITES is an international agreement between governments that regulates international trade in wild animals and plants. It encourages governments to take a proactive approach and the species covered by CITES are listed in appendices according to the degree of endangerment and the level of protection provided. For example, Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction; trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but for which trade must be controlled to avoid exploitation rates incompatible with species survival. Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country that has asked other CITES Parties (i.e., those countries that have “joined” CITES) for assistance in controlling the trade.

    The listing of manta rays on Appendix II of CITES provides increased protection for both species, but still allows legal and sustainable trade. Export of any part of a manta ray requires permits that ensure the products were legally acquired and that the CITES Scientific Authority of the State of export has advised that such export will not be detrimental to the survival of that species. This is achieved through the issuing of a “Non-Detriment Finding” or “NDF.” The petition argues, however, that there are no clear standards for making this CITES NDF. Furthermore, the petition states that given the limited population information for the manta ray species, it will be difficult to even determine sustainable harvest, and coupled with the lack of adequate scientific capacity in many CITES member countries, the determinations with respect to manta ray exports will be inconsistent and unreliable. Ward-Paige et al. (2013) remark that despite these efforts by CITES, no international management plans have been put in place to “ensure the future of mobulid populations,” and with manta ray species only recently subject to the management of only one Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) (the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission; Resolution C-15-04), as Mundy-Taylor and Crook (2013) state, “it is expected that it will be particularly challenging for countries and/or territories that harvest M. birostris [and potentially also M. alfredi] on the high seas to carry out NDFs for such specimens.” Based on the information provided in the petition and in our files, we are presently unable to speak to the current effectiveness of the CITES Appendix II listing in protecting manta ray species from levels of trade that may contribute to the overutilization of both species. Overall, we find that further evaluation of existing regulatory measures is needed to determine if these regulations are inadequate to protect the giant and reef manta ray from threats that are significantly contributing to their extinction risks.

    While the petition identifies numerous other threats to the two species, including habitat destruction and modification from coral reef loss, climate change, and plastic marine debris, recreational overutilization by the manta ray tourism industry, and predation from shark and orca attacks, we find that the petition and information in our files suggests that overutilization for commercial purposes, in and of itself, may be a threat impacting the giant and reef manta ray to such a degree that raises concern that these two species may be at risk of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their respective ranges. We note that the information in our files and provided by the petitioner does indicate that a few identified subpopulations of reef manta rays appear to be stable, particularly those which receive at least some protection from fisheries, including: Subpopulations in Hawaii (Maui subpopulation estimate = 350; CITES 2013 citing personal communication), where harvest and trade of manta rays are prohibited (H.B. 366); the Maldives (subpopulation estimate = 5,000; CITES 2013 citing personal communication), where export of all ray species has been banned since 1995, where most types of net fishing are prohibited, and where two MPAs have been created to protect critical habitat for the Maldives populations (Anderson et al. 2011; CMS 2014); Yap (subpopulation estimate = ~100), with a designated Manta Ray Sanctuary that covers 8,234 square miles (21,326 square km) (CMS 2014); and Palau (estimate = 170 recorded individuals). With the passage of Micronesia's Public Law 18-108 in early 2015 (which created a shark sanctuary in the Federated States of Micronesia EEZ, encompassing nearly 3 million square kilometers in the western Pacific Ocean), a Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary now exists that prohibits the commercial fishing and trade of sharks and rays and their parts within the waters of the Republic of Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia and its four member states, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. However, these protections cover only a small portion of the migratory giant and reef manta ray ranges. Additionally, manta rays are not confined by national boundaries and, for example, may lose certain protections as they conduct seasonal migrations (or even as they move around to feed; Graham et al. (2012)) if they cross particular national jurisdictional boundaries (e.g., between the Maldives and Sri Lanka or India), move outside of established MPAs, or enter into high seas.

    Overall, when we consider the number of manta ray subpopulations throughout the world where, based on the available information in the petition and in our files, their statuses are either unknown or in rapid decline, and yet both species appear to continue to face heavy fishing pressure (due to the high value of gill rakers in trade) and have significant biological vulnerabilities and demographic risks (i.e., extremely low productivity; declining abundance; small, fragmented, and isolated subpopulations), we find that the information in the petition and in our files would lead a reasonable person to conclude that both M. birostris and M. alfredi may warrant listing as threatened or endangered species throughout all or a significant portion of their ranges.

    Petition Finding

    After reviewing the information contained in the petition, as well as information readily available in our files, and based on the above analysis, we conclude the petition presents substantial scientific information indicating the petitioned action of listing the giant manta ray and the reef manta ray as threatened or endangered species may be warranted. Therefore, in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA and NMFS' implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.14(b)(3)), we will commence a status review of these two species. We also find that the petition did not present substantial scientific information to indicate that the Caribbean manta ray (identified as Manta c.f. birostris) is a taxonomically valid species eligible for listing under the ESA. However, if during the course of the status review of the giant and reef manta ray we find new information to suggest otherwise, we will self-initiate a status review of the Caribbean manta ray, announcing our intention in the Federal Register.

    During the status review, we will determine whether the particular manta ray species is in danger of extinction (endangered) or likely to become so (threatened) throughout all or a significant portion of its range. We now initiate this review, and thus, both M. birostris and M. alfredi are considered to be candidate species (69 FR 19975; April 15, 2004). Within 12 months of the receipt of the petition (November 10, 2016), we will make a finding as to whether listing the giant manta ray and the reef manta ray as endangered or threatened species is warranted as required by section 4(b)(3)(B) of the ESA. If listing is found to be warranted, we will publish a proposed rule and solicit public comments before developing and publishing a final rule.

    Information Solicited

    To ensure that the status review is based on the best available scientific and commercial data, we are soliciting information on whether the giant manta ray and reef manta ray are endangered or threatened. Specifically, we are soliciting information in the following areas: (1) Historical and current distribution and abundance of these species throughout their respective ranges; (2) historical and current population trends; (3) life history in marine environments, including identified nursery grounds; (4) historical and current data on manta ray catch, bycatch and retention in industrial, commercial, artisanal, and recreational fisheries worldwide; (5) historical and current data on manta ray discards in global fisheries; (6) data on the trade of manta ray products, including gill rakers, meat, and skin; (7) any current or planned activities that may adversely impact either of these species; (8) any impacts of the manta ray tourism industry on manta ray behavior; (9) ongoing or planned efforts to protect and restore these species and their habitats; (10) population structure information, such as genetics data; and (11) management, regulatory, and enforcement information. We request that all information be accompanied by: (1) Supporting documentation such as maps, bibliographic references, or reprints of pertinent publications; and (2) the submitter's name, address, and any association, institution, or business that the person represents.

    References Cited

    A complete list of references is available upon request to the Office of Protected Resources (see ADDRESSES).

    Authority

    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: February 16, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch, III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03638 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 665 [Docket No. 150715616-6097-01] RIN 0648-XE062 Pacific Island Fisheries; 2015-16 Annual Catch Limit and Accountability Measures; Main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 Bottomfish AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Proposed specifications; request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS proposes to specify an annual catch limit (ACL) of 326,000 lb for Deep 7 bottomfish in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) for the 2015-16 fishing year, which began on September 1, 2015, and ends on August 31, 2016. If the ACL is projected to be reached, as an accountability measure (AM), NMFS would close the commercial and non-commercial fisheries for MHI Deep 7 bottomfish for the remainder of the fishing year. The proposed ACL and AM support the long-term sustainability of Hawaii bottomfish.

    DATES:

    NMFS must receive comments by March 9, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2015-0090, by either of the following methods:

    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0090, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

    Mail: Send written comments to Michael D. Tosatto, Regional Administrator, NMFS Pacific Islands Region (PIR), 1845 Wasp Blvd. Bldg. 176, Honolulu, HI 96818.

    Instructions: NMFS may not consider comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. 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:

    Matt Dunlap, NMFS PIR Sustainable Fisheries, 808-725-5177.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The bottomfish fishery in Federal waters around Hawaii is managed under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the Hawaiian Archipelago (Hawaii FEP), developed by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and implemented by NMFS under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The regulations at Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 665 (50 CFR 665.4) require NMFS to specify an ACL for MHI Deep 7 bottomfish each fishing year, based on a recommendation from the Council. The Deep 7 bottomfish are onaga (Etelis coruscans), ehu (E. carbunculus), gindai (Pristipomoides zonatus), kalekale (P. sieboldii), opakapaka (P. filamentosus), lehi (Aphareus rutilans), and hapuupuu (Hyporthodus quernus).

    NMFS proposes to specify an ACL of 326,000 lb of Deep 7 bottomfish in the MHI for the 2015-16 fishing year. The Council recommended the ACL at its 163rd meeting held in June 2015. The proposed specification is 20,000 lb less than the ACL that NMFS specified for the past four consecutive fishing years (i.e., 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, and 2014-15). NMFS monitors Deep 7 bottomfish catches based on data provided by commercial fishermen to the State of Hawaii. If NMFS projects the fishery will reach this limit, NMFS would close the commercial and non-commercial fisheries for MHI Deep 7 bottomfish for the remainder of the fishing year, as an accountability measure (AM). In addition, if NMFS and the Council determine that the final 2015-16 Deep 7 bottomfish catch exceeds the ACL, NMFS would reduce the Deep 7 bottomfish ACL for the 2015-16 fishing year by the amount of the overage. The fishery did not attain the specified ACL in fishing years from September 2011 to August 2015, and NMFS does not anticipate the fishery will attain the limit in the current fishing year, which began on September 1, 2015, and ends on August 31, 2016.

    The Council recommended the ACL and AMs based on a 2011 NMFS bottomfish stock assessment updated with three additional years of data, and in consideration of the risk of overfishing, past fishery performance, the acceptable biological catch (ABC) recommendation from its Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and input from the public. The 2011 NMFS bottomfish stock assessment updated with three additional years of data estimates the overfishing limit (OFL) for the MHI Deep 7 bottomfish stock complex to be 352,000 lb. The proposed ACL of 326,000 lb is equal to the SSC's ABC recommendation, and is associated with a 44-percent probability of overfishing. This risk level is more conservative than the 50-percent risk threshold allowed under NMFS guidelines for National Standard 1 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

    NMFS does not expect the proposed ACL and AM specifications for 2015-16 to result in a change in fishing operations or other changes to the conduct of the fishery that would result in significant environmental impacts. After considering public comments on the proposed ACL and AMs, NMFS will publish the final specifications.

    To be considered, NMFS must receive any comments on these proposed specifications by March 9, 2016, not postmarked or otherwise transmitted by that date.

    Classification

    Pursuant to section 304(b)(1)(A) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator for Fisheries has determined that this proposed specification is consistent with the Hawaii FEP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable laws, subject to further consideration after public comment.

    This action is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866.

    Certification of Finding of No Significant Impact on Substantial Number of Small Entities

    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration that these proposed specifications, if adopted, would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. A description of the action, why it is being considered, and the legal basis for it are contained in the preamble to these proposed specifications.

    NMFS proposes to specify an annual catch limit (ACL) of 326,000 lb for Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) Deep 7 bottomfish for the 2015-16 fishing year, as recommended by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council). NMFS monitors MHI Deep 7 bottomfish catches based on data provided by commercial fishermen to the State of Hawaii. If and when the fishery is projected to reach this limit, NMFS, as an accountability measure (AM), would close the commercial and non-commercial fisheries for MHI Deep 7 bottomfish for the remainder of the fishing year. The proposed ACL is 20,000 lb less than those that NMFS implemented for the previous four fishing years, while the AM will remain the same. Over the past four fishing seasons, the highest reported annual landings, 309,485 lb, occurred during the 2013-2014 fishing year. NMFS does not expect the fishery to reach the proposed ACL in the 2015-16 fishing year, which began on September 1, 2015, and will end on August 31, 2016.

    This rule would affect participants in the commercial and non-commercial fisheries for MHI Deep 7 bottomfish. During the 2014-15 fishing year, 405 fishermen reported landing 303,738 lb of Deep 7 bottomfish (http://www.wpcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/MHI201500904_1415_Sum.pdf, accessed September 11, 2015). Based on available information, NMFS has determined that all vessels in the commercial and non-commercial fisheries for MHI Deep 7 bottomfish are small entities under the Small Business Administration's definition of a small entity. That is, they are engaged in the business of fish harvesting, independently owned or operated, not dominant in their field of operation, and have annual gross receipts not in excess of $20.5 million, the small business size standard for finfish fishing (NAICS Code: 114111). Therefore, there would be no disproportionate economic impacts between large and small entities. Furthermore, there are would be no disproportionate economic impacts among the universe of vessels based on gear, home port, or vessel length.

    As for revenues earned by fishermen from Deep 7 bottomfish, State of Hawaii records report 341 of the 405 fishermen sold their Deep 7 bottomfish catch. These 341 individuals sold a combined total of 267,997 lb (88.2% of reported catch) at a value of $1,815,332. Based on these revenues, the average price for MHI Deep 7 bottomfish in 2014-15 was approximately $6.77/lb. NMFS assumes the remaining 64 commercial fishermen either sold no Deep 7 bottomfish or that the State of Hawaii reporting program did not capture their sales.

    Assuming the fishery attains the ACL of 326,000 in 2015-16, using the 2014-15 average price of $6.77/lb, the potential fleet wide revenue during 2015-16 is expected to be $2,207,020 ($1,946,592 under the assumption that 88.2% of catch is sold). If the same number of fishermen sell MHI Deep 7 bottomfish in 2015-16 as in 2014-15, each of these 341 commercial fishermen could potentially sell an average of 956 lb of Deep 7 bottomfish valued at $6,472, if all Deep 7 bottomfish caught were sold. If 88.2% of all Deep 7 bottomfish that had been caught had been sold, then these 341 commercial fishermen could potentially sell an average of 843 lb of Deep 7 bottomfish valued at $5,708.

    In general, the relative importance of MHI bottomfish to commercial participants as a percentage of overall fishing or household income is unknown, as the total suite of fishing and other income-generating activities by individual operations across the year has not been examined.

    In terms of scenarios immediately beyond the 2015-16 fishing year, three possible outcomes may occur. First, in the event that 2015-16 catch does not reach 326,000 lb, the ACL will decrease by 8,000 lb for the 2016-2017 fishing year, as set by the multi-year specification. Second, if the fishery exceeds the ACL for the 2015-16 fishing year, NMFS would reduce the Deep 7 bottomfish ACL for the 2016-17 fishing year by the amount of the overage, in addition to the 8,000 lb reduction for the 2016-17 fishing year. The last possible scenario is one where NMFS would prepare a new stock assessment or update that NMFS and the Council would use to set a new 2016-2017 ACL (without inclusion of any overage, even if catch exceeds ACL for the 2015-16 fishing year), although this is unlikely, because NMFS plans to undertake the next stock assessment in 2018.

    Even though this proposed specification would apply to a substantial number of vessels, i.e., 100 percent of the bottomfish fleet, NMFS does not expect the rule will have a significantly adverse economic impact to individual vessels. Landings information from the past four fishing years, suggest that Deep 7 bottomfish landings are not likely to exceed the ACL proposed for 2015-16.

    Therefore, pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, this proposed action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. As a result, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required and none has been prepared.

    Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: February 12, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03673 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 679 and 680 [Docket No. 151020969-6095-01] RIN 0648-BF46 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization Program AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Proposed rule.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS issues a proposed rule that would modify regulations governing the Crab Rationalization (CR) Program. This proposed rule is comprised of three actions. Under the first action, this proposed rule would modify regulations to create an exemption for participants in the Western Aleutian Islands golden king crab (WAG) fishery from the prohibition against resuming fishing before all CR Program crab have been fully offloaded from a vessel. This action is intended to allow participants in the WAG fishery to offload live crab to remote ports near the fishing grounds to supply live crab markets. Under the second action, this proposed rule would amend CR Program regulations to clarify current document submission requirements for persons applying to receive captain and crew crab quota share, called C shares, by transfer. Under the third action, this proposed rule would amend License Limitation Program (LLP) regulations to remove the requirement for endorsements on crab LLP licenses for specific crab fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands that are no longer managed under the LLP. This proposed rule is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs, and other applicable laws.

    DATES:

    Submit comments on or before March 24, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2015-0136, by any of the following methods:

    Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0136, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

    Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.

    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 personally identifying information (e.g., name, address), 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).

    Electronic copies of the Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (RIR/IRFA) (collectively referred to as the “Analysis”) and the Categorical Exclusion prepared for this proposed rule may be obtained from http://www.regulations.gov or from the NMFS Alaska Region Web site at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.

    Written comments regarding the burden-hour estimates or other aspects of the collection-of-information requirements contained in this proposed rule may be submitted to NMFS (see ADDRESSES) and by email to [email protected] or fax to (202) 395-5806.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Keeley Kent, 907-586-7228.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Authority for Action

    The king and Tanner crab fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) are managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs (Crab FMP). The Crab FMP was prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) as amended by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004 (Pub. L. 108-199, section 801). Regulations implementing most provisions of the Crab FMP, including the CR Program, are located at 50 CFR part 680. Regulations implementing specific provisions of the Crab FMP that pertain to the LLP Program are located at 50 CFR part 679.

    Background

    The Crab FMP was approved by the Secretary of Commerce on June 2, 1989. The Crab FMP establishes a State/Federal cooperative management regime that defers crab management to the State of Alaska with Federal oversight. State regulations are subject to the provisions of the FMP, including its goals and objectives, the Magnuson-Stevens Act national standards, and other applicable Federal laws. The Crab FMP has been amended several times since its implementation.

    NMFS published the final rule to implement the CR Program on March 2, 2005 (70 FR 10174). Fishing under the CR Program started with the 2005/2006 crab fishing year. The CR Program is a catch share program for nine BSAI crab fisheries that allocates those resources among harvesters, processors, and coastal communities. Under the CR Program, NMFS originally issued QS to eligible harvesters as determined by eligibility criteria and participation in the CR Program fisheries during qualifying years. A harvester's allocation of QS for a fishery was based on the landings made by his or her vessel in that fishery. Specifically, each allocation was the harvester's average annual portion of the total qualified catch in a crab fishery during a specific qualifying period. NMFS issued four types of QS: Catcher vessel owner (CVO) QS was assigned to holders of LLP licenses who delivered their catch onshore or to stationary floating crab processors; catcher/processor vessel owner (CPO) QS was assigned to LLP holders that harvested and processed their catch at sea; captains and crew onboard catcher/processor vessels were issued catcher/processor crew (CPC) QS; and captains and crew onboard catcher vessels were issued catcher vessel crew (CVC) QS. CVC and CPC QS are also known as “crew shares” or “C shares.” Each year, a person who holds QS may receive IFQ, which is an exclusive harvest privilege for a portion of the annual total allowable catch (TAC). Under the CR Program, QS holders can form cooperatives to pool the harvest of the IFQ on fewer vessels to minimize operational costs and to provide additional flexibility in harvesting operations.

    NMFS also issued processor quota share (PQS) under the CR Program. Each year, PQS yields an exclusive privilege to receive (for processing) a portion of the IFQ in each of the nine CR Program crab fisheries. This annual exclusive processing privilege is called IPQ. IFQ derived from CVO QS is subject to annual designation as either Class A IFQ or Class B IFQ. Ninety percent of the IFQ derived from CVO QS for a fishery is designated as Class A IFQ, and the remaining 10 percent of the IFQ is designated as Class B IFQ. Class A IFQ must be matched and delivered to a processor with IPQ. Each year there is a one-to-one match of the total pounds of Class A IFQ with the total pounds of IPQ issued in each crab fishery and region. Class B IFQ is not required to be delivered to a processor with IPQ.

    This proposed rule includes three actions: The first action would exempt the WAG fishery from the CR Program prohibition against a vessel resuming fishing before the vessel has offloaded all CR Program crab from the vessel; the second action would amend CR Program regulations to clarify document submission requirements for individuals submitting an application to receive C shares by transfer; and the third action would amend LLP regulations to remove four BSAI crab species that are no longer managed under the LLP.

    Action 1: Exempt the WAG Fishery From Full Offload Requirements WAG Fishery Delivery Requirements

    The WAG fishery is a relatively small but lengthy fishery prosecuted in extremely remote waters in the western Aleutian Islands. Historically, the community of Adak has been an active processing port for the WAG fishery. To recognize this history and to ensure that Adak continues to receive socioeconomic benefits from crab deliveries, the CR Program allocates 10 percent of the WAG fishery TAC to the community of Adak as the Adak Community Allocation (§ 680.40(a)(1)). The CR Program also imposes a regional delivery requirement for the WAG fishery to support processing facilities operating in the remote western Aleutian Islands region. In addition to processor share landing requirements, Class A IFQ (along with IPQ) are subject to regional landing requirements, under which harvests from those shares must be landed in specified geographic regions.

    For the WAG fishery, § 680.40(c)(4) specifies that 50 percent of the Class A IFQ and a corresponding amount of IPQ in the WAG fishery are designated for delivery to any processor in the West region, which includes all locations west of 174° W. longitude. The West region includes the communities of Adak and Atka. The other 50 percent of the Class A IFQ and IPQ are not subject to a regional designation and can be delivered to any processor with corresponding IPQ. Class B, CVC, CPO, CPC IFQ, and the Adak Community Allocation are also not subject to the regional delivery requirements. Crab harvested with West designated Class A IFQ must be delivered to a processor located in the West region with West designated IPQ (§ 680.42(b)(5)). Class A IFQ and IPQ crab without a West region designation is considered undesignated and may be delivered anywhere within the State of Alaska (§ 680.40(b)(2)(ii)(B)).

    Regional designations were applied to harvester QS during the initial allocation, based on landings histories, but adjustments were necessary as substantially less than 50 percent of the historical landings were made in the West region. The West designation was intended primarily to aid the development of processing in the community of Adak. Adak had little historical processing prior to the end of the qualifying period, as the community was occupied exclusively by the U.S. military during the development of the AI commercial fisheries. With the departure of the military in the late 1980s, the community has worked to develop civilian industries, including fish processing. Atka is recognized as a second potential beneficiary of the region designation. That community has also begun to develop fish processing capacity in recent years, but has yet to develop significant crab processing capability.

    Since implementation of the Program, the only shore-based processing plant in the West region has been located in the community of Adak. However, the crab processing capacity in Adak has been inconsistent or absent in some years since implementation of the CR Program due to a variety of operational challenges (see Section 3.5.5 of the Analysis). If processing capacity is not available in the West region, the West regional delivery requirement is not viable and would result in unutilized TAC in the WAG fishery.

    In response to the potential lack of processing capacity in the West region in some years, the Council recommended, and NMFS implemented, Amendment 37 to the Crab FMP on June 20, 2011 (76 FR 35781). Amendment 37 created an annual application process for eligible contract signatories to request that NMFS exempt holders of West-designated IFQ and IPQ in the WAG fishery from the West regional delivery requirement (§ 680.4(o)). The eligible contract signatories are WAG fishery QS holders, PQS holders, and the cities of Adak and Atka.

    Upon approval of a completed application, NMFS exempts all West-designated Class A IFQ and IPQ from the West regional delivery requirement for the remainder of the crab fishing year. This exemption allows all West-designated Class A IFQ and IPQ holders to deliver and receive WAG crab at processing facilities outside the West region (§ 680.7(a)(2) and (a)(4)). The eligible contract signatories have applied for, and NMFS has granted, an exemption for all crab fishing years from 2011/2012 through 2015/2016 (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries-data-reports?tid=289).

    WAG Fishery

    The WAG fishery has a relatively small annual total allowable catch compared to other BSAI crab fisheries, such as the Bristol Bay red king crab or snow crab fisheries. The TAC for the 2015/2016 crab fishing year in the WAG fishery is 2.98 million pounds. The WAG QS holders have formed a harvest cooperative to ensure the efficient harvest of this remote fishery. In recent years the fleet has been comprised of only two to three catcher vessels and a single catcher/processor. Section 3.5.1 of the Analysis provides additional detail on historical and recent participation in the WAG fishery.

    Currently, the WAG fishing season starts on August 1 and ends on April 30. Since implementation of the CR program, harvesters have extended their fishing time over most of the crab season; the first deliveries typically occur in September and the last deliveries generally occur during March of the following calendar year. A trip for a vessel in the WAG fishery generally lasts one to four weeks, with an average trip lasting 2.5 weeks. There are relatively few fishing trips in the WAG fisheries compared to other BSAI crab fisheries. In the two most recent crab fishing years (2012/2013 and 2014/2015), vessels made a total of 9 landings of West region IFQ and 10 to 11 landings of undesignated IFQ.

    Crab harvesting vessels have several tanks to hold live crab until it is processed. The average tank capacity of the catcher vessels that participate in the WAG fishery is between 120,000 and 150,000 pounds (see Section 3.5.3 of the Analysis). Any crab that arrives at the processor dead are weighed by the processor, reported as deadloss, and debited from the QS holder's IFQ account. Therefore, vessels have an incentive to keep crab alive, regardless of the market opportunities they are pursuing.

    Full Landing (Offload) Requirement

    The CR Program regulations prohibit a vessel from resuming fishing for CR Program crab or taking CR Program crab on board a vessel once a landing (offload) has commenced and until all CR Program crab are offloaded (see § 680.7(b)(3)). Under the CR Program regulations, a catcher vessel may offload portions of CR Program crab on the vessel at multiple processors, but the vessel is prohibited from fishing for CR Program crab between the offloads.

    NMFS implemented the prohibition against resuming fishing after a CR Program landing has commenced (hereafter called the full offload requirement) to facilitate enforcement of CR Program requirements for catch monitoring and full catch accounting. Under the CR Program, harvesting and processing activity is monitored to provide accurate and reliable accounting of the total catch and landings to manage quota share accounts, prevent overages of IFQ and IPQ, and ensure compliance with regional delivery requirements. Total fishery removals are estimated by monitoring measures that include collection of data on landed catch weight and crab species composition, bycatch, and deadloss.

    Under current CR Program regulations, vessels may offload portions of CR Program crab at multiple processors but are prohibited from resuming fishing or taking CR Program crab on board the vessel once a landing has commenced and until all CR crab are landed. Under § 680.7(b)(3), NOAA fisheries intended that this prohibition would prevent persons from, for example, discarding barnacled or deadloss CR crab at sea prior to debiting this crab from the QS holder's IFQ account and subsequently high grading with CR crab harvested after the partial offload. The prohibition was intended to ensure that all fishery removals are monitored and reported in the CR Program catch accounting system. See the final rule to implement the CR Program for a description of the monitoring and catch accounting provisions in the BSAI crab fisheries (70 FR 10174, March 2, 2005).

    Catch Monitoring

    The CR Program delegates a significant portion of monitoring in the BSAI crab fishery to the State of Alaska. Under the Crab FMP, the Council and Secretary deferred to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) the authority and responsibility for deploying observers on board any vessel participating in the BSAI crab fisheries under State of Alaska regulations (5 AAC 39.645). ADF&G has implemented specific monitoring requirements in the WAG fishery.

    ADF&G requires catcher/processors in the WAG fishery to carry an observer onboard the vessel for 100 percent of the vessel's trips. Catcher vessels in the WAG fishery are required to carry an observer on board for the harvest of at least 50 percent of their total harvest weight for each 3-month period of the overall 9-month season. The portion of actual observed harvest for catcher vessels in the WAG fishery has ranged from 57 percent to 70 percent annually. See Section 3.6.2 of the Analysis for additional information on the ADF&G catch monitoring and observer requirements for the WAG fishery.

    ADF&G also utilizes dockside samplers to sample and monitor deliveries of crab from unobserved vessels to shoreside processors in the WAG fishery. At the time of landing, either the observer or dockside sampler collects the average weight of retained crab, conducts biological samples, and summarizes fishing effort data and landing data. The observer or dockside sampling data are used to debit the appropriate IFQ account under which the crab was harvested and the IPQ account under which the crab was received for processing in the CR Program online catch accounting system.

    ADF&G observer sampling protocol specifies that a trip commences when an observer boards the vessel and ends when there is a complete offload of all crab from the vessel. If a vessel makes a partial landing, the trip is not considered to have ended until the final landing is made and all crab is offloaded from the vessel. If an observer is not deployed on a vessel in the CR Program crab fisheries, dockside samplers sample and monitor the landing of crab to a shoreside processor.

    ADF&G also requires operators of vessels in the BSAI crab fisheries to complete a daily fishing log, which is issued by NMFS. Data from the daily fishing log are used to verify landings and to ensure accurate accounting for all fishery removals. Section 3.6.2 of the Analysis provides additional information on ADF&G's catch sampling and monitoring protocols for the CR Program crab fisheries.

    Need for Action

    In 2014, the processing facility in Adak began taking deliveries of WAG crab from catcher vessels to supply the live crab market. The crab are offloaded from the vessel and held at the processing facility until packed for transport on a commercial airline flight from Adak for delivery to domestic and international markets. The amount of crab offloaded at Adak and delivered to the live market is limited by the amount of aircraft hold space that is available to ship crab on bi-weekly flights from Adak. Aircraft capacity is approximately 8,000 to 14,000 pounds of crab per flight, depending on the type of aircraft. Vessels operating in the WAG fishery make crab deliveries opportunistically to the processing facility when live markets are available. Harvesters receive a higher price per pound for the live market than for crab delivered and processed to supply the traditional market for cooked and frozen crab sections (see Sections 3.5.4 and 3.5.5.1 of the Analysis for more information about deliveries to the live crab market from Adak).

    The processing facility in Adak is currently able to receive only limited amounts of deliveries of crab for the live market, approximately 400,000 pounds for the 2015/2016 crab fishing year. As described in Section 3.5.5 of the Analysis, the processing facility in Adak has encountered a number of operational challenges since it was established in 1999 and is not currently able to receive and process a full offload of crab, which can be up to 150,000 pounds in the WAG fishery. Since the 2014/2015 crab fishing year, catcher vessels delivering crab for the live market have made partial landings at the Adak processing facility and transited several hundred miles from the fishing grounds to Dutch Harbor and Akutan to deliver the remaining crab onboard the vessel to a processor that can accept a larger vessel load of crab from the vessels.

    In February 2015, the Council received requests from representatives for WAG fishery participants and representatives of the community of Adak to exempt the WAG fishery from the CR Program prohibition against a person's resuming fishing before all crab have been offloaded from a vessel. At its October 2015 meeting, the Council reviewed an analysis of the WAG fishery and the potential effects of the proposed exemption. After reviewing the Analysis and receiving public testimony, the Council recommended a regulatory amendment to exempt participants in the WAG fishery from the prohibition at § 680.7(b)(3) against a person's resuming fishing before all CR Program crab have been offloaded from the vessel.

    The Council recommended this proposed regulatory amendment to reduce inefficiencies and costs associated with requiring crab harvesting vessels to travel significant distances to land a partial load of WAG. This proposed rule would allow vessels harvesting WAG to make partial landings for delivery to the live market and continue harvesting crab before fully offloading at a processor that can receive a larger vessel load of crab.

    This Proposed Rule and the Anticipated Effects Action 1: Exempt the WAG Fishery From Full Offload Requirements

    Under Action 1, this proposed rule would create an exemption for the WAG fishery from the prohibition at § 680.7(b)(3) that precludes a person from resuming fishing before all crab has been offloaded from a vessel. This proposed rule would not alter current landing, reporting, and enforcement requirements in CR Program regulations.

    This proposed rule would relieve a restriction on fishing activity in the WAG fishery and could increase operational efficiencies and revenues for participants in the WAG fishery. The Council determined that this proposed rule is necessary for the WAG fishery due to the remote and economically challenging characteristic of the fishery as well as the possibility of mutual benefits to harvesters, processors located in the western Aleutians, and any communities that develop a live market opportunity. As described below, the Council determined, and NMFS agrees, that this proposed rule is not likely to have negative impacts on the management of the WAG fishery or on the catch monitoring and accounting requirements established by the CR Program.

    The Council considered whether this proposed rule could increase the amount of unreported discards of crab. After reviewing the Analysis, the Council and NMFS determined that crab discards are appropriately monitored and accounted for under the CR Program and this proposed rule would not likely create additional incentive for participants in the WAG fishery to discard crab. Section 3.6.1 of the Analysis describes that experience with the CR Program has shown that unreported discards of crab are unlikely due to a number of practices that occur at sea and when crab are delivered to a processor.

    First, it is common practice in the crab fisheries for vessel crews to sort catches at sea and to discard crab that are less than the legal size or that are damaged or diseased before placing the crab in the vessel's holding tank. The CR Program does not require full retention of legal-sized crab on the fishing grounds because it would require a vessel to keep damaged and diseased crab in a holding tank with healthy crab. Because crab can be discarded prior to being placed in the vessel tank, crew have an incentive to retain only healthy crab of legal size and to discard all dead, damaged, or diseased crab during sorting rather than retaining the crab onboard and discarding it prior to or after arrival at a processor. The impact of crab that are discarded during sorting on crab stocks is accounted for because observers collect information on at-sea discards in all crab fisheries, and this information is used to estimate discard mortality for all vessels in the fishery and is incorporated into crab stock assessments (see Section 3.6.2 of the Analysis).

    Second, vessels are unlikely to discard unreported crab at sea due to quota overages because the CR Program cooperative structure, online quota transfers, and post-delivery quota transfers give fishery participants several options to coordinate harvests and obtain additional IFQ to cover any overages. In addition, the CR Program regulations specify that crab cooperative members are jointly and severally liable for violations, which provides a strong incentive for vessel operators to comply with CR Program regulations.

    Third, attempts by vessels to illegally discard crab at sea rather than weighing and deducting them from quota after delivering to a processor would likely be noticed by the vessel observer, port samplers, plant personnel, or local enforcement agents. If a vessel operator were to depart the processor with crab onboard, the crab that was not delivered and accounted for would likely be noticed by one or more of the above personnel who would likely notify an enforcement agent.

    Finally, Section 3.6.1 of the Analysis describes that while catcher vessels in the WAG fishery are required to carry an observer on board for 50 percent of their harvest, in practice, between 57 and 70 percent of the WAG fishery harvest had observer coverage in recent years (see Section 3.6.2.1 of the Analysis). The presence of an observer on board further reduces the likelihood of unreported discards.

    The Council considered the impacts of this proposed rule on Federal management of the WAG fishery. Section 3.7.4 of the Analysis describes that this proposed rule would not change the current CR Program landing and reporting requirements, or catch accounting system. Under this proposed rule, all retained crab catch must be weighed, reported, and debited from the appropriate IFQ account under which the crab was harvested, and from the IPQ account under which the catch was processed.

    Section 3.7.5 of the Analysis describes the impacts of this proposed rule on the State of Alaska management of the WAG fishery. The Crab FMP delegates much of the management of the BSAI crab fisheries to the State of Alaska using the following three categories of management measures: (1) Those that are fixed in the FMP and require an FMP amendment to change; (2) those that are framework-type measures that the State can change following criteria set out in the FMP; and (3) those measures that are neither rigidly specified nor require a framework adjustment in the FMP. State observer and observer sampling requirements are category three management measures under the Crab FMP and may be adopted under State laws subject to the appeals process provided for in the Crab FMP.

    NMFS expects that if the proposed rule is approved and implemented, ADF&G would make minor modifications to its sampling and observer coverage protocols for WAG fishery vessels that deliver crab to Adak for supply to the live market. ADF&G will likely request that vessel operators participating in the WAG fishery and intending to make a partial offload before resuming fishing in the WAG fishery do the following: (1) Keep those crab intended for delivery to the live market in a separate tank from crab intended for delivery to the traditional processing market, and (2) record the fishing activity (pot strings) for harvest of these crabs separately in the daily fishing log. This would ensure that ADF&G can continue to collect biological information for all crab harvested prior to and after the partial offload. Under these protocols, ADF&G would be able to link logbook and offload data to ensure that status quo sampling and accurate accounting of effort can occur under this proposed rule. If the proposed rule is implemented, NMFS anticipates ADF&G would continue to coordinate with vessels in the WAG fishery to ensure that accurate biological data and catch accounting needs are met with minimal impacts on State of Alaska management of the WAG fishery consistent with requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Crab FMP, and ADF&G regulations.

    NMFS does not expect that the anticipated revisions to the ADF&G observer protocols will negatively impact participants in the WAG fishery for reasons described in Section 3.7.5 of the Analysis. First, vessels delivering crab for supply to the live market already keep those crab in separate tanks from crab delivered for supply to the traditional market. This practice facilitates the offload process for live crab and reduces the likelihood of deadloss. Vessel operators have an incentive to continue this practice under the status quo and under this proposed rule. If all crab were kept in one tank and sorted by market at the time of offload, the vessel operator would have to remove water from the tank in order to offload the crab to supply the live market, refill the tank with water for the remaining crab to supply the traditional market, and transit back to the fishing grounds with these crab onboard before delivery for traditional processing. This process could increase the likelihood of deadloss among the crab remaining on the vessel. Second, the request for vessel operators to record pot strings pulled prior to the partial offload separately from pot strings pulled after the offload does not significantly increase the reporting burden for vessel operators or significantly change data processing or analytical protocols for ADF&G.

    Section 3.7.2 of the Analysis describes that this action could result in a reduction in quality for crab destined for the traditional crab market. Crab destined for the live crab market are chosen for survivability, and vessels carefully select large, clean, undamaged crab for delivery to the live market. If the proposed rule results in an increased portion of WAG crab delivered for supply to the live market, processors that do not participate in the live crab market may receive a relatively larger portion of lower quality crab (e.g., smaller or with barnacles) that were not selected for the live market. That Analysis notes that vessels in the WAG fishery currently land crab in Adak destined for the live crab market, and so it is likely that a slight reduction in quality for WAG crab destined for the traditional crab market is occurring under the current CR Program regulations.

    If vessels make more deliveries of WAG crab for the live market, there could be an additional reduction in the quality of crab delivered to processors that supply the traditional markets as a larger portion of the WAG fishery TAC is supplied to the live market. However, NMFS determined that the amount of high quality WAG crab supplied to the live market is unlikely to increase significantly in the future. The Adak processing facility is limited by its ability to ship approximately 14,000 pounds of crab out by air freight bi-weekly, and this capacity limitation is unlikely to change under this proposed rule (see the Appendix to the Analysis). Therefore, NMFS does not expect this action to affect the current quality of WAG crab landings to processors that supply the traditional market.

    Section 3.7.2 of the Analysis describes the impacts of this proposed rule on processors and communities that participate in the WAG fishery. This action could have a positive impact on western Aleutian Islands processors because it would allow for increased fishery activity. Increased fishery activity would benefit communities in the western Aleutian Islands by providing benefits through fuel sales and secondary services from vessels landing in a community. Additionally, increased fishery activity would promote increased local labor opportunities. This action, if approved, could also benefit communities in the western Aleutian Islands by providing increased revenue from raw fish taxes and State of Alaska fisheries business tax revenue, which is shared by the State of Alaska with the cities or boroughs where fish are landed (see Section 3.7.2 of the Analysis).

    This action may adversely impact processors located in Dutch Harbor and Akutan by redistributing some WAG fishery landings to the western Aleutian Islands to supply the live market. NMFS does not expect these impacts to be significant because partial offloads of WAG crab are currently occurring at the processing facility in Adak to supply the live market. This proposed rule would likely facilitate a small increase in the amount of the WAG fishery TAC delivered for the live crab market relative to the much larger amount of crab that would continue to be delivered and processed to supply the traditional markets.

    Sections 3.7.1 and 3.7.2 of the Analysis describe that this action would support the WAG fishery harvesters, processors, and communities that seek to diversify into the live crab market. The vessels currently participating in the WAG fishery could receive additional WAG fishery revenues under this proposed rule due to the increased price they receive for crab in the live market. In addition, these WAG fishery harvesters could potentially reduce operating costs and efficiency by making small offloads of WAG crab to the western Aleutian Islands and resuming fishing to harvest a full vessel load of crab before transiting to offload the crab at a processor that can process all the vessel's crab. This may result in reduced fuel costs and time spent returning to the fishing grounds.

    Action 2: Clarify Document Submission Requirements for Transfers of C Shares

    The second action under this proposed rule would correct regulations governing the approval criteria for an application to receive C Shares (CPC and CVC QS) by transfer. Under the CR Program, individuals must meet specific eligibility requirements to receive C shares by transfer. Amendment 31 to the Crab FMP modified several regulations governing the acquisition, use, and retention of C share QS under the CR Program (80 FR 15891, March 26, 2015).

    The eligibility requirements to receive C shares by transfer are located at § 680.41(c)(1)(vii). An applicant must meet initial eligibility criteria, which include having U.S. citizenship, at least 150 days of sea time in a U.S. commercial fishery, and recent participation as crew in at least one delivery of crab in the past year. In addition, § 680.41(c)(1)(vii) specifies that until May 1, 2019, in lieu of participation as crew in one of the CR Program fisheries in the 365 days prior to application submission, an individual may meet the crew participation requirement to receive C share QS by transfer if that person 1) received an initial allocation of CVC or CPC QS, or 2) demonstrates participation as crew in at least one delivery of crab in a CR crab fishery in any 3 of the 5 crab fishing years starting on July 1, 2000, through June 30, 2005.

    The approval criteria for NMFS to approve an application to receive C shares by transfer are located at § 680.41(i). The regulations state that NMFS will not approve a transfer application unless it has determined that the applicant has met all approval criteria.

    The approval criteria regulations previously included criteria for an individual to demonstrate to NMFS that he or she meets the eligibility requirements at § 680.41(c)(1)(vii) at the time of transfer. These approval criteria were removed in error by incorrect amendatory language in the final rule that implemented regulations to provide harvesting cooperatives, crab processing quota shareholders, and Western Alaska Community Development Quota groups with the option to make Web-based transfers (74 FR 51515, October 7, 2009). These approval criteria are necessary to clarify for applicants that they must meet the eligibility requirements at § 680.41(c)(1)(vii) at the time of transfer, specifically that they must meet the participation within the prior 365 days for their application for transfer to be approved. This proposed rule would add these approval criteria at § 680.41(i)(11) to correct the error, and to ensure that the regulations are consistent with the original intent of the CR Program.

    An applicant must submit the following two applications to NMFS to demonstrate that he or she meets the eligibility requirements at § 680.41(c)(1)(vii) at the time of transfer: (1) An Application for BSAI Crab Eligibility to Receive QS/PQS by Transfer; and (2) Application for Transfer of Crab QS or PQS. The applicant may submit the Application for BSAI Crab Eligibility to Receive QS/PQS by Transfer in advance of, or concurrently with, the Application for Transfer of Crab QS or PQS.

    This proposed rule would add § 680.41(i)(11) to correct the regulations and clarify that NMFS will not approve an application to receive C share QS by transfer unless the applicant submits evidence demonstrating required participation criteria specified at § 680.41(c)(1)(vii). Acceptable evidence for demonstrating required participation criteria specified at § 680.41(c)(1)(vii) is limited to an ADF&G fish ticket signed by the applicant or an affidavit from the vessel owner attesting to the applicant's fishery participation.

    This proposed change would make minor clarifications to regulations governing NMFS' approval criteria for an application to receive C shares by transfer. This change would clarify document submission requirements for applicants to receive C shares by transfer. The impacts of this proposed changed are limited to a minor increase in recordkeeping and reporting requirements for applicants. The impacts are consistent with those analyzed for the final rule to provide harvesting cooperatives, crab processing quota share holders, and Western Alaska Community Development Quota groups with the option to make Web-based transfers (74 FR 51515, October 7, 2009) and for regulations implementing Amendment 31 to the Crab FMP (80 FR 15891, March 26, 2015).

    Action 3: Removing Certain Crab Species From LLP Regulations

    The third action under this proposed rule would amend LLP regulations for consistency with the Crab FMP to avoid public confusion about the regulatory requirements that apply to certain crab stocks. This proposed rule would modify the LLP regulations at § 679.4(k)(1)(ii) to eliminate the following four crab species: Eastern Aleutian Islands red king crab; scarlet or deep sea king crab; grooved Tanner crab; and triangle Tanner crab. These stocks were removed from the Crab FMP in 2008 and are no longer subject to Federal management.

    The LLP limits access to the directed groundfish, crab, and scallop fisheries in the BSAI and the Gulf of Alaska. The LLP requires each vessel to have an LLP license on board the vessel at all times while directed fishing for license limitation species, with limited exemptions. The LLP limits the number, size, and specific operation of vessels deployed in BSAI crab fisheries managed under the Crab FMP and established several area/species endorsements for crab LLP licenses. The LLP licenses for these fisheries were initially issued in 2000 and are not reissued unless the LLP license is transferred to another person. The preamble to the final rule implementing the LLP provides a detailed explanation of the rationale for specific provisions in the LLP (63 FR 52642, October 1, 1998).

    The CR Program was implemented in 2005 and removed BSAI crab fisheries that are managed under the CR Program from the LLP. With the allocation of QS and PQS, management under the LLP was no longer needed to limit fishing effort. The fisheries not included in the CR Program remained under the Crab FMP and under the governance of the LLP. Fishermen participating in those fisheries are required to have a crab LLP license with the appropriate area/species endorsement on the vessel. Although the Crab FMP establishes a State/Federal cooperative management regime that delegates crab management to the State of Alaska with Federal oversight, NMFS manages Crab FMP stocks subject to LLP requirements.

    Amendment 24 to the Crab FMP was approved in 2008. Amendment 24 removed 12 BSAI crab stocks not in the CR Program from the Crab FMP and deferred management to the State of Alaska for these fisheries (73 FR 33925, June 16, 2008). These stocks were removed from the Crab FMP because the majority of catch in these fisheries occurs in State of Alaska waters or the State of Alaska had closed the directed fishery or managed only a limited incidental or exploratory fishery. Among the twelve stocks removed from the Crab FMP were Eastern Aleutian Islands red king crab, scarlet or deep sea king crab, grooved Tanner crab, and triangle Tanner crab that had been managed by NMFS under the LLP. Upon removal of these species from the Crab FMP, NMFS no longer had authority to manage those species under the LLP program. The State of Alaska currently manages these fisheries under State regulations.

    Amendment 24 to the Crab FMP did not require implementing regulations. As a result, Eastern Aleutian Islands red king crab, scarlet or deep sea king crab, grooved Tanner crab, and triangle Tanner crab were not removed from LLP regulations when Amendment 24 was implemented. In order to align LLP regulations with the Crab FMP and avoid confusion about regulatory requirements, NMFS proposes to modify the LLP regulations at § 679.4(k)(1)(ii) to eliminate these species from the LLP regulations. The proposed rule would not change current management of these crab fisheries.

    Currently, the LLP regulations specify that crab LLP licenses may have four area/species endorsements:

    • Aleutian Islands opilio/bairdi crab;

    • Eastern Aleutian Islands red king crab;

    • Bering Sea Minor Species (includes Bering Sea golden king crab, scarlet or deep sea king crab, grooved Tanner crab, and triangle Tanner crab); and

    • Norton Sound red and blue king crab.

    Three of these four LLP license endorsements specify one fishery for which the endorsement authorizes participation when the fishery is included in the Crab FMP (i.e., Aleutian Islands opilio/bairdi, Eastern Aleutian Islands red king, and Norton Sound red and blue king). The Bering Sea Minor Species endorsement is an umbrella endorsement that applies to specific area/species endorsements defined in the LLP regulations: The Bering Sea golden king crab, scarlet or deep sea king crab, grooved Tanner crab, and triangle Tanner crab fisheries. Amendment 24 removed the scarlet or deep sea king crab, grooved Tanner crab, and triangle Tanner crab fisheries from the Crab FMP, but the Bering Sea golden king crab fishery remained in the Crab FMP and subject to Federal management under the LLP.

    To implement this proposed rule, NMFS would modify LLP licenses to remove the Eastern Aleutian Islands red king endorsement from LLP licenses because that fishery was removed from the Crab FMP under Amendment 24 and is no longer subject to Federal management. Current LLP license records indicate there are 30 LLP licenses with this endorsement.

    NMFS does not need to reissue LLP licenses with a Bering Sea Minor Species endorsement for the removal of the scarlet or deep sea king crab, grooved Tanner crab, and triangle Tanner crab fisheries from the Crab FMP. Even though scarlet or deep sea king crab, grooved Tanner crab, and triangle Tanner crab fisheries are no longer subject to Federal management, the Bering Sea golden king crab fishery is still included in the FMP and is subject to Federal management under the LLP. Therefore an LLP license with a Bering Sea Minor Species endorsement is still required for participation in this fishery. Because of this, NMFS does not need to remove the endorsement as a whole. The LLP regulations determine the specific area/species endorsements to which the Bering Sea Minor Species endorsement applies, so NMFS has determined that it can implement this proposed change by amending the LLP regulations, rather than reissuing the licenses carrying this endorsement. Current LLP license records indicate there are 287 LLP licenses with this endorsement.

    NMFS would incur minor administrative costs to reissue LLP licenses to remove the Eastern Aleutian Islands red king endorsement. As described above, this proposed action would not change current management of the Eastern Aleutian Islands red king, Bering Sea golden king crab, scarlet or deep sea king crab, grooved Tanner crab, and triangle Tanner crab fisheries. This proposed action would not have impacts on crab stocks or on fishery participants beyond those analyzed in the analysis for Amendment 24 to the Crab FMP (73 FR 33925, June 16, 2008).

    Classification

    Pursuant to section 305(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the NMFS Assistant Administrator has determined that this proposed rule is consistent with the Crab FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law, subject to further consideration of comments received during the public comment period.

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

    An IRFA was prepared, as required by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The IRFA describes the economic impact this proposed rule, if adopted, would have on small entities. Copies of the IRFA are available from NMFS (see ADDRESSES).

    The IRFA describes this proposed rule, why this rule is being proposed, the objectives and legal basis for this proposed rule, the type and number of small entities to which this proposed rule would apply, and the projected reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements of this proposed rule. It also identifies any overlapping, duplicative, or conflicting Federal rules and describes any significant alternatives to this proposed rule that would accomplish the stated objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other applicable statues and that would minimize any significant adverse economic impact of this proposed rule on small entities. The description of this proposed rule, its purpose, and its legal basis are described in the preamble and are not repeated here.

    Number and Description of Small Entities Regulated by This Proposed Rule

    The Small Business Administration defines a small commercial shellfish fishing entity as one that has annual gross receipts, from all activities of all affiliates, of less than $5.5 million (79 FR 33647, June 12, 2014).

    Under Action 1, the entities directly regulated by this proposed rule are those entities that participate in the WAG fishery: Vessel operators, QS holders, and IFQ holders. This proposed rule would not directly affect PQS holders, IPQ holders, or communities. Three vessels were active in the 2013/2014 WAG fishery. These vessels received the majority of their revenue from shellfish from 2012 through 2014. The entities directly regulated by this proposed rule are members of a cooperative that exceeds the $5.5 million revenue threshold for a shellfish entity and are not considered small entities (see Section 4.3 of the Analysis). The number of WAG fishery QS holders is listed in Table 3-3 in Section 3.5.2 of the Analysis. Gross revenue information is not available for these QS holders. Of the QS holders listed, at least 3 of the entities holding CVO QS are known to be large entities as defined by the Small Business Administration. The remaining 11 CVO QS holders and 8 CVC QS holders are assumed to be small entities. This proposed rule, if approved, would exempt these directly regulated small entities from the prohibition against resuming fishing before all CR Program crab have been offloaded. This exemption is intended to provide an opportunity for these entities to benefit from increased economic efficiencies and increased revenues in the WAG fishery. Therefore, no directly regulated small entities are expected to be adversely impacted by this proposed rule.

    Under Action 2, this proposed rule would correct an error to add regulatory text that was inadvertently removed. The effect of Action 2 on directly regulated small entities is described in the IRFA prepared for a final rule implementing regulations to provide harvesting cooperatives, crab processing quota share holders, and Western Alaska Community Development Quota groups with the option to make web-based transfers (74 FR 51515, October 7, 2009) and for regulations implementing Amendment 31 to the Crab FMP (80 FR 15891, March 26, 2015). This proposed rule would not change the impacts on small entities from the impacts considered in the IFRAs prepared for these actions.

    Under Action 3, this proposed rule would remove regulatory requirements for LLP licenses that are no longer applicable under the Crab FMP as described in the analysis for Amendment 24 to the Crab FMP (73 FR 33925, June 16, 2008). Action 3 would not have any impact on directly regulated entities because no entities are currently participating in these crab fisheries, and this proposed rule would not preclude them from doing so under the appropriate State of Alaska regulations. Action 3 would require the reissuance of LLP licenses to the 30 license holders with the Eastern Aleutian Islands red king crab endorsement, however, this would not require any action taken on the part of any small entities.

    Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

    Action 1 of this proposed rule would not require any modifications to the current Federal recordkeeping and reporting requirements for the CR Program. Action 2 of this proposed rule references the collection-of-information requirement for the Application for Transfer of Crab QS or PQS (OMB control number 0648-0514), however, this proposed rule would not require modifications to the application and would not increase the public reporting burden associated with it. Action 3 of this proposed rule, if approved, would not require LLP license holders to take any action relative to their LLP licenses and would not impact any public reporting burden. There was a collection-of-information requirement for the initial issuance of LLPs, OMB Control Number 0648-0334, however after initial issuance, LLPs do not expire.

    Collection-of-Information Requirements

    This proposed rule references collection-of-information requirements subject to review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). These requirements have been approved by OMB and are listed below by OMB Control Number.

    OMB Control Number 0648-0334

    The crab LLP is mentioned in this rule, but there would be no change in burden or cost results. NMFS would modify LLP licenses to remove the Eastern Aleutian Islands Red King Crab endorsement. NMFS does not expect that removal of the Eastern Aleutian Islands Red King Crab endorsement area/species endorsement would impact LLP license holders.

    OMB Control Number 0648-0514

    The Application for Crab Rationalization (CR) Program Eligibility to Receive QS/PQS or IFQ/IPQ by Transfer and the Application for Transfer of Crab QS/PQS are mentioned in this rule, but there would be no change in burden or cost results. The fishery participation approval criteria for an individual to receive C share QS by transfer were incorrectly deleted from the regulations with a final rule published on October 7, 2009 (74 FR 51515) and would be replaced by this action.

    These estimates include the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information.

    Public comment is sought regarding: Whether these proposed collections of information are necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; the accuracy of the burden statement; ways to enhance quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Send comments on these or any other aspects of the collection of information, 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 penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the requirement 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.

    Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With This Proposed Rule

    The Analysis did not reveal any Federal rules that duplicate, overlap, or conflict with this proposed rule.

    Description of Significant Alternatives to This Proposed Rule That Minimize Economic Impacts on Small Entities

    An IRFA also requires a description of any significant alternatives to this proposed rule that would accomplish the stated objectives, are consistent with applicable statutes, and that would minimize any significant economic impact of this proposed rule on small entities. Under all actions, NMFS considered two alternatives—the no action alternative and the action alternative. During the Council's initial discussion of the problem, it also considered extending the exemption from the prohibition against resuming fishing before all CR Program crab have been landed to all CR Program fisheries. However, the Council rejected this approach because it was too broad for the stated objectives, which were specific to the WAG fishery.

    Under Action 1, the no action alternative is not expected to minimize adverse economic impacts for the small entities directed regulated by this proposed rule. These entities are currently required to make partial landings at the Adak processing facility and transit several hundred miles from the fishing grounds to deliver the remaining crab on board the vessel to a processor that can accept a full offload of crab from the vessels. The no action alternative results in operating inefficiencies and additional costs from requiring vessels to travel significant distances to land a partial load of WAG. The action alternative is expected to provide positive economic impacts for small entities compared to the no action alternative because it would lift a restriction on WAG fishery participants. The action alternative could improve operating efficiencies and increase fishery revenues for WAG fishery participants by supporting the opportunity to supply crab to the live market for a premium price compared to crab delivered to traditional markets.

    Under Action 2, the no action alternative would not correct an error in regulation. The action alternative corrects that error by reinstating the regulation that was incorrectly removed. This proposed rule would not change the impacts on small entities from the impacts considered in the FRFA prepared for the final rule implementing regulations to provide harvesting cooperatives, crab processing quota share holders, and Western Alaska Community Development Quota groups with the option to make Web-based transfers (74 FR 51515, October 7, 2009) and for Amendment 31 to the Crab FMP (80 FR 15891, March 26, 2015). The FRFA for the Web-based transfers rule described the impacts of the rule as beneficial to small entities because the rule would simplify the process for completing transfers. The FRFA for Amendment 31 described that under Amendment 31, the submission of documentation demonstrating active participation for C share QS holders was necessary to implement the active participation requirements, but was not expected to have a significant impact on small entities due to the need to submit the information only upon the request to receive C shares by transfer.

    Under Action 3, the no action alternative would retain regulations for LLP license requirements that are no longer applicable under the Crab FMP. The action alternative would make LLP license requirements consistent with the Crab FMP and reduce potential confusion for small entities. Action 3 would require the reissuance of LLP licenses to the 30 license holders with the Eastern Aleutian Islands red king crab endorsement, however, this would require no action taken on the part of any small entities. Action 3 would not have any impact on directly regulated entities because no entities are currently participating in these crab fisheries, and this proposed rule would not preclude them from doing so under the appropriate State of Alaska regulations.

    List of Subjects 50 CFR Part 679

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    50 CFR Part 680

    Alaska, Fisheries, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

    Dated: February 12, 2016. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, NMFS proposes to amend 50 CFR part 679 and part 680 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 § 679.4: a. Remove paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(A); b. Redesignate paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(B) as new paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(A); c. Revise newly redesignated paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(A); d. Redesignate paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(C) as new paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(B) and paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(D)(1) as new paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(C); f. Revise newly redesignated paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(C); and g. Remove paragraph (k)(1)(ii)(D).

    The revisions read as follows:

    § 679.4 Permits.

    (k) * * *

    (1) * * *

    (ii) * * *

    (A) Aleutian Islands Area C. opilio and C. bairdi.

    (C) Minor Species endorsement for Bering Sea golden king crab (Lithodes aequispinus).

    PART 680—SHELLFISH FISHERIES OF THE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE OFF ALASKA 3. The authority citation for 50 CFR part 680 continues to read as follows: Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 1862; Pub. L. 109-241; Pub. L. 109-479.

    4. In § 680.7, revise paragraph (b)(3) to read as follows:
    § 680.7 Prohibitions.

    (b) * * *

    (3) Resume fishing for CR crab or take CR crab on board a vessel once a landing has commenced and until all CR crab are landed, unless fishing in the Western Aleutian Islands golden king crab fishery.

    5. In § 680.41, add paragraph (i)(11) to read as follows:
    § 680.41 Transfer of QS, PQS, IFQ and IPQ.

    (i) * * *

    (11) The person applying to receive the CVC QS or IFQ or CPC QS or IFQ by transfer has submitted proof of at least one delivery of a crab species in any CR crab fishery in the 365 days prior to submission to NMFS of the Application for transfer of crab QS/IFQ or PQS/IPQ, except if eligible under the eligibility requirements in paragraph (c)(1)(vii)(B) of this section. Proof of this landing is—

    (i) Signature of the applicant on an ADF&G fish ticket; or

    (ii) An affidavit from the vessel owner attesting to that person's participation as a member of a fish harvesting crew on board a vessel during a landing of a crab QS species within the 365 days prior to submission of an Application for transfer of crab QS/IFQ or PQS/IPQ.

    [FR Doc. 2016-03670 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    81 35 Tuesday, February 23, 2016 Notices DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service [Docket No. APHIS-2015-0011] Recognizing European Union (EU) and EU Member State Regionalization Decisions for African Swine Fever (ASF) by Updating the APHIS List of Regions Affected With ASF AGENCY:

    Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    We are advising the public that we added European Union (EU) and EU Member State-defined regions of the EU to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) list of regions affected with African swine fever (ASF). Going forward we will recognize as affected with ASF any region of the EU that the EU or any EU Member State has placed under restriction because of detection of ASF. These regions currently include portions of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, and all of Sardinia. APHIS will list the EU- and EU Member State-defined regions as a single entity. We also removed Sardinia as an individually listed region from the APHIS list of ASF affected regions. We took these actions because of the detection of ASF in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

    DATES:

    Effective Date: The addition of the EU- and EU Member State-defined regions to the APHIS list of regions affected with ASF was effective August 31, 2015.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Mr. Donald Link, Import Risk Analyst, Regionalization Evaluation Services, National Import Export Services, Veterinary Services, APHIS, 920 Main Campus Drive, Suite 200, Raleigh, NC 27606; (919) 855-7731; [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The regulations in 9 CFR part 94 (referred to below as the regulations) govern the importation of certain animals and animal products into the United States to prevent the introduction of various animal diseases, including rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, swine vesicular disease, classical swine fever, and African swine fever (ASF). The regulations prohibit or restrict the importation of live ruminants and swine, and products from these animals, from regions where these diseases are considered to exist.

    Sections 94.8 and 94.17 of the regulations contain requirements governing the importation into the United States of pork and pork products from regions of the world where ASF exists or is reasonably believed to exist. A list of regions where ASF exists or is reasonably believed to exist is maintained on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Web site at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/animals_disease_status.shtml.

    In a notice published in the Federal Register on August 31, 2015 (80 FR 52440-52441, Docket No. APHIS-2015-0011), we amended the list of regions where ASF exists or is reasonably believed to exist by adding a new entry that reads “Any restricted zone in the European Union (EU) established by the EU or any EU Member State because of detection of African swine fever in domestic or feral swine.” We also removed Sardinia as an individually listed region because Sardinia is under ASF restrictions by the EU. These list changes were effective August 31, 2015, and as a result of that action, the importation into the United States of pork and pork products from EU regions under restrictions for ASF became restricted.

    The notice also proposed that APHIS would recognize as affected with ASF any region of the EU that the EU or any EU Member State has placed under restriction because of detection of ASF. Going forward, the APHIS-recognized ASF status of almost any region of the EU would follow the EU and EU Member State restrictions based on ASF detections; we would not list each affected region of the EU. The only exception would be Malta, which we currently recognize as affected with ASF, but which is not under ASF restrictions by the EU.

    Comments on the notice were required to be received on or before October 30, 2015. We received one comment, from a domestic pork industry association. The commenter did not object to the recognition of EU and EU Member State regionalization decisions for ASF in the EU. The commenter expressed concern that ASF continues to spread within the wild boar population, and concern that the potential exists for further spread. The commenter urged APHIS to remain extremely vigilant regarding actions by the European Commission (EC) and affected Member States to address ASF.

    APHIS agrees with the commenter that ASF continues to spread in wild boar, and that the potential exists for further spread. APHIS agrees with the commenter that we should remain extremely vigilant regarding actions taken by the EC and affected Member States to address ASF. APHIS will continue monitor the epidemiological situation. If the EU or an EU Member State significantly changes or entirely removes its ASF restrictions or otherwise significantly alters its regulatory framework for ASF, APHIS will conduct an evaluation to assess the impact of the changes on the risk of ASF introduction into the United States. APHIS will present for public comment the findings of any such evaluation.

    Because the EU- and EU Member State-defined ASF-affected regions include areas not currently on the APHIS list of ASF-affected regions, we added the new entry to our list effective August 31, 2015, to prevent the introduction of ASF into the United States. The list of ASF-affected regions can be found at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/animals_disease_status.shtml. Copies of the list are also available via postal mail, fax, or email upon request to the Regionalization Evaluation Services, National Import Export Services, Veterinary Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 4700 River Road Unit 38, Riverdale, MD 20737.

    Authority:

    7 U.S.C. 450, 7701-7772, 7781-7786, and 8301-8317; 21 U.S.C. 136 and 136a; 31 U.S.C. 9701; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, and 371.4.

    Done in Washington, DC, this 17th day of February 2016. Kevin Shea, Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03675 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-34-P
    DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Farm Service Agency Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request February 17, 2016.

    The Department of Agriculture has submitted the following information collection requirement(s) to OMB for review and clearance under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13. Comments are required regarding (1) whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; (2) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of burden 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 those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    Comments regarding this information collection received by March 24, 2016 will be considered. Written comments should be addressed to: Desk Officer for Agriculture, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), New Executive Office Building, 725—17th Street NW., Washington, DC 20502. Commenters are encouraged to submit their comments to OMB via email to: [email protected] or fax (202) 395-5806 and to Departmental Clearance Office, USDA, OCIO, Mail Stop 7602, Washington, DC 20250-7602. Copies of the submission(s) may be obtained by calling (202) 720-8958.

    An agency may not conduct or sponsor a collection of information unless the collection of information displays a currently valid OMB control number and the agency informs potential persons who are to respond to the collection of information that such persons are not required to respond to the collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

    Farm Service Agency

    Title: Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act Report.

    OMB Control Number: 0560-0097.

    Summary of Collection: The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 (AFIDA) requires foreign investors to report in a timely manner all held, acquired, or transferred U.S. agricultural land under penalty of law to Farm Service Agency (FSA). Authority for the collection of the information was delegated by the Secretary of Agriculture to the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The statute of authority is 92 STAT (1263-1267) or 7 U.S.C. 3501-3508 or Public Law 95-460. Foreign investors may obtain form FSA-153, AFIDA Report, from their local FSA county office or from the FSA Internet site.

    Need and Use of the Information: The information collected from the AFIDA Reports is used to monitor the effect of foreign investment upon family farms and rural communities and in the preparation of a voluntary report to Congress and the President. Congress reviews the report and decides if regulatory action is necessary to limit the amount of foreign investment in U.S. agricultural land. If this information was not collected, USDA could not effectively monitor foreign investment and the impact of such holdings upon family farms and rural communities.

    Description of Respondents: Business or other for-profit; Individuals or households; Farms.

    Number of Respondents: 5,525.

    Frequency of Responses: Reporting: On occasion; Annually.

    Total Burden Hours: 2,631.

    Title: Servicing Minor Program Loans.

    OMB Control Number: 0560-0230.

    Summary of Collection: Farm Loan Program staff provides supervised credit in the form of loans to family farmers and ranchers to purchase land and finance agricultural production. Regulations are promulgated to implement selected provisions of sections 331 and 335 of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act. Section 331 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to grant releases from personal liability where security property is transferred to approve applicants who, under agreement, assume the outstanding secured indebtedness. Section 335 provides servicing authority for real estate security; operation or lease of realty, disposition of surplus property; conveyance of complete interest of the United States; easements; and condemnations. The information is collected from Farm Service Agency (FSA) Minor Program borrowers who may be individual farmers or farming partnerships, associations, or corporations.

    Need and Use of the Information: FSA will collect information related to a program benefit recipient or loan borrower requesting action on security they own, which was purchased with FSA loan funds, improved with FSA loan funds or has otherwise been mortgaged to FSA to secure a Government loan. The information collected is primarily financial data, such as borrower's asset values, current financial information and public use and employment data. Failure to obtain this information at the time of the request for servicing will result in rejection of the borrower's request.

    Description of Respondents: Farms; Individuals or households; Business or other-for-profit; Not-for-profit institutions; State. Local and Tribal Government.

    Number of Respondents: 58.

    Frequency of Responses: Reporting: On occasion; Annually.

    Total Burden Hours: 37.

    Ruth Brown, Departmental Information Collection Clearance Officer.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03676 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-05-P
    DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Food Safety and Inspection Service [Docket No. FSIS-2016-0005] National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection AGENCY:

    Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

    ACTION:

    Notice of public meeting.

    SUMMARY:

    The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is announcing that the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI) is sponsoring a public meeting on March 29-30, 2016. The objective of the public meeting is to review and determine the steps FSIS should take to ensure better Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) control at retail. FSIS is seeking input on whether FSIS should require certain actions by retail stores. FSIS will ask the Committee to consider the following: (1) Should FSIS rely on regulation, the Food Code, or some other means to effect these actions? (2) Are there sources of information that FSIS should consider when deciding on what steps to take that the Agency has not identified?

    NACMPI will also review and discuss whether FSIS should pursue mandatory features on the label of processed not ready to eat (NRTE) products that do not appear to be “not ready to eat.” For example: (1) Should all NRTE products be required to bear the statement “raw meat/poultry, for safety cook thoroughly”? (2) Are there other steps FSIS should consider requiring of processors to prevent illnesses involving these products?

    DATES:

    The meeting is scheduled for March 29-30, 2016, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. eastern standard time. NACMPI will meet from 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. eastern standard time on March 29, 2016, for administrative purposes. This portion of the meeting is not open to the public.

    ADDRESSES:

    The meeting will take place in the Auditorium at the Patriot Plaza III building, 355 E Street SW., Washington, DC 20024. The auditorium is located on the first floor. Due to increased security measures at the Patriot Plaza III, all persons wishing to attend are strongly encouraged to pre-register in advance.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Natasha Williams, Program Specialist, Designated Federal Officer, Outreach and Partnership Division, Office of Outreach, Employee Education and Training, FSIS, Patriot Plaza III Building, 355 E Street SW., Washington, DC 20024; Telephone: (202) 690-6531; Fax: (202) 690-6519; Email: [email protected], regarding specific questions about the committee or this meeting. General information about the committee can also be found at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/advisory-committees/nacmpi.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background

    NACMPI provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture on meat and poultry inspection programs, pursuant to sections 7(c), 24, 301(a)(3), and 301(c) of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. 607(c), 624, 645, 661(a)(3), and 661(c), and to sections 5(a)(3), 5(c), 8(b), and 11(e) of the Poultry Products Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. 454(a)(3), 454(c), 457(b), and 460(e). The current charter and other information about NACMPI can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/advisory-committees/nacmpi.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Al Almanza is the chairperson of NACMPI. Membership of NACMPI is drawn from distinguished representatives of consumer groups; producers; processors; and marketers from the meat, poultry and egg product industries; State and local government officials; and academia. The current members of NACMPI are: Dr. Michael Crupain, The Dr. Oz Show; Mr. George Wilson, Wilson and Associates; Dr. Tanya Roberts, Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention; Mr. Kurt Brandt, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; Dr. Dustin Oedekoven, South Dakota Animal Industry Board; Dr. Krzysztof Mazurczak, Illinois Department of Agriculture; Dr. Manpreet Singh, Purdue University; Dr. Randall K. Phebus, Kansas State University; Dr. Patricia Curtis, Auburn University; Mr. Brian Sapp, White Oak Pastures, Inc.; Ms. Sherri Jenkins, JBS®, USA, LLC; Dr. Betsy Booren, North American Meat Institute; Dr. Alice Johnson, Butterball, LLC; Ms. Sherika Harvey, Mississippi Department of Agriculture; Dr. Carol L. Lorenzen, University of Missouri; Dr. Michael L. Rybolt, Tyson Foods, Inc.; and Dr. John A. Marcy, University of Arkansas.

    On March 29-30, 2016, NACMPI will review and discuss steps FSIS should take to ensure better Lm controls at retail, and whether FSIS should pursue mandatory features on the label of processed not ready to eat (NRTE) products that do not appear “not ready to eat.”

    The two issues described above will be presented to the full Committee. The Committee will then divide into two subcommittees to discuss the issues. Each subcommittee will provide a report of their comments and recommendations to the full Committee before the meeting concludes on Tuesday, March 30, 2016.

    Register: Attendees are asked to pre-register for the meeting. Your pre-registration is to include the name of each person in your group; organization or interest represented; the number of people planning to give oral comments, if any; and whether anyone in your group requires special accommodations. Attendees should bring photo identification and plan for adequate time to pass through security screening systems. Attendees may submit their registrations to: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/advisory-committees/nacmpi/nacmpi-meetings/nacmpi-registration. FSIS will also accept walk-in registrations. Members of the public requesting to give oral comment to the Committee are to sign in at the registration desk.

    Public Comments: Written public comments may be mailed to USDA/FSIS, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Mail Stop 3778, Washington, DC 20250; submitted via fax (202) 690-6519; or by Email at: [email protected]

    All written comments are to arrive by March 24, 2016.

    Oral comments are also accepted (see instructions under “Register for the Meeting” above).

    Availability of Materials for the Meeting: All written public comments will be compiled into a binder and available for review at the meeting. Duplicate comments from multiple individuals will appear as one comment, with a notation that multiple copies of the comment were received. For additional information about the agenda or reports resulting from this meeting please visit: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/advisory-committees/nacmpi/nacmpi-meetings.

    Meeting Accommodations: USDA is committed to ensuring that all interested persons are included in our events. If you are a person with a disability and would like to request reasonable accommodations to participate in this meeting, please contact Natasha Williams via Telephone: (202) 690-6531; Fax (202) 690-6519; or Email: [email protected] All reasonable accommodation requests are managed on a case by case basis.

    Additional Public Notification

    Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy development is important. Consequently, FSIS will announce this Federal Register publication on-line through the FSIS Web page located at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/federal-register.

    FSIS also will make copies of this publication available through the FSIS Constituent Update, which is used to provide information regarding FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal Register notices, FSIS public meetings, and other types of information that could affect or would be of interest to our constituents and stakeholders. The Update is available on the FSIS Web page. Through the Web page, FSIS is able to provide information to a much broader, more diverse audience. In addition, FSIS offers an email subscription service which provides automatic and customized access to selected food safety news and information. This service is available at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/subscribe. Options range from recalls to export information, regulations, directives, and notices. Customers can add or delete subscriptions themselves, and have the option to password protect their accounts.

    USDA Non-Discrimination Statement

    No agency, officer, or employee of the USDA shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, or political beliefs, exclude from participation in, deny the benefits of, or subject to discrimination any person in the United States under any program or activity conducted by the USDA.

    How To File a Complaint of Discrimination

    To file a complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, which may be accessed online at http://www.ocio.usda.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2012/Complain_combined_6_8_12.pdf, or write a letter signed by you or your authorized representative.

    Send your completed complaint form or letter to USDA by mail, fax, or email:

    Mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-9410.

    Fax: (202) 690-7442.

    Email: [email protected]

    Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.), should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).

    Done at Washington, DC on: February 18, 2016. Alfred V. Almanza, Acting Administrator.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03762 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-DM-P
    DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Food and Nutrition Service Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Collection; Comment Request; State Administrative Expense Funds AGENCY:

    Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), USDA.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice invites the general public and other public agencies to comment on this information collection. This collection is a revision of a currently approved collection for State administrative expense funds expended in the operation of the Child Nutrition Programs (7 CFR parts 210, 215, 220, 226 and 250) administered under the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. The current approval for the information collection burden associated with 7 CFR part 235 expires on May 31, 2016.

    DATES:

    Written comments must be received on or before April 25, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    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 of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions that were used; (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 those who are to respond, including use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    Comments may be sent to Steve Hortin, Chief, Operational Support Branch, Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 3101 Park Center Drive, Room 632, Alexandria, VA 22302-1594. Comments will also be accepted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov, and follow the online instructions for submitting comments electronically. All responses to this notice will be summarized and included in the request for Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval, and will become a matter of public record.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Requests for additional information or copies of this information collection should be directed to Sarah Smith-Holmes at (703) 605-3223.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Title: 7 CFR part 235—State Administrative Expense Funds.

    Form Numbers: FNS-74, FNS-525.

    OMB Number: 0584-0067.

    Expiration Date: May 31, 2016.

    Type of Request: Revision of a currently approved collection.

    Abstract: Section 7 of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (Pub. L. 89-642), 42 U.S.C. 1776, authorizes the Department to provide Federal funds to State agencies (SAs) for administering the Child Nutrition Programs (7 CFR parts 210, 215, 220, 226 and 250). State Administrative Expense (SAE) Funds, 7 CFR part 235, sets forth procedures and recordkeeping requirements for use by SAs in reporting and maintaining records of their need and use of SAE funds. A summary of the reporting and recordkeeping burden associated with this revision is presented in the table below. For this revision, the number of State Agencies was updated (decreased from 87 to 84) resulting in a decrease of 321 recordkeeping burden hours. The burden for maintaining accounting records was adjusted to more accurately reflect the average frequency of updating records due to electronic system processing resulting in a decrease of 5,564 recordkeeping hours. The burden of documenting expenditures of funds from State sources in any fiscal year for the administration of CNP is already accounted for in the quarterly recordkeeping for the FNS-777; therefore, the burden for this recordkeeping requirement has been decreased by 856 hours. The burden associated with form FNS-777, Financial Status Report, was removed since the burden for this form has been approved under the information collection for the Food Program Reporting System (FPRS), OMB Control Number 0584-0594, which expires June 30, 2017, resulting in a decrease of 174 reporting hours. The burden associated with form FNS-525, State Administrative Expense Funds Reallocation Report, is proposed for removal and transfer to the FPRS information collection to accommodate electronic reporting of the data resulting in a transfer of 308 reporting hours. These revisions result in a net decrease of 7,223 total burden hours. Revisions to the update form FNS-74, Federal-State Agreement, are also being proposed. The revised FNS-74 form is included in the Supporting Documents to this notice on www.regulations.gov.

    Affected Public: State Agencies.

    Estimated Number of Respondents: 84.

    Estimated Number of Responses per Respondent: 40.297.

    Estimated Total Annual Responses: 3,385.

    Estimated Hours per Response: 1.869.

    Estimated Total Hours Annual Reporting Burden: 315.

    Estimated Total Hours Annual Recordkeeping Burden: 6,010.

    Estimated Total Annual Burden: 6,325.

    Current OMB Inventory: 13,548.

    Difference (requested with this renewal): −7,223.

    Refer to the following table for estimated annual burden for each type of respondent:

    Affected public Estimated number of
  • respondents
  • Number of
  • responses per
  • respondent
  • Estimated
  • total annual
  • responses
  • Estimated
  • hours per
  • response
  • Estimated total annual burden
    Reporting State Agencies 84 1.917 161 1.955 315 Total Estimated Reporting Burden 84 161 315 Recordkeeping State Agencies 84 38.381 3,224 1.864 6,010 Total Estimated Recordkeeping Burden 84 3,224 6,010 Total of Reporting and Recordkeeping Reporting 84 1.917 161 1.955 315 Recordkeeping 84 38.38 3,224 1.864 6,010 Total 84 3,385 6,325
    Dated: February 9, 2016. Audrey Rowe, Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03788 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-30-P
    DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests; Colorado; Federal Coal Lease Modifications COC-1362 & COC-67232 AGENCY:

    Forest Service, USDA.

    ACTION:

    Notice of intent to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement.

    SUMMARY:

    The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) is considering whether or not to consent to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) modifying the Federal Coal Leases COC-1362 and COC-67232 by adding 800 and 922 acres, respectively, to them. If the GMUG does consent to lease, it will prescribe conditions (as stipulations) for the protection of non-mineral resources. BLM will, in turn, decide whether or not to grant lease modifications and will further decide, if leased, whether or not to permit on-lease exploration consistent with lease terms. Subsequent mine plan modification activities may be permitted by Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

    Previous GMUG and BLM analyses and decisions were vacated by U.S. District Court for Colorado (1:13-cv-01723-RBJ) on September 11, 2014 for issues related to econonic analysis on the agencies' leasing analysis and BLM's exploration analysis of recreation impacts and a redundant road. A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being prepared to correct Court-identified deficiencies and to update analysis, as needed, since the Final EIS in 2012 and BLM's Environmental Assessment (EA) in 2013. The leasing and exploration analyses will be combined into a single document for agency and public convenience.

    DATES:

    Public comments for this project were received April-May, 2010 during the preparation of an EA for the lease modifications, April-May, 2012 on the Notice of Intent to prepare a Draft EIS, June-July, 2012 on the Draft EIS and April-May, 2013 on BLM's Sunset Trail Area Coal Exploration Plan Environmental Assessment. Comments received during those periods will be also be considered in this analysis and those that were submitted in a timely manner during official comment periods also qualify for standing in future Forest Service objection opportunities (36 CFR 218 Subparts A & B) and BLM appeal periods. These comments have contributed to the issue analysis and alternative development. Additionally, the agency will continue to accept public comments throughout the preparation of the Supplemental Draft EIS, which is estimated to be released in spring 2016 with an additional formal comment period following its release. The Supplemental Final EIS is expected in summer 2016; however, timing of Supplemental Final EIS is subject to reinstatement of the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule exception for the North Fork Coal Mining Area, which is currently under separate analysis.

    ADDRESSES:

    Written comments should be addressed to Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, Attn: Forest Supervisor, 2250 HWY 50, Delta, CO 81416. Comments may also be submitted electronically to https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=32459 or via facsimile to 970-874-6698.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Niccole Mortenson, 406-329-3163 or [email protected]

    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Purpose and Need for Action Lease Modifications

    Under 43 CFR 3432 (as amended by the Energy Policy Act of 2005), the holder of a federal coal lease may apply to modify a lease by adding up to 960 acres. The federal agencies are responding to applications to modify existing leases. The GMUG and BLM have identified the need to consider issuing two coal lease modifications for federal coal lands immediately adjacent to exiting federal coal leases COC-1362 and COC-67232. The purpose of the federal agencies' actions is to facilitate recovery of federal coal resources in an environmentally sound manner. Further, the purpose of the lease modifications is to ensure that compliant and super-compliant coal reserves are recovered and not bypassed. The proposed action responds to the federal government's overall policy to foster and encourage private enterprise in the development of economically sound and stable industries, to help assure satisfaction of industrial, security and environmental needs (Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970).

    The BLM, charged with administration of the mineral estate on these Federal lands, is required, by law, to consider leasing Federally-owned minerals for economic recovery. Processing of these particular applications are not subject to Department of Interior's January 2016 leasing moratorium (Secretarial Order No. 3338).

    The USDA-Forest Service (FS), as the surface management agency, considers consenting to the BLM leasing reserves underlying lands under its jurisdiction and prescribes stipulations for the protection of non-mineral resources. Based on Forest Service consent, the Secretary of Interior (represented by the BLM Southwest District Manager) makes the determination on whether there are no significant recreation, timber, economic, or other values which may be incompatible with leasing the lands in question, and whether or not to modify the leases. BLM could then modify the existing leases, which is a non-competitive leasing action (43 CFR part 3430).

    Exploration Plan

    The BLM's purpose is to decide whether to approve the exploration plan and allow the activities to occur on the proposed coal leases, consistent with lease rights, if granted, in the manner described in the plan; disapprove the plan with a statement of conformity; or approve the plan with additional conditions (43 CFR 3482.2(a)(1)), if needed, to minimize impacts. As the surface management agency, the GMUG has to determine the adequacy of the bond and has to concur with the approval terms of the exploration plan.

    The BLM's need is to respond to an application to explore the coal deposits in accordance with the federal lease agreements, if issued; NEPA; the Mineral Leasing Act, as amended by the Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act of 1976; and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. The BLM would also be fulfilling management obligations regarding the federal coal resource by obtaining information which allows the BLM to verify the recoverable reserves.

    Proposed Action Lease Modifications

    Ark Land Company (Ark) submitted an application in January 2009 and resubmitted in February 2015 seeking to modify two existing federal coal leases COC-1362, owned by Mountain Coal Company (MCC), and COC-67232, owned by Ark, by adding 800 and 922 additional acres (respectively) to them. The applications are being processed according to procedures set forth in 43 CFR 3432.

    The proposed action is for the Forest Service to consent to and BLM approving modifications to MCC's existing federal coal leases COC-67232 and/or COC-1362 and thereby adding 922 and 800 additional acres (respectively) to ensure that compliant and super-compliant coal reserves are recovered and not bypassed, and to identify stipulations for the protection of non-mineral (i.e. surface) resources. The proposed coal lease modification areas lie in portions of sections 10, 11, 13, 14, 22 and 23 of T.14S, R. 90W, 6th PM in Gunnison County, Colorado, adjacent to the currently operating West Elk Mine.

    As part of the proposed action alternatives the GMUG Forest Supervisor must decide if the existing stipulations on the parent leases are sufficient for the protection of non-mineral (i.e. surface) resources. If not, additional stipulations that would provide for the protection of non-mineral resources must be prescribed. The Final EIS Tables 2.1a and 2.1b show the stipulations on the parent leases and their applicability to the lease modifications, as well as, proposed modifications and changes.

    In accordance with Forest Service Manual (FSM) 2820, the Standard Notice for Lands under the Jurisdiction of Agriculture is part of the parent leases, and hence would apply to the lease modifications. This Standard Notice includes requirements for Cultural and Paleontological Resources, and Threatened and Endangered Species (see Final EIS Table 2.1a). Further, the Standard Notice contains the following language: “The permittee/lessee must comply with all the rules and regulations of the Secretary of Agriculture set forth at Title 36, Chapter II, of the Code of Federal Regulations governing the use and management of the National Forest System (NFS) when not inconsistent with the rights granted by the Secretary of Interior in the permit. The Secretary of Agriculture's rules and regulations must be complied with for (1) all use and occupancy of the NFS prior to approval of an exploration plan by the Secretary of the Interior, (2) uses of all existing improvements, such as forest development roads, within and outside the area permitted by the Secretary of the Interior, and (3) use and occupancy of the NFS not authorized by the permit/operation approved by the Secretary of the Interior.”

    Lease stipulations that have been identified in the Final EIS would be brought forward in the Supplemental Draft EIS for all action alternatives.

    The proposed action responds to the overall guidance given in the GMUG Land and Resource Management Plan, as amended (USDA Forest Service, 1991) which encourages environmentally sound energy and mineral development, and the BLM Uncompahgre Basin Resource Management Plan (RMP; USDI BLM, 1989). To that end, the GMUG has identified the need to consider consenting to two coal lease modifications for federal coal lands immediately adjacent to existing federal coal leases COC-1362 and COC-67232 to further the Forest Plan direction.

    Exploration Plan

    The proposed action is for the BLM to approve the Sunset Trail Area Coal Exploration Plan to conduct coal exploration activities after a leasing decision is made in sections 10, 11, 14, and 15 of T.14S, R. 90W, 6th PM in Gunnison County, Colorado within the coal lease modification area. The exploration plan was submitted by Ark on behalf of MCC. Ark would conduct the exploration activities. Exploration consists of drilling, obtaining e-logs down-hole, and collecting core samples for testing.

    Alternatives No Action Alternative A. Leasing

    Analysis of the No Action alternative is required by CEQ 40 CFR part 1502.14(d). Under the no action alternative, the lease modifications would not be approved, and no mining would occur in these specific areas. Impacts from mining coal under these areas would not occur on these lands, and the effects from on-going land uses could continue including coal mining activities such as exploration and monitoring and subsidence related to existing mine activities, as well as continued recreation and grazing. The land would continue to be managed according to Forest Plan standards, goals and guidelines.

    B. Exploration Plan

    Issuance of on-lease exploration is conditional upon lease rights being granted. If the lease modifications were not approved, the Sunset Trail Area Coal Exploration Plan could also not be approved as submitted. Information would not be acquired on the coal resource. The No Action Alternative would not preclude MCC from applying to BLM for an exploration license for off-lease activities in the future unless otherwise precluded by the Colorado Roadless Rule.

    Alternative 3—Consent to and Modify the Lease(s) Under the Colorado Roadless Rule Framework (Agencies' Preferred Alternative) A. Leasing

    The proposed action is for the Forest Service to to consent to and BLM modifying existing federal coal leases COC-1362 and COC-67232 by adding 800 and 922 additional acres (respectively) to ensure that compliant and super-compliant coal reserves are recovered and not bypassed, and to identify stipulations for the protection of non-mineral (i.e. surface) resources.

    The proposed action deals primarily with underground mining. It is assumed that longwall mining practices would be used. Minor surface disturbance would occur on Forest Service lands as a result of subsidence (slight lowering of the land surface and possible soil cracking along the outside edges) as the coal is removed. In the event that post-lease surface activities are proposed and authorized, other soil disturbance may occur due to temporary road construction and drilling of methane drainage wells (MDWs) which are needed for safety of miners underground. Current technology is not available that would be able to drill MDWs without roads.

    Because leasing itself does not approve any mineral development or surface disturbance, it is necessary to project the amount of surface use or activity that may result during lease development in order to disclose potential effects and inform decision-making. A Reasonably Foreseeable Mine Plan (RFMP) has been developed to address potential environmental effects and is detailed to the extent necessary without being predecisional. A RFPM has previously been developed for this alternative and is included in the Final EIS (Section 3.2). It must be noted that decisions pertaining to surface use and disturbance, with the exception of subsidence impacts, are not made at the leasing stage. Rather, the decisions related to permit-related surface activities are made when and if site-specific surface uses are proposed, and are evaluated through the BLM's on-lease exploration (detailed below) or through State permitting process for mining. The environmental effects analysis of post-lease surface use and disturbance associated with this alternative will include subsidence and MDW pads and their associated access. It should be noted that approval of these lease modifications may extend the life of the existing West Elk Mine by approximately 1.4 years and provides underground access to existing privately-owned (fee) and other federal coal reserves which could extend the life of the mine by an additional 1.3 years; it would not approve a new mine nor is it anticipated to change current production rates at the West Elk Mine.

    Alternative 3 would be analyzed under the framework of the Colorado Roadless Rule (CRR). This rule went into effect on July 3, 2012. The CRR specifically addressed coal mining in this area (known as the “North Fork Coal Mining Area”) by providing for the construction of temporary roads which would be needed for MDWs. The CRR in this instance includes the Sunset Colorado Roadless Area (CRA). Sunset CRA includes 786 acres of the COC-1362 lease modification and 915 acres of the COC-67232 lease modification. Under Alternative 3, the Forest Service would consent to and BLM would modify the leases with all stipulations/notices/addenda identified in the Final EIS (Tables 2.1a and 2.1b). This alternative would rely on the reinstatement of the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception to the CRR after Court vacateur; analysis of which is in progress. The North Fork Coal Mining Area exception would allow for MDW drilling and temporary road access, and would therefore allow for mining the coal under RFMP (described in the Final EIS Section 3.2) with today's available technology. Because a leasing decision itself does not involve any mineral development or surface disturbance, it is necessary to project the amount of surface use or activity that will likely result during lease development in order to disclose potential effects and inform decision-making.

    B. Exploration Plan

    The proposed action is for the BLM to approve the site-specific Sunset Trail Area Coal Exploration Plan to conduct coal exploration activities after a leasing decision. Exploration would consist of drilling, obtaining e-logs down-hole, and collecting core samples for testing and is detailed below.

    Sites, locations, temporary access road lengths, and estimated disturbed acreage of the 10 exploration sites proposed have previously been identified. They would be located within the proposed coal leases modifications above. Exploration activities would be scheduled to be completed over the course of two years. Exploration and reclamation activities would be completed by October 31 each year.

    Access road upgrades and new construction would begin one to two weeks prior to moving the drill rig onto the site. The construction, drilling, and reclamation activities would take an average of 16 days per hole.

    Roads would be needed for access to drill pad locations at this time. Roads would generally have a travel width of 14 feet wide. For construction road width would generally be 30 to 45 feet. For the analysis, an average of 35 feet will be used, which would disturb 4.24 acres per mile. Drill pads would, at a maximum, disturb 0.46 acres per pad. Total disturbance on NFS lands would be 29.64 acres.

    Drilling activities such as pad construction, road grading, or watering, would not be scheduled on opening weekend of big game hunting seasons to avoid user conflicts.

    There would be no stationary fuel storage on site. Fuel would be brought to the equipment by truck. If left on-site, the fuel truck would be parked on a prepared drill pad where drainage is contained on the pad and mud pit.

    Exploration activities would follow any required stipulations attached to the leases and lease modifications.

    First Year Exploration Drilling Program—Four exploration drill holes (SST-2, SST-4, SST-5, and SST-6) are planned to be drilled in the first field season. These four holes would be within the lease modification area of COC-1362. Temporary roads and drill sites would be developed. Upon completion of the first field season and subsequent data review, Ark would determine if completion of the exploration plan with the remaining six exploration drill holes is warranted for a second season. If Ark determines further exploration drilling is not warranted, unless the drill sites and access roads would be used as future MDW locations, they would then be reclaimed. If further exploration is warranted, the edges of temporary roads would be reclaimed to a maximum 14 foot width running surface. Per Forest Service stipulations, waterbars and stormwater control devices will be placed at the end of the field season, even if the road will be used again in the next season. Culverts would be removed to allow unhindered natural flow events over the winter and spring. Site SST-6 may be kept open as a staging area for the next season's activities.

    Second Year Exploration Drilling Program—If the results of the coal resource exploration from the first field season are favorable, exploration activities would continue during the second field season at sites SST-1, SST-3, and SST-7 through SST-10.

    Drainage control on temporary roads used for the previous year's exploration program will be reestablished.

    Pre-drilling Activities—On-site inspection of proposed drill sites and access routes was conducted with representatives from appropriate regulatory agencies to discuss site-specific concerns. A road was relocated to improve stream crossings and avoid steep slopes.

    State, Forest Service, and BLM regulatory personnel would be notified at least 48 hours before any construction or drilling equipment is mobilized. An authorized representative of Ark would supervise all construction and drilling activities. A copy of the exploration permit and all pertinent permit documents would be available from the Ark representative for inspection. Any proposed changes in the exploration plan after permit approval woul be reviewed and approved by the appropriate regulatory agencies before changes take effect.

    Road Construction—Existing roads would be used whenever possible and movement of equipment across undisturbed land would be kept to a minimum. New roads would be constructed only when necessary and only as the drilling program progresses. A projected maximum 14-foot road running width would be employed except in locations such as curves, where more width would be needed for the drill rig. Maximum road width disturbed area would be 40 feet. The analysis will use an average of 35 feet of disturbance width. The drill sites have been located so temporary roads are as short and disturb as little ground as possible and still provide reasonable access and appropriate coal data. Topsoil would be stockpiled and redistributed at reclamation. Erosion control structures such as water bars would be installed as required and would be constructed in accordance with regulations and stipulations. Any culverts placed would be removed at the completion of the project.

    Drill Site Construction—Drill sites would be 0.46 acres of disturbance or smaller. Drill site sizes and dimensions were reviewed and field fitted to topography with the aid of Forest Service representatives.

    A bulldozer (D-7 or smaller) would clear brush and small trees from the drill pad. Topsoil would be removed and stockpiled on the upslope side of the drill pad and remain undisturbed during drilling. Up to one foot of topsoil thickness would be salvaged and stockpiled at the disturbance site with a “TOPSOIL” sign clearly marking the pile. Drill sites would be leveled by grading.

    Slurry (mud) pits would be made on the drill pad. One or two pits would be excavated at each site depending upon depth of drill hole and projected water requirements. The mud pit(s) would be approximately 10 feet wide, 30 feet long, and 6 feet deep. Subsoil and rock materials would be stockpiled within the drill pad clearing and used to refill the mud pits at reclamation.

    Erosion and transportation of sediment would be minimized through stormwater controls. Using the existing roads or trails would minimize disturbance. Where possible, the existing vegetation would be left to reduce the need for sediment control. Using existing level areas for drill pads would minimize surface disturbance.

    Salvaged soils would be placed adjacent to the drill pad with appropriate sediment control devices surrounding the down slope portion of the soil stockpile. A similar sediment control device would be placed on the downslope side of the subsoil/rock stockpiles from the slurry (mud) pits.

    Methods and Equipment for Drilling—Rotary drilling and coring on each site would be completed using a rubber-tired, truck-mounted drilling rig. To aid in the reduction of surface disturbances, Ark would use the smallest possible drill rig that can be used safely and successfully. Support equipment may consist of one or two water trucks, one rig-up truck, a pipe truck, flatbed trailer, one or more air compressors and/or boosters, a supply trailer, and three 4-wheel drive pickups.

    Water sources for drilling operations would be nearby streams, where MCC owns the water rights, or stock watering ponds. Water from streams would be either pumped or trucked to the sites. If pumped, pipes (1-inch polyvinylchloride or 2- to 3-inch hose) would be laid alongside the roads and undisturbed ground surface. If trucked, about two 4,000-gallon water truck trips would be needed per site. The use of these water sources would be approved by the agency or party owning the water rights. In the event stock ponds are used, minimum water levels would be established to ensure sufficient water is left for stock and wildlife. Removal of sediments and other maintenance of stock watering ponds within proximity to the exploration sites would provide improved water storage for drilling operations and long term use for wildlife and livestock. Sediments removed from ponds would be placed on the pond embankment, wheel-rolled, and seeded. Water consumption is estimated at 5,500 to 8,500 gallons per drill hole (0.017-0.026 acre feet). No water storage tanks would be needed. Overland flow of the drill fluids would be directed into the slurry pit as would most precipitation runoff.

    Upon drill hole completion, one truck mounted geophysical logging unit would be used at each hole location.

    Modification of Drill Holes to Surveillance for Water Levels—Exploration hole SST-2 may be converted to an E-Seam water monitoring site if a mineable thickness of E-Seam coal is present. Construction of the water monitoring well would be delayed until a determination on mineability of the coal is made. The necessary well permit would then be obtained from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (CDRMS) for the well installation. It is not anticipated that significant water-bearing bedrock or aquifers would be encountered. The Mesa Verde Formation is known to contain limited water bearing sandstones, and no known bedrock aquifers exist. If significant quantities of water are encountered, the appropriate regulatory officials would be notified and if directed, the hole may be completed as an additional water monitoring well.

    Drill Hole Abandonment Methods—The hole plugging method described in 43 CFR 3484.1(a), states that each open hole would be plugged with cement from bottom to 50 feet above the uppermost thick coal seam and from 50 feet below to 50 feet above any aquifers encountered in the hole. The remainder of the hole would be filled with an approved completion mud, gel, cuttings, or cement to within 10 feet of the surface. A 10 foot cement surface plug would be set, and an appropriately labeled monument marker to be cemented into the surface plug. For monitoring wells, the surface casing would be cut off at or below the level of the soil surface. Ark may elect to fill the hole in its entirety with cement.

    Access—Primary routes used to access the exploration area would be Highway 133 to the West Elk Mine entrance and the private and National Forest administrative road through Sylvester Gulch to National Forest System Road (NFSR) 711. Approximately 0.4 miles of NFSR 711 will be used to access the Sylvester Gulch Road.

    Secondary access may use the Gunnison County Road 710 to Lick Creek. Access is controlled through a gate at the bottom of the Lick Creek Road on MCC's fee surface to the exploration area. Additionally there may be access via NFSR 711 and the spurs 711-2C to the proposed sites and 711-2A.

    NFSR 711 has been maintained by MCC as an access road to exploration drill holes and methane drainage well sites for 17 years. Upgrades and improvements to the road include gravel base, culverts, ditches, gates, and drainage control structures. Ongoing maintenance is a condition of MCC's Road Use Permit.

    Reclamation Plan—Final reclamation activities would follow the completion of the hole as soon as possible. Upon completion of all drilling activities at each site; debris, trash, and drilling equipment will be removed. Mud pit(s), once sufficiently dry, would be filled with stored subsoil and compacted. Remaining subsoil would be redistributed on and around the drill pad to the original contour. Stored topsoil would be distributed evenly over the disturbed pad area.

    The entire drill pad area would be re-seeded using the Paonia Ranger District seed mix. After seeding, the cleared brush would be redistributed over the drill pad area to act as natural mulch. This method has proven successful for the revegetation of previous drill sites. Sediment control measures would include slash, silt fence, erosion control blankets, or straw wattles.

    Newly developed access roads would be graded to the original contour as closely as possible and re-seeded.

    The drill pad and access roads reclamation procedure outlined above would apply only to newly disturbed areas. Existing roads, as identified in the 2010 Gunnison National Forest's Travel Management Plan, would be left in a condition equal to or better than that observed upon Ark's entry into the area.

    After reclamation, newly constructed access roads to certain drill sites may be blocked and closed to vehicle entry at the GMUG or surface owner's request. Alternate road closure methods may be employed where practical after review with the Forest Service representative.

    Alternative 4—Consent to and Modify Only COC-1362 Lease (Environmentally Preferable Alternative) A. Leasing

    Many commenters expressed concerns regarding roadless area effects due to post-lease development. Similarly, some commenters suggested an alternative requesting agencies' consent/leasing for proposed modification to COC-1362 only, while not consenting to proposed modification to lease COC-67232. In response to those comments Alternative 4 was brought forward for further analysis from alternatives Considered but Eliminated from Detailed Study in the Draft EIS. Alternative 4 would include all the same lease stipulations considered for Alternative 3 as detailed in the Final EIS (Tables 2.1a and 2.1b). As part of the analysis of this alternative, the Forest Service requested an additional review from BLM to make determinations of mineable resources.

    Alternative 4 will analyze the effects of post-lease surface activities—

    1. Under the Colorado Roadless Rule including temporary road construction in the Sunset Colorado Roadless Area, as described in Alternative 3 above, or

    2. with no road construction above.

    An RFMP was developed to address indirect and cumulative effects specific to the COC-1362 modification only.

    B. Exploration Plan

    The on-lease exploration activities would remain similar to Alternative 3 except roads would truncated at the lease modification boundary. This may result in a reduction of three or more exploration drill holes and a reduction of approximately 2.75 miles of temporary road within the COC-67232 lease modification. Because an exploration plan specific to this alternative has not been submitted, the agencies are unsure if road density and miles might be increased on the COC-1362 lease to try to reach drill holes close to the lease modification boundary or if they will be foregone. Effects analysis will rely on the RFMP developed for leasing to assess impacts.

    Alternatives to be removed from detailed analysis in the SDEIS include:

    Alternative 2—Under Alternative 2, the Forest Service would consent to and BLM would modify the leases with stipulations/notices/addendums above listed for the Action Alternatives. However, under the provisions of 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, road construction would not be allowed in the lease modification areas. At the time of this notice, the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule is no longer in effect in Colorado. It has been replaced with the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule and the roadless area boundaries have changed. Therefore, this alternative is now moot.

    Alternatives not considered in detail in the SDEIS remain as described in the FEIS and BLM EA:

    Mitigate the potential greenhouse gas emissions of the project by requiring MCC to use MDW ventilation air methane—In the geological process, methane and coal are formed together. In many coal-bearing formations, the methane can be trapped within the coal seams and/or within the surrounding rock strata. The process of longwall mining reduces the geological pressure and fractures the coal, thereby releasing the methane. In underground coal mining, methane is released into the mine during extraction. MSHA regulations require methane to be diluted in the ventilation air and then vented to the atmosphere, known as VAM, for the safety of the mine workers.

    With respect to the VAM, no technology currently exists that has been demonstrated to have the capability of handling the volume of ventilation air and dilute concentrations of methane at the West Elk Mine to make capture economically feasible (current lease stipulation language). In 2009, the DOE released the results of a study to simulate VAM capture using a non-producing mine (see U.S. Department of Energy Cooperative Agreement DE-FC26-02NT41620, available on the Internet at: http://www.epa.gov/cmop/docs/vam_executive-summary.pdf). The project demonstrated continued advancements and a viable solution for coal mine VAM control. The DOE, however, stated that the, “system is only economically feasible when there is value for GHG emission reduction.” This implies carbon credits, cap- and-trade, or another market or regulatory-based incentivized system for reducing GHGs. (The DOE assessment included carbon credits in their economic feasibility model, which provided a cost basis for controlling VAM up to 180k cfm).

    In relation to the coal lease modifications, MCC commissioned an analysis (Final EIS Appendix A) for capturing and/or conditioning the MDW methane for use onsite as fuel for a co-generation facility in order to produce electricity for sale to the grid, or for sale as pipeline quality natural gas. The study evaluated the gas characteristics and potential quantities of methane that would be realistically produced based upon existing well data and testing. This information was then used to engineer a collections system, including options for pipelines and screw compressor configurations for pressure management; and dehydration units, control systems, values, and metering. Options for energy generation equipment included reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE) and combustion turbines. Additional gas processing equipment options for rendering natural gas from the CMM were also presented. The analysis covered multiple scenarios for multiple configurations of equipment. The analysis for the production of natural gas from CMM indicated that the levels of contaminants in the gas (including carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen) were treatable, but that the cost of treatment of the gas, the cost of gas compression, and the distance to access available existing pipeline systems were prohibitive for delivery of the gas as a saleable product. This mining project would be an addition to an existing mine; therefore, uninterrupted mining would need to take place in order for this project to be economically viable.

    An alternative for methane capture, with the required infrastructure, would likely include more miles of road construction connecting to a capture facility (probably centralized to operations) and pipeline construction (even though pipelines may occur near or in roads) and surface disturbance than would the Alternative 3, which would also produce additional impacts across multiple resource areas including air resources and roadless areas.

    Mitigate the potential greenhouse gas emissions of the project by requiring MCC to purchase of carbon credits or do off-set mitigations—It was suggested that MCC be required to purchase carbon credits as mitigation for methane. Congress may develop cap-and-trade legislation as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under “cap-and-trade,” the government sets a limit or a cap on the amount of a pollutant that may be emitted. The limit or cap is allocated or sold to businesses in the form of emissions permits, which then represent the right to emit or discharge a specific volume of the specified pollutant. Under this type of legislation, businesses are required to hold a number of permits (or “carbon credits”) equivalent to their emissions. Generally, one carbon credit is equal to one tonne (metric ton) of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent gases. The total number of carbon credits cannot exceed the established cap, limiting total emissions to that level. Businesses that need to increase their carbon credits must buy from those who require fewer carbon credits (“trade”). The goal of cap-and-trade legislation is to allow market mechanisms to drive industrial and commercial endeavors where carbon emissions are constrained (or limited); to date they are not constrained in the US. Since GHG mitigation projects (such as those listed for flaring or capture above) generate carbon credits, the sale can be used to finance carbon reduction projects between trading partners around the world. Currently, purchasing carbon credits is a voluntary financial investment that MCC may choose to entertain for business reasons. The federal agencies are not involved in any financial investment decisions that MCC makes as a corporation. Since no cap has been established, there is no need to require purchase of carbon credits as mitigation measure for this leasing analysis.

    While other specific off-set (or off-site) mitigations may be possible, they have not been brought forward for consideration related to this leasing analysis.

    Prevent all future disturbances from road construction, methane drainage well pads and the like in Roadless Areas—The environmental consequences from an alternative that considers prevention of future surface disturbance is already covered by consideration of the No Action Alternative. Therefore, CEQ NEPA regulations describe this situation as having been covered by prior environmental review (Sec. 1506.3).

    Shrink the boundaries of the lease to conform to the area where the coal will be mined underground—The proposed lease modification boundaries were defined by the BLM during tract delineation, and the FS has not found reasons for shrinking the tracts due to surface resource concerns or results of the unsuitability assessment (see Appendix B).

    The mine plan is approved in a later permitting process by DRMS and OSM. The longwall panels foreseen by MCC are based on current, yet limited knowledge of the geology. As panels are developed, they could be longer or shorter, depending upon conditions found during development. If the area to be mined is limited, it could cause bypass of mineable coal. Therefore, where actual subsidence or mining may occur is not known at this time. The estimated subsidence, derived from the RFMP for each alternative is described in the Final EIS Section 3.4.

    Protect values of the area by using this set of stipulations for the Proposed Action.

    Protect a number of values by adopting the following no surface occupancy (NSO) stipulations (proposed stipulation is followed by response):

    1. NSO stipulations prohibiting road and MDW well pad construction within 1/4 mile of the hiking route known as “Sunset Trail,” which traverses the lease modification, to protect recreational values.

    GMUG Forest Plan indicates (III-68) coal mining is prohibited on trails on the National System of Trails in “Further Planning Areas” (i.e., areas identified in the Rare II inventory for wilderness designation). The Sunset CRA is not a further planning area and the Sunset Trail is not on the National System of Trails (examples on the GMUG include Crag Crest Trail, Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, etc), it is simply a non-system non-motorized trail that is mostly overgrown with minimal use by the public. Recreational values according to the Forest Plan for this management area could range from semi-primitive non-motorized to roaded natural or rural. Further, the Alternative 3 includes a lease notice that addresses development scenarios for Roadless Areas.

    • NSO stipulations prohibiting road and MDW well pad construction for all areas within 1/4 mile of: (a) All lynx denning habitat; (b) all lynx winter foraging habitat; and (c) all lynx foraging habitat which is adjacent to lynx denning habitat.

    Appropriate stipulations specific to Lynx and related to Threatened and Endangered species are in Alternatives 3 & 4. Lynx stipulations included are consistent with the GMUG Forest Plan 2008 amendment, Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment and the Endangered Species Act. Further, the Forest Service has consulted with the USFWS regarding Canada lynx. CEQ NEPA regulations describe this situation as having been covered by prior environmental review (Sec. 1502.20).

    2. NSO stipulations prohibiting road and MDW well pad construction for all areas within 1/4 mile of a water influence zone (WIZ).

    The GMUG's WIZ is defined as: The land next to water bodies where vegetation plays a major role in sustaining long-term integrity of aquatic systems. It includes the geomorphic floodplain (valley bottom), riparian ecosystem, and inner gorge. Its minimum horizontal width (from top of each bank) is 100 feet or the mean height of mature dominant late-seral vegetation, whichever is most. The Watershed Conservation Practices Handbook 12.1 Management Measure (3) states in the WIZ “allow only those actions that maintain or improve long-term stream health and riparian ecosystem condition.” Lease stipulations addressed in the Alternatives 3 & 4 address the concern of activities in the WIZ.

    3. NSO stipulations prohibiting road and MDW well pad construction for all areas within 1/2 mile of the West Elk Wilderness boundary, to protect roadless, wildlife, scenic, and other values.

    The West Elk IRA was not brought forward as a further planning area during the RARE II wilderness inventory. Unlike Oil, Gas and Geothermal development (Forest Plan III-54), coal leasing does not provide any conditions that would warrant the issuance of an NSO buffer stipulation in this area (Forest Plan III-66). Recreational values according to the Forest Plan for this management area could range from semi-primitive non-motorized to roaded natural or rural. Furthermore, provisions of the Colorado Wilderness Act (specific to the West Elk Wilderness) do not allow for the prevention of activities outside wilderness “Congress does not intend that designation of wilderness areas in the State of Colorado lead to the creation of protective perimeters or buffer zones around each wilderness area. The fact that nonwilderness activities or uses can be seen or heard from areas within the wilderness shall not, of itself, preclude such activities or uses up to the boundary of the wilderness area” (96-560, Sec. 110).

    • NSO stipulations prohibiting road and MDW well pad construction within 1/4 mile of any old growth forest to prevent fragmentation.

    Old growth stands have not been identified in the lease modification area. There are three stands which may or may not be old growth outside the lease modification area within the affected 6th level hydrologic unit code (HUC) (same acreage as the 4th level watersheds described in early old growth definitions) that meet the first screening criteria (large diameter trees) for old growth using Mehl's definitions (Mehl 1992). One is a spruce-fir stand located in the West Elk Wilderness; one is a cottonwood stand located primarily on private land; the last is a spruce-fir stand over a mile west of the lease modifications. None of these stands would be impacted directly or cumulatively by post-leasing surface impacts. However, assuming post-lease surface disturbing activities would occur in mature/over-mature classes (which may provide some of the same habitat components as old growth), the GMUG Forest Plan (page III-9a, III-9b) allows for removal of 70-80% of these stands assuming residual patch sizes are met. If the RFMP were implemented in Alternative 3, it is estimated that up to 61 acres of mature/over-mature aspen (0.3% of vegetation unit), and 7 acres of mature/over-mature spruce-fir (0.09% of vegetation unit) may be disturbed. These are both only a tiny fraction of that allowed to be removed under forest plan standards to protect structural diversity.

    • NSO stipulations prohibiting road and MDW well pad construction within 1/2 mile of any raptor nest site.

    There is no need for an NSO stipulation related to raptor nest sites as it is covered by survey and timing limitations requirements (Lease Stipulations) in Alternatives 3 & 4 for sensitive raptors in Colorado as identified by Region 2 list. CEQ NEPA regulations describe this situation as having been covered by prior environmental review (Sec. 1502.20).

    4. NSO stipulations prohibiting road and MDW well pad construction on slopes greater than 40% to protect soils and prevent erosion.

    A stipulation that requires restrictions for no surface occupancy to be allowed in “areas of high geologic hazard or high erosion potential, or on slopes which exceed 60%” and a stipulation that requires “special interdisciplinary team analysis and mitigation plans detailing construction and mitigation techniques would be required on areas where slopes range from 40-60% . . . the interdisciplinary team could include engineers, soil scientist, hydrologist, landscape architect, reclamation specialist and mining engineer” already exists as part of the Alternative 3. These stipulations are required by the Forest Plan and supported by the Watershed Conservation Practices Handbook (FSH 2509.25). CEQ NEPA regulations describe this situation as having been covered by prior environmental review (Sec. 1506.3).

    For Exploration Use Helicopters to Transport Drill Rig—An alternative analyzing drilling using a drill rig that can be placed on site by a helicopter drill rig to avoid construction of access roads was considered; however, this alternative was not carried forward for detailed analysis because it is ineffective and technically infeasible. The geology of the exploration area is such that the aggregate material is not structurally sound; therefore, the drill hole must be cased. In order for the holes to be properly cased, the initial diameter must be wide enough to allow for casing and core extraction. This is not feasible to do with a drill rig that can be transported by helicopter because they are too small and not powerful enough. Furthermore, this alternative would not fulfill the purpose and need for the proposed action because it would not allow the exploration to be accomplished if the holes collapse before the core sample can be obtained.

    For Exploration Analyze Only the Holes Proposed to be Drilled During the First Field Season for Exploration—An alternative was suggested by Wild Earth Guardians that would include only the four holes that MCC proposes to drill during the first field season. This alternative was not carried forward for detailed analysis because it is ineffective as it would not provide the necessary information on the coal. This alternative would not meet the purpose and need of the proposed action because it would not effectively explore the coal leases consistent with lease rights, if granted.

    Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    Lead Agency:

    Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests

    Cooperating Agencies:

    Uncompahgre Field Office, Bureau of Land Management Southwest District Office, Bureau of Land Management Colorado State Office, Bureau of Land Management Western Region, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety Responsible Officials GMUG Forest Supervisor BLM Southwestern District Manager Nature of Decision To Be Made Forest Service

    The GMUG Forest Supervisor is the Authorized Officer for this discretionary consent decision on these coal lease modifications (FSM 2822.04c, R2 Supplement). Given the purpose and need, the Authorized Officer will review the proposed action, the other alternatives, and the environmental consequences in order to decide the following:

    • Whether or not to consent to the BLM modifying existing Federal Coal Lease COC-1362 by adding 800 acres, and whether or not to consent to the BLM modifying existing Federal Coal Lease COC-67232 by adding 922 acres according to the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920; as amended by the Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act of 1976 and Energy Policy Act of 2005;

    • If the Forest Service consents to modify the leases, they will prescribe stipulations needed for the protection of non-mineral surface resources by determining if the existing stipulations on the parent lease are sufficient. If they are not sufficient, prescribe additional stipulations that will provide for the protection of non-mineral interests in the lands.

    The Forest Service Authorized Officer will determine if the activity is consistent with the GMUG Forest Plan. The Forest Service decision will be made based on the analysis relative to the No Action and Proposed Action Alternatives.

    BLM

    The BLM is a cooperating agency for this EIS to respond directly to their role in the Federal coal leasing process which is tied to the mineral (not surface) estate. The BLM State Director is the Authorized Officer for the BLM, and will decide whether or not to modify the existing coal lease under the Mineral Leasing Act, as amended, and the federal regulations under 43 CFR 3400. The Uncompahgre Field Office Manager/Southwest District Manager is responsible for providing the State Director with briefings and recommendations. Specifically, the BLM will decide whether to:

    • Adopt the No-Action Alternative (no leasing);

    • Adopt the coal lease modifications as applied for by the applicants;

    BLM cannot issue lease modifications without the consent of the surface managing agency. BLM's must also decide whether to approve the exploration plan and allow the activities to occur on the coal leases, consistent with lease rights if granted, in the manner described in the plan, disapprove the plan with a statement of conformity, or approve the plan with additional conditions (43 CFR 3482.2(a)(1)), if needed to minimize impacts. BLM cannot approve an exploration plan without concurrence by the surface management agency (concurrence is not a “decision” subject to Forest Service objection process).

    OSM

    Office of Surface Mining Reclamation Enforcement (OSM) is a cooperating agency in preparing this EIS. If the leases are modified, OSM will determine if there is a need for a federal mining plan modification at the time the actual permitting process is underway. If a federal mining plan modification is needed, OSM would be responsible to recommend that the DOI Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals approve, approve with conditions, or not approve the modification.

    DRMS

    In Colorado, the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety (DRMS) operates under an OSM-approved program for administering coal mining operations in the state, as codified by the Colorado Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Act (CRS 34-33-101) and attendant regulations which are consistent with the overarching federal regulations (30 CFR part 906, Appendix B). Any applications submitted to the State of Colorado to revise the state mining and reclamation permit, including applications to allow mining and its related surface disturbances, reclamation, and the changing of the approved mine permit boundary to include the modification area, would be reviewed by the DRMS.

    Preliminary Issues

    Issues have previously been addressed in the Final EIS (Table 1.9) and will be carried forward in this analysis. It is believed that new issues will arise during this the Supplemental EIS process including, but not limited to: Changes in fish recovery status prompting reconsideration of GMUG's Programmatic Biological Opinion for Water Depletions related to Endangered Big River Fishes and request for Social Cost of Methane analysis.

    Scoping Process

    In addition to receiving and considering previous comments from the public, the agency continues to accept and consider public comments to guide the development of this Supplemental EIS and the resulting decision. Additional comments should clearly articulate the reviewer's concerns and contentions, and focus on the adequacy of stipulations proposed as they relate to the protection of surface resources or specific to anaysis that must be undertaken relative to exploration activities. Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the public record for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered, however.

    Dated: February 12, 2016. Scott G. Armentrout, Forest Supervisor.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03734 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410-11-P
    BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS Government in the Sunshine Act Meeting Notice DATE AND TIME:

    Friday, February 26, 2016, 11:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EST.

    PLACE:

    Cohen Building, Room 3321, 330 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20237.

    SUBJECT:

    Notice of Meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

    SUMMARY:

    The Broadcasting Board of Governors (Board) will be meeting at the time and location listed above. The Board will vote on a consent agenda consisting of the minutes of its December 16, 2015 meeting, a resolution honoring Voice of America's (VOA) stringer Almigdad Mojalli, and a resolution honoring the 30th anniversary of VOA's Creole Service. The Board will receive a report from the Chief Executive Officer and Director of BBG. The Board will also hear from the BBG networks regarding enhanced coordination efforts.

    This meeting will be available for public observation via streamed webcast, both live and on-demand, on the agency's public Web site at www.bbg.gov. Information regarding this meeting, including any updates or adjustments to its starting time, can also be found on the agency's public Web site.

    The public may also attend this meeting in person at the address listed above as seating capacity permits. Members of the public seeking to attend the meeting in person must register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/meeting-of-the-broadcasting-board-of-governors-tickets-21487255961 by 12:00 p.m. (EST) on February 25. For more information, please contact BBG Public Affairs at (202) 203-4400 or by email at [email protected]

    CONTACT PERSON FOR MORE INFORMATION:

    Persons interested in obtaining more information should contact Oanh Tran at (202) 203-4545.

    Oanh Tran, Director of Board Operations.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03880 Filed 2-19-16; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 8610-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Foreign-Trade Zones Board [B-68-2015] Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ) 102—St. Louis, Missouri; Authorization of Production Activity; H-J Enterprises, Inc./H-J International, Inc. (Electrical Transformer Bushing Assemblies), High Ridge, Missouri

    On October 20, 2015, the St. Louis County Port Authority, grantee of FTZ 102, submitted a notification of proposed production activity to the FTZ Board on behalf of H-J Enterprises, Inc./H-J International, Inc. (H-J), within FTZ 102, in High Ridge, Missouri.

    The notification was processed in accordance with the regulations of the FTZ Board (15 CFR part 400), including notice in the Federal Register inviting public comment (80 FR 66489, October 29, 2015). The FTZ Board has determined that no further review of the activity is warranted at this time. The production activity described in the notification is authorized, subject to the FTZ Act and the Board's regulations, including Section 400.14.

    Dated: February 17, 2016. Andrew McGilvray, Executive Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03759 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-DS-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Foreign-Trade Zones Board [B-9-2016] Foreign-Trade Zone 27—Boston, Massachusetts; Application for Subzone, Barrett Distribution Centers, Inc., Franklin, Massachusetts

    An application has been submitted to the Foreign-Trade Zones (FTZ) Board by the Massachusetts Port Authority, grantee of FTZ 27, requesting subzone status for the facility of Barrett Distribution Centers, Inc., located in Franklin, Massachusetts. The application was submitted pursuant to the provisions of the Foreign-Trade Zones Act, as amended (19 U.S.C. 81a-81u), and the regulations of the FTZ Board (15 CFR part 400). It was formally docketed on February 17, 2016.

    The proposed subzone (20 acres) is located at 15 Freedom Way, Franklin, Massachusetts. No authorization for production activity has been requested at this time.

    In accordance with the FTZ Board's regulations, Kathleen Boyce of the FTZ Staff is designated examiner to review the application and make recommendations to the Executive Secretary.

    Public comment is invited from interested parties. Submissions shall be addressed to the FTZ Board's Executive Secretary at the address below. The closing period for their receipt is April 4, 2016. Rebuttal comments in response to material submitted during the foregoing period may be submitted during the subsequent 15-day period to April 18, 2016.

    A copy of the application will be available for public inspection at the Office of the Executive Secretary, Foreign-Trade Zones Board, Room 21013, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230-0002, and in the “Reading Room” section of the FTZ Board's Web site, which is accessible via www.trade.gov/ftz.

    For further information, contact Kathleen Boyce at [email protected] or (202) 482-1346.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Andrew McGilvray, Executive Secretary.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03730 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE International Trade Administration Notice of Imminent Establishment of the United States-Mexico Energy Business Council and Solicitation of Nominations for U.S. Private Sector Members AGENCY:

    International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice of Imminent Establishment of the United States-Mexico Energy Business Council and Solicitation of Nominations for U.S. Private Sector Members.

    SUMMARY:

    The U.S. Department of Commerce announces the imminent establishment of the United States-Mexico Energy Business Council (the “Council”) with U.S. Department of Energy, the Ministry of Economy of the United Mexican States, and the Ministry of Energy of the United Mexican States, and is soliciting nominations for U.S. private sector members. The Council is expected to have as its objective bringing together representatives of the respective energy industries of the United States and Mexico to discuss issues of mutual interest, particularly ways to strengthen the economic and commercial ties between energy industries in the two countries, and communicating actionable, non-binding recommendations to the U.S. and Mexican governments.

    DATES:

    All nominations must be received by the Office of North America by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on April 18, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Please submit nominations to Patrick Krissek, International Trade Specialist, Office of North America, U.S. Department of Commerce either by email at [email protected] or by mail to U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW., Room 30014, Washington, DC 20230.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Patrick Krissek, Office of North America, U.S. Department of Commerce, telephone: (202) 482-4231, email [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Ministry of Economy of the United Mexican States, and the Ministry of Energy of the United Mexican States anticipate formally establishing the Council following the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue meeting in late February 2016. Please consult www.trade.gov/hled for more information, where the Terms of Reference of the Council will be published following its formal establishment. The expected objective of the Council is to bring together representatives of the respective energy industries of the United States and Mexico to discuss issues of mutual interest, particularly ways to strengthen the economic and commercial ties between energy industries in the two countries, and communicating actionable, non-binding recommendations to the U.S. and Mexican Governments.

    The Council is expected to consist of the U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, and the U.S. Department of Energy, represented by the Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs, for the United States Government (the “U.S. Participants”); the Ministry of Energy of the United Mexican States, represented by General Director of Investor Relations and Promotion, and the Ministry of Economy of the United Mexican States, represented by the Under Secretary of Foreign Trade, for the Government of Mexico (the “Mexican Participants”); and a Committee comprised of private sector members from both countries. The Committee would be composed of a U.S. Section and a Mexican Section, each consisting of approximately ten members from the private sector appointed by their respective Government, representing the views and interests of the private sector business community, including their respective energy industry sub-sector and the energy industry more broadly. Each Government would seek to appoint at least one representative from each of the oil and gas, renewable energy, electricity, nuclear energy, and energy efficiency industry sub-sectors. Members of the Sections would freely exchange information, best industry practices, and points of view among themselves and provide actionable, non-binding recommendations jointly addressed to both Governments that reflect their views, needs, and concerns regarding creating an environment in which their respective energy industries can participate, thrive, and enhance bilateral commercial ties that could form the basis for expanded trade and investment between the United States and Mexico.

    Nominations are currently being sought for membership on the U.S. Section of the Committee. Each candidate must be a senior representatives (e.g., Chief Executive Officer, Vice President, Regional Manager, Senior Director, etc.) of a U.S.-owned or controlled individual company, trade association, or private sector organization that is incorporated in and has its main headquarters in the United States and whose activities focus on the manufacture, production, commercialization and/or trade of goods and services for the energy industries in the United States and Mexico. Each candidate must also be a U.S. citizen or otherwise legally authorized to work in the United States and able to travel to Mexico or locations in the United States to attend official Council meetings, as well as independent U.S. Section and Committee meetings. In addition, the candidate may not be a registered foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended.

    Nominations for membership in the U.S. Section of eligible individuals will be evaluated on the following criteria:

    —A demonstrated commitment by the entity to be represented to the Mexican market, including as applicable either through exports or investment. —A demonstrated strong interest in Mexico and its economic development. —The ability to offer a broad perspective and business experience specific to the energy industry to the discussions. —The ability to address cross-cutting issues that affect the individual's entire energy industry sub-sector. —The ability to initiate and be responsible for activities in which the Council will be active.

    U.S. Section members will also be selected on the basis of who is best qualified to carry out the anticipated objectives of the Council to:

    —Promote increased two-way investment in the energy industry; —Promote two-way trade in goods and services produced by and used in the energy industry, including the oil and gas, renewable energy, electricity, nuclear energy, and energy efficiency sub-sectors; —Promote the development of binational value chains in the production of goods and services in the energy sector; —Promote the development of modern energy infrastructure and bolster energy efficiency and security; —Foster an enabling environment for the rapid development, deployment, and integration of new energy industry technologies—including clean renewable energy technologies—into the marketplace; —Improve competitiveness through innovation and entrepreneurship in the energy industry, to include the promotion of technology exchanges and research partnerships; and —Partner in skills development to create solutions in training and education to address evolving energy industry workforce needs. To the extent possible, members of the U.S. Section also should represent a cross-section of small, medium-sized and large firms.

    U.S. Section members will receive no compensation for their participation in Council-related activities. Individual U.S. Section members will be responsible for all travel and related expenses associated with their participation in the Council, including attendance at Committee and Section meetings. Only appointed U.S. Section members may participate in official Council meetings; substitutes and alternates will not be designated. U.S. Section members are expected to serve for two-year terms, but may be reappointed.

    To nominate an eligible individual for membership in the U.S. Section, please submit the following information as instructed in the ADDRESSES and DATES captions above:

    —Name(s) and title(s) of the nominated individual(s); —Name and address of represented entity's headquarters; —Location of incorporation or establishment; size of the represented entity; —As applicable, size of the company's export trade, investment, and nature of operations or interest in Mexico; —And a brief statement of why the candidate should be considered, including information about the candidate's ability to initiate and be responsible for activities in which the Council will be active. All candidates will be notified of whether they have been selected once the application window closes and selection of U.S. Section members has been made. Dated: February 18, 2016. Geri Word, Director for the Office of North America.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03594 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-HE-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE International Trade Administration [Application No. 90-8A007] Export Trade Certificate of Review ACTION:

    Notice of Issuance of an amended Export Trade Certificate of Review to the United States Surimi Commission (“USSC”).

    SUMMARY:

    The Secretary of Commerce, through the Office of Trade and Economic Analysis (“OTEA”), issued an amended Export Trade Certificate of Review to the United States Surimi Commission on February 10, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Joseph E. Flynn, Director, Office of Trade and Economic Analysis, International Trade Administration, by telephone at (202) 482-5131 (this is not a toll-free number) or email at [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Title III of the Export Trading Company Act of 1982 (15 U.S.C. Sections 4001-21) authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to issue Export Trade Certificates of Review. An Export Trade Certificate of Review protects the holder and the members identified in the Certificate from State and Federal government antitrust actions and from private treble damage antitrust actions for the export conduct specified in the Certificate and carried out in compliance with its terms and conditions. The regulations implementing Title III are found at 15 CFR part 325 (2016).

    OTEA is issuing this notice pursuant to 15 CFR 325.6(b), which requires the Secretary of Commerce to publish a summary of the certification in the Federal Register. Under Section 305(a) of the Act and 15 CFR 325.11(a), any person aggrieved by the Secretary's determination may, within 30 days of the date of this notice, bring an action in any appropriate district court of the United States to set aside the determination on the ground that the determination is erroneous.

    Description of Amended Certificate USSC's Export Trade Certificate of Review

    1. Remove the following members as Member of the Certificate: Alaska Ocean Seafood Limited Partnership; Highland Light Seafoods Limited Liability Company; and Alaska Trawl Fisheries, Inc.

    2. Replace the existing Member American Seafoods Company with American Seafoods Company LLC, and add as new Members three entities affiliated with American Seafoods Company LLC: American Seafoods Japan, Ltd.; AS Europe ApS; and American Seafoods China (Dalian) Ltd.

    3. Add as new Members six entities that are affiliated with the existing Member Arctic Storm, Inc.: Arctic Storm International, Inc.; Arctic Fjord, Inc.; AF International, Inc.; Fjord Seafoods LLC; Arctic Storm Management Group LLC; and Fjord Fisheries General Partnership;

    4. Replace the existing Member Glacier Fish Company with Glacier Fish Company LLC, and add as a new Member an affiliated company, ASM Export Co; and

    5. Replace the existing Member The Starbound Limited Partnership with Starbound LLC, and add as new Members affiliated companies, NWPI, Inc, and Aleutian Spray Fisheries, Inc.

    USSC's Export Trade Certificate of Review Now Lists Following Entities as Members Under the Amended Certificate 1. American Seafoods Company LLC 2. American Seafoods Japan, Ltd. 3. AS Europe ApS 4. American Seafoods China (Dalian) Ltd. 5. Arctic Storm, Inc. 6. Arctic Storm International, Inc. 7. Fjord Fisheries General Partnership 8. Arctic Fjord, Inc. 9. AF International, Inc. 10. Fjord Seafood LLC 11. Arctic Storm Management Group LLC 12. Glacier Fish Company, LLC 13. ASM Export Co. 14. Starbound LLC 15. Aleutian Spray Fisheries, Inc. 16. NWPI, Inc. Dated: February 17, 2016. Joseph E. Flynn, Director, Office of Trade and Economic Analysis.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03742 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-DR-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE International Trade Administration [C-570-039] Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric From the People's Republic of China: Initiation of Countervailing Duty Investigation AGENCY:

    Enforcement and Compliance, International Trade Administration, Department of Commerce.

    DATES:

    Effective Date: February 16, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Yasmin Bordas at (202) 482-3813, John Corrigan at (202) 482-7438, and Emily Maloof at (202) 482-5649, AD/CVD Operations, Enforcement and Compliance, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Petition

    On January 20, 2016, the Department of Commerce (Department) received a countervailing duty (CVD) petition concerning imports of certain amorphous silica fabric (silica fabric) from the People's Republic of China (the PRC), filed in proper form on behalf of Auburn Manufacturing, Inc. (Petitioner). The CVD petition was accompanied by an antidumping duty (AD) petition, also concerning imports of amorphous silica fabric from the PRC.1 Petitioner is a domestic producer of amorphous silica fabric.2

    1See “Petition for the Imposition of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Imports of Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China,” dated January 20, 2016 (Petitions).

    2See Volume I of the Petitions, at 2, and Exhibit I-1.

    On January 28, 2016, the Department requested information and clarification for certain areas of the Petition.3 Petitioner filed its response to this request on February 1, 2016.4 On January 27, 2016, the Department determined to toll all deadlines four business days as a result of the Federal Government closure during snowstorm “Jonas,” which is applicable to this initiation.5

    3See letter from the Department, “Petitions for the Imposition of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Imports of Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China: Supplemental Questions,” dated January 27, 2016.

    4See letter from Petitioners, “Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China: Amendment to Volume I of the Petition,” dated February 1, 2016.

    5See Memorandum for the Record from Ron Lorentzen, Acting Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance, “Tolling of Administrative Deadlines as a Result of the Government Closure during Snowstorm `Jonas,' ” (January 27, 2016).

    In accordance with section 702(b)(1) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (the Act), Petitioner alleges that the Government of the PRC (GOC) is providing countervailable subsidies (within the meaning of sections 701 and 771(5) of the Act) with respect to imports of amorphous silica fabric from the PRC, and that imports of amorphous silica fabric from the PRC are materially injuring, and threaten material injury to, the domestic industry producing amorphous silica fabric in the United States. Also, consistent with section 702(b)(1) of the Act, for those alleged programs on which we have initiated a CVD investigation, the Petition is accompanied by information reasonably available to Petitioner supporting its allegations.

    The Department finds that Petitioner filed the Petition on behalf of the domestic industry because it is an interested parties as defined in section 771(9)(C) of the Act, and that Petitioner has demonstrated sufficient industry support with respect to the initiation of the investigation Petitioner is requesting.6

    6See “Determination of Industry Support for the Petition” below.

    Period of Investigation

    The period of the investigation is January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2015.7

    7See 19 CFR 351.204(b)(2).

    Scope of the Investigation

    The product covered by this investigation is amorphous silica fabric from the PRC. For a full description of the scope of this investigation, see “Scope of Investigation” at Appendix I of this notice.

    Comments on Scope of the Investigation

    During our review of the Petition, the Department issued questions to, and received responses from, Petitioner pertaining to the proposed scope to ensure that the scope language in the Petition would be an accurate reflection of the products for which the domestic industry is seeking relief.8

    8See Memorandum to the File, “Phone Call with Counsel to Petitioner,” dated February 10, 2016; see also Letter from Petitioner to the Department, “Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China: Scope Clarification Letter,” dated February 10, 2016; see also Memorandum to the File, “Phone Call with Counsel to Petitioner,” dated February 12, 2016.

    As discussed in the preamble to the Department's regulations,9 we are setting aside a period for interested parties to raise issues regarding product coverage (i.e., scope). The Department will consider all comments received from interested parties, and if necessary, will consult with interested parties prior to the issuance of the preliminary determination. If scope comments include factual information (see 19 CFR 351.102(b)(21)), all such factual information should be limited to public information. In order to facilitate preparation of its questionnaire, the Department requests all interested parties to submit such comments by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on Monday, March 7, 2016, which is 20 calendar days from the signature date of this notice. Any rebuttal comments, which may include factual information, must be filed by 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 17, 2016, which is 10 calendar days after the initial comments deadline.

    9See Antidumping Duties; Countervailing Duties; Final Rule, 62 FR 27296, 27323 (May 19, 1997).

    The Department requests that any factual information the parties consider relevant to the scope of the investigation be submitted during this time period. However, if a party subsequently finds that additional factual information pertaining to the scope of the investigation may be relevant, the party may contact the Department and request permission to submit the additional information. All such comments must be filed on the record of the concurrent AD investigation.

    Filing Requirements

    All submissions to the Department must be filed electronically using Enforcement and Compliance's Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Centralized Electronic Service System (ACCESS).10 An electronically-filed document must be received successfully in its entirety by the time and date it is due. Documents excepted from the electronic submission requirements must be filed manually (i.e., in paper form) with Enforcement and Compliance's APO/Dockets Unit, Room 18022, U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230, and stamped with the date and time of receipt by the applicable deadlines.

    10See 19 CFR 351.303 (for general filing requirements); Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Proceedings: Electronic Filing Procedures; Administrative Protective Order Procedures, 76 FR 39263 (July 6, 2011), for details of the Department's electronic filing requirements, which went into effect on August 5, 2011. Information on help using ACCESS can be found at https://access.trade.gov/help.aspx and a handbook can be found at https://access.trade.gov/help/Handbook%20on%20Electronic%20Filling%20Procedures.pdf.

    Consultations

    Pursuant to section 702(b)(4)(A)(i) of the Act, the Department notified representatives of the GOC of the receipt of the Petition. Also, in accordance with section 702(b)(4)(A)(ii) of the Act, the Department provided representatives of the GOC the opportunity for consultations with respect to the CVD petition.11 As the GOC did not request consultations prior to the initiation of this investigation, the Department and the GOC did not hold consultations.

    11See Letter of Invitation Regarding Countervailing Duty Petition Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China, dated January 20, 2016.

    Determination of Industry Support for the Petition

    Section 702(b)(1) of the Act requires that a petition be filed on behalf of the domestic industry. Section 702(c)(4)(A) of the Act provides that a petition meets this requirement if the domestic producers or workers who support the petition account for: (i) At least 25 percent of the total production of the domestic like product; and (ii) more than 50 percent of the production of the domestic like product produced by that portion of the industry expressing support for, or opposition to, the petition. Moreover, section 702(c)(4)(D) of the Act provides that, if the petition does not establish support of domestic producers or workers accounting for more than 50 percent of the total production of the domestic like product, the Department shall: (i) Poll the industry or rely on other information in order to determine if there is support for the petition, as required by subparagraph (A); or (ii) determine industry support using a statistically valid sampling method to poll the “industry.”

    Section 771(4)(A) of the Act defines the “industry” as the producers as a whole of a domestic like product. Thus, to determine whether a petition has the requisite industry support, the statute directs the Department to look to producers and workers who produce the domestic like product. The International Trade Commission (ITC), which is responsible for determining whether “the domestic industry” has been injured, must also determine what constitutes a domestic like product in order to define the industry. While both the Department and the ITC must apply the same statutory definition regarding the domestic like product,12 they do so for different purposes and pursuant to a separate and distinct authority. In addition, the Department's determination is subject to limitations of time and information. Although this may result in different definitions of the like product, such differences do not render the decision of either agency contrary to law.13

    12See section 771(10) of the Act.

    13See USEC, Inc. v. United States, 132 F. Supp. 2d 1, 8 (CIT 2001) (citing Algoma Steel Corp., Ltd. v. United States, 688 F. Supp. 639, 644 (CIT 1988), aff'd 865 F.2d 240 (Fed. Cir. 1989)).

    Section 771(10) of the Act defines the domestic like product as “a product which is like, or in the absence of like, most similar in characteristics and uses with, the article subject to an investigation under this title.” Thus, the reference point from which the domestic like product analysis begins is “the article subject to an investigation” (i.e., the class or kind of merchandise to be investigated, which normally will be the scope as defined in the Petition).

    With regard to the domestic like product, Petitioner does not offer a definition of the domestic like product distinct from the scope of the investigation. Based on our analysis of the information submitted on the record, we have determined that silica fabric, as defined in the scope, constitutes a single domestic like product and we have analyzed industry support in terms of that domestic like product.14

    14 For a discussion of the domestic like product analysis in this case, see Countervailing Duty Investigation Initiation Checklist: Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China (PRC CVD Initiation Checklist), at Attachment II, Analysis of Industry Support for the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Petitions Covering Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China (Attachment II). This checklist is dated concurrently with this notice and on file electronically via ACCESS. Access to documents filed via ACCESS is also available in the Central Records Unit, Room B8024 of the main Department of Commerce building.

    In determining whether Petitioner has standing under section 702(c)(4)(A) of the Act, we considered the industry support data contained in the Petition with reference to the domestic like product as defined in the “Scope of the Investigation,” in Appendix I of this notice. To establish industry support, Petitioner provided its own production of the domestic like product in 2015, and conservatively compared this to the estimated total production of amorphous silica fabric (both industrial grade and aerospace grade) for the entire domestic industry.15 We have relied upon data Petitioner provided for purposes of measuring industry support.16

    15See Volume I of the Petition, at 4-6; see also General Issues Supplement, at 1-2 and Exhibit Supp. I-1.

    16See PRC CVD Initiation Checklist, at Attachment II.

    Our review of the data provided in the Petition, General Issues Supplement, and other information readily available to the Department indicates that Petitioner has established industry support.17 First, the Petition established support from domestic producers (or workers) accounting for more than 50 percent of the total production of the domestic like product and, as such, the Department is not required to take further action in order to evaluate industry support (e.g., polling).18 Second, the domestic producers (or workers) have met the statutory criteria for industry support under section 702(c)(4)(A)(i) of the Act because the domestic producers (or workers) who support the Petition account for at least 25 percent of the total production of the domestic like product.19 Finally, the domestic producers (or workers) have met the statutory criteria for industry support under section 702(c)(4)(A)(ii) of the Act because the domestic producers (or workers) who support the Petition account for more than 50 percent of the production of the domestic like product produced by that portion of the industry expressing support for, or opposition to, the Petition.20 Accordingly, the Department determines that the Petition was filed on behalf of the domestic industry within the meaning of section 702(b)(1) of the Act.

    17Id.

    18See section 702(c)(4)(D) of the Act; see also PRC CVD Initiation Checklist, at Attachment II.

    19See PRC CVD Initiation Checklist, at Attachment II.

    20Id.

    The Department finds that Petitioner filed the Petition on behalf of the domestic industry because it is an interested party as defined in section 771(9)(C) of the Act and it has demonstrated sufficient industry support with respect to the CVD investigation that it is requesting the Department initiate.21

    21Id.

    Injury Test

    Because the PRC is a “Subsidies Agreement Country” within the meaning of section 701(b) of the Act, section 701(a)(2) of the Act applies to this investigation. Accordingly, the ITC must determine whether imports of the subject merchandise from the PRC materially injure, or threaten material injury to, a U.S. industry.

    Allegations and Evidence of Material Injury and Causation

    Petitioner alleges that imports of the subject merchandise are benefitting from countervailable subsidies and that such imports are causing, or threatening to cause, material injury to the U.S. industry producing the domestic like product. In addition, Petitioner alleges that subject imports exceed the negligibility threshold provided for under section 771(24)(A) of the Act.22

    22See Volume I of the Petition, at 37 and Exhibit I-12.

    Petitioner contends that the industry's injured condition is illustrated by reduced market share; underselling and price suppression or depression; lost sales and revenues; declines in domestic industry production, capacity utilization, and U.S. shipments; declines in financial performance; and declines in employment indicators.23 We have assessed the allegations and supporting evidence regarding material injury, threat of material injury, and causation, and we have determined that these allegations are properly supported by adequate evidence and meet the statutory requirements for initiation.24

    23See Volume I of the Petition, at 22-25, 34-48, and Exhibits I-12—I-14 and I-15—I-26.

    24See PRC CVD Initiation Checklist, at Attachment III, Analysis of Allegations and Evidence of Material Injury and Causation for the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Petitions Covering Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China.

    Initiation of Countervailing Duty Investigation

    Section 702(b)(1) of the Act requires the Department to initiate a CVD investigation whenever an interested party files a CVD petition on behalf of an industry that: (1) Alleges elements necessary for an imposition of a duty under section 701(a) of the Act; and (2) is accompanied by information reasonably available to Petitioner supporting the allegations.

    Petitioner alleges that producers/exporters of certain amorphous silica fabric in the PRC benefit from countervailable subsidies bestowed by the GOC. The Department examined the Petition and finds that it complies with the requirements of section 702(b)(1) of the Act. Therefore, in accordance with section 702(b)(1) of the Act, we are initiating a CVD investigation to determine whether manufacturers, producers, or exporters of certain amorphous silica fabric from the PRC receive countervailable subsidies from the GOC and various authorities thereof.

    On June 29, 2015, the President of the United States signed into law the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, which made numerous amendments to the AD and CVD law.25 The 2015 law does not specify dates of application for those amendments. On August 6, 2015, the Department published an interpretative rule, in which it announced the applicability dates for each amendment to the Act, except for amendments contained in section 771(7) of the Act, which relate to determinations of material injury by the ITC.26 The amendments to sections 776 and 782 of the Act are applicable to all determinations made on or after August 6, 2015, and, therefore, apply to this CVD investigation.27

    25See Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, Public Law 114-27, 129 Stat. 362 (2015).

    26See Dates of Application of Amendments to the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Laws Made by the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, 80 FR 46793 (August 6, 2015) (Applicability Notice). The 2015 amendments may be found at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1295/text/pl.

    27Id. at 46794-95.

    Based on our review of the petition, we find that there is sufficient information to initiate a CVD investigation on all of the 19 alleged programs in the PRC.28 For a full discussion of the basis for our decision to initiate or not initiate on each program, see the PRC CVD Initiation Checklist. A public version of the initiation checklist for this investigation is available on ACCESS.

    28 Petitioner initially alleged 19 subsidy programs. See Volume III of the Petition, at 15-58.

    In accordance with section 703(b)(1) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.205(b)(1), unless postponed, we will make our preliminary determination no later than 65 days after the date of this initiation.

    Respondent Selection

    Petitioner named 81 companies as producers/exporters of amorphous silica fabric in the PRC.29 Following standard practice in CVD investigations, the Department will, where appropriate, select respondents based on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) data for U.S. imports of amorphous silica fabric during the period of investigation. For this investigation, the Department will release U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data for U.S. imports of subject merchandise during the period of investigation under the following Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States numbers: 7019.59.4021, 7019.59.4096, 7019.59.9021, and 7019.59.9096. We intend to release the CBP data under Administrative Protective Order (APO) to all parties with access to information protected by APO within five business days of the announcement of this Federal Register notice. Interested parties must submit applications for disclosure under APO in accordance with 19 CFR 351.305(b). Instructions for filing such applications may be found at http://enforcement.trade.gov/apo/.

    29See Volume I of the Petition at Exhibit I-11,

    Interested parties may submit comments regarding the CBP data and respondent selection by 5:00 p.m. ET on the seventh calendar day after publication of this notice. Comments must be filed in accordance with the filing requirements stated above. If respondent selection is necessary, we intend to base our decision regarding respondent selection upon comments received from interested parties and our analysis of the record information within 20 days of publication of this notice.

    Distribution of Copies of the Petition

    In accordance with section 702(b)(4)(A)(i) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.202(f), a copy of the public version of the Petition has been provided to the GOC via ACCESS. To the extent practicable, we will attempt to provide a copy of the public version of the Petition to each known exporter (as named in the Petition), consistent with 19 CFR 351.203(c)(2).

    ITC Notification

    We will notify the ITC of our initiation, as required by section 702(d) of the Act.

    Preliminary Determinations by the ITC

    The ITC will preliminarily determine, within 45 days after the date on which the Petition was filed, whether there is a reasonable indication that imports of certain amorphous silica fabric from the PRC are materially injuring, or threatening material injury to, a U.S. industry.30 A negative ITC determination will result in the investigation being terminated; 31 otherwise, this investigation will proceed according to statutory and regulatory time limits.

    30See section 703(a)(2) of the Act.

    31See section 703(a)(1) of the Act.

    Submission of Factual Information

    Factual information is defined in 19 CFR 351.102(b)(21) as: (i) Evidence submitted in response to questionnaires; (ii) evidence submitted in support of allegations; (iii) publicly available information to value factors under 19 CFR 351.408(c) or to measure the adequacy of remuneration under 19 CFR 351.511(a)(2); (iv) evidence placed on the record by the Department; and (v) evidence other than factual information described in (i)-(iv). The regulation requires any party, when submitting factual information, to specify under which subsection of 19 CFR 351.102(b)(21) the information is being submitted and, if the information is submitted to rebut, clarify, or correct factual information already on the record, to provide an explanation identifying the information already on the record that the factual information seeks to rebut, clarify, or correct. Time limits for the submission of factual information are addressed in 19 CFR 351.301, which provides specific time limits based on the type of factual information being submitted. Parties should review the regulations prior to submitting factual information in this investigation.

    Extension of Time Limits

    Parties may request an extension of time limits before the expiration of a time limit established under 19 CFR 351.301, or as otherwise specified by the Secretary. In general, an extension request will be considered untimely if it is filed after the expiration of the time limit established under 19 CFR 351.301 expires. For submissions that are due from multiple parties simultaneously, an extension request will be considered untimely if it is filed after 10:00 a.m. on the due date. Under certain circumstances, we may elect to specify a different time limit by which extension requests will be considered untimely for submissions which are due from multiple parties simultaneously. In such a case, we will inform parties in the letter or memorandum setting forth the deadline (including a specified time) by which extension requests must be filed to be considered timely. An extension request must be made in a separate, stand-alone submission; under limited circumstances we will grant untimely-filed requests for the extension of time limits. Review Extension of Time Limits; Final Rule, 78 FR 57790 (September 20, 2013), available at http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-09-20/html/2013-22853.htm, prior to submitting factual information in this investigation.

    Certification Requirements

    Any party submitting factual information in an AD or CVD proceeding must certify to the accuracy and completeness of that information.32 Parties are hereby reminded that revised certification requirements are in effect for company/government officials, as well as their representatives. Investigations initiated on the basis of petitions filed on or after August 16, 2013, and other segments of any AD or CVD proceedings initiated on or after August 16, 2013, should use the formats for the revised certifications provided at the end of the Final Rule. 33 The Department intends to reject factual submissions if the submitting party does not comply with the applicable revised certification requirements.

    32See section 782(b) of the Act.

    33See Certification of Factual Information To Import Administration During Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Proceedings, 78 FR 42678 (July 17, 2013) (“Final Rule”); see also frequently asked questions regarding the Final Rule, available at http://enforcement.trade.gov/tlei/notices/factual_info_final_rule_FAQ_07172013.pdf.

    Notification to Interested Parties

    Interested parties must submit applications for disclosure under APO in accordance with 19 CFR 351.305. On January 22, 2008, the Department published Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Proceedings: Documents Submission Procedures; APO Procedures, 73 FR 3634 (January 22, 2008). Parties wishing to participate in this investigation should ensure that they meet the requirements of these procedures (e.g., the filing of letters of appearance as discussed at 19 CFR 351.103(d)).

    This notice is issued and published pursuant to sections 702 and 777(i) of the Act.

    Dated: February 16, 2016. Ronald K. Lorentzen, Acting Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. Appendix I Scope of the Investigation

    The product covered by this investigation is woven (whether from yarns or rovings) industrial grade amorphous silica fabric, which contains a minimum of 90 percent silica (SiO2) by nominal weight, and a nominal width in excess of 8 inches. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of other materials contained in the fabric, regardless of whether in roll form or cut-to-length, regardless of weight, width (except as noted above), or length. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of whether the product is approved by a standards testing body (such as being Factory Mutual (FM) Approved), or regardless of whether it meets any governmental specification.

    Industrial grade amorphous silica fabric may be produced in various colors. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of whether the fabric is colored. Industrial grade amorphous silica fabric may be coated or treated with materials that include, but are not limited to, oils, vermiculite, acrylic latex compound, silicone, aluminized polyester (Mylar®) film, pressure-sensitive adhesive, or other coatings and treatments. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of whether the fabric is coated or treated, and regardless of coating or treatment weight as a percentage of total product weight. Industrial grade amorphous silica fabric may be heat-cleaned. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of whether the fabric is heat-cleaned.

    Industrial grade amorphous silica fabric may be imported in rolls or may be cut-to-length and then further fabricated to make welding curtains, welding blankets, welding pads, fire blankets, fire pads, or fire screens. Regardless of the name, all industrial grade amorphous silica fabric that has been further cut-to-length or cut-to-width or further finished by finishing the edges and/or adding grommets, is included within the scope of this investigation.

    Subject merchandise also includes (1) any industrial grade amorphous silica fabric that has been converted into industrial grade amorphous silica fabric in China from fiberglass cloth produced in a third country; and (2) any industrial grade amorphous silica fabric that has been further processed in a third country prior to export to the United States, including but not limited to treating, coating, slitting, cutting to length, cutting to width, finishing the edges, adding grommets, or any other processing that would not otherwise remove the merchandise from the scope of the investigation if performed in the country of manufacture of the in-scope industrial grade amorphous silica fabric.

    Excluded from the scope of the investigation is amorphous silica fabric that is subjected to controlled shrinkage, which is also called “pre-shrunk” or “aerospace grade” amorphous silica fabric. In order to be excluded as a pre-shrunk or aerospace grade amorphous silica fabric, the amorphous silica fabric must meet the following exclusion criteria: (1) The amorphous silica fabric must contain a minimum of 98 percent silica (SiO2) by nominal weight; (2) the amorphous silica fabric must have an areal shrinkage of 4 percent or less; (3) the amorphous silica fabric must contain no coatings or treatments; and (4) the amorphous silica fabric must be white in color. For purposes of this scope, “areal shrinkage” refers to the extent to which a specimen of amorphous silica fabric shrinks while subjected to heating at 1800 degrees F for 30 minutes.

    Areal shrinkage is expressed as the following percentage:

    EN23FE16.000

    Also excluded from the scope are amorphous silica fabric rope and tubing (or sleeving). Amorphous silica fabric rope is a knitted or braided product made from amorphous silica yarns. Silica tubing (or sleeving) is braided into a hollow sleeve from amorphous silica yarns.

    The subject imports are normally classified in subheadings 7019.59.4021, 7019.59.4096, 7019.59.9021, and 7019.59.9096 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), but may also enter under HTSUS subheadings 7019.40.4030, 7019.40.4060, 7019.40.9030, 7019.40.9060, 7019.51.9010, 7019.51.9090, 7019.52.9010, 7019.52.9021, 7019.52.9096 and 7019.90.1000. HTSUS subheadings are provided for convenience and customs purposes only; the written description of the scope of this investigation is dispositive.

    [FR Doc. 2016-03751 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-DS-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE International Trade Administration [A-570-038] Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric From the People's Republic of China: Initiation of Less-Than-Fair-Value Investigation AGENCY:

    Enforcement and Compliance, International Trade Administration, Department of Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    DATES:

    Effective Date: February 16, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Michael J. Heaney at (202) 482-4475 or Scott Hoefke (202) 482-4947, AD/CVD Operations, Enforcement & Compliance, U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Petition

    On January 20, 2016, the Department of Commerce (the Department) received an antidumping duty (AD) petition concerning imports of certain amorphous silica fabric (silica fabric) from the People's Republic of China (PRC), filed in proper form on behalf of Auburn Manufacturing, Inc. (Auburn) (Petitioner).1 The AD petition was accompanied by a countervailing duty (CVD) petition for the PRC.2 Petitioner is a domestic producer of silica fabric.3

    1See the Petition for the Imposition of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Imports of Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the PRC, dated January 20, 2016 (the Petition) at Volumes I and II.

    2Id. at Volume III.

    3See Volume I of the Petition at 2.

    On January 27, 2016, the Department requested additional information and clarification of certain areas of the Petition.4 Petitioner filed responses to these requests on February 1, 2016.5 On February 10, 2016, Petitioner submitted further clarification regarding the scope of the investigation.6 On January 27, 2016, the Department determined to toll all deadlines four business days as a result of the Federal Government closure during snowstorm Jonas, which is applicable to this initiation.7

    4See Letters from the Department to Petitioner entitled “Re: Petitions for the Imposition of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Imports of Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China: Supplemental Questions dated January 27, 2016 (General Issues Supplemental Questionnaire) and “Re: Petition for the Imposition of Antidumping Duties on Imports of Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China: Supplemental Questions Antidumping” dated January 27, 2016.

    5See “Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China: Amendment to Volume I of the Petition” dated February 1, 2016 (General Issues Supplement); see also “Re: Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China: Amendment to Volume II of the Petition” dated February 1, 2016 (AD Supplemental Response).

    6See Scope Supplement to the Petition, dated February 10, 2016 (Scope Supplement).

    7See Memorandum to the Record from Ron Lorentzen, Acting Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance, regarding “Tolling of Administrative Deadlines As a Result of the Government Closure During Snowstorm Jonas,” dated January 27, 2016.

    In accordance with section 732(b) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (the Act), Petitioner alleges that imports of silica fabric from the PRC are being, or are likely to be, sold in the United States at less-than-fair value within the meaning of section 731 of the Act, and that such imports are materially injuring, or threatening material injury to, an industry in the United States. Also, consistent with section 732(b)(1) of the Act, the Petition is accompanied by information reasonably available to Petitioner supporting its allegations.

    The Department finds that Petitioner filed this Petition on behalf of the domestic industry because Petitioner is an interested party as defined in section 771(9)(C) of the Act. The Department also finds that Petitioner demonstrated sufficient industry support with respect to the initiation of the AD investigation that Petitioner is requesting.8

    8See the “Determination of Industry Support for the Petition” section below.

    Period of Investigation

    Because the Petition was filed on January 20, 2016, the period of investigation (POI) is, pursuant to 19 CFR 351.204(b)(1), July 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015.

    Scope of the Investigation

    The product covered by this investigation is silica fabric from the PRC. For a full description of the scope of this investigation, see the “Scope of the Investigation,” in Appendix I of this notice.

    Comments on Scope of the Investigation

    During our review of the Petition, the Department issued questions to, and received responses from, Petitioner pertaining to the proposed scope to ensure that the scope language in the Petition would be an accurate reflection of the products for which the domestic industry is seeking relief.9

    9See Memorandum to the File, Phone Call with Counsel to Petitioner,” dated February 10, 2016; see also Letter from Petitioner to the Department, “Certain Amorphous Silica Fiber from the People's Republic of China: Scope Clarification Letter,” dated February 10, 2016; see also Memorandum to the File, “Phone Call with Counsel to Petitioner,” dated February 12, 2016.

    As discussed in the preamble to the Department's regulations,10 we are setting aside a period for interested parties to raise issues regarding product coverage (scope). The Department will consider all comments received from parties and, if necessary, will consult with parties prior to the issuance of the preliminary determination. If scope comments include factual information (see 19 CFR 351.102(b)(21)), all such factual information should be limited to public information. In order to facilitate preparation of its questionnaires, the Department requests all interested parties to submit such comments by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on Monday, March 7, 2016, which is 20 calendar days from the signature date of this notice. Any rebuttal comments, which may include factual information, must be filed by 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 17, 2016, which is 10 calendar days after the initial comments deadline.

    10See Antidumping Duties; Countervailing Duties, 62 FR 27296, 27323 (May 19, 1997).

    The Department requests that any factual information the parties consider relevant to the scope of the investigation be submitted during this time period. However, if a party subsequently finds that additional factual information pertaining to the scope of the investigation may be relevant, the party may contact the Department and request permission to submit the additional information. All such comments must also be filed on the record of the concurrent CVD investigation.

    Filing Requirements

    All submissions to the Department must be filed electronically using Enforcement & Compliance's Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Centralized Electronic Service System (ACCESS).11 An electronically filed document must be received successfully in its entirety by the time and date when it is due. Documents excepted from the electronic submission requirements must be filed manually (i.e., in paper form) with Enforcement & Compliance's APO/Dockets Unit, Room 18022, U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230, and stamped with the date and time of receipt by the applicable deadlines.

    11See Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Proceedings: Electronic Filing Procedures; Administrative Protective Order Procedures, 76 FR 39263 (July 6, 2011); see also Enforcement and Compliance; Change of Electronic Filing System Name, 79 FR 69046 (November 20, 2014) for details of the Department's electronic filing requirements, which went into effect on August 5, 2011. Information on help using ACCESS can be found at https://access.trade.gov/help.aspx and a handbook can be found at https://access.trade.gov/help/Handbook%20on%20Electronic%20Filling%20Procedures.pdf.

    Comments on Product Characteristics for AD Questionnaires

    The Department requests comments from interested parties regarding the appropriate physical characteristics of silica fabric to be reported in response to the Department's AD questionnaires. This information will be used to identify the key physical characteristics of the subject merchandise in order to report the relevant factors and costs of production accurately as well as to develop appropriate product-comparison criteria.

    Interested parties may provide any information or comments that they feel are relevant to the development of an accurate list of physical characteristics. Specifically, they may provide comments as to which characteristics are appropriate to use as: (1) General product characteristics and (2) product-comparison criteria. We note that it is not always appropriate to use all product characteristics as product-comparison criteria. We base product-comparison criteria on meaningful commercial differences among products. In other words, although there may be some physical product characteristics utilized by manufacturers to describe silica fabric, it may be that only a select few product characteristics take into account commercially meaningful physical characteristics. In addition, interested parties may comment on the order in which the physical characteristics should be used in matching products. Generally, the Department attempts to list the most important physical characteristics first and the least important characteristics last.

    In order to consider the suggestions of interested parties in developing and issuing the AD questionnaire, all comments must be filed by 5:00 p.m. ET on March 7, 2016, which is 20 calendar days from the signature date of this notice. Any rebuttal comments must be filed by 5:00 p.m. ET on March 14, 2016. All comments and submissions to the Department must be filed electronically using ACCESS, as explained above, on the record of this less-than-fair-value investigation.

    Determination of Industry Support for the Petition

    Section 732(b)(1) of the Act requires that a petition be filed on behalf of the domestic industry. Section 732(c)(4)(A) of the Act provides that a petition meets this requirement if the domestic producers or workers who support the petition account for: (i) At least 25 percent of the total production of the domestic like product; and (ii) more than 50 percent of the production of the domestic like product produced by that portion of the industry expressing support for, or opposition to, the petition. Moreover, section 732(c)(4)(D) of the Act provides that, if the petition does not establish support of domestic producers or workers accounting for more than 50 percent of the total production of the domestic like product, the Department shall: (i) Poll the industry or rely on other information in order to determine if there is support for the petition, as required by subparagraph (A); or (ii) determine industry support using a statistically valid sampling method to poll the “industry.”

    Section 771(4)(A) of the Act defines the “industry” as the producers as a whole of a domestic like product. Thus, to determine whether a petition has the requisite industry support, the statute directs the Department to look to producers and workers who produce the domestic like product. The International Trade Commission (ITC), which is responsible for determining whether “the domestic industry” has been injured, must also determine what constitutes a domestic like product in order to define the industry. While both the Department and the ITC must apply the same statutory definition regarding the domestic like product,12 they do so for different purposes and pursuant to a separate and distinct authority. In addition, the Department's determination is subject to limitations of time and information. Although this may result in different definitions of the like product, such differences do not render the decision of either agency contrary to law.13

    12See section 771(10) of the Act.

    13See USEC, Inc. v. United States, 132 F. Supp. 2d 1, 8 (CIT 2001) (citing Algoma Steel Corp., Ltd. v. United States, 688 F. Supp. 639, 644 (CIT 1988), aff'd 865 F.2d 240 (Fed. Cir. 1989)).

    Section 771(10) of the Act defines the domestic like product as “a product which is like, or in the absence of like, most similar in characteristics and uses with, the article subject to an investigation under this title.” Thus, the reference point from which the domestic like product analysis begins is “the article subject to an investigation” (i.e., the class or kind of merchandise to be investigated, which normally will be the scope as defined in the Petition).

    With regard to the domestic like product, Petitioner does not offer a definition of the domestic like product distinct from the scope of the investigation. Based on our analysis of the information submitted on the record, we have determined that silica fabric, as defined in the scope, constitutes a single domestic like product and we have analyzed industry support in terms of that domestic like product.14

    14 For a discussion of the domestic like product analysis in this case, see Antidumping Duty Investigation Initiation Checklist: Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China (PRC AD Initiation Checklist), at Attachment II, Analysis of Industry Support for the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Petitions Covering Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China (Attachment II). This checklist is dated concurrently with this notice and on file electronically via ACCESS. Access to documents filed via ACCESS is also available in the Central Records Unit, Room 18022 of the main Department of Commerce building.

    In determining whether Petitioner has standing under section 732(c)(4)(A) of the Act, we considered the industry support data contained in the Petition with reference to the domestic like product as defined in the “Scope of the Investigation,” in Appendix I of this notice. To establish industry support, Petitioner provided its own production of the domestic like product in 2015, and conservatively compared this to the estimated total production of the silica fabric (both industrial grade and aerospace grade) for the entire domestic industry.15 We have relied upon data Petitioner provided for purposes of measuring industry support.16

    15See Volume I of the Petition, at 4-6; see also General Issues Supplement, at 1-2 and Exhibit Supp. I-1.

    16See PRC AD Initiation Checklist, at Attachment II.

    Our review of the data provided in the Petition, General Issues Supplement, and other information readily available to the Department indicates that Petitioner has established industry support.17 First, the Petition established support from domestic producers (or workers) accounting for more than 50 percent of the total production of the domestic like product and, as such, the Department is not required to take further action in order to evaluate industry support (e.g., polling).18 Second, the domestic producers (or workers) have met the statutory criteria for industry support under section 732(c)(4)(A)(i) of the Act because the domestic producers (or workers) who support the Petition account for at least 25 percent of the total production of the domestic like product.19 Finally, the domestic producers (or workers) have met the statutory criteria for industry support under section 732(c)(4)(A)(ii) of the Act because the domestic producers (or workers) who support the Petition account for more than 50 percent of the production of the domestic like product produced by that portion of the industry expressing support for, or opposition to, the Petition.20 Accordingly, the Department determines that the Petition was filed on behalf of the domestic industry within the meaning of section 732(b)(1) of the Act.

    17Id.

    18See section 732(c)(4)(D) of the Act; see also PRC AD Initiation Checklist, at Attachment II.

    19See PRC AD Initiation Checklist, at Attachment II.

    20Id.

    The Department finds that Petitioner filed the Petition on behalf of the domestic industry because it is an interested party as defined in section 771(9)(C) of the Act and it has demonstrated sufficient industry support with respect to the AD investigation that it is requesting the Department initiate.21

    21Id.

    Allegations and Evidence of Material Injury and Causation

    Petitioner alleges that the U.S. industry producing the domestic like product is being materially injured, or is threatened with material injury, by reason of the imports of the subject merchandise sold at less than normal value (NV). In addition, Petitioner alleges that subject imports exceed the negligibility threshold provided for under section 771(24)(A) of the Act.22

    22See Volume I of the Petition, at 37 and Exhibit I-12.

    Petitioner contends that the industry's injured condition is illustrated by reduced market share; underselling and price suppression or depression; lost sales and revenues; declines in domestic industry production, capacity utilization, and U.S. shipments; declines in financial performance; and declines in employment indicators.23 We have assessed the allegations and supporting evidence regarding material injury, threat of material injury, and causation, and we have determined that these allegations are properly supported by adequate evidence and meet the statutory requirements for initiation.24

    23See Volume I of the Petition, at 22-25, 34-48, and Exhibits I-12—I-14 and I-15—I-26.

    24See PRC AD Initiation Checklist, at Attachment III, Analysis of Allegations and Evidence of Material Injury and Causation for the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Petitions Covering Certain Amorphous Silica Fabric from the People's Republic of China.

    Allegations of Sales at Less-Than-Fair Value

    The following is a description of the allegation of sales at less-than-fair value upon which the Department based its decision to initiate an investigation of imports of silica fabric from the PRC. The sources of data for the deductions and adjustments relating to U.S. price and NV are discussed in greater detail in the initiation checklist.

    Export Price

    Petitioner based U.S. price on an offer for sale for silica fabric from a Chinese producer. Petitioner made deductions from U.S. price for movement expenses consistent with the delivery terms.25

    25 See Volume II of the Petition, at 7-10 and AD Exhibits 6 through 9.

    Normal Value

    Petitioner stated that the Department has found the PRC to be a non-market economy (NME) country in every administrative proceeding in which the PRC has been involved.26 In accordance with section 771(18)(C)(i) of the Act, the presumption of NME status remains in effect until revoked by the Department. The presumption of NME status for the PRC has not been revoked by the Department and, therefore, remains in effect for purposes of the initiation of this investigation. Accordingly, the NV of the product is appropriately based on factors of production (FOPs) valued in a surrogate market economy country, in accordance with section 773(c) of the Act. In the course of this investigation, all parties, and the public, will have the opportunity to provide relevant information related to the issues of the PRC's NME status and the granting of separate rates to individual exporters.

    26See Volume II of the Petition, at 2-3.

    Petitioner claims that Thailand is an appropriate surrogate country because it is a market economy that is at a level of economic development comparable to that of the PRC and it is a significant producer of comparable merchandise.27

    27Id. at 3-5.

    Based on the information provided by Petitioner, we believe it is appropriate to use Thailand as a surrogate country for initiation purposes. Interested parties will have the opportunity to submit comments regarding surrogate country selection and, pursuant to 19 CFR 351.301(c)(3)(i), will be provided an opportunity to submit publicly available information to value FOPs within 30 days before the scheduled date of the preliminary determination.

    Factors of Production

    Petitioner based the FOPs for materials, labor, and energy on its consumption rates for producing silica fabric as it did not have access to the consumption rates of PRC producers of the subject merchandise.28 Petitioner notes that it chose its production experience because, like the Chinese producer from which the U.S. price quote was obtained, Petitioner is an integrated producer of silica fabric.29 Petitioner valued the estimated factors of production using surrogate values from Thailand.30

    28See Volume II of the Petition, at 11 and AD Exhibit 23.

    29Id. at 11.

    30Id. at 12 and AD Exhibit 23.

    Valuation of Raw Materials

    Petitioner valued the FOPs for raw materials (e.g., hydrochloric acid, acrylic polymers, lime, etc.) using reasonably available, public import data for Thailand obtained from the Global Trade Atlas (GTA) for the period covering June 2015 to November 2015, the most recent POI-contemporaneous data available at the time the Petition was filed.31 Petitioner excluded all import values from countries previously determined by the Department to maintain broadly available, non-industry-specific export subsidies and from countries previously determined by the Department to be NME countries. In addition, in accordance with the Department's practice, the average import value excludes imports that were labeled as originating from an unidentified country. The Department determines that the surrogate values used by Petitioner are reasonably available and, thus, are acceptable for purposes of initiation.

    31Id. at AD Exhibit 12.

    Valuation of Labor

    Petitioner valued labor using monthly Thai labor data published by Thailand's National Statistics Office (NSO).32 Specifically, Petitioner relied on data pertaining to wages and benefits earned by Thai workers engaged in the manufacturing sector of the Thai economy.33 Petitioner converted the wage rates to hourly and converted to U.S. dollars using the average exchange rate during the POI.34

    32Id. at 13 and AD Exhibit 15.

    33Id.

    34Id. at 14 and AD Exhibits 15 and 16.

    Valuation of Packing Materials

    Petitioner valued the packing materials used by PRC producers based on Thai import data obtained from GTA for the period covering June 2015 to November 2015.35

    35See Volume II of the Petition at 16 and AD Exhibit 21.

    Valuation of Energy

    Petitioner calculated energy usage based upon its own production experience associated with both electricity and natural gas.36 Petitioner valued natural gas using the average unit value of imports of liquefied natural gas into Thailand, as reported by GTA.37 To value electricity, Petitioner used public information, as compiled by the Thai Metropolitan Electricity Authority.38 This information was reported in Thai baht, converted into U.S. dollars/kilowatt hours, and multiplied by Petitioner's factor usage rates.39

    36Id. at 15.

    37Id. at 16 and AD Exhibits 12, 18 and 23; see also AD Supplemental Response, at 1-2 and AD-Supp. Exhibit 3.

    38Id. at 15-16 and AD Exhibit 19.

    39Id. at AD Exhibits 17 19, Exhibit 22 and Exhibit 23.

    Yield Loss

    Petitioner based its calculation of yield loss upon its own production experience incurred during the leaching and dry line process stages.40

    40Id. at 15 and AD Exhibit 11.

    Valuation of Factory Overhead, Selling, General and Administrative Expenses, and Profit

    Petitioner calculated surrogate financial ratios (i.e., manufacturing overhead, SG&A expenses, and profit) using the 2014 audited financial statement of Thai Toray Textile Mills Public Company, a Thai producer of comparable merchandise (i.e., an industrial textile).41

    41Id. at 15-16 and AD Exhibit 20.

    Fair Value Comparisons

    Based on the data provided by Petitioner, there is reason to believe that imports of silica fabric from the PRC are being, or are likely to be, sold in the United States at less-than-fair value. Based on comparisons of EP to NV, in accordance with section 773(c) of the Act, the estimated dumping margin for silica fabric from the PRC is 160.28 percent.42

    42See Volume II of the Petition at 17 and AD Exhibit 24; see also PRC AD Initiation Checklist.

    Initiation of Less-Than-Fair-Value Investigation

    Based upon the examination of the AD Petition on silica fabric from the PRC, we find that the Petition meets the requirements of section 732 of the Act. Therefore, we are initiating an AD investigation to determine whether imports of silica fabric from the PRC are being, or are likely to be, sold in the United States at less-than-fair value. In accordance with section 733(b)(1)(A) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.205(b)(1), unless postponed, we intend to make our preliminary determination no later than 140 days after the date of this initiation.

    On June 29, 2015, the President of the United States signed into law the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, which made numerous amendments to the AD and CVD law.43 The 2015 law does not specify dates of application for those amendments. On August 6, 2015, the Department published an interpretative rule, in which it announced the applicability dates for each amendment to the Act, except for amendments contained in section 771(7) of the Act, which relate to determinations of material injury by the ITC.44 The amendments to sections 771(15), 773, 776, and 782 of the Act are applicable to all determinations made on or after August 6, 2015, and, therefore, apply to this AD investigation.45

    43See Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, Public Law 114-27, 129 Stat. 362 (2015).

    44See Dates of Application of Amendments to the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Laws Made by the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, 80 FR 46793 (August 6, 2015) (Applicability Notice).

    45Id. at 46794-95. The 2015 amendments may be found at https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1295/text/pl.

    Respondent Selection

    Petitioner named 81 companies as producers/exporters of silica fabric.46 In accordance with our standard practice for respondent selection in cases involving NME countries, we intend to issue Q&V questionnaires to producers/exporters of merchandise subject to the investigation 47 and base respondent selection on the responses received. In addition, the Department will post the Q&V questionnaire along with filing instructions on the Enforcement and Compliance Web site at http://www.trade.gov/enforcement/news.asp.

    46See Volume I of the Petition at Exhibit 11.

    47See Appendix I, “Scope of the Investigations.”

    Exporters/producers of silica fabric from the PRC that do not receive Q&V questionnaires by mail may still submit a response to the Q&V questionnaire and can obtain a copy from the Enforcement & Compliance Web site. The Q&V response must be submitted by the relevant PRC exporters/producers no later than March 1, 2016, which is two weeks from the signature date of this notice. All Q&V responses must be filed electronically via ACCESS.

    Separate Rates

    In order to obtain separate-rate status in an NME investigation, exporters and producers must submit a separate-rate application.48 The specific requirements for submitting a separate-rate application in the PRC investigation are outlined in detail in the application itself, which is available on the Department's Web site at http://enforcement.trade.gov/nme/nme-sep-rate.html. The separate-rate application will be due 30 days after publication of this initiation notice.49 Exporters and producers who submit a separate-rate application and have been selected as mandatory respondents will be eligible for consideration for separate-rate status only if they respond to all parts of the Department's AD questionnaire as mandatory respondents. The Department requires that respondents from the PRC submit a response to both the Q&V questionnaire and the separate-rate application by their respective deadlines in order to receive consideration for separate-rate status.

    48See Policy Bulletin 05.1: Separate-Rates Practice and Application of Combination Rates in Antidumping Investigation involving Non-Market Economy Countries (April 5, 2005), available at http://enforcement.trade.gov/policy/bull05-1.pdf (Policy Bulletin 05.1).

    49 Although in past investigations this deadline was 60 days, consistent with 19 CFR 351.301(a), which states that “the Secretary may request any person to submit factual information at any time during a proceeding,” this deadline is now 30 days.

    Use of Combination Rates

    The Department will calculate combination rates for certain respondents that are eligible for a separate rate in an NME investigation. The Separate Rates and Combination Rates Bulletin states:

    {w}hile continuing the practice of assigning separate rates only to exporters, all separate rates that the Department will now assign in its NME Investigation will be specific to those producers that supplied the exporter during the period of investigation. Note, however, that one rate is calculated for the exporter and all of the producers which supplied subject merchandise to it during the period of investigation. This practice applies both to mandatory respondents receiving an individually calculated separate rate as well as the pool of non-investigated firms receiving the weighted-average of the individually calculated rates. This practice is referred to as the application of “combination rates” because such rates apply to specific combinations of exporters and one or more producers. The cash-deposit rate assigned to an exporter will apply only to merchandise both exported by the firm in question and produced by a firm that supplied the exporter during the period of investigation.50

    50See Policy Bulletin 05.1 at 6 (emphasis added).

    Distribution of Copies of the Petition

    In accordance with section 732(b)(3)(A) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.202(f), copies of the public version of the Petition has been provided to the government of the PRC via ACCESS. To the extent practicable, we will attempt to provide a copy of the public version of the Petition to each exporter named in the Petition, as provided under 19 CFR 351.203(c)(2).

    ITC Notification

    We will notify the ITC of our initiation, as required by section 732(d) of the Act.

    Preliminary Determinations by the ITC

    The ITC will preliminarily determine, within 45 days after the date on which the Petition were filed, whether there is a reasonable indication that imports of silica fabric from the PRC are materially injuring or threatening material injury to a U.S. industry.51 A negative ITC determination will result in the investigation being terminated; 52 otherwise, this investigation will proceed according to statutory and regulatory time limits.

    51See section 733(a) of the Act.

    52Id.

    Submission of Factual Information

    Factual information is defined in 19 CFR 351.102(b)(21) as: (i) Evidence submitted in response to questionnaires; (ii) evidence submitted in support of allegations; (iii) publicly available information to value factors under 19 CFR 351.408(c) or to measure the adequacy of remuneration under 19 CFR 351.511(a)(2); (iv) evidence placed on the record by the Department; and (v) evidence other than factual information described in (i)-(iv). Any party, when submitting factual information, must specify under which subsection of 19 CFR 351.102(b)(21) the information is being submitted 53 and, if the information is submitted to rebut, clarify, or correct factual information already on the record, to provide an explanation identifying the information already on the record that the factual information seeks to rebut, clarify, or correct.54 Time limits for the submission of factual information are addressed in 19 CFR 351.301, which provides specific time limits based on the type of factual information being submitted. Please review the regulations prior to submitting factual information in these investigations.

    53See 19 CFR 351.301(b).

    54See 19 CFR 351.301(b)(2).

    Extensions of Time Limits

    Parties may request an extension of time limits before the expiration of a time limit established under 19 CFR 351, or as otherwise specified by the Secretary. In general, an extension request will be considered untimely if it is filed after the expiration of the time limit established under 19 CFR 351 expires. For submissions that are due from multiple parties simultaneously, an extension request will be considered untimely if it is filed after 10:00 a.m. ET on the due date. Under certain circumstances, we may elect to specify a different time limit by which extension requests will be considered untimely for submissions which are due from multiple parties simultaneously. In such a case, we will inform parties in the letter or memorandum setting forth the deadline (including a specified time) by which extension requests must be filed to be considered timely. An extension request must be made in a separate, stand-alone submission; under limited circumstances we will grant untimely-filed requests for the extension of time limits. Review Extension of Time Limits; Final Rule, 78 FR 57790 (September 20, 2013), available at http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-09-20/html/2013-22853.htm, prior to submitting factual information in these investigations.

    Certification Requirements

    Any party submitting factual information in an AD or CVD proceeding must certify to the accuracy and completeness of that information.55 Parties are hereby reminded that revised certification requirements are in effect for company/government officials, as well as their representatives. Investigations initiated on the basis of petition filed on or after August 16, 2013, and other segments of any AD or CVD proceedings initiated on or after August 16, 2013, should use the formats for the revised certifications provided at the end of the Final Rule. 56 The Department intends to reject factual submissions if the submitting party does not comply with applicable revised certification requirements.

    55See section 782(b) of the Act.

    56See Certification of Factual Information to Import Administration during Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Proceedings, 78 FR 42678 (July 17, 2013) (Final Rule); see also frequently asked questions regarding the Final Rule, available at http://enforcement.trade.gov/tlei/notices/factual_info_final_rule_FAQ_07172013.pdf.

    Notification to Interested Parties

    Interested parties must submit applications for disclosure under administrative protective order (APO) in accordance with 19 CFR 351.305. On January 22, 2008, the Department published Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Proceedings: Documents Submission Procedures; APO Procedures, 73 FR 3634 (January 22, 2008). Parties wishing to participate in this investigation should ensure that they meet the requirements of these procedures (e.g., the filing of letters of appearance as discussed in 19 CFR 351.103(d)).

    This notice is issued and published pursuant to section 777(i) of the Act.

    Dated: February 16, 2016. Ronald K. Lorentzen, Acting Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. Appendix I Scope of the Investigation

    The product covered by this investigation is woven (whether from yarns or rovings) industrial grade amorphous silica fabric, which contains a minimum of 90 percent silica (SiO2) by nominal weight, and a nominal width in excess of 8 inches. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of other materials contained in the fabric, regardless of whether in roll form or cut-to-length, regardless of weight, width (except as noted above), or length. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of whether the product is approved by a standards testing body (such as being Factory Mutual (FM) Approved), or regardless of whether it meets any governmental specification.

    Industrial grade amorphous silica fabric may be produced in various colors. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of whether the fabric is colored. Industrial grade amorphous silica fabric may be coated or treated with materials that include, but are not limited to, oils, vermiculite, acrylic latex compound, silicone, aluminized polyester (Mylar®) film, pressure-sensitive adhesive, or other coatings and treatments. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of whether the fabric is coated or treated, and regardless of coating or treatment weight as a percentage of total product weight. Industrial grade amorphous silica fabric may be heat-cleaned. The investigation covers industrial grade amorphous silica fabric regardless of whether the fabric is heat-cleaned.

    Industrial grade amorphous silica fabric may be imported in rolls or may be cut-to-length and then further fabricated to make welding curtains, welding blankets, welding pads, fire blankets, fire pads, or fire screens. Regardless of the name, all industrial grade amorphous silica fabric that has been further cut-to-length or cut-to-width or further finished by finishing the edges and/or adding grommets, is included within the scope of this investigation.

    Subject merchandise also includes (1) any industrial grade amorphous silica fabric that has been converted into industrial grade amorphous silica fabric in China from fiberglass cloth produced in a third country; and (2) any industrial grade amorphous silica fabric that has been further processed in a third country prior to export to the United States, including but not limited to treating, coating, slitting, cutting to length, cutting to width, finishing the edges, adding grommets, or any other processing that would not otherwise remove the merchandise from the scope of the investigation if performed in the country of manufacture of the in-scope industrial grade amorphous silica fabric.

    Excluded from the scope of the investigation is amorphous silica fabric that is subjected to controlled shrinkage, which is also called “pre-shrunk” or “aerospace grade” amorphous silica fabric. In order to be excluded as a pre-shrunk or aerospace grade amorphous silica fabric, the amorphous silica fabric must meet the following exclusion criteria: (l) The amorphous silica fabric must contain a minimum of 98 percent silica (SiO2) by nominal weight; (2) the amorphous silica fabric must have an areal shrinkage of 4 percent or less; (3) the amorphous silica fabric must contain no coatings or treatments; and (4) the amorphous silica fabric must be white in color. For purposes of this scope, “areal shrinkage” refers to the extent to which a specimen of amorphous silica fabric shrinks while subjected to heating at 1800 degrees F for 30 minutes.

    Areal shrinkage is expressed as the following percentage:

    EN23FE16.001

    Also excluded from the scope are amorphous silica fabric rope and tubing (or sleeving). Amorphous silica fabric rope is a knitted or braided product made from amorphous silica yarns. Silica tubing (or sleeving) is braided into a hollow sleeve from amorphous silica yarns.

    The subject imports are normally classified in subheadings 7019.59.4021, 7019.59.4096, 7019.59.9021, and 7019.59.9096 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), but may also enter under HTSUS subheadings 7019.40.4030, 7019.40.4060, 7019.40.9030, 7019.40.9060, 7019.51.9010, 7019.51.9090, 7019.52.9010, 7019.52.9021, 7019.52.9096 and 7019.90.1000. HTSUS subheadings are provided for convenience and customs purposes only; the written description of the scope of this investigation is dispositive.

    [FR Doc. 2016-03756 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-DS-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE International Trade Administration [C-475-819] Certain Pasta From Italy: Final Results, and Rescission, in Part, of Countervailing Duty Administrative Review; 2013 AGENCY:

    Enforcement and Compliance, International Trade Administration, Department of Commerce.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of Commerce (Department) has conducted an administrative review of the countervailing duty (CVD) order on certain pasta from Italy. On August 10, 2015, we published the Preliminary Results for this administrative review.1 The period of review (POR) is January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013. We find that DeMatteis Agroalimentare S.p.A. (also known as, De Matteis Agroalimentare SpA) (DeMatteis) received countervailable subsidies and La Molisana S.p.A. (La Molisana) received de minimis countervailable subsidies during the POR. These rates are shown below in the final results of review section. As discussed below, we are rescinding the review with respect to La Molisana Industrie Alimentari S.p.A. (LMIA).

    1See Certain Pasta From Italy: Preliminary Results of Countervailing Duty Administrative Review, Rescission in Part, and Preliminary Intent to Rescind in Part; 2013, 80 FR 47900 (August 10, 2015) (Preliminary Results). See also Memorandum from Jennifer Meek, International Trade Analyst, to the File, “Preliminary Results Program Description,” for details regarding program “Law 488/92—Industrial Development Grants,” August 4, 2015.

    DATES:

    Effective Date: February 23, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Jennifer Meek or Joseph Shuler, AD/CVD Operations, Office I, Enforcement and Compliance, U.S. Department of Commerce, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230; telephone: (202) 482-2778 or (202) 482-1293, respectively.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background

    In the Preliminary Results, we indicated that we would seek clarification regarding La Molisana's use of Article 14 of Law 46/1982 and additional historical sales data from La Molisana and its parent company. We invited interested parties to file case briefs and rebuttal briefs following the release of the Preliminary Results. La Molisana filed a case brief. No other parties commented on the Preliminary Results. We also invited interested parties to comment on the additional information we solicited from La Molisana following the Preliminary Results; no additional comments were provided.

    Scope of the Order

    The scope of the Order consists of certain pasta from Italy.2 The merchandise subject to the order is currently classifiable under items 1901.90.90.95 and 1902.19.20 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Although the HTSUS subheadings are provided for convenience and customs purposes, the written description of the merchandise is dispositive. A full description of the scope of the Order is contained in the “Issues and Decision Memorandum for Final Results of Countervailing Duty Administrative Review: Certain Pasta from Italy,” from Christian Marsh, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations, to Paul Piquado, Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance, dated February 12, 2016 (Issues and Decision Memorandum), and hereby adopted by this notice.

    2See Notice of Countervailing Duty Order and Amended Final Affirmative Countervailing Duty Determination: Certain Pasta (“Pasta”) From Italy, 61 FR 38544 (July 24, 1996) (Order).

    The Issues and Decision Memorandum is a public document and is on file electronically via Enforcement and Compliance's Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Centralized Electronic Service System (ACCESS). ACCESS is available to registered users at http://access.trade.gov and available to all parties in the Central Records Unit, room 7046 of the main Department building. In addition, a complete version of the Issues and Decision Memorandum can be accessed directly on the internet at http://enforcement.trade.gov/frn/index.html. The signed and electronic versions of the Issues and Decision Memorandum are identical in content. A list of topics discussed in the Issues and Decision Memorandum is provided in the Appendix to this notice.

    Analysis of Comments Received

    All issues raised in the case brief filed by La Molisana in this review are addressed in the Issues and Decision Memorandum, which is incorporated herein by reference. A list of the issues which parties raised, and to which we respond in the Issues and Decision Memorandum, follows as an appendix to this notice.

    Changes Since the Preliminary Results

    Based on additional information provided by La Molisana after the Preliminary Results at the Department's request, the Department corrected certain program calculations which affected the countervailable subsidy rate to be applied to La Molisana. For a full explanation of the changes made, see the Issues and Decision Memorandum.

    Methodology

    We have conducted this review in accordance with section 751(a)(1)(A) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (the Act). For each of the subsidy programs found countervailable, we determine that there is a subsidy, i.e., a government-provided financial contribution that gives rise to a benefit to the recipient, and that the subsidy is specific.3 In making these findings, we have relied, in part, on an adverse inference in selecting from among the facts otherwise available because we find that the GOI did not act to the best of its ability to respond to our requests for information regarding certain programs.4

    3See sections 771(5)(B) and (D) of the Act regarding financial contribution; section 771(5)(E) of the Act regarding benefit; and section 771(5A) of the Act regarding specificity. For a full description of the methodology underlying our conclusions, see Issues and Decision Memorandum.

    4See sections 776(a) and (b) of the Act. For further discussion, see Issues and Decision Memorandum at “Use of Facts Otherwise Available and Adverse Inferences.”

    Partial Rescission

    In the Preliminary Results, we announced our intent to recind the administrative review with respect to LMIA. As we stated in the Preliminary Results, the record demonstrates that LMIA ceased operations prior to the POR. Moreover, La Molisana reported that all entries shown in the entry data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as entries made by LMIA were of subject merchandise produced and exported by La Molisana. There is no record evidence that LMIA made entries of subject merchandise during the POR. Therefore, we are now rescinding the review with respect to LMIA.

    Final Results of the Review

    In accordance with 19 CFR 351.221(b)(5), we calculated individual subsidy rates for the mandatory respondents, DeMatteis and La Molisana.

    We find the net countervailable subsidy rate for the producers and/or exporters under review to be as follows:

    Producer/exporter Net
  • subsidy
  • rate
  • DeMatteis Agroalimentare S.p.A. (also known as De Matteis Agroalimentare SpA) 2.12 La Molisana S.p.A 0.26
    Disclosure

    We intend to disclose the calculations performed to interested parties within five days of the publication of these final results in accordance with 19 CFR 351.224(b).

    Assessment Rates

    Consistent with 19 CFR 351.212(b)(2), we intend to issue assessment instructions to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) fifteen days after the date of publication of these final results. Because we have calculated a de minimis countervailable subsidy rate for La Molisana in the final results of this review, in accordance with 19 CFR 351.212 we will instruct CBP to liquidate the appropriate entries without regard to countervailing duties. For DeMatteis, we will instruct CBP to assess countervailing duties on the value of POR entries at the rate shown above.

    Cash Deposit Requirements

    In accordance with section 751(a)(2)(C) of the Act, we intend to instruct CBP to collect cash deposits of estimated countervailing duties in the amounts shown above, for the companies listed above, with the exception of La Molisana, on shipments of subject merchandise entered, or withdrawn from warehouse, for consumption on or after the date of publication of the final results of this review. Because the countervailable subsidy rate for La Molisana is de minimis, the Department will instruct CBP to collect cash despoits at a rate of zero for La Molisana for all shipments of the subject merchandise that are entered, or withdrawn from warehouse, for consumption on or after the date of publication of the final results of this administrative review. For all non-reviewed companies (except Barilla G. e R. F.lli S.p.A. and Gruppo Agricoltura Sana S.r.l., which are excluded from the order,5 and Pasta Lensi S.r.l., which was revoked from the Order6 ), we will instruct CBP to continue to collect cash deposits at the most recently assigned company-specific or all-others rate applicable to the company. These cash deposit requirements, when imposed, shall remain in effect until further notice.

    5See Order, 61 FR 38545.

    6See Certain Pasta from Italy: Final Results of the Ninth Countervailing Duty Administrative Review and Notice of Revocation of Order, in Part, 71 FR 36318 (June 26, 2006).

    Administrative Protective Order

    This notice serves as a final reminder to parties subject to administrative protective order (APO) of their responsibility concerning the disposition of proprietary information disclosed under APO in accordance with 19 CFR 351.305(a)(3). Timely written notification of return or destruction of APO materials or conversion to judicial protective order is hereby requested. Failure to comply with the regulations and the terms of an APO is a sanctionable violation.

    We are issuing and publishing these results in accordance with sections 751(a)(1) and 777(i)(1) of the Act and 19 CFR 351.213.

    Dated: February 12, 2016. Paul Piquado, Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance. Appendix List of Topics Discussed in the Issues and Decision Memorandum 1. Summary 2. Background 3. Changes Since the Preliminary Results 4. Scope of the Order 5. Partial Rescission of the Administrative Review 6. Use of Facts Otherwise Available and Adverse Inferences 7. Subsidy Valuation Information 8. Loan Benchmarks and Discount Rates 9. Analysis of Programs 10. Analysis of Comments Comment 1: Whether to Rescind the Review of LMIA Comment 2: Entries Covered in La Molisana's Liquidation Instructions Comment 3: Application of the Appropriate Sales Denominator 11. Recommendation
    [FR Doc. 2016-03750 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-DS-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XD124 National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Council-Initiated Fishery Management Actions Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Notice of availability.

    SUMMARY:

    The purpose of this notice is to notify the public that NOAA/NMFS has finalized revisions to the NOAA policy and procedures for complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the context of Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) fishery management actions. This notice provides a summary of the public comments received and the agency's responses. The final revised and updated NEPA procedures for MSA actions are available online at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/msa2007/nepa.htm.

    DATES:

    The final policy is effective February 23, 2016.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Steve Leathery, 301-427-8014.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background

    On February 19, 2013, in compliance with section 304(i), NMFS issued an internal policy pertaining to complying with NEPA in the context of MSA fishery management actions. This policy, entitled “Policy Directive 30-132: National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Council-Initiated Fishery Management Actions under the Magnuson-Stevens Act” (the policy): Clarified roles and responsibilities of NMFS and the Regional Fishery Management Councils (Councils); explained timing and procedural linkages; provided guidance on documentation needs; and provided guidance for fostering partnerships and cooperation between NMFS and the Councils on NEPA compliance.

    After consulting with the Councils and with the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on proposed revisions to the 2013 NMFS NEPA policy, NMFS proposed using this policy as a basis for issuing revised and updated NEPA procedures for MSA actions in the form of a line-office supplement to NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 216-6), which contains NOAA's policies and procedures for complying with the NEPA. On June 30, 2014, NMFS published a notice in the Federal Register inviting public comments for a 90-day period on a proposed supplement to the NAO (NAO supplement) intended to satisfy fully the requirements of section 304(i) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). Section 304(i) requires NMFS, in consultation with the Councils and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), to revise and update agency NEPA procedures to conform to the timelines for review and approval of fishery management plans and to integrate applicable environmental analytical procedures. 16 U.S.C. 1854(i). After careful consideration of the public comments received in response to the 2014 notice, NOAA/NMFS has decided to finalize the NAO supplement with editorial, but no substantive, changes to the June 30, 2014 draft.

    NMFS received comments from 5 environmental non-governmental organizations and 2 fishery management councils. The key issues are summarized below along with NMFS's responses. We note that many comments are similar to those raised previously either as comments on a proposed rule (73 FR 27998, May14, 2008), (which was subsequently withdrawn (79 FR 40703, Jul. 14, 2014)), or as comments on the 2013 NMFS NEPA policy. When NMFS issued the 2013 NMFS NEPA policy directive, it developed a background document that addressed many of these comments. A copy of the background document for 2013 Policy Directive can be viewed and downloaded at the following site: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/laws_policies/msa/nepa.html.

    In this notice, we will limit our discussion to those comments that specifically address issues pertaining to the NAO supplement. Many of these comments pertain broadly to transparency in the NEPA process. NMFS is supportive of these comments and will explore ways to improve public access to NEPA documents and information on the status of ongoing NEPA analyses. However, NMFS believes that, given the limited purpose of the draft NAO supplement—to revise and update agency NEPA procedures to conform to the timelines for review and approval of fishery management plans and to integrate applicable environmental analytical procedures—the NAO supplement is not the appropriate vehicle for addressing all such issues. As NOAA generally works to revise and update its NEPA procedures through the NAO, the agency will continue seeking ways to enhance public access, participation and process transparency through all appropriate mechanisms.

    Key Issues Raised In Comments: NMFS notes that since the initiation of efforts to comply with section 304(i), commenters have expressed widely divergent opinions on how best to proceed. When introducing Policy Directive 30-132, “National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Fishery Management Actions under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (2/19/2013),” NMFS provided a background document that summarized NMFS's consideration of key issues and concerns, “Introduction to NMFS Policy Directive: National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Fishery Management Actions under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.” Some of the same issues and concerns were re-introduced as comments on the draft Supplement. For additional context regarding NMFS's treatment of these concerns, please see the background document, available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/councils/ccc/2013/2013_md_agenda.htm.

    Comments and Responses Comment 1: Ultimate Responsibility for NEPA Lies With NMFS

    Comment: Commenters expressed support for the position emphasized in the NMFS NEPA procedures that NMFS retains ultimate responsibility for NEPA compliance. Some comments requested that the procedures be revised to indicate that NMFS must remain primary author of the NEPA documents, that NMFS must oversee the NEPA process, and that the Councils should not conduct NEPA scoping during Council meetings.

    Response: The NAO supplement clearly states that “ultimate legal responsibility for NEPA lies . . . with NMFS.” However, for reasons stated in the final NAO supplement, NMFS believes that either NMFS or Council staff may draft NEPA documents as long as NMFS participates early, provides information or advice as needed, conducts appropriate outreach with other agencies and constituents, and independently evaluates each NEPA document's adequacy prior to using it in some fashion to satisfy its NEPA responsibilities. Further, for reasons stated in the draft NAO supplement, NMFS believes that the MSA and NEPA requirements for timelines, format, and public participation are compatible and may be conducted jointly as long as all responsibilities are fulfilled. Using a Council meeting to satisfy any requirement of NEPA for a public meeting or public outreach, such as scoping, enhances both the NEPA and MSA processes by infusing the NEPA activities and information into the council forum. As long as NMFS ensures that the procedures required by NEPA are satisfied, this arrangement can enhance NEPA's effectiveness. Where Council meetings will be used to conduct NEPA scoping, NMFS will work closely with Councils to ensure all requirements are met.

    Comment 2: Supplemental Information Reports (SIRs) and Advanced Planning Procedure

    Comment: Some commenters opposed the proposed option of using a “NEPA Advanced Planning Procedure” (NAPP), a Supplemental Impact Report (SIR), or other “non-standard documentation,” and in their comments, cited to CEQ regulations on programmatic EISs and tiering (40 CFR 1502.20-1502.21).

    Response: The CEQ regulations do not preclude use of other documentation to support advanced planning on what actions may need NEPA analyses and/or to consider whether existing analyses are sufficient. Recently, the Ninth Circuit upheld NMFS' use of an SIR to conclude that a supplemental Environmental Assessment was unnecessary. Humane Society of the United States v. Pritzker, 548 Fed. Appx. 355, 360 (9th Cir. 2013). See also, e.g., Marsh v. Oregon Natural Resources Council, 490 U.S. 360, 383-85 (1989) (upholding the Army Corps of Engineers' use of a SIR to analyze the significance of new reports in determining whether to supplement existing NEPA analysis). NMFS believes that the optional use of these forms of documentation offers a potential means to improve the efficiency of the NEPA process without sacrificing substantive obligations under NEPA. Therefore, NMFS retains these provisions in the final NAO supplement.

    Comment 3. Conflict of Interest Guidance and Financial Disclosure Requirements

    Comment: Citing to 40 CFR 1506.5, one commenter suggested development of conflict of interest and financial disclosure procedures for Council members and staff involved in the NEPA documentation process. Those regulations require that when an agency relies on contractors to prepare NEPA documents, those contractors must execute a disclosure statement specifying that they have no financial or other interest in the outcome of the project. Id. § 1506.5(c).

    Response: Council members and Council staff are not “contractors” and therefore the contractor-specific provisions of § 1506.5 are inapplicable. The MSA establishes financial disclosure and recusal requirements for Council members (16 U.S.C. 1852(j)). These requirements are developed further and an explanation of the obligations on council staff are provided by regulation at 50 CFR 600.225. As explained in the regulations, council members and council staff are subject to most Federal criminal statutes covering bribery, conflict-of-interest, disclosure of confidential information, and lobbying with appropriated funds. The conflict of interest and other conduct rules applicable to Council members and Council staff are summarized in Regional Fishery Management Councils—Rules of Conduct for Members (2014) (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/councils/training/2014/e_h1_members_conduct_rules.pdf) and Regional Fishery Management Councils—Rules of Conduct for Employees and Advisors (2014) (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/councils/training/2014/e_h2_employee_conduct_rules.pdf). While NMFS acknowledges that the scope of the CEQ NEPA regulations is not co-extensive with the applicable council staff conflict of interest regulations, given that council staff are not analogous to contractors, and that the existing regulations act to prevent conflicts of interest, NMFS does not believe that additional financial disclosure requirements will enhance or improve the MSA NEPA process or the quality of NEPA documents developed.

    Comment 4. The Procedures Merely Capture the Status Quo

    Comment: NMFS received a comment that the draft NAO supplement does not represent “revisions,” as required by MSA section 304(i), because it merely captures the status quo.

    Response: The final NAO supplement establishes national-level guidance which adopts best practices currently in use by some region-council pairs. While these approaches may seem like status quo to some parties, due to regional variations in practices, the guidance does represent changes for others. NMFS believes that the MSA NEPA process has been substantially improved and refined over the past decade or more, and the draft NAO supplement builds on that success and can help NMFS and the Councils achieve greater consistency for MSA NEPA implementation. Establishing a uniform framework applicable to all parties effectuates a reasoned change that institutionalizes lessons-learned and best practices for the development of expeditious and useful NEPA processes.

    Comment 5. The Procedures Should Facilitate Transparent Public Involvement

    Comment: NMFS received comments indicating that the procedures should facilitate and enhance public involvement and transparency. Some comments provided specific suggestions pertaining to mandatory use of Web sites to provide greater public access to NEPA information.

    Response: NMFS agrees that the procedures should promote transparency and public participation. Encouraging the application of NEPA as much as practicable via the council process should enhance meaningful public participation and promote transparency. Most Councils currently provide online access to NEPA documents that were completed or that are being developed for fishery management actions. NMFS will continue to work with Councils to improve accessibility and ease of navigation of these sites to promote transparency and improved public participation in the MSA NEPA process.

    Comment 6. MSA Section 304(i) Requirements

    Comment: NMFS received comments that the draft NAO supplement satisfies fully the requirements of MSA section 304(i) and conversely, that it does not satisfy those requirements.

    Response: The NAO supplement satisfies the requirements of MSA section 304(i) by establishing national-level guidance and by adopting best practices currently in use by some region-council pairs, thereby revising and updating agency NEPA procedures to conform to the timelines for review and approval of fishery management plans while integrating applicable environmental analytical procedures. NMFS consulted extensively with the Councils and with CEQ over the course of several years, held public hearings and a public workshop as authorized by Congress, issued a proposed rule and received over 150,000 public comments that were carefully analyzed and considered, developed and implemented an internal NMFS Policy Directive on MSA NEPA procedures, and released the draft NAO supplement for public comment. During this process, the Councils and stakeholders expressed a broad range of views regarding what MSA section 304(i) required and what improvements to the process were needed. MSA section 304(i) did not change or eliminate any existing MSA or NEPA requirements, but required development of revised and updated NEPA procedures that conformed to the timelines for FMP review and approval and integrated applicable procedures. NMFS has carefully considered all input received to date and believes the final NAO supplement fully satisfies requirements as mandated by Congress under MSA section 304(i).

    Comment 7. Compliance With NEPA, CEQ Regulations, and Other Guidance

    Comment: Several comments suggested that the draft NAO supplement should include various NEPA requirements established by CEQ regulations, guidance or other sources, such as avoiding the use of stale documentation, addressing new information, considering an adequate scope of alternatives, and identifying when an EIS is required.

    Response: NMFS is cognizant of the requirements of NEPA and the CEQ regulations, as well as other sources of Guidance such as CEQ's “Forty Most-Asked Questions.” The intent of the final NAO supplement is not to reiterate existing guidance and requirements, but to clarify how NMFS and Councils can work together to effectively comply within the context of MSA management and regulatory requirements. In addition, the main body of NAO 216-6 provides additional guidance on the types of NEPA documentation and how to use them.

    Comment 8. Requirement for Council Usage

    Comment: The policy should require that the NEPA analysis must be completed prior to Council deliberations so that Councils can rely upon that analysis to inform their deliberations.

    Response: NMFS and the Councils work cooperatively and collaboratively to address NEPA requirements for MSA fishery management actions while continually assessing new information and emerging fishery conservation and management issues.

    NMFS agrees that both the NEPA and MSA processes are enhanced by integrating NEPA into the Council process. The final NAO supplement encourages NMFS and the Councils to prepare and make available as much NEPA documentation as practicable (given timelines and resource needs) during the Council's development of its management recommendation. This approach recognizes that the Council-proposed alternative, and thus final development of the NEPA analysis, may not occur until after a Council takes final action on its management recommendation.

    The final NAO supplement recognizes that there will be variations regarding the extent to which NEPA can be completed during council deliberations because of the need to take timely management action to address conservation and management needs as new information becomes available. To better integrate NEPA into the iterative and deliberative processes of the Councils while allowing enough flexibility so that the fishery management system can respond effectively in time-constrained situations and still comply with NEPA, the final NAO supplement identifies factors to consider and establishes a procedural nexus setting forth the minimum requirements for completeness in the Council process.

    Dated: February 11, 2016. Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03684 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Western Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Notice of a public meeting and hearing.

    SUMMARY:

    The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold a meeting of its Hawaii Archipelago Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) Advisory Panel (AP) and American Samoa Archipelago FEP AP Advisory Panel to discuss and make recommendations on fishery management issues in the Western Pacific Region.

    DATES:

    The Hawaii Archipelago FEP AP will meet on Thursday, March 10, 2016, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and the American Samoa Archipelago FEP AP will meet on Thursday, March 10, 2016, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. All times listed are local island times. For specific times and agendas, see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

    ADDRESSES:

    The Hawaii Archipelago FEP AP will meet at the Council Office, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 1400, Honolulu, HI 96813 and by teleconference. The teleconference will be conducted by telephone. The teleconference numbers are: U.S. toll-free: 1-888-482-3560 or International Access: +1 647 723-3959, and Access Code: 5228220. The American Samoa Archipelago FEP AP will meet at the Department of Commerce Market Conference Room, Fagatogo Village, American Samoa.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Kitty M. Simonds, Executive Director, Western Pacific Fishery Management Council; telephone: (808) 522-8220.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Public comment periods will be provided in the agenda. The order in which agenda items are addressed may change. The meetings will run as late as necessary to complete scheduled business.

    Schedule and Agenda for the Hawaii Archipelago FEP AP Meeting Thursday, March 10, 2016, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. 1. Welcome and Introductions 2. Outstanding Council Action Items 3. Council Issues A. Council Program Review B. Overview of Eastern Pacific Ocean Swordfish C. FEP Review Modifications 4. Hawaii FEP Community Activities 6. Hawaii FEP AP Issues A. Report of the Subpanels i. Island Fisheries Subpanel ii. Pelagic Fisheries Subpanel iii. Ecosystems and Habitat Subpanel iv. Indigenous Fishing Rights Subpanel B. Other Issues 7. Public Comment 8. Discussion and Recommendations 9. Other Business Schedule and Agenda for the American Samoa Archipelago FEP AP Meeting Thursday, March 10, 2016, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. 1. Welcome and Introductions 2. Outstanding Council Action Items 3. Council Issues A. Council Program Review B. Overfishing of EPO Swordfish C. FEP Review Modifications 4. American Samoa FEP Community Activities 5. American Samoa FEP AP Issues A. Report of the Subpanels i. Island Fisheries Subpanel ii. Pelagic Fisheries Subpanel iii. Ecosystems and Habitat Subpanel iv. Indigenous Fishing Rights Subpanel B. Other Issues 6. Public Comment 7. Discussion and Recommendations 8. Other Business Special Accommodations

    These meetings are physically accessible to people with disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to Kitty M. Simonds, (808) 522-8220 (voice) or (808) 522-8226 (fax), at least 5 days prior to the meeting date.

    Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Tracey L. Thompson, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03705 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XE441 Endangered and Threatened Species; Initiation of 5-Year Review for Indus River Dolphin AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Notice of initiation of 5-year review; request for information.

    SUMMARY:

    We, NMFS, announce a 5-year review of the Indus River dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). The purpose of these reviews is to ensure that the listing classification of a species is accurate. The 5-year review will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available at the time of the review; therefore, we request submission of any such information on Indus River dolphins that has become available since their original listing as endangered in January 1991. Based on the results of this 5-year review, we will make the requisite determination under the ESA.

    DATES:

    To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we must receive your information no later than May 23, 2016. However, we will continue to accept new information about any listed species at any time.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit information on this document identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0016 by either of the following methods:

    Electronic submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov. To submit comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, first click the “submit a comment” icon, then enter NOAA-NMFS-2016-0016 in the keyword search. Locate the document you wish to comment on from the resulting list and click on the “Submit a Comment” icon on the right of that line.

    Mail or hand-delivery: Therese Conant, NMFS Office of Protected Resources, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

    Instructions: Comments must be submitted by one of the above methods to ensure that the comments are received, documented, and considered by NMFS. 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. 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.) submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter “N/A” in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Therese Conant, NMFS Office of Protected Resources, 301-427-8456.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Under the ESA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plant species at 50 CFR 17.11 (for animals and 17.12 (for plants). Section 4(c)(2)(A) of the ESA requires that we conduct a review of listed species at least once every five years. On the basis of such reviews under section 4(c)(2)(B), we determine whether or not any species should be delisted or reclassified from endangered to threatened or from threatened to endangered. Delisting a species must be supported by the best scientific and commercial data available and only considered if such data substantiates that the species is neither endangered nor threatened for one or more of the following reasons: (1) The species is considered extinct; (2) the species is considered to be recovered; and/or (3) the original data available when the species was listed, or the interpretation of such data, were in error. Any change in Federal classification would require a separate rulemaking process. The regulations in 50 CFR 424.21 require that we publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing those species currently under active review. This notice announces our active review of the Indus River dolphin currently listed as endangered (56 FR 1463; January 14, 1991).

    Background information on Indus River dolphins including the endangered listing is available on the NMFS Office of Protected Species Web site at: http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/dolphins/indus-river-dolphin.html#documents.

    Determining if a Species Is Threatened or Endangered

    Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA requires that we determine whether a species is endangered or threatened based on one or more of the five following factors: (1) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (5) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Section 4(b) also requires that our determination be made on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available after taking into account those efforts, if any, being made by any State or foreign nation, to protect such species.

    Public Solicitation of New Information

    To ensure that the 5-year review is complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial information, we are soliciting new information from the public, governmental agencies, Tribes, the scientific community, industry, environmental entities, and any other interested parties concerning the status of Indus River dolphins. The 5-year review considers the best scientific and commercial data and all new information that has become available since the listing determination or most recent status review. Categories of requested information include: (1) Species biology including, but not limited to, population trends, distribution, abundance, demographics, and genetics; (2) habitat conditions including, but not limited to, amount, distribution, and important features for conservation; (3) status and trends of threats; (4) conservation measures that have been implemented that benefit the species, including monitoring data demonstrating effectiveness of such measures; (5) need for additional conservation measures; and (6) other new information, data, or corrections including, but not limited to, taxonomic or nomenclatural changes, identification of erroneous information contained in the list of endangered and threatened species, and improved analytical methods for evaluating extinction risk.

    If you wish to provide information for this 5-year review, you may submit your information and materials electronically or via mail (see ADDRESSES section). We request that all information be accompanied by supporting documentation such as maps, bibliographic references, or reprints of pertinent publications. We also would appreciate the submitter's name, address, and any association, institution, or business that the person represents; however, anonymous submissions will also be accepted.

    Authority:

    16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.

    Dated: February 17, 2016. Angela Somma, Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03628 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XE428 Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Russian River Estuary Management Activities AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Notice; proposed incidental harassment authorization; request for comments.

    SUMMARY:

    NMFS has received a request from the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) for authorization to take marine mammals incidental to Russian River estuary management activities. Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue an incidental harassment authorization (IHA) to SCWA to incidentally take marine mammals, by Level B harassment only, during the specified activity.

    DATES:

    Comments and information must be received no later than March 24, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Comments on the application should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service. Physical comments should be sent to 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910 and electronic comments should be sent to [email protected]

    Instructions: NMFS is not responsible for comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period. Comments received electronically, including all attachments, must not exceed a 25-megabyte file size. Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe PDF file formats only. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to the Internet at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Ben Laws, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, (301) 427-8401.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Availability

    An electronic copy of SCWA's application and supporting documents, as well as a list of the references cited in this document, may be obtained by visiting the Internet at: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental.htm. In case of problems accessing these documents, please call the contact listed above (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

    National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    NMFS has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA; 2010) and associated Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in accordance with NEPA and the regulations published by the Council on Environmental Quality. These documents are posted at the aforementioned Internet address. Information in SCWA's application, NMFS' EA (2010), and this notice collectively provide the environmental information related to proposed issuance of this IHA for public review and comment. We will review all comments submitted in response to this notice as we complete the NEPA process, including a decision of whether the existing EA and FONSI provide adequate analysis related to the potential environmental effects of issuing an IHA to SCWA, prior to a final decision on the incidental take authorization request.

    Background

    Sections 101(a)(5)(A) and (D) of the MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) direct the Secretary of Commerce to allow, upon request by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified area, the incidental, but not intentional, taking of small numbers of marine mammals, providing that certain findings are made and the necessary prescriptions are established.

    The incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals may be allowed only if NMFS (through authority delegated by the Secretary) finds that the total taking by the specified activity during the specified time period will (i) have a negligible impact on the species or stock(s) and (ii) not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses (where relevant). Further, the permissible methods of taking and requirements pertaining to the mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such taking must be set forth.

    The allowance of such incidental taking under section 101(a)(5)(A), by harassment, serious injury, death, or a combination thereof, requires that regulations be established. Subsequently, a Letter of Authorization may be issued pursuant to the prescriptions established in such regulations, providing that the level of taking will be consistent with the findings made for the total taking allowable under the specific regulations. Under section 101(a)(5)(D), NMFS may authorize such incidental taking by harassment only, for periods of not more than one year, pursuant to requirements and conditions contained within an IHA. The establishment of these prescriptions requires notice and opportunity for public comment.

    NMFS has defined “negligible impact” in 50 CFR 216.103 as “. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.” Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines “harassment” as: “. . . any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].”

    Summary of Request

    On January 20, 2016, we received an adequate and complete request from SCWA for authorization of the taking of marine mammals incidental to Russian River estuary management activities in Sonoma County, California. SCWA proposes to manage the naturally-formed barrier beach at the mouth of the Russian River in order to minimize potential for flooding adjacent to the estuary and to enhance habitat for juvenile salmonids, as well as to conduct biological and physical monitoring of the barrier beach and estuary. Flood control-related breaching of barrier beach at the mouth of the river may include artificial breaches, as well as construction and maintenance of a lagoon outlet channel. The latter activity, an alternative management technique conducted to mitigate impacts of flood control on rearing habitat for Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed salmonids, occurs only from May 15 through October 15 (hereafter, the “lagoon management period”). Artificial breaching and monitoring activities may occur at any time during the one-year period of validity of the proposed IHA.

    Breaching of naturally-formed barrier beach at the mouth of the Russian River requires the use of heavy equipment (e.g., bulldozer, excavator) and increased human presence, and monitoring in the estuary requires the use of small boats. As a result, pinnipeds hauled out on the beach or at peripheral haul-outs in the estuary may exhibit behavioral responses that indicate incidental take by Level B harassment under the MMPA. Species known from the haul-out at the mouth of the Russian River or from peripheral haul-outs, and therefore anticipated to be taken incidental to the specified activity, include the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardii), California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), and northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris).

    This would be the seventh such IHA, if issued. SCWA was first issued an IHA, valid for a period of one year, effective on April 1, 2010 (75 FR 17382), and was subsequently issued one-year IHAs for incidental take associated with the same activities, effective on April 21, 2011 (76 FR 23306), April 21, 2012 (77 FR 24471), April 21, 2013 (78 FR 23746), April 21, 2014 (79 FR 20180), and April 21, 2015 (80 FR 24237).

    Description of the Specified Activity Overview

    The proposed action involves management of the estuary to prevent flooding while preventing adverse modification to critical habitat for ESA-listed salmonids. Requirements related to the ESA are described in further detail below. During the lagoon management period, this involves construction and maintenance of a lagoon outlet channel that would facilitate formation of a perched lagoon. A perched lagoon, which is an estuary closed to tidal influence in which water surface elevation is above mean high tide, would reduce flooding while maintaining beneficial conditions for juvenile salmonids. Additional breaches of barrier beach may be conducted for the sole purpose of reducing flood risk. SCWA's proposed activity was described in detail in our notice of proposed authorization prior to the 2011 IHA (76 FR 14924; March 18, 2011); please see that document for a detailed description of SCWA's estuary management activities. Aside from minor additions to SCWA's biological and physical estuary monitoring measures, the specified activity remains the same as that described in the 2011 document.

    Dates and Duration

    The specified activity may occur at any time during the one-year timeframe (April 21, 2016, through April 20, 2017) of the proposed IHA, although construction and maintenance of a lagoon outlet channel would occur only during the lagoon management period. In addition, there are certain restrictions placed on SCWA during the harbor seal pupping season. These, as well as periodicity and frequency of the specified activities, are described in further detail below.

    Specific Geographic Region

    The estuary is located about 97 km (60 mi) northwest of San Francisco in Sonoma County, near Jenner, California (see Figure 1 of SCWA's application). The Russian River watershed encompasses 3,847 km 2 (1,485 mi 2) in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. The mouth of the Russian River is located at Goat Rock State Beach (see Figure 2 of SCWA's application); the estuary extends from the mouth upstream approximately 10 to 11 km (6-7 mi) between Austin Creek and the community of Duncans Mills (Heckel and McIver, 1994).

    Detailed Description of Activities

    Within the Russian River watershed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), SCWA, and the Mendocino County Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District (District) operate and maintain federal facilities and conduct activities in addition to the estuary management, including flood control, water diversion and storage, instream flow releases, hydroelectric power generation, channel maintenance, and fish hatchery production. The Corps, SCWA, and the District conducted these activities for many years before salmonid species in the Russian River were protected under the ESA. Upon determination that these actions were likely to affect ESA-listed salmonids, as well as designated critical habitat for these species, formal consultation under section 7 of the ESA was initiated. In 2008, NMFS issued a Biological Opinion (BiOp) for Water Supply, Flood Control Operations, and Channel Maintenance conducted by the Corps, SCWA, and the District in the Russian River watershed (NMFS, 2008). This BiOp found that the activities—including SCWA's estuary management activities—authorized by the Corps and undertaken by SCWA and the District, if continued in a manner similar to recent historic practices, were likely to jeopardize the continued existence of ESA-listed salmonids and were likely to adversely modify critical habitat.

    If a project is found to jeopardize a species or adversely modify its critical habitat, NMFS must develop and recommend a non-jeopardizing Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) to the proposed project, in coordination with the federal action agency and any applicant. A component of the RPA described in the 2008 BiOp requires SCWA to collaborate with NMFS and modify their estuary water level management in order to reduce marine influence (i.e., high salinity and tidal inflow) and promote a higher water surface elevation in the estuary in order to enhance the quality of rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids. A program of potential incremental steps prescribed to reach that goal includes adaptive management of the outlet channel. SCWA is also required to monitor the response of water quality, invertebrate production, and salmonids in and near the estuary to water surface elevation management in the estuary-lagoon system.

    The analysis contained in the BiOp found that maintenance of lagoon conditions was necessary only for the lagoon management period. See NMFS' BiOp (2008) for details of that analysis. As a result of that determination, there are three components to SCWA's estuary management activities: (1) Lagoon outlet channel management, during the lagoon management period only, required to accomplish the dual purposes of flood risk abatement and maintenance of juvenile salmonid habitat; (2) traditional artificial breaching, with the sole goal of flood risk abatement; and (3) physical and biological monitoring. The latter activity, physical and biological monitoring, will remain the same as in past years and as described in our 2015 notice of proposed authorization (80 FR 14073; March 18, 2015). Please see the previously referenced Federal Register notice (76 FR 14924; March 18, 2011) for detailed discussion of lagoon outlet channel management, artificial breaching, and other monitoring activities.

    NMFS' BiOp determined that salmonid estuarine habitat may be improved by managing the Russian River estuary as a perched, freshwater lagoon and, therefore, stipulates as a RPA to existing conditions that the estuary be managed to achieve such conditions between May 15th and October 15th. In recognition of the complexity and uncertainty inherent in attempting to manage conditions in a dynamic beach environment, the BiOp stipulates that the estuarine water surface elevation RPA be managed adaptively, meaning that it should be planned, implemented, and then iteratively refined based on experience gained from implementation. The first phase of adaptive management, which has been implemented since 2010, is limited to outlet channel management (ESA, 2015). The second phase, begun in 2014, requires study of and consideration of alternatives to a historical, dilapidated jetty present at Goat Rock State Beach (e.g., complete removal, partial removal).

    The plan for study of the jetty is described in greater detail in SCWA's “Feasibility of Alternatives to the Goat Rock State Beach Jetty for Managing Lagoon Water Surface Elevations—A Study Plan” (ESA PWA, 2011), and was also described in detail in our notice of proposed authorization prior to the 2013 IHA (78 FR 14985; March 8, 2013). Implementation of the study plan began in March 2014 with installation of wells monitoring water seepage through the barrier beach and geophysical mapping of the submerged substrate and structures. Visits to the well sites are not anticipated to disturb seals, as the wells are not located near the haul-out. In 2016, SCWA plans to remove the existing wells.

    Description of Marine Mammals in the Area of the Specified Activity

    Harbor seals are the most common species inhabiting the haul-out at the mouth of the Russian River (Jenner haul-out) and fine-scale local abundance data for harbor seals have been recorded extensively since 1972. California sea lions and northern elephant seals have also been observed infrequently in the project area. In addition to the primary Jenner haul-out, there are eight peripheral haul-outs nearby (see Figure 1 of SCWA's monitoring plan). These include North Jenner and Odin Cove to the north; Pocked Rock, Kabemali, and Rock Point to the south; and Penny Logs, Patty's Rock, and Chalanchawi upstream within the estuary.

    This section provides summary information regarding local occurrence of these species. We have reviewed SCWA's detailed species descriptions, including life history information, for accuracy and completeness and refer the reader to Sections 3 and 4 of SCWA's application instead of reprinting the information here. Please also see NMFS Stock Assessment Reports, which may be accessed at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/species.htm.

    Harbor Seals

    Harbor seals inhabit coastal and estuarine waters and shoreline areas of the northern hemisphere from temperate to polar regions. The eastern North Pacific subspecies is found from Baja California north to the Aleutian Islands and into the Bering Sea. Multiple lines of evidence support the existence of geographic structure among harbor seal populations from California to Alaska (Carretta et al., 2015). However, because stock boundaries are difficult to meaningfully draw from a biological perspective, three separate harbor seal stocks are recognized for management purposes along the west coast of the continental U.S.: (1) Inland waters of Washington, (2) outer coast of Oregon and Washington, and (3) California (Carretta et al., 2014). Placement of a stock boundary at the California-Oregon border is not based on biology but is considered a political and jurisdictional convenience (Carretta et al., 2015). In addition, harbor seals may occur in Mexican waters, but these animals are not considered part of the California stock. Only the California stock is expected to be found in the project area.

    California harbor seals are not protected under the ESA or listed as depleted under the MMPA, and are not considered a strategic stock under the MMPA because annual human-caused mortality (43) is significantly less than the calculated potential biological removal (PBR; 1,641) (Carretta et al., 2015). The population appears to be stabilizing at what may be its carrying capacity and the fishery mortality is declining. The best abundance estimate of the California stock of harbor seals is 30,968 and the minimum population size of this stock is 27,348 individuals (Carretta et al., 2015).

    Harbor seal pupping normally occurs at the Russian River from March until late June, and sometimes into early July. The Jenner haul-out is the largest in Sonoma County. A substantial amount of monitoring effort has been conducted at the Jenner haul-out and surrounding areas. Concerned local residents formed the Stewards' Seal Watch Public Education Program in 1985 to educate beach visitors and monitor seal populations. State Parks Volunteer Docents continue this effort towards safeguarding local harbor seal habitat. On weekends during the pupping and molting season (approximately March-August), volunteers conduct public outreach and record the numbers of visitors and seals on the beach, other marine mammals observed, and the number of boats and kayaks present.

    Ongoing monthly seal counts at the Jenner haul-out were begun by J. Mortenson in January 1987, with additional nearby haul-outs added to the counts thereafter. In addition, local resident E. Twohy began daily observations of seals and people at the Jenner haul-out in November 1989. These datasets note whether the mouth at the Jenner haul-out was opened or closed at each observation, as well as various other daily and annual patterns of haul-out usage (Mortenson and Twohy, 1994). In 2009, SCWA began regular baseline monitoring of the haul-out as a component of its estuary management activity. Table 1 shows average daily numbers of seals observed at the mouth of the Russian River from 1993-2005 and from 2009-15.

    Table 1—Average Daily Number of Seals Observed at Russian River Mouth for Each Month, 1993-2005; 2009-14 Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 1993 140 219 269 210 203 238 197 34 8 38 78 163 1994 138 221 243 213 208 212 246 98 26 31 101 162 1995 133 270 254 261 222 182 216 74 37 24 38 148 1996 144 175 261 247 157 104 142 65 17 29 76 139 1997 154 177 209 188 154 119 186 58 20 29 30 112 1998 119 151 192 93 170 213 232 53 33 21 93 147 1999 161 170 215 210 202 128 216 98 57 20 74 123 2000 151 185 240 180 158 245 256 63 46 50 86 127 2001 155 189 161 168 135 212 275 75 64 20 127 185 2002 117 12 20 154 134 213 215 89 43 26 73 126 2003 1 26 161 164 222 282 100 43 51 109 116 2004 2 5 39 180 202 318 307 35 40 47 68 61 2005 0 7 42 222 220 233 320 145 Mean, 1993-2005 118 137 167 191 179 203 238 76 36 32 79 134 2009 219 117 17 22 96 80 2010 66 84 129 136 109 136 267 111 59 25 89 26 2011 116 92 162 124 128 145 219 98 31 53 92 48 2012 108 74 115 169 164 166 156 128 100 71 137 51 2013 51 108 158 112 162 139 411 175 77 58 34 94 2014 98 209 243 129 145 156 266 134 53 15 27 172 2015 113 171 145 177 153 219 373 120 48 33 49 138 Mean, 2013-15 1 89 173 182 136 154 170 345 143 59 37 37 134 Data from 1993-2005 adapted from Mortenson and Twohy (1994) and E. Twohy (unpublished data). Data from 2009-15 collected by SCWA. Months represented by dash indicate periods where data were missing or incomplete. 1 Mean calculated as a weighted average to account for unequal sample sizes between years. See SCWA application, Table 4.

    The number of seals present at the Jenner haul-out generally declines during bar-closed conditions (Mortenson, 1996). SCWA's pinniped monitoring efforts from 1996 to 2000 focused on artificial breaching activities and their effects on the Jenner haul-out. Seal counts and disturbances were recorded from one to two days prior to breaching, the day of breaching, and the day after breaching (MSC, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000; SCWA and MSC, 2001). In each year, the trend observed was that harbor seal numbers generally declined during a beach closure and increased the day following an artificial breaching event. Heckel and McIver (1994) speculated that the loss of easy access to the haul-out and ready escape to the sea during bar-closed conditions may account for the lower numbers. Table 2 shows average daily seal counts recorded during SCWA monitoring of breaching events from 2009-15, representing bar-closed conditions, when seal numbers decline.

    Table 2—Average Number of Harbor Seals Observed at the Mouth of the Russian River During Breaching Events (i.e., Bar-Closed Conditions) by Month Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 2009-15 49 75 133 99 80 98 117 1 17 30 28 32 59 No estuary management events occurred; data from earlier monitoring effort (1996-2000).

    Mortenson (1996) observed that pups were first seen at the Jenner haul-out in late March, with maximum counts in May. In this study, pups were not counted separately from other age classes at the haul-out after August due to the difficulty in discriminating pups from small yearlings. From 1989 to 1991, Hanson (1993) observed that pupping began at the Jenner haul-out in mid-April, with a maximum number of pups observed during the first two weeks of May. This corresponds with the peaks observed at Point Reyes, where the first viable pups are born in March and the peak is the last week of April to early May (SCWA, 2014). Based on this information, pupping season at the Jenner haul-out is conservatively defined here as March 15 to June 30.

    California Sea Lions

    California sea lions range from the Gulf of California north to the Gulf of Alaska, with breeding areas located in the Gulf of California, western Baja California, and southern California. Five genetically distinct geographic populations have been identified: (1) Pacific Temperate, (2) Pacific Subtropical, (3) Southern Gulf of California, (4) Central Gulf of California and (5) Northern Gulf of California (Schramm et al., 2009). Rookeries for the Pacific Temperate population are found within U.S. waters and just south of the U.S.-Mexico border, and animals belonging to this population may be found from the Gulf of Alaska to Mexican waters off Baja California. Animals belonging to other populations (e.g., Pacific Subtropical) may range into U.S. waters during non-breeding periods. For management purposes, a stock of California sea lions comprising those animals at rookeries within the U.S. is defined (i.e., the U.S. stock of California sea lions) (Carretta et al., 2015). Pup production at the Coronado Islands rookery in Mexican waters is considered an insignificant contribution to the overall size of the Pacific Temperate population (Lowry and Maravilla-Chavez, 2005).

    California sea lions are not protected under the ESA or listed as depleted under the MMPA. Total annual human-caused mortality (389) is substantially less than the PBR (estimated at 9,200 per year); therefore, California sea lions are not considered a strategic stock under the MMPA. There are indications that the California sea lion may have reached or is approaching carrying capacity, although more data are needed to confirm that leveling in growth persists (Carretta et al., 2015). The best abundance estimate of the U.S. stock of California sea lions is 296,750 and the minimum population size of this stock is 153,337 individuals (Carretta et al., 2015).

    Beginning in January 2013, elevated strandings of California sea lion pups were observed in southern California, with live sea lion strandings nearly three times higher than the historical average. Findings to date indicate that a likely contributor to the large number of stranded, malnourished pups was a change in the availability of sea lion prey for nursing mothers, especially sardines. The causes and mechanisms of this remain under investigation (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/californiasealions2013.htm; accessed December 3, 2015).

    Solitary California sea lions have occasionally been observed at or in the vicinity of the Russian River estuary (MSC, 1999, 2000), in all months of the year except June. Male California sea lions are occasionally observed hauled out at or near the Russian River mouth in most years: August 2009, January and December 2011, January 2012, December 2013, February 2014, and February and April 2015. Other individuals were observed in the surf at the mouth of the river or swimming inside the estuary. Juvenile sea lions were observed during the summer of 2009 at the Patty's Rock haul-out, and some sea lions were observed during monitoring of peripheral haul-outs in October 2009. The occurrence of individual California sea lions in the action area may occur year-round, but is infrequent and sporadic.

    Northern Elephant Seals

    Northern elephant seals gather at breeding areas, located primarily on offshore islands of Baja California and California, from approximately December to March before dispersing for feeding. Males feed near the eastern Aleutian Islands and in the Gulf of Alaska, while females feed at sea south of 45 °N (Stewart and Huber, 1993; Le Boeuf et al., 1993). Adults then return to land between March and August to molt, with males returning later than females, before dispersing again to their respective feeding areas between molting and the winter breeding season. Populations of northern elephant seals in the U.S. and Mexico are derived from a few tens or hundreds of individuals surviving in Mexico after being nearly hunted to extinction (Stewart et al., 1994). Given the recent derivation of most rookeries, no genetic differentiation would be expected. Although movement and genetic exchange continues between rookeries, most elephant seals return to their natal rookeries when they start breeding (Huber et al., 1991). The California breeding population is now demographically isolated from the Baja California population and is considered to be a separate stock.

    Northern elephant seals are not protected under the ESA or listed as depleted under the MMPA. Total annual human-caused mortality (8.8) is substantially less than the PBR (estimated at 4,882 per year); therefore, northern elephant seals are not considered a strategic stock under the MMPA. Modeling of pup counts indicates that the population has reached its Maximum Net Productivity Level, but has not yet reached carrying capacity (Carretta et al., 2015). The best abundance estimate of the California breeding population of northern elephant seals is 179,000 and the minimum population size of this stock is 81,368 individuals (Carretta et al., 2015).

    Censuses of pinnipeds at the mouth of the Russian River have been taken at least semi-monthly since 1987. Elephant seals were noted from 1987-95, with one or two elephant seals typically counted during May censuses, and occasional records during the fall and winter (Mortenson and Follis, 1997). A single, tagged northern elephant seal sub-adult was present at the Jenner haul-out from 2002-07. This individual seal, which was observed harassing harbor seals also present at the haul-out, was generally present during molt and again from late December through March. A single juvenile elephant seal was observed at the Jenner haul-out in June 2009 and, in recent years, a sub-adult seal was observed in late summer of 2013-14. The occurrence of individual northern elephant seals in the action area has generally been infrequent and sporadic in the past ten years.

    Potential Effects of the Specified Activity on Marine Mammals

    A significant body of monitoring data exists for pinnipeds at the mouth of the Russian River. In addition, pinnipeds have co-existed with regular estuary management activity for decades, as well as with regular human use activity at the beach, and are likely habituated to human presence and activity. Nevertheless, SCWA's estuary management activities have the potential to disturb pinnipeds present on the beach or at peripheral haul-outs in the estuary. During breaching operations, past monitoring has revealed that some or all of the seals present typically move or flush from the beach in response to the presence of crew and equipment, though some may remain hauled-out. No stampeding of seals—a potentially dangerous occurrence in which large numbers of animals succumb to mass panic and rush away from a stimulus—has been documented since SCWA developed protocols to prevent such events in 1999. While it is likely impossible to conduct required estuary management activities without provoking some response in hauled-out animals, precautionary mitigation measures, described later in this document, ensure that animals are gradually apprised of human approach. Under these conditions, seals typically exhibit a continuum of responses, beginning with alert movements (e.g., raising the head), which may then escalate to movement away from the stimulus and possible flushing into the water. Flushed seals typically re-occupy the haul-out within minutes to hours of the stimulus.

    In the absence of appropriate mitigation measures, it is possible that pinnipeds could be subject to injury, serious injury, or mortality, likely through stampeding or abandonment of pups. However, based on a significant body of site-specific data, harbor seals are unlikely to sustain any harassment that may be considered biologically significant. Individual animals would, at most, flush into the water in response to maintenance activities but may also simply become alert or move across the beach away from equipment and crews. During 2013, SCWA observed that harbor seals are less likely to flush from the beach when the primary aggregation of seals is north of the breaching activity (please refer to Figure 2 of SCWA's application), meaning that personnel and equipment are not required to pass the seals. Four artificial breaching events were implemented in 2013, with two of these events occurring north of the primary aggregation and two to the south (at approximately 250 and 50 m distance) (SCWA, 2014). In both of the former cases, all seals present eventually flushed to the water, but when breaching activity remained to the south of the haul-out, only 11 and 53 percent of seals, respectively, were flushed.

    California sea lions and northern elephant seals have been observed as less sensitive to stimulus than harbor seals during monitoring at numerous other sites. For example, monitoring of pinniped disturbance as a result of abalone research in the Channel Islands showed that while harbor seals flushed at a rate of 69 percent, California sea lions flushed at a rate of only 21 percent. The rate for elephant seals declined to 0.1 percent (VanBlaricom, 2010). In the event that either of these species is present during management activities, they would be expected to display a minimal reaction to maintenance activities—less than that expected of harbor seals.

    Although the Jenner haul-out is not known as a primary pupping beach, pups have been observed during the pupping season; therefore, we have evaluated the potential for injury, serious injury, or mortality to pups. There is a lack of published data regarding pupping at the mouth of the Russian River, but SCWA monitors have observed pups on the beach. No births were observed during recent monitoring, but may be inferred based on signs indicating pupping (e.g., blood spots on the sand, birds consuming possible placental remains). Pup injury or mortality would be most likely to occur in the event of extended separation of a mother and pup, or trampling in a stampede. As discussed previously, no stampedes have been recorded since development of appropriate protocols in 1999. Any California sea lions or northern elephant seals present would be independent juveniles or adults; therefore, analysis of impacts on pups is not relevant for those species.

    Similarly, the period of mother-pup bonding, critical time needed to ensure pup survival and maximize pup health, is not expected to be impacted by estuary management activities. Harbor seal pups are extremely precocious, swimming and diving immediately after birth and throughout the lactation period, unlike most other phocids which normally enter the sea only after weaning (Lawson and Renouf, 1985; Cottrell et al., 2002; Burns et al., 2005). Lawson and Renouf (1987) investigated harbor seal mother-pup bonding in response to natural and anthropogenic disturbance. In summary, they found that the most critical bonding time is within minutes after birth. As described previously, the peak of pupping season is typically concluded by mid-May, when the lagoon management period begins. As such, it is expected that mother-pup bonding would likely be concluded as well. The number of management events during the months of March and April has been relatively low in the past, and the breaching activities occur in a single day over several hours. In addition, mitigation measures described later in this document further reduce the likelihood of any impacts to pups, whether through injury or mortality or interruption of mother-pup bonding (which may lead to abandonment).

    In summary, and based on extensive monitoring data, we believe that impacts to hauled-out pinnipeds during estuary management activities would be behavioral harassment of limited duration (i.e., less than one day) and limited intensity (i.e., temporary flushing at most). Stampeding, and therefore injury or mortality, is not expected—nor been documented—in the years since appropriate protocols were established (see “Mitigation” for more details). Further, the continued, and increasingly heavy (see SCWA's monitoring report), use of the haul-out despite decades of breaching events indicates that abandonment of the haul-out is unlikely.

    Anticipated Effects on Habitat

    The purposes of the estuary management activities are to improve summer rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids in the Russian River estuary and/or to minimize potential flood risk to properties adjacent to the estuary. These activities would result in temporary physical alteration of the Jenner haul-out, but are essential to conserving and recovering endangered salmonid species, as prescribed by the BiOp. These salmonids are themselves prey for pinnipeds. In addition, with barrier beach closure, seal usage of the beach haul-out declines, and the three nearby river haul-outs may not be available for usage due to rising water surface elevations. Breaching of the barrier beach, subsequent to the temporary habitat disturbance, likely increases suitability and availability of habitat for pinnipeds. Biological and water quality monitoring would not physically alter pinniped habitat. Please see the previously referenced Federal Register notice (76 FR 14924; March 18, 2011) for a more detailed discussion of anticipated effects on habitat.

    During SCWA's pinniped monitoring associated with artificial breaching activities from 1996 to 2000, the number of harbor seals hauled out declined when the barrier beach closed and then increased the day following an artificial breaching event (MSC, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000; SCWA and MSC, 2001). This response to barrier beach closure followed by artificial breaching has remained consistent in recent years and is anticipated to continue. However, it is possible that the number of pinnipeds using the haul-out could decline during the extended lagoon management period, when SCWA would seek to maintain a shallow outlet channel rather than the deeper channel associated with artificial breaching. Collection of baseline information during the lagoon management period is included in the monitoring requirements described later in this document. SCWA's previous monitoring, as well as Twohy's daily counts of seals at the sandbar (Table 1) indicate that the number of seals at the haul-out declines from August to October, so management of the lagoon outlet channel (and managing the sandbar as a summer lagoon) would have little effect on haul-out use during the latter portion of the lagoon management period. The early portion of the lagoon management period coincides with the pupping season. Past monitoring during this period, which represents some of the longest beach closures in the late spring and early summer months, shows that the number of pinnipeds at the haul-out tends to fluctuate, rather than showing the more straightforward declines and increases associated with closures and openings seen at other times of year (MSC, 1998). This may indicate that seal haul-out usage during the pupping season is less dependent on bar status. As such, the number of seals hauled out from May through July would be expected to fluctuate, but is unlikely to respond dramatically to the absence of artificial breaching events. Regardless, any impacts to habitat resulting from SCWA's management of the estuary during the lagoon management period are not in relation to natural conditions, but rather in relation to conditions resulting from SCWA's discontinued approach of artificial breaching during this period.

    In summary, there will be temporary physical alteration of the beach. However, natural opening and closure of the beach results in the same impacts to habitat; therefore, seals are likely adapted to this cycle. In addition, the increase in rearing habitat quality has the goal of increasing salmonid abundance, ultimately providing more food for seals present within the action area. Thus, any impacts to marine mammal habitat are not expected to cause significant or long-term consequences for individual marine mammals or their populations.

    Proposed Mitigation

    In order to issue an IHA under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA, NMFS must set forth the permissible methods of taking pursuant to such activity, and other means of effecting the least practicable impact on such species or stock and its habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance, and on the availability of such species or stock for taking for certain subsistence uses.

    SCWA has proposed to continue the following mitigation measures, as implemented during the previous IHAs, designed to minimize impact to affected species and stocks:

    • SCWA crews would cautiously approach (e.g., walking slowly with limited arm movement and minimal sound) the haul-out ahead of heavy equipment to minimize the potential for sudden flushes, which may result in a stampede—a particular concern during pupping season.

    • SCWA staff would avoid walking or driving equipment through the seal haul-out.

    • Crews on foot would make an effort to be seen by seals from a distance, if possible, rather than appearing suddenly, again preventing sudden flushes.

    • During breaching events, all monitoring would be conducted from the overlook on the bluff along Highway 1 adjacent to the haul-out in order to minimize potential for harassment.

    • A water level management event may not occur for more than two consecutive days unless flooding threats cannot be controlled.

    In addition, SCWA proposes to continue mitigation measures specific to pupping season (March 15-June 30), as implemented in the previous IHAs:

    • SCWA will maintain a one week no-work period between water level management events (unless flooding is an immediate threat) to allow for an adequate disturbance recovery period. During the no-work period, equipment must be removed from the beach.

    • If a pup less than one week old is on the beach where heavy machinery would be used or on the path used to access the work location, the management action will be delayed until the pup has left the site or the latest day possible to prevent flooding while still maintaining suitable fish rearing habitat. In the event that a pup remains present on the beach in the presence of flood risk, SCWA would consult with NMFS to determine the appropriate course of action. SCWA will coordinate with the locally established seal monitoring program (Stewards' Seal Watch) to determine if pups less than one week old are on the beach prior to a breaching event.

    • Physical and biological monitoring will not be conducted if a pup less than one week old is present at the monitoring site or on a path to the site.

    For all activities, personnel on the beach would include up to two equipment operators, three safety team members on the beach (one on each side of the channel observing the equipment operators, and one at the barrier to warn beach visitors away from the activities), and one safety team member at the overlook on Highway 1 above the beach. Occasionally, there would be two or more additional people (SCWA staff or regulatory agency staff) on the beach to observe the activities. SCWA staff would be followed by the equipment, which would then be followed by an SCWA vehicle (typically a small pickup truck, the vehicle would be parked at the previously posted signs and barriers on the south side of the excavation location). Equipment would be driven slowly on the beach and care would be taken to minimize the number of shut-downs and start-ups when the equipment is on the beach. All work would be completed as efficiently as possible, with the smallest amount of heavy equipment possible, to minimize disturbance of seals at the haul-out. Boats operating near river haul-outs during monitoring would be kept within posted speed limits and driven as far from the haul-outs as safely possible to minimize flushing seals.

    We have carefully evaluated SCWA's proposed mitigation measures and considered their effectiveness in past implementation to preliminarily determine whether they are likely to effect the least practicable impact on the affected marine mammal species and stocks and their habitat. Our evaluation of potential measures included consideration of the following factors in relation to one another: (1) The manner in which, and the degree to which, the successful implementation of the measure is expected to minimize adverse impacts to marine mammals, (2) the proven or likely efficacy of the specific measure to minimize adverse impacts as planned; and (3) the practicability of the measure for applicant implementation.

    Any mitigation measure(s) we prescribe should be able to accomplish, have a reasonable likelihood of accomplishing (based on current science), or contribute to the accomplishment of one or more of the general goals listed below:

    • Avoidance or minimization of injury or death of marine mammals wherever possible (goals 2, 3, and 4 may contribute to this goal).

    • A reduction in the number (total number or number at biologically important time or location) of individual marine mammals exposed to stimuli expected to result in incidental take (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing takes by behavioral harassment only).

    • A reduction in the number (total number or number at biologically important time or location) of times any individual marine mammal would be exposed to stimuli expected to result in incidental take (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing takes by behavioral harassment only).

    • A reduction in the intensity of exposure to stimuli expected to result in incidental take (this goal may contribute to 1, above, or to reducing the severity of behavioral harassment only).

    • Avoidance or minimization of adverse effects to marine mammal habitat, paying particular attention to the prey base, blockage or limitation of passage to or from biologically important areas, permanent destruction of habitat, or temporary disturbance of habitat during a biologically important time.

    • For monitoring directly related to mitigation, an increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation.

    Based on our evaluation of SCWA's proposed measures and on SCWA's record of management at the mouth of the Russian River including information from monitoring of SCWA's implementation of the mitigation measures as prescribed under the previous IHAs, we have preliminarily determined that the proposed mitigation measures provide the means of effecting the least practicable impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, paying particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance.

    Proposed Monitoring and Reporting

    In order to issue an IHA for an activity, section 101(a)(5)(D) of the MMPA states that NMFS must set forth “requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking”. The MMPA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.104 (a)(13) indicate that requests for incidental take authorizations must include the suggested means of accomplishing the necessary monitoring and reporting that will result in increased knowledge of the species and of the level of taking or impacts on populations of marine mammals that are expected to be present in the proposed action area.

    Any monitoring requirement we prescribe should accomplish one or more of the following general goals:

    1. An increase in the probability of detecting marine mammals, both within defined zones of effect (thus allowing for more effective implementation of the mitigation) and in general to generate more data to contribute to the analyses mentioned below;

    2. An increase in our understanding of how many marine mammals are likely to be exposed to stimuli that we associate with specific adverse effects, such as behavioral harassment or hearing threshold shifts;

    3. An increase in our understanding of how marine mammals respond to stimuli expected to result in incidental take and how anticipated adverse effects on individuals may impact the population, stock, or species (specifically through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival) through any of the following methods:

    • Behavioral observations in the presence of stimuli compared to observations in the absence of stimuli (need to be able to accurately predict pertinent information, e.g., received level, distance from source);

    • Physiological measurements in the presence of stimuli compared to observations in the absence of stimuli (need to be able to accurately predict pertinent information, e.g., received level, distance from source);

    • Distribution and/or abundance comparisons in times or areas with concentrated stimuli versus times or areas without stimuli;

    4. An increased knowledge of the affected species; or

    5. An increase in our understanding of the effectiveness of certain mitigation and monitoring measures.

    SCWA submitted a marine mammal monitoring plan as part of the IHA application. It can be found on the Internet at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm. The plan, which has been successfully implemented (in slightly different form from the currently proposed plan) by SCWA under previous IHAs, may be modified or supplemented based on comments or new information received from the public during the public comment period. The purpose of this monitoring plan, which is carried out collaboratively with the Stewards of the Coasts and Redwoods (Stewards) organization, is to detect the response of pinnipeds to estuary management activities at the Russian River estuary. SCWA has designed the plan both to satisfy the requirements of the IHA, and to address the following questions of interest:

    1. Under what conditions do pinnipeds haul out at the Russian River estuary mouth at Jenner?

    2. How do seals at the Jenner haul-out respond to activities associated with the construction and maintenance of the lagoon outlet channel and artificial breaching activities?

    3. Does the number of seals at the Jenner haul-out significantly differ from historic averages with formation of a summer (May 15 to October 15) lagoon in the Russian River estuary?

    4. Are seals at the Jenner haul-out displaced to nearby river and coastal haul-outs when the mouth remains closed in the summer?

    Proposed Monitoring Measures

    SCWA has proposed to modify the baseline monitoring component of their existing 2011 Monitoring Plan in order to better focus monitoring effort on the Jenner haul-out. This primary haul-out is where the majority of seals are found and where pupping occurs, and SCWA believes that the proposed modifications will better allow continued development in understanding the physical and biological factors that influence seal abundance and behavior at the site. In particular, SCWA notes that increasing the frequency of surveys would allow them to be able to observe the influence of physical changes that do not persist for more than ten days, like brief periods of barrier beach closures or other environmental changes. The changes will improve SCWA's ability to describe how seals respond to barrier beach closures and allow for more accurate estimation of the number of harbor seal pups born at Jenner each year.

    Regarding decreased frequency of monitoring at peripheral sites, abundance at these sites has been observed to generally be very low regardless of river mouth condition. These sites are generally very small physically, composed of small rocks or outcrops or logs in the river, and therefore could not accommodate significant displacement from the main beach haul-out. Monitoring of peripheral sites under extended lagoon conditions will allow for possible detection of any changed use patterns. In summary, the modifications proposed include increasing the frequency of surveys at the Jenner haul-out from twice a month to four times a month and reducing the duration of each survey from eight to four hours. Baseline visits to the peripheral haul-outs would be eliminated except in the case that a lagoon outlet channel is constructed and maintained for a prolonged period (over 21 days).

    Baseline Monitoring—As noted above, seals at the Jenner haul-out are counted for four hours every week, with no more than four baseline surveys each month. Two monitoring events each month would occur in the morning and two would occur in the afternoon with an effort to schedule a morning survey at low and high tide each month and an afternoon survey at low and high tide each month. This baseline information will provide SCWA with details that may help to plan estuary management activities in the future to minimize pinniped interaction. Survey protocols are unchanged: All seals hauled out on the beach are counted every thirty minutes from the overlook on the bluff along Highway 1 adjacent to the haul-out using spotting scopes. Monitoring may conclude for the day if weather conditions affect visibility (e.g., heavy fog in the afternoon). Depending on how the sandbar is formed, seals may haul out in multiple groups at the mouth. At each thirty-minute count, the observer indicates where groups of seals are hauled out on the sandbar and provides a total count for each group. If possible, adults and pups are counted separately.

    In addition to the census data, disturbances of the haul-out are recorded. The method for recording disturbances follows those in Mortenson (1996). Disturbances would be recorded on a three-point scale that represents an increasing seal response to the disturbance (Table 3). The time, source, and duration of the disturbance, as well as an estimated distance between the source and haul-out, are recorded. It should be noted that only responses falling into Mortenson's Levels 2 and 3 will be considered as harassment under the MMPA, under the terms of this proposed IHA.

    Table 3—Seal Response to Disturbance Level Type of response Definition 1 Alert Seal head orientation in response to disturbance. This may include turning head towards the disturbance, craning head and neck while holding the body rigid in a u-shaped position, or changing from a lying to a sitting position. 2 Movement Movements away from the source of disturbance, ranging from short withdrawals over short distances to hurried retreats many meters in length. 3 Flight All retreats (flushes) to the water, another group of seals, or over the beach.

    Weather conditions are recorded at the beginning of each census. These include temperature, Beaufort sea state, precipitation/visibility, and wind speed. Tide levels and estuary water surface elevations are correlated to the monitoring start and end times.

    In an effort towards understanding possible relationships between use of the Jenner haul-out and nearby coastal and river haul-outs, several other haul-outs on the coast and in the Russian River estuary are monitored as well (see Figure 1 of SCWA's monitoring plan). As described above, peripheral site monitoring would occur only in the event of an extended period of lagoon conditions (i.e., barrier beach closed with perched outlet channel).

    Estuary Management Event Monitoring, Lagoon Outlet Channel—Should the mouth close during the lagoon management period, SCWA would construct a lagoon outlet channel as required by the BiOp. Activities associated with the initial construction of the outlet channel, as well as the maintenance of the channel that may be required, would be monitored for disturbances to the seals at the Jenner haul-out.

    A one-day pre-event channel survey would be made within one to three days prior to constructing the outlet channel. The haul-out would be monitored on the day the outlet channel is constructed and daily for up to the maximum two days allowed for channel excavation activities. Monitoring would also occur on each day that the outlet channel is maintained using heavy equipment for the duration of the lagoon management period. Monitoring of outlet channel construction and maintenance would correspond with that described under the “Baseline” section previously, with the exception that management activity monitoring duration is defined by event duration. On the day of the management event, pinniped monitoring begins at least one hour prior to the crew and equipment accessing the beach work area and continues through the duration of the event, until at least one hour after the crew and equipment leave the beach.

    In an attempt to understand whether seals from the Jenner haul-out are displaced to coastal and river haul-outs nearby when management events occur, other nearby haul-outs are monitored concurrently with monitoring of outlet channel construction and maintenance activities. This provides an opportunity to qualitatively assess whether these haul-outs are being used by seals displaced from the Jenner haul-out during lagoon outlet channel excavation and maintenance. This monitoring would not provide definitive results regarding displacement to nearby coastal and river haul-outs, as individual seals are not marked or photo-identified, but is useful in tracking general trends in haul-out use during lagoon outlet channel excavation and maintenance. As volunteers are required to monitor these peripheral haul-outs, haul-out locations may need to be prioritized if there are not enough volunteers available. In that case, priority would be assigned to the nearest haul-outs (North Jenner and Odin Cove), followed by the Russian River estuary haul-outs, and finally the more distant coastal haul-outs.

    Estuary Management Event Monitoring, Artificial Breaching Events—In accordance with the Russian River BiOp, SCWA may artificially breach the barrier beach outside of the summer lagoon management period, and may conduct a maximum of two such breachings during the lagoon management period, when estuary water surface elevations rise above seven feet. In that case, NMFS may be consulted regarding potential scheduling of an artificial breaching event to open the barrier beach and reduce flooding risk.

    Pinniped response to artificial breaching will be monitored at each such event during the term of the IHA. Methods would follow the census and disturbance monitoring protocols described in the “Baseline” section, which were also used for the 1996 to 2000 monitoring events (MSC, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000; SCWA and MSC, 2001). The exception, as for lagoon management events, is that duration of monitoring is dependent upon duration of the event. On the day of the management event, pinniped monitoring begins at least one hour prior to the crew and equipment accessing the beach work area and continues through the duration of the event, until at least one hour after the crew and equipment leave the beach.

    For all counts, the following information would be recorded in thirty-minute intervals: (1) Pinniped counts, by species; (2) behavior; (3) time, source and duration of any disturbance; (4) estimated distances between source of disturbance and pinnipeds; (5) weather conditions (e.g., temperature, wind); and (5) tide levels and estuary water surface elevation.

    Monitoring During Pupping Season—The pupping season is defined as March 15 to June 30. Baseline, lagoon outlet channel, and artificial breaching monitoring during the pupping season will include records of neonate (pups less than one week old) observations. Characteristics of a neonate pup include: Body weight less than 15 kg; thin for their body length; an umbilicus or natal pelage present; wrinkled skin; and awkward or jerky movements on land. SCWA will coordinate with the Seal Watch monitoring program to determine if pups less than one week old are on the beach prior to a water level management event.

    If, during monitoring, observers sight any pup that might be abandoned, SCWA would contact the NMFS stranding response network immediately and also report the incident to NMFS' West Coast Regional Office and Office of Protected Resources within 48 hours. Observers will not approach or move the pup. Potential indications that a pup may be abandoned are no observed contact with adult seals, no movement of the pup, and the pup's attempts to nurse are rebuffed.

    Staffing—Monitoring is conducted by qualified individuals, which may include professional biologists employed by NMFS or SCWA or volunteers trained by the Stewards' Seal Watch program (Stewards). All volunteer monitors are required to attend classroom-style training and field site visits to the haul-outs. Training covers the MMPA and conditions of the IHA, SCWA's pinniped monitoring protocols, pinniped species identification, age class identification (including a specific discussion regarding neonates), recording of count and disturbance observations (including completion of datasheets), and use of equipment. Pinniped identification includes the harbor seal, California sea lion, and northern elephant seal, as well as other pinniped species with potential to occur in the area. Generally, SCWA staff and volunteers collect baseline data on Jenner haul-out use during the twice-monthly monitoring events. A schedule for this monitoring would be established with Stewards once volunteers are available for the monitoring effort. SCWA staff monitors lagoon outlet channel excavation and maintenance activities and artificial breaching events at the Jenner haul-out, with assistance from Stewards volunteers as available. Stewards volunteers monitor the coastal and river haul-out locations during lagoon outlet channel excavation and maintenance activities.

    Training on the MMPA, pinniped identification, and the conditions of the IHA is held for staff and contractors assigned to estuary management activities. The training includes equipment operators, safety crew members, and surveyors. In addition, prior to beginning each water surface elevation management event, the biologist monitoring the event participates in the onsite safety meeting to discuss the location(s) of pinnipeds at the Jenner haul-out that day and methods of avoiding and minimizing disturbances to the haul-out as outlined in the IHA.

    Reporting

    SCWA is required to submit a report on all activities and marine mammal monitoring results to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Administrator, NMFS, ninety days prior to the expiration of the IHA if a renewal is sought, or within ninety days of the expiration of the IHA otherwise. This annual report will also be distributed to California State Parks and Stewards, and would be available to the public on SCWA's Web site. This report will contain the following information:

    • The number of pinnipeds taken, by species and age class (if possible);

    • Behavior prior to and during water level management events;

    • Start and end time of activity;

    • Estimated distances between source and pinnipeds when disturbance occurs;

    • Weather conditions (e.g., temperature, wind, etc.);

    • Haul-out reoccupation time of any pinnipeds based on post-activity monitoring;

    • Tide levels and estuary water surface elevation; and

    • Pinniped census from bi-monthly and nearby haul-out monitoring.

    The annual report includes descriptions of monitoring methodology, tabulation of estuary management events, summary of monitoring results, and discussion of problems noted and proposed remedial measures.

    Summary of Previous Monitoring

    SCWA complied with the mitigation and monitoring required under all previous authorizations. In accordance with the 2015 IHA, SCWA submitted a Report of Activities and Monitoring Results, covering the period of January 1 through December 31, 2015. Previous monitoring reports (available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm) provided additional analysis of monitoring results from 2009-14. A barrier beach was formed eleven times during 2015, but SCWA was required to implement artificial breaching for only four of these closure events. The Russian River outlet was closed to the ocean for a total of 115 days in 2015, including extended closures totaling 49 days during the lagoon management period. However, these closures all culminated in natural breaches and no outlet channel management events were required (although one closure that began on October 10, before the end of the lagoon management period, led to an artificial breaching event after the close of the management period on November 2). Over the past twenty years, there has been an average of five artificial breaching events per year. Only one lagoon management event has occurred since the current lagoon management period and process was instituted in 2009. For all events, pinniped monitoring occurred no more than three days before, the day of, and the day after each water level management activity. In addition, SCWA conducted biological and physical monitoring as described previously. During the course of these activities, SCWA did not exceed the take levels authorized under the relevant IHAs.

    Baseline Monitoring

    Baseline monitoring was performed to gather additional information about the population of harbor seals utilizing the Jenner haul-out including population trends, patterns in seasonal abundance and the influence of barrier beach condition on harbor seal abundance. The effect of tide cycle and time of day on the abundance of seals at the Jenner haul-out was explored in detail in a previous report (SCWA, 2012); data collected in 2013-15 did not change the interpretation of these findings. Baseline monitoring at the mouth of the Russian River was conducted concurrently with monitoring of the peripheral haul-outs, and was scheduled for two days out of each month with the intention of capturing a low and high tide each in the morning and afternoon. A total of 24 baseline surveys were conducted in 2015. Figure 2 of SCWA's 2015 report shows the mean number of harbor seals during twice-monthly baseline monitoring events from 2010-15.

    Peak seal abundance, as determined by the single greatest count of harbor seals at the Jenner haul-out, was on July 9 (548 seals), and overall mean seal abundance at Jenner was greatest in July (mean = 373 ± 10.3 s.e.). Seal abundance was significantly greater in July and compared to all other months, which corresponds with the summer molting period. In 2014, monitoring showed a dual peak in July and in March, corresponding with the period prior to the start of pupping. Similar to previous years, seal abundance declined in the fall. In 2015, there were significantly more seals observed on the haul-out in June and July when compared with previous years combined.

    No distressed or abandoned pups were reported in 2015. Pup production at the Jenner haul-out was 18.7 percent of total seals as calculated from the peak pup count recorded on April 28 and the number of adult harbor seals present at the same time. Although lower than in previous years, the average of pups observed (when pups were present) was up somewhat during April and May: 16.4 compared with 12.9-15.4 for 2011-14. Comparison of count data between the Jenner and peripheral haul-outs did not show any obvious correlations (e.g., the number of seals occupying peripheral haul-outs compared to the Jenner haul-out did not necessarily increase or decrease as a result of disturbance caused by beach visitors). Please review SCWA's report for a more detailed discussion.

    Water Level Management Activity Monitoring

    Artificial breaching events occurred on March 31, November 2, November 5, and November 23, with pre- during, and post- breaching surveys conducted as required. No injuries or mortalities were observed during 2015, and harbor seal reactions ranged from merely alerting to crew presence to flushing from the beach. No elephant seals were observed during water level management activities or during biological and physical monitoring of the beach and estuary. Juvenile California sea lions were observed on two occasions.

    Total observed incidents of marine mammal take, by Level B harassment only, from water level management activity and biological and physical monitoring, was 2,383 harbor seals (detailed in Table 4) and one California sea lion. This total includes three harbor seal pups, one of which was a neonate. The neonate individual was encountered by SCWA staff posting signs on the beach in preparation for breaching activities and, as a result of this observation the planned breaching was canceled to avoid disturbance of neonates. One juvenile California sea lion was disturbed during pre-breaching activities on February 2.

    While the observed take was significantly lower than the level authorized, it is possible that incidental take in future years could approach the level authorized. Actual take is dependent largely upon the number of water level management events that occur, which is unpredictable. Take of species other than harbor seals depends upon whether those species, which do not consistently utilize the Jenner haul-out, are present. The authorized take, though much higher than the actual take, was justified based on conservative estimated scenarios for animal presence and necessity of water level management. No significant departure from the method of estimation is used for the proposed IHA (see “Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment”) for the same activities in 2016.

    Table 4—Observed Incidental Harassment (Level B Harassment Only) of Harbor Seals During Russian River Estuary Management Activities, 2015 Date Event type Observed
  • take a
  • Jan 29 Beach topographic survey 256 Feb 2 Pre-breaching survey 38 Feb 26 Beach topographic survey 201 Mar 26 Beach topographic survey 201 Mar 31 Artificial breaching 58 Apr 20 Pre-breaching survey 64 + 1 May 27 Fisheries studies 2 May 28 Fisheries studies 1 May 28 Beach topographic survey 279 + 2 Jun 25 Fisheries studies 2 Jun 25 Beach topographic survey 124 Jul 3 Fisheries studies 1 Jul 22 Fisheries studies 2 Jul 23 Beach topographic survey 642 Jul 30 Fisheries studies 1 Aug 20 Beach topographic survey 74 Sep 17 Beach topographic survey 22 Oct 8 Beach topographic survey 77 Nov 2 Artificial breaching 75 Nov 5 Artificial breaching 100 Nov 12 Beach topographic survey 135 Nov 23 Artificial breaching 25 Total 2,380 + 3 a Take of harbor seal pups is accounted for separately. One neonate was disturbed on April 20 and two pups were disturbed on May 28.

    It should be noted that one of the primary reasons for the increase in observed incidences of incidental take in 2013-15 (average 1,950) compared with prior years (average 180 from 2010-12) was a change in protocol for the beach topographic surveys (although realized level of activity would be expected to remain a primary determinant in future years). Due to the frequent and prolonged river mouth closures in 2013—including closures of 25 days in June/July and 21 days in September/October—there was an increased need to gather complete information about the topography and sand elevation of the beach to best inform water level management activities.

    This necessitated the survey crew to access the entire beach, including any area where seals were hauled out. Therefore, beginning on May 30, 2013, the methods for conducting the monthly topographic surveys of the barrier beach were changed. Previously, monitors at a distance would inform survey crews via radio if harbor seals became alert to their presence. Survey crews would then retreat or avoid certain areas as necessary to avoid behavioral harassment of the seals. According to the revised protocol, and provided that no neonates or nursing pups were on the haul-out, the survey crew would continue their approach. The survey crews would proceed in a manner that allowed for the seals to gradually vacate the beach before the survey proceeded, thereby reducing the intensity of behavioral reactions as much as possible, but the numbers of incidences of behavioral harassment nevertheless increased. SCWA expects that this revised protocol would remain in place for the coming year.

    SCWA continued to investigate the relative disturbance caused by their activities versus that caused by other sources (see Figures 5-6 of SCWA's monitoring report as well as SCWA, 2014). The data recorded during 2015 do not differ from the findings reported in SCWA (2014). Harbor seals are most frequently disturbed by people on foot, with an increase in frequency of people present during bar-closed conditions (see Figure 5 of SCWA's monitoring report). Kayakers are the next most frequent source of disturbance overall, also with an increase during bar-closed conditions. For any disturbance event it is often only a fraction of the total haul-out that responds. Some sources of disturbance, though rare, have a larger disturbing effect when they occur. For example, disturbances from dogs occur less frequently, but these incidents often disturb over half of the seals hauled out.

    Conclusions

    The following section provides a summary of information available in SCWA's monitoring report. The primary purpose of SCWA's Pinniped monitoring plan is to detect the response of pinnipeds to estuary management activities at the Russian River estuary. However, as described previously, the questions listed below are also of specific interest. The limited data available thus far precludes drawing definitive conclusions regarding the key questions in SCWA's monitoring plan, but we discuss preliminary conclusions and available evidence below.

    1. Under what conditions do pinnipeds haul out at the Russian River estuary mouth at Jenner?

    Although multiple factors likely influence harbor seal presence at the haul-out, SCWA has shown that since 2009 harbor seal attendance is influenced by hour of day (increasing from morning through early afternoon; see Figure 2 in SCWA's monitoring plan), tidal state (decrease with higher tides; see Figure 3 of SCWA's monitoring plan), month of year (peak in July and decrease in fall; see Figure 4 of SCWA's monitoring plan), and river mouth condition (i.e., open or closed).

    Daily average abundance of seals was lower during bar-closed conditions compared to bar-open conditions. This effect is likely due to a combination of factors, including increased human disturbance, reduced access to the ocean from the estuary side of the barrier beach, and the increased disturbance from wave action when seals utilize the ocean side of the barrier beach. Baseline data indicate that the highest numbers of seals are observed at the Jenner haul-out in July (during the molting season; see Figure 2 of SCWA's monitoring report), as would be expected on the basis of harbor seal biological and physiological requirements (Herder, 1986; Allen et al., 1989; Stewart and Yochem, 1994; Hanan, 1996; Gemmer, 2002).

    Overall, seals appear to utilize the Jenner haul-out throughout the tidal cycle. Seal abundance is significantly lower during the highest of tides when the haul-out is subject to an increase in wave overwash. Time of day had some effect on seal abundance at the Jenner haul-out, as abundance was greater in the afternoon hours compared to the morning hours. More analysis exploring the relationship of ambient temperature, incidence of disturbance, and season on time of day effects would help to explain why these variations in seal abundance occur. It is likely that a combination of multiple factors (e.g., season, tides, wave heights, level of beach disturbance) influence when the haul-out is most utilized.

    2. How do seals at the Jenner haul-out respond to activities associated with the construction and maintenance of the lagoon outlet channel and artificial breaching activities?

    SCWA has, thus far, implemented the lagoon outlet channel only once (July 8, 2010). The response of harbor seals at the Jenner haul-out to the outlet channel implementation activities was similar to responses observed during past artificial breaching events (MSC, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000; SCWA and MSC, 2001). The harbor seals typically alert to the sound of equipment on the beach and leave the haul-out as the crew and equipment approach. Individuals then haul out on the beach while equipment is operating, leaving the beach again when equipment and staff depart, and typically begin to return to the haul-out within thirty minutes of the work ending. Because the barrier beach reformed soon after outlet channel implementation and subsequently breached on its own following the 2010 event, maintenance of the outlet channel was not necessary and monitoring of the continued response of pinnipeds at the Jenner haul-out to maintenance of the outlet channel and management of the lagoon for the duration of the lagoon management period has not yet been possible. As noted previously, when breaching activities were conducted south of the haul-out location seals often remained on the beach during all or some of the breaching activity. This indicates that seals are less disturbed by activities when equipment and crew do not pass directly past their haul-out.

    3. Does the number of seals at the Jenner haul-out significantly differ from historic averages with formation of a summer lagoon in the Russian River estuary?

    The duration of closures in recent years has not generally been dissimilar from the duration of closures that have been previously observed at the estuary, and lagoon outlet channel implementation has occurred only once, meaning that there has been a lack of opportunity to study harbor seal response to extended lagoon conditions. A barrier beach has formed during the lagoon management period sixteen times since SCWA began implementing the lagoon outlet channel adaptive management plan, with an average duration of fourteen days. However, the sustained river outlet closures observed in 2014-15 during the lagoon management period provide some information regarding the abundance of seals during the formation of a summer lagoon. While seal abundance was lower overall during bar-closed conditions, overall there continues to be a slight increasing trend in seal abundance. These observations may indicate that, while seal abundance exhibits a short-term decline following bar closure, the number of seals utilizing the Jenner haul-out overall during such conditions is not affected. Short-term fluctuations in abundance aside, it appears that the general trends of increased abundance during summer and decreased abundance during fall, which coincide with the annual molt and likely foraging dispersal, respectively, are not affected. Such short-term fluctuations are likely not an indicator that seals are less likely to use the Jenner haul-out at any time.

    4. Are seals at the Jenner haul-out displaced to nearby river and coastal haul-outs when the mouth remains closed in the summer?

    Initial comparisons of peripheral (river and coastal) haul-out count data to the Jenner haul-out counts have been inconclusive (see Table 2 and Figures 6-7 of SCWA's monitoring report). As noted above, SCWA will focus ongoing effort at peripheral sites during periods of extended bar-closure and lagoon formation.

    Estimated Take by Incidental Harassment

    Except with respect to certain activities not pertinent here, section 3(18) of the MMPA defines “harassment” as: “. . . any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering [Level B harassment].”

    SCWA has requested, and NMFS proposes, authorization to take harbor seals, California sea lions, and northern elephant seals, by Level B harassment only, incidental to estuary management activities. These activities, involving increased human presence and the use of heavy equipment and support vehicles, are expected to harass pinnipeds present at the haul-out through disturbance only. In addition, monitoring activities prescribed in the BiOp may harass additional animals at the Jenner haul-out and at the three haul-outs located in the estuary (Penny Logs, Patty's Rock, and Chalanchawi). Estimates of the number of harbor seals, California sea lions, and northern elephant seals that may be harassed by the proposed activities is based upon the number of potential events associated with Russian River estuary management activities and the average number of individuals of each species that are present during conditions appropriate to the activity. As described previously in this document, monitoring effort at the mouth of the Russian River has shown that the number of seals utilizing the haul-out declines during bar-closed conditions. Tables 5 and 6 detail the total number of estimated takes.

    Events associated with lagoon outlet channel management would occur only during the lagoon management period, and are split into two categories: (1) Initial channel implementation, which would likely occur between May and September, and (2) maintenance and monitoring of the outlet channel, which would continue until October 15. In addition, it is possible that the initial outlet channel could close through natural processes, requiring additional channel implementation events. Based on past experience, SCWA estimates that a maximum of three outlet channel implementation events could be required. Outlet channel implementation events would only occur when the bar is closed; therefore, it is appropriate to use data from bar-closed monitoring events in estimating take (Table 2). Construction of the outlet channel is designed to produce a perched outflow, resulting in conditions that more closely resemble bar-closed than bar-open with regard to pinniped haul-out usage. As such, bar-closed data is appropriate for estimating take during all lagoon management period maintenance and monitoring activity. As dates of outlet channel implementation cannot be known in advance, the highest daily average of seals per month—the March average for 2009-15—is used in estimating take. For maintenance and monitoring activities associated with the lagoon outlet channel, which would occur on a weekly basis following implementation of the outlet channel, the average number of harbor seals for each month was used.

    Artificial breaching activities would also occur during bar-closed conditions. Data collected specifically during bar-closed conditions may be used for estimating take associated with artificial breaching (Table 2). The number of estimated artificial breaching events is also informed by experience, and is equal to the annual average number of bar closures recorded for a given month from 1996-2013.

    Prior to 2014, for monthly topographic surveys on the barrier beach, SCWA estimated that only ten percent of seals hauled out would be likely to be disturbed by this activity, which involves two people walking along the barrier beach with a survey rod. During those surveys a pinniped monitor was positioned at the Highway 1 overlook and would notify the surveyors via radio when any seals on the haul-out begin to alert to their presence. This enabled the surveyors to retreat slowly away from the haul-out, typically resulting in no disturbance. However, protocol for this monitoring activity has been changed (i.e., surveyors will continue cautiously rather than retreat when seals alert—this is necessary to collect required data) and the resulting incidents of take are now estimated as one hundred percent of the seals expected to be encountered. The exception to this change is during the pupping season, when surveyors would continue to avoid seals to reduce harassment of pups and/or mothers with neonates. For the months of March-May, the assumption that only ten percent of seals present would be harassed is retained. The number of seals expected to be encountered is based on the average monthly number of seals hauled out as recorded during baseline surveys conducted by SCWA in 2013-15 (Table 1).

    For biological and physical habitat monitoring activities in the estuary, it was assumed that pinnipeds may be encountered once per event and flush from a river haul-out. The potential for harassment associated with these events is limited to the three haul-outs located in the estuary. In past experience, SCWA typically sees no more than a single harbor seal at these haul-outs, which consist of scattered logs and rocks that often submerge at high tide.

    Table 5—Estimated Number of Harbor Seal Takes Resulting From Russian River Estuary Management Activities Number of animals expected to occur a Number of events bc Potential total number of individual animals that may be taken Lagoon Outlet Channel Management (May 15 to October 15) Implementation: 117 d Implementation: 3 Implementation: 351. Maintenance and Monitoring: Maintenance: Maintenance: 1,156. May: 80 May: 1 June: 98 June-Sept: 4/month July: 117 Oct: 1 Aug: 17 Monitoring: Monitoring: 552. Sept: 30 June-Sept: 2/month Oct: 28 Oct: 1 Total: 2,059. Artificial Breaching Oct: 28 Oct: 2 Oct: 56. Nov: 32 Nov: 2 Nov: 64. Dec: 59 Dec: 2 Dec: 118. Jan: 49 Jan: 1 Jan: 49. Feb: 75 Feb: 1 Feb: 75. Mar: 133 Mar: 1 Mar: 133. Apr: 99 Apr: 1 Apr: 99. May: 80 May: 2 May: 160. 12 events maximum Total: 754. Topographic and Geophysical Beach Surveys Jan: 89 1 topographic survey/month; 100 percent of animals present Jun-Feb; 10 percent of animals present Mar-May
  • Jetty well removal; 2 days
  • Jan: 89.
    Feb: 173 Feb: 173. Mar: 183 Mar: 18. Apr: 136 Apr: 14. May: 154 May: 15. Jun: 170 Jun: 170. Jul: 345 Jul: 345. Aug: 143 Aug: 143. Sep: 59 Sep: 59. Oct: 37 Oct: 37. Nov: 37 Nov: 37. Dec: 134 Dec: 134. Jetty work: 252 f Total: 1,486. Biological and Physical Habitat Monitoring in the Estuary 1 e 165 165. Total 4,464. a For Lagoon Outlet Channel Management and Artificial Breaching, average daily number of animals corresponds with data from Table 2. For Topographic and Geophysical Beach Surveys, average daily number of animals corresponds with 2013-15 data from Table 1. b For implementation of the lagoon outlet channel, an event is defined as a single, two-day episode. It is assumed that the same individual seals would be hauled out during a single event. For the remaining activities, an event is defined as a single day on which an activity occurs. Some events may include multiple activities. c Number of events for artificial breaching derived from historical data. The average number of events for each month was rounded up to the nearest whole number; estimated number of events for December was increased from one to two because multiple closures resulting from storm events have occurred in recent years during that month. These numbers likely represent an overestimate, as the average annual number of events is five. d Although implementation could occur at any time during the lagoon management period, the highest daily average per month from the lagoon management period was used. e Based on past experience, SCWA expects that no more than one seal may be present, and thus have the potential to be disturbed, at each of the three river haul-outs. f Jetty well removal is expected to require two days, but the specific timing of the event within a window from July-December cannot be predicted. Therefore, we use the average of the monthly averages for those months (126) to estimate potential take from this activity.
    Table 6—Estimated Number of California Sea Lion and Elephant Seal Takes Resulting From Russian River Estuary Management Activities Species Number of
  • animals
  • expected
  • to occur a
  • Number of events a Potential total number of
  • individual
  • animals that
  • may be taken
  • Lagoon Outlet Channel Management (May 15 to October 15) California sea lion (potential to encounter once per event) 1 6 6 Northern elephant seal (potential to encounter once per event) 1 6 6 Artificial Breaching California sea lion (potential to encounter once per month, Oct-May) 1 8 8 Northern elephant seal (potential to encounter once per month, Oct-May) 1 8 8 Topographic and Geophysical Beach Surveys California sea lion (potential to encounter once per month year-round for topographical surveys) 1 12 12 Northern elephant seal (potential to encounter once per month year-round for topographical surveys) 1 12 12 Biological and Physical Habitat Monitoring in the Estuary + Jetty Study California sea lion (potential to encounter once per month, Jul-Feb) 1 10 10 Northern elephant seal (potential to encounter once per month, Jul-Feb) 1 10 10 Total: California sea lion 36 Elephant seal 36 a SCWA expects that California sea lions and/or northern elephant seals could occur during any month of the year, but that any such occurrence would be infrequent and unlikely to occur more than once per month.
    Analyses and Preliminary Determinations Negligible Impact Analysis

    NMFS has defined “negligible impact” in 50 CFR 216.103 as “. . . an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.” A negligible impact finding is based on the lack of likely adverse effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival (i.e., population-level effects). An estimate of the number of Level B harassment takes alone is not enough information on which to base an impact determination. In addition to considering estimates of the number of marine mammals that might be “taken” through behavioral harassment, we consider other factors, such as the likely nature of any responses (e.g., intensity, duration), the context of any responses (e.g., critical reproductive time or location, migration), as well as the number and nature of estimated Level A harassment takes, the number of estimated mortalities, and effects on habitat.

    Although SCWA's estuary management activities may disturb pinnipeds hauled out at the mouth of the Russian River, as well as those hauled out at several locations in the estuary during recurring monitoring activities, impacts are occurring to a small, localized group of animals. While these impacts can occur year-round, they occur sporadically and for limited duration (e.g., a maximum of two consecutive days for water level management events). Seals will likely become alert or, at most, flush into the water in reaction to the presence of crews and equipment on the beach. While disturbance may occur during a sensitive time (during the March 15-June 30 pupping season), mitigation measures have been specifically designed to further minimize harm during this period and eliminate the possibility of pup injury or mother-pup separation.

    No injury, serious injury, or mortality is anticipated, nor is the proposed action likely to result in long-term impacts such as permanent abandonment of the haul-out. Injury, serious injury, or mortality to pinnipeds would likely result from startling animals inhabiting the haul-out into a stampede reaction, or from extended mother-pup separation as a result of such a stampede. Long-term impacts to pinniped usage of the haul-out could result from significantly increased presence of humans and equipment on the beach. To avoid these possibilities, we have worked with SCWA to develop the previously described mitigation measures. These are designed to reduce the possibility of startling pinnipeds, by gradually apprising them of the presence of humans and equipment on the beach, and to reduce the possibility of impacts to pups by eliminating or altering management activities on the beach when pups are present and by setting limits on the frequency and duration of events during pupping season. During the past fifteen years of flood control management, implementation of similar mitigation measures has resulted in no known stampede events and no known injury, serious injury, or mortality. Over the course of that time period, management events have generally been infrequent and of limited duration.

    No pinniped stocks for which incidental take authorization is proposed are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA or determined to be strategic or depleted under the MMPA. Recent data suggests that harbor seal populations have reached carrying capacity; populations of California sea lions and northern elephant seals in California are also considered healthy.

    In summary, and based on extensive monitoring data, we believe that impacts to hauled-out pinnipeds during estuary management activities would be behavioral harassment of limited duration (i.e., less than one day) and limited intensity (i.e., temporary flushing at most). Stampeding, and therefore injury or mortality, is not expected—nor been documented—in the years since appropriate protocols were established (see “Proposed Mitigation” for more details). Further, the continued, and increasingly heavy (see figures in SCWA documents), use of the haul-out despite decades of breaching events indicates that abandonment of the haul-out is unlikely. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the proposed monitoring and mitigation measures, we preliminarily find that the total marine mammal take from SCWA's estuary management activities will have a negligible impact on the affected marine mammal species or stocks.

    Small Numbers Analysis

    The proposed number of animals taken for each species of pinnipeds can be considered small relative to the population size. There are an estimated 30,968 harbor seals in the California stock, 296,750 California sea lions, and 179,000 northern elephant seals in the California breeding population. Based on extensive monitoring effort specific to the affected haul-out and historical data on the frequency of the specified activity, we are proposing to authorize take, by Level B harassment only, of 4,464 harbor seals, 36 California sea lions, and 36 northern elephant seals, representing 14.4, 0.01, and 0.02 percent of the populations, respectively. However, this represents an overestimate of the number of individuals harassed over the duration of the proposed IHA, because these totals represent much smaller numbers of individuals that may be harassed multiple times. Based on the analysis contained herein of the likely effects of the specified activity on marine mammals and their habitat, and taking into consideration the implementation of the mitigation and monitoring measures, we preliminarily find that small numbers of marine mammals will be taken relative to the populations of the affected species or stocks.

    Impact on Availability of Affected Species for Taking for Subsistence Uses

    There are no relevant subsistence uses of marine mammals implicated by this action. Therefore, we have determined that the total taking of affected species or stocks would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of such species or stocks for taking for subsistence purposes.

    Endangered Species Act (ESA)

    No species listed under the ESA are expected to be affected by these activities. Therefore, we have determined that a section 7 consultation under the ESA is not required. As described elsewhere in this document, SCWA and the Corps consulted with NMFS under section 7 of the ESA regarding the potential effects of their operations and maintenance activities, including SCWA's estuary management program, on ESA-listed salmonids. As a result of this consultation, NMFS issued the Russian River Biological Opinion (NMFS, 2008), including Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives, which prescribes modifications to SCWA's estuary management activities. The effects of the proposed activities and authorized take would not cause additional effects for which a section 7 consultation would be required.

    National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), as implemented by the regulations published by the Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), and NOAA Administrative Order 216-6, we prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) to consider the direct, indirect and cumulative effects to the human environment resulting from issuance of the original IHA to SCWA for the specified activities and found that it would not result in any significant impacts to the human environment. We signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on March 30, 2010. We have reviewed SCWA's application for a renewed IHA for ongoing estuary management activities for 2016 and the 2015 monitoring report. Based on that review, we have determined that the proposed action follows closely the IHAs issued and implemented in 2010-15 and does not present any substantial changes, or significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns which would require a supplement to the 2010 EA or preparation of a new NEPA document. Therefore, we have preliminarily determined that a new or supplemental EA or Environmental Impact Statement is unnecessary, and will, after review of public comments determine whether or not to rely on the existing EA and FONSI. The 2010 EA is available for review at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/incidental/construction.htm.

    Proposed Authorization

    As a result of these preliminary determinations, we propose to issue an IHA to SCWA for conducting the described estuary management activities in Sonoma County, California, for one year from the date of issuance, provided the previously mentioned mitigation, monitoring, and reporting requirements are incorporated. The proposed IHA language is provided next.

    This section contains a draft of the IHA itself. The wording contained in this section is proposed for inclusion in the IHA (if issued).

    The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), California, is hereby authorized under section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)(D)) to harass marine mammals incidental to conducting estuary management activities in the Russian River, Sonoma County, California.

    1. This Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) is valid from April 21, 2016 through April 20, 2017.

    2. This IHA is valid only for activities associated with estuary management activities in the Russian River, Sonoma County, California, including:

    (a) Lagoon outlet channel management;

    (b) Artificial breaching of barrier beach;

    (c) Work associated with a jetty study; and

    (d) Physical and biological monitoring of the beach and estuary as required.

    3. General Conditions

    (a) A copy of this IHA must be in the possession of SCWA, its designees, and work crew personnel operating under the authority of this IHA.

    (b) SCWA is hereby authorized to incidentally take, by Level B harassment only, 4,464 harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii), 36 California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), and 36 northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris).

    (c) The taking by injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or death of any of the species listed in condition 3(b) of the Authorization or any taking of any other species of marine mammal is prohibited and may result in the modification, suspension, or revocation of this IHA.

    (d) If SCWA observes a pup that may be abandoned, it shall contact the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator immediately and also report the incident to NMFS Office of Protected Resources within 48 hours. Observers shall not approach or move the pup.

    (e) If SCWA observes any fur seal on the beach, it shall contact the NMFS West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator immediately and shall discontinue any ongoing activity.

    4. Mitigation Measures

    In order to ensure the least practicable impact on the species listed in condition 3(b), the holder of this Authorization is required to implement the following mitigation measures:

    (a) SCWA crews shall cautiously approach the haul-out ahead of heavy equipment to minimize the potential for sudden flushes, which may result in a stampede—a particular concern during pupping season.

    (b) SCWA staff shall avoid walking or driving equipment through the seal haul-out.

    (c) Crews on foot shall make an effort to be seen by seals from a distance, if possible, rather than appearing suddenly at the top of the sandbar, again preventing sudden flushes.

    (d) During breaching events, all monitoring shall be conducted from the overlook on the bluff along Highway 1 adjacent to the haul-out in order to minimize potential for harassment.

    (e) A water level management event may not occur for more than two consecutive days unless flooding threats cannot be controlled.

    (f) Equipment shall be driven slowly on the beach and care will be taken to minimize the number of shut-downs and start-ups when the equipment is on the beach.

    (g) All work shall be completed as efficiently as possible, with the smallest amount of heavy equipment possible, to minimize disturbance of seals at the haul-out.

    (h) Boats operating near river haul-outs during monitoring shall be kept within posted speed limits and driven as far from the haul-outs as safely possible to minimize flushing seals.

    In addition, SCWA shall implement the following mitigation measures during pupping season (March 15-June 30):

    (i) SCWA shall maintain a one week no-work period between water level management events (unless flooding is an immediate threat) to allow for an adequate disturbance recovery period. During the no-work period, equipment must be removed from the beach.

    (j) If a pup less than one week old is on the beach where heavy machinery will be used or on the path used to access the work location, the management action shall be delayed until the pup has left the site or the latest day possible to prevent flooding while still maintaining suitable fish rearing habitat. In the event that a pup remains present on the beach in the presence of flood risk, SCWA shall consult with NMFS and CDFG to determine the appropriate course of action. SCWA shall coordinate with the locally established seal monitoring program (Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods) to determine if pups less than one week old are on the beach prior to a breaching event.

    (k) Physical and biological monitoring shall not be conducted if a pup less than one week old is present at the monitoring site or on a path to the site.

    5. Monitoring

    The holder of this Authorization is required to conduct baseline monitoring and shall conduct additional monitoring as required during estuary management activities. Monitoring and reporting shall be conducted in accordance with the approved Pinniped Monitoring Plan.

    (a) Baseline monitoring shall be conducted each week, with two events per month occurring in the morning and two per month in the afternoon. These censuses shall continue for four hours, weather permitting; the census days shall be chosen to ensure that monitoring encompasses a low and high tide each in the morning and afternoon. All seals hauled out on the beach shall be counted every thirty minutes from the overlook on the bluff along Highway 1 adjacent to the haul-out using high-powered spotting scopes. Observers shall indicate where groups of seals are hauled out on the sandbar and provide a total count for each group. If possible, adults and pups shall be counted separately.

    (b) In addition, peripheral coastal haul-outs shall be visited concurrently with baseline monitoring in the event that a lagoon outlet channel is implemented and maintained for a prolonged period (over 21 days).

    (c) During estuary management events, monitoring shall occur on all days that activity is occurring using the same protocols as described for baseline monitoring, with the difference that monitoring shall begin at least one hour prior to the crew and equipment accessing the beach work area and continue through the duration of the event, until at least one hour after the crew and equipment leave the beach. In addition, a one-day pre-event survey of the area shall be made within one to three days of the event and a one-day post-event survey shall be made after the event, weather permitting.

    (d) For all monitoring, the following information shall be recorded in thirty-minute intervals:

    i. Pinniped counts by species;

    ii. Behavior;

    iii. Time, source and duration of any disturbance, with takes incidental to SCWA actions recorded only for responses involving movement away from the disturbance or responses of greater intensity (e.g., not for alerts);

    iv. Estimated distances between source of disturbance and pinnipeds;

    v. Weather conditions (e.g., temperature, percent cloud cover, and wind speed); and

    vi. Tide levels and estuary water surface elevation.

    (a) All monitoring during pupping season shall include records of any neonate pup observations. SCWA shall coordinate with the Stewards' monitoring program to determine if pups less than one week old are on the beach prior to a water level management event.

    6. Reporting

    The holder of this Authorization is required to:

    (a) Submit a report on all activities and marine mammal monitoring results to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Administrator, NMFS, 90 days prior to the expiration of the IHA if a renewal is sought, or within 90 days of the expiration of the permit otherwise. This report must contain the following information:

    i. The number of seals taken, by species and age class (if possible);

    ii. Behavior prior to and during water level management events;

    iii. Start and end time of activity;

    iv. Estimated distances between source and seals when disturbance occurs;

    v. Weather conditions (e.g., temperature, wind, etc.);

    vi. Haul-out reoccupation time of any seals based on post-activity monitoring;

    vii. Tide levels and estuary water surface elevation;

    viii. Seal census from bi-monthly and nearby haul-out monitoring; and

    ix. Specific conclusions that may be drawn from the data in relation to the four questions of interest in SCWA's Pinniped Monitoring Plan, if possible.

    (b) Reporting injured or dead marine mammals:

    i. In the unanticipated event that the specified activity clearly causes the take of a marine mammal in a manner prohibited by this IHA, such as an injury (Level A harassment), serious injury, or mortality, SCWA shall immediately cease the specified activities and report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS. The report must include the following information:

    A. Time and date of the incident;

    B. Description of the incident;

    C. Environmental conditions (e.g., wind speed and direction, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and visibility);

    D. Description of all marine mammal observations in the 24 hours preceding the incident;

    E. Species identification or description of the animal(s) involved;

    F. Fate of the animal(s); and

    G. Photographs or video footage of the animal(s).

    Activities shall not resume until NMFS is able to review the circumstances of the prohibited take. NMFS will work with SCWA to determine what measures are necessary to minimize the likelihood of further prohibited take and ensure MMPA compliance. SCWA may not resume their activities until notified by NMFS.

    i. In the event that SCWA discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the cause of the injury or death is unknown and the death is relatively recent (e.g., in less than a moderate state of decomposition), SCWA shall immediately report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS.

    The report must include the same information identified in 6(b)(i) of this IHA. Activities may continue while NMFS reviews the circumstances of the incident. NMFS will work with SCWA to determine whether additional mitigation measures or modifications to the activities are appropriate.

    ii. In the event that SCWA discovers an injured or dead marine mammal, and the lead observer determines that the injury or death is not associated with or related to the activities authorized in the IHA (e.g., previously wounded animal, carcass with moderate to advanced decomposition, or scavenger damage), SCWA shall report the incident to the Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, and the West Coast Regional Stranding Coordinator, NMFS, within 24 hours of the discovery. SCWA shall provide photographs or video footage or other documentation of the stranded animal sighting to NMFS.

    iii. Pursuant to sections 6(b)(ii-iii), SCWA may use discretion in determining what injuries (i.e., nature and severity) are appropriate for reporting. At minimum, SCWA must report those injuries considered to be serious (i.e., will likely result in death) or that are likely caused by human interaction (e.g., entanglement, gunshot). Also pursuant to sections 6(b)(ii-iii), SCWA may use discretion in determining the appropriate vantage point for obtaining photographs of injured/dead marine mammals.

    7. Validity of this Authorization is contingent upon compliance with all applicable statutes and permits, including NMFS' 2008 Biological Opinion for water management in the Russian River watershed. This Authorization may be modified, suspended or withdrawn if the holder fails to abide by the conditions prescribed herein, or if the authorized taking is having a more than a negligible impact on the species or stock of affected marine mammals.

    Request for Public Comments

    We request comment on our analysis, the draft authorization, and any other aspect of this notice of proposed IHA for SCWA's estuary management activities. Please include with your comments any supporting data or literature citations to help inform our final decision on SCWA's request for an MMPA authorization.

    Dated: February 16, 2016. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03681 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XE453 Endangered and Threatened Species; Take of Anadromous Fish AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Notice; availability of NMFS evaluations of joint state/tribal hatchery plans and request for comment.

    SUMMARY:

    Notice is hereby given that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Tulalip Tribes have submitted two Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans to NMFS, to be considered jointly pursuant to the limitation on take prohibitions for actions conducted under Limit 6 of the 4(d) Rule for salmon and steelhead promulgated under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The plans specify the propagation of early-returning (“early”) winter steelhead in the Skykomish and Snoqualmie River watersheds of Washington State. This document serves to notify the public of the availability for comment of the Proposed Evaluation and Pending Determination of the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) as to whether implementation of the joint plans will appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of ESA-listed Puget Sound steelhead and Puget Sound Chinook salmon. The Proposed Evaluation and Pending Determination may be accessed through the following web address: http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov.

    DATES:

    Comments must be received at the appropriate address or email mailbox (see ADDRESSES) no later than 5 p.m. Pacific time on March 24, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Written comments on the proposed evaluation and pending determination should be addressed to the NMFS Sustainable Fisheries Division, 510 Desmond Dr., Suite 103, Lacey, WA 98503. Comments may be submitted by email. The mailbox address for providing email comments is: [email protected] Include in the subject line of the email comment the following identifier: Comments on Skykomish/Snoqualmie Steelhead Hatchery Programs. Comments received will also be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours by calling (503) 230-5418.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Tim Tynan at (360) 753-9579 or email: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ESA-Listed Species Covered in This Notice

    Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss): threatened, naturally produced and artificially propagated Puget Sound.

    Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha): threatened, naturally produced and artificially propagated Puget Sound.

    Background

    The WDFW and the Tulalip Tribes have submitted to NMFS plans for two jointly operated hatchery programs in the Skykomish and Snoqualmie River basins. The plans were submitted in November 2014, pursuant to limit 6 of the 4(d) Rule for salmon and steelhead. One of the plans was subsequently resubmitted in February 2016 in revised form in response to NMFS pre-consultation review comments. The hatchery programs would release early winter steelhead that are not included as part of the ESA-listed Puget Sound Steelhead DPS into two tributaries of the Skykomish River and one tributary of the Snoqualmie River. Both programs would release fish that are not native to the watersheds.

    As required by the ESA 4(d) rule (65 FR 42422, July 10, 2000, as updated in 70 FR 37160, June 28, 2005), the Secretary is seeking public comment on her pending determination as to whether the joint plans for early winter steelhead hatchery programs in the Skykomish River and Snoqualmie River watersheds would appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of ESA-listed Puget Sound steelhead and Puget Sound Chinook salmon.

    This 4(d) Rule applies the prohibitions enumerated in section 9(a)(1) of the ESA. NMFS did not find it necessary and advisable to apply the take prohibitions described in section 9(a)(1)(B) and 9(a)(1)(C) to artificial propagation activities if those activities are managed in accordance with a joint plan whose implementation has been determined by the Secretary to not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of the listed salmonids. As specified in limit 6 of the 4(d) Rule, before the Secretary makes a decision on the joint plan, the public must have an opportunity to review and comment on the pending determination.

    Authority

    Under section 4 of the ESA, the Secretary of Commerce is required to adopt such regulations as she deems necessary and advisable for the conservation of species listed as threatened. The ESA salmon and steelhead 4(d) rule (65 FR 42422, July 10, 2000, as updated in 70 FR 37160, June 28, 2005) specifies categories of activities that contribute to the conservation of listed salmonids and sets out the criteria for such activities. Limit 6 of the updated 4(d) rule (50 CFR 223.203(b)(6)) further provides that the prohibitions of paragraph (a) of the updated 4(d) rule (50 CFR 223.203(a)) do not apply to activities associated with a joint state/tribal artificial propagation plan provided that the joint plan has been determined by NMFS to be in accordance with the salmon and steelhead 4(d) rule (65 FR 42422, July 10, 2000, as updated in 70 FR 37160, June 28, 2005).

    Dated: February 17, 2016. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03685 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RIN 0648-XE436 Marine Mammals; File No. 19309 AGENCY:

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

    ACTION:

    Notice; receipt of application.

    SUMMARY:

    Notice is hereby given that the NMFS National Marine Mammal Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE., Seattle, WA 98115-6349 (Responsible Party: John Bengtson, Ph.D.), has applied in due form for a permit to conduct research on pinnipeds in Alaska.

    DATES:

    Written, telefaxed, or email comments must be received on or before March 24, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    The application and related documents will be available for review by selecting “Records Open for Public Comment” from the “Features” box on the Applications and Permits for Protected Species (APPS) home page, https://apps.nmfs.noaa.gov, and then selecting File No. 19309 from the list of available applications.

    These documents are also available upon written request or by appointment in the Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301) 427-8401; fax (301) 713-0376.

    Written comments on this application should be submitted to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, at the address listed above. Comments may also be submitted by facsimile to (301) 713-0376, or by email to [email protected] Please include File No. 19309 in the subject line of the email comment.

    Those individuals requesting a public hearing should submit a written request to the Chief, Permits and Conservation Division at the address listed above. The request should set forth the specific reasons why a hearing on this application would be appropriate.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Amy Sloan, (301) 427-8401.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    The subject permit is requested under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.), and the regulations governing the taking and importing of marine mammals (50 CFR part 216).

    The applicant requests a five-year permit for takes of bearded (Erignathus barbatus), harbor (Phoca vitulina), ribbon (Histriophoca fasciata), ringed (Phoca hispida hispida), and spotted seals (Phoca largha) in the North Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, Arctic Ocean, and coastal regions of Alaska. The purposes of the research are to investigate the foraging ecology, population abundance and trends, population structure, habitat requirements, health, vital rates, and effects of natural and anthropogenic factors on these species. Up to 150, annually, of each ice-associated seal species (bearded, ribbon, ringed, and spotted) and up to 250 harbor seals may be captured, handled, and released for measurement of body condition, collection of tissue samples, deployment of telemetry devices, and other procedures as described in the application. An additional 3,000 of each ice associated seal species and 5,500 harbor seals may be incidentally harassed annually during capture activities or collection of feces and other samples from haul-out substrate. Annual takes by harassment during aerial surveys (manned and unmanned) include 3,200 bearded, 6,000 harbor, 1,750 ribbon, 6,700 ringed, and 4,500 spotted seals. Up to 500 Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) of the Eastern Distinct Population Segment may be taken annually by incidental harassment during harbor seal aerial surveys. Authorization is requested for up to 15 unintentional mortalities of each species (excluding Steller sea lions) over the life of the permit, not to exceed 5 annually.

    In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), an initial determination has been made that the activity proposed is categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.

    Concurrent with the publication of this notice in the Federal Register, NMFS is forwarding copies of the application to the Marine Mammal Commission and its Committee of Scientific Advisors.

    Dated: February 16, 2016. Perry F. Gayaldo, Deputy Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03683 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510-22-P
    CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION [Docket No. CPSC-2012-0057] Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request—Requirements for Electrically Operated Toys and Children's Articles AGENCY:

    Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    In accordance with the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (“PRA”) of 1995 (44 U.S.C. chapter 35), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“Commission” or “CPSC”) announces that the Commission has submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) a request for extension of approval of a collection of information for Electrically Operated Toys or Other Electrically Operated Articles Intended for Use by Children (16 CFR part 1505), approved previously under OMB Control No. 3041-0035. In the Federal Register of November 25, 2015 (80 FR 73738), the CPSC published a notice to announce the agency's intention to seek extension of approval of the collection of information. The Commission received no comments. Therefore, by publication of this notice, the Commission announces that CPSC has submitted to the OMB a request for extension of approval of that collection of information, without change.

    DATES:

    Written comments on this request for extension of approval of information collection requirements should be submitted by March 24, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit comments about this request by email: [email protected] or fax: 202-395-6881. Comments by mail should be sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Attn: OMB Desk Officer for the CPSC, Office of Management and Budget, Room 10235, 725 17th Street NW., Washington, DC 20503. In addition, written comments that are sent to OMB also should be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, under Docket No. CPSC-2012-0057.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    For further information contact: Robert H. Squibb, Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 504-7815, or by email to: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    CPSC has submitted the following currently approved collection of information to OMB for extension:

    Title: Requirements for Electrically Operated Toys.

    OMB Number: 3041-0035.

    Type of Review: Renewal of collection.

    Frequency of Response: On occasion.

    Affected Public: Manufacturers and importers of electrically operated toys and other electrically operated articles.

    Estimated Number of Respondents: 40 firms that manufacture or import electrically operated toys and other electrically operated articles have been identified; based on manufacturer and importer records for sales and distribution of inventory, there are approximately 10 models each year per firm for which testing and recordkeeping is required resulting in 400 records (40 firms × 10 models) per year.

    Estimated Time per Response: Based on discussion with a trade association for the toy industry, we estimate that the tests required by the regulations can be performed on one model in 16 hours and that four hours of recordkeeping is required per model. In addition, each firm may spend 30 minutes or less per model on labeling requirements.

    Total Estimated Annual Burden: 6,400 hours for testing burden (16 hours × 400 records); 1,600 hours for recordkeeping (4 hours × 400 records); 200 hours for labeling (40 firms × 1/2 hour × 10 models) for a total annual burden of 8,200 hours per year.

    General Description of Collection: The regulations in 16 CFR part 1505 establish performance and labeling requirements for electrically operated toys and children's articles to reduce unreasonable risks of injury to children from electric shock, electrical burns, and thermal burns associated with those products. Manufacturers and importers of electrically operated toys and children's articles are required to maintain records for three years on: (1) Material and production specifications; (2) the quality assurance program used; (3) results of all tests and inspections conducted; and (4) sales and distribution of electrically operated toys and children's articles.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Todd A. Stevenson, Secretary, Consumer Product Safety Commission.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03701 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6355-01-P
    CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION [Docket No. CPSC-2012-0058] Agency Information Collection Activities; Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request—Safety Standard for Walk-Behind Power Lawn Mowers AGENCY:

    Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    In accordance with the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (“PRA”) of 1995 (44 U.S.C. chapter 35), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“Commission” or “CPSC”) announces that the Commission has submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) a request for extension of approval of a collection of information relating to testing and recordkeeping requirements in the Safety Standard for Walk-Behind Power Lawn Mowers (16 CFR part 1205), approved previously under OMB Control No. 3041-0091. In the Federal Register of November 25, 2015 (80 FR 73735), the CPSC published a notice to announce the agency's intention to seek extension of approval of the collection of information.

    One commenter, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (“OPEI”) stated that the estimated burden is underestimated as it is likely based on an outdated estimate of the U.S. market. According to OPEI data, accounting for 8 member manufacturers, 4.7 million walk-behind (gas) power lawn mowers were shipped in the U.S. during 2015.

    CPSC staff's estimate of the estimated reporting burden to industry to comply with the safety standard mainly is tied to the number of manufacturers and importers (25), number of production days in a year (130), and employee time per day per establishment required to conduct a reasonable testing program (3 hours) and preparation of product labels (1 hour). The information provided by OPEI's comment does not address the factors and assumptions leading to estimated burden hours for firms and the industry. The reported shipments of 4.7 million units in 2015 (by 8 OPEI members) would not lead us to conclude that estimated burden hours has been underestimated. In fact, the reported shipments in 2015 are lower than previous years in our possession (e.g., 6.5 million forecast for 2005). If OPEI has information related to the number of affected establishments, annual production days, and hours per production day required for testing and labeling, staff will review that information and revise the estimated information collection burden of the standard, as necessary.

    Accordingly, by publication of this notice, the Commission announces that CPSC has submitted to the OMB a request for extension of approval of that collection of information, without change.

    DATES:

    Written comments on this request for extension of approval of information collection requirements should be submitted by March 24, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    Submit comments about this request by email: [email protected] or fax: 202-395-6881. Comments by mail should be sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Attn: OMB Desk Officer for the CPSC, Office of Management and Budget, Room 10235, 725 17th Street NW., Washington, DC 20503. In addition, written comments that are sent to OMB also should be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, under Docket No. CPSC-2012-0058.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    Robert H. Squibb, Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 504-7815, or by email to: [email protected]

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    CPSC has submitted the following currently approved collection of information to OMB for extension:

    Title: Safety Standard for Walk-Behind Power Lawn Mowers.

    OMB Number: 3041-0091.

    Type of Review: Renewal of collection.

    Frequency of Response: On occasion.

    Affected Public: Manufacturers and importers of walk-behind power lawn mowers.

    Estimated Number of Respondents: 25 manufacturers and importers of walk-behind power lawn mowers have been identified.

    Estimated Time per Response: Walk-behind power lawn mowers are manufactured seasonally to meet demand. They are manufactured during an estimated 130 days out of the year. When they are manufactured, firms are required to test and maintain records of those tests. Three hours daily is estimated for testing and recordkeeping per firm totaling 390 hours per firm (3 hours × 130 days). In addition, to produce labels and apply labels on the newly manufactured lawn mowers, one hour daily is estimated for each firm during the production cycle for a total of 130 hours per firm (1 hour × 130 days).

    Total Estimated Annual Burden: 9,750 hours on testing and recordkeeping (25 firms × 390 hours) and 3,250 hours for labeling (25 firms × 130 hours) for a total annual burden of 13,000 hours per year.

    General Description of Collection: In 1979, the Commission issued the Safety Standard for Walk-Behind Power Lawn Mowers (16 CFR part 1205) to address blade contact injuries. Subpart B of the standard sets forth regulations prescribing requirements for a reasonable testing program to support certificates of compliance with the standard for walk-behind power lawn mowers. 16 CFR part 1205, subpart B.

    In addition, section 14(a) of the CPSA (15 U.S.C. 2063(a)) requires manufacturers, importers, and private labelers of a consumer product subject to a consumer product safety standard to issue a certificate stating that the product complies with all applicable consumer product safety standards. Section 14(a) of the CPSA also requires that the certificate of compliance must be based on a test of each product or upon a reasonable testing program. The information collection is necessary because these regulations require manufacturers and importers to establish and maintain records to demonstrate compliance with the requirements for testing and labeling to support the certification of compliance.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Todd A. Stevenson, Secretary, Consumer Product Safety Commission.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03700 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6355-01-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Office of the Secretary Charter Establishment of Department of Defense Federal Advisory Committees AGENCY:

    Department of Defense.

    ACTION:

    Establishment of Federal Advisory Committee.

    SUMMARY:

    The Department of Defense (DoD) is publishing this notice to announce that it is establishing the charter for the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces (“the Committee”).

    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 established pursuant to section 546 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY 2015 NDAA), as modified by section 537 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016 NDAA), 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 Committee's charter and contact information for the Committee's Designated Federal Officer (DFO) can be obtained at http://www.facadatabase.gov/.

    The Committee provides the Secretary of Defense, through the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, advice on the investigation, prosecution, and defense of allegations of rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault, and other sexual misconduct involving members of the Armed Forces. Not later than March 30 of each year, the Committee will submit a report describing the results of its activities during the preceding year to the Secretary of Defense and the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives.

    The Committee will be composed of no more than 20 members who have experience with the investigation, prosecution, and defense of allegations of sexual assault offenses. Members may include Federal and State prosecutors, judges, law professors, and private attorneys, but individuals serving on active duty in the Armed Forces may not be appointed to the Committee. Members who are not full-time or permanent part-time Federal officers or employees will be appointed as experts or consultants pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 3109 to serve as special government employee members. Members who are full-time or permanent part-time Federal officers or employees will serve as regular government employee members.

    All members are appointed to provide advice on behalf of the Government on the basis of their best judgment without representing any particular point of view and in a manner that is free from conflict of interest. Except for reimbursement of official Committee-related travel and per diem, members serve without compensation.

    The DoD, as necessary and consistent with the Committee's mission and DoD policies and procedures, may establish subcommittees, task forces, or working groups to support the Committee, and all subcommittees must operate under the provisions of FACA and the Government in the Sunshine Act. Subcommittees will not work independently of the Committee and must report all their recommendations and advice solely to the Committee for full 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 Committee. No subcommittee or any of its members can update or report, verbally or in writing, directly to the DoD or any Federal officers or employees. The Committee's DFO, pursuant to DoD policy, must be a full-time or permanent part-time DoD employee. The DFO or a properly approved Alternate DFO, is required to be in attendance at all Committee/subcommittee meetings for the duration of each and every meeting. The public or interested organizations may submit written statements to Committee membership about the Committee's mission and functions. Written statements may be submitted at any time or in response to the stated agenda of planned meeting of the Committee. All written statements shall be submitted to the DFO for the Committee, and this individual will ensure that the written statements are provided to the membership for their consideration.

    Dated: February 18, 2016. Aaron Siegel, Alternate OSD Federal Register Liaison Officer, Department of Defense.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03749 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 5001-06-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Army [Docket ID: USA-2016-HQ-0003] Proposed Collection; Comment Request AGENCY:

    Department of the Army, DoD.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Department of the Army announces a proposed public information collection and seeks public comment on the provisions thereof. 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 of the proposed information collection; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the information collection on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    DATES:

    Consideration will be given to all comments received by April 25, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments, identified by docket number and title, by any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Mail: Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer, Directorate of Oversight and Compliance, Regulatory and Audit Matters Office, 9010 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-9010.

    Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name, docket number and title for this Federal Register document. The general policy for comments and other submissions from members of the public is to make these submissions available for public viewing on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov as they are received without change, including any personal identifiers or contact information.

    Any associated form(s) for this collection may be located within this same electronic docket and downloaded for review/testing. Follow the instructions at http://www.regulations.gov for submitting comments. Please submit comments on any given form identified by docket number, form number, and title.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    To request more information on this proposed information collection or to obtain a copy of the proposal and associated collection instruments, please write to the Army Marketing and Research Group, ATTN: Mrs. Crystal G. Deleon, 200 Stovall Street, Hoffman II Room 4N29 or call 703-545-3476.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Title; Associated Form; and OMB Number: DA Civilian Employment and Marketing Feedback; Control Number 0702-XXXX.

    Needs and Uses: The information collection requirement is necessary to provide the data needed to understand the best marketing strategies to raise awareness of Army Civilian Brand and spark interest in Army civilian employment opportunities with the ultimate goal of filling critical DA occupations.

    Affected Public: Individuals or Households.

    Annual Burden Hours: 192.

    Number of Respondents: 128.

    Responses per Respondent: 1.

    Annual Responses: 128.

    Average Burden per Response: 1.5 Hours.

    Frequency: One-Time.

    The purpose of this collection is to provide qualitative and quantitative data to the Department of the Army (DA) on the civilian workforce's attitudes, perceptions, and awareness of civilian career opportunities within the Federal Government, and the Army. The DA maintains a listing of professional and technical skill sets that are critical to the Service's needs of today and tomorrow. The collection, compilation, and analysis of the new qualitative and quantitative data is imperative to the DA's marketing and recruitment strategy for informing, identifying, and ultimately hiring those identified with the skill sets necessary for a sustainable DA. Attention will be focused in particular on DA Civilian critical occupations with current or projected shortfalls to set specific marketing objectives, goals, and strategies for these critical skill areas. Information for this study will be collected in two phases. Phase I will be qualitative (focus groups) and Phase II will be quantitative (survey). This is a one-time data collection anticipated to be completed within approximately six months of OMB approval.

    The data collected from these activities will be supplemented with reviews of recent Army branding and marketing practices as well as of recent and projected hiring needs into DA Civilian jobs. Respondents for both the focus groups and quantitative study will be individuals currently employed in the private sector in occupations deemed essential by the Army or individuals who are considering careers in these essential occupations. Quota groups will be established to ensure there is an adequate representation of career stage (pre-, early- and mid) among volunteers. Focus group data will be collected via moderator-led discussions. Quantitative study data will be collected via a questionnaire administered online. Participation in the focus groups and quantitative study will be voluntary. The data collection will focus on awareness and knowledge of DA Civilian job opportunities; comparison of DA Civilian vs. private jobs/careers across key dimensions; most important reasons to seek civilian employment in the Army; perceived negative aspects of Army Civilian employment; reactions to facts and marketing concepts concerning Army Civilian employment; and intended behaviors concerning applying for civilian employment in the Army or recommending to others that they do so.

    Dated: February 17, 2016. Aaron Siegel, Alternate OSD Federal Register Liaison Officer, Department of Defense.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03653 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 5001-06-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Army [Docket ID: USA-2016-HQ-0004] Proposed Collection; Comment Request AGENCY:

    PEO Aviation, PM Aviation Systems, DoD.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Department of the Army announces a proposed public information collection and seeks public comment on the provisions thereof. 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 of the proposed information collection; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the information collection on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    DATES:

    Consideration will be given to all comments received by April 25, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments, identified by docket number and title, by any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Mail: Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer, Directorate of Oversight and Compliance, Regulatory and Audit Matters Office, 9010 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-9010.

    Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name, docket number and title for this Federal Register document. The general policy for comments and other submissions from members of the public is to make these submissions available for public viewing on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov as they are received without change, including any personal identifiers or contact information.

    Any associated form(s) for this collection may be located within this same electronic docket and downloaded for review/testing. Follow the instructions at http://www.regulations.gov for submitting comments. Please submit comments on any given form identified by docket number, form number, and title.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    To request more information on this proposed information collection or to obtain a copy of the proposal and associated collection instruments, please write to the U.S. Army PEO Aviation, Product Director Aviation Networks and Mission Planning (SFAE-AV-AS-ANMP) ATTN: George C. Goodman Jr. Sparkman Center, Building 5309, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama 35898, Phone (256) 842-4995.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Title; Associated Form; and OMB Number: Individual Flight Record and Flight Certificate-Army, DA Form 759 series; Commanders Task List, DA Form 7120-R series; Crew Member Training Record, DA Form 7122-R; Crew Member Grade Slip, DA Form 4507-R series; Certificate For Performance of Hazardous Duty, DA Form 4730; Medical Recommendation For Flying or Special Operational Duty, DD Form 2992; Army Aviator's Flight Record, DA Form 2408-12; Technical Report of U.S. Army Aircraft Accident, DA Form 2397-8; Air Traffic Services (ATS); Individual Air Traffic Control Training and Proficiency Record, DA Form 3479-R and associated forms, OMB Number 0720-XXXX.

    Needs and Uses: The information collection requirement is necessary to obtain and retain flying experience, qualifications and training data of each aviator, crew member, Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operator, flight surgeon and aeromedical physician assistants in aviation service; and to monitor and manage individual contractor flight and ground personnel records. Leadership uses CAFRS to determine proficiency of Air Traffic Controllers and Air Traffic Control Maintenance Technicians and the reliability of the Air Traffic Control system operations within the Department of the Army. CAFRS is a decision support system for automated mission planning, risk assessment and risk mitigation that supports Mission Command functions within Aviation units. CAFRS supports the Aviation Commander's decision making process required to complete the Aviation Risk Assessment Worksheet (RAW) that provides the assessment tools to match personnel qualifications, operations tempo to aircraft type, and mission needs. The CAFRS application, a sub-system of the Aviation Mission Planning System (AMPS), provides aircrew member flight hours, aircraft currency, qualification and training history in order to accomplish effective risk assessment/risk mitigation throughout the Aviation Mission Planning Process.

    Affected Public: Individuals or Households.

    Annual Burden Hours: 111.

    Number of Respondents: 1,765.

    Responses per Respondent: 1.5.

    Annual Responses: 2,647.5.

    Average Burden per Response: 2.5 Minutes.

    Frequency: On Occasion, Weekly, and Daily.

    Respondents are contractors. The CAFRS system collection of information manages qualification and training records for aviation personnel. The system provides the Army's senior level leadership visibility over aviation flight operations information to assist in resource, readiness, and personnel management decision-making.

    Dated: February 17, 2016. Aaron Siegel, Alternate OSD Federal Register, Liaison Officer, Department of Defense.
    [FR Doc. 2016-03671 Filed 2-22-16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 5001-06-P
    DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Department of the Navy [Docket ID: USN-2016-HQ-0003] Proposed Collection; Comment Request AGENCY:

    Department of the Navy, DoD.

    ACTION:

    Notice.

    SUMMARY:

    In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Department of the Navy announces a proposed public information collection and seeks public comment on the provisions thereof. 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 of the proposed information collection; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the information collection on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

    DATES:

    Consideration will be given to all comments received by April 25, 2016.

    ADDRESSES:

    You may submit comments, identified by docket number and title, by any of the following methods:

    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

    Mail: Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer, Directorate of Oversight and Compliance, Regulatory and Audit Matters Office, 9010 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-9010.

    Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name, docket number and title for this Federal Register document. The general policy for comments and other submissions from members of the public is to make these submissions available for public viewing on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov as they are received without change, including any personal identifiers or contact information.

    Any associated form(s) for this collection may be located within this same electronic docket and downloaded for review/testing. Follow the instructions at http://www.regulations.gov for submitting comments. Please submit comments on any given form identified by docket number, form number, and title.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

    To request more information on this proposed information collection or to obtain a copy of the proposal and associated collection instruments, please write to: Commander, Navy Installation Command, Housing Division, 716 Sicard Street SE., Suite 1000, Washington DC 20374-5140, ATTN: HOMES.mil System Manager, or call the HOMES.mil System Manager, at 202-433-3580.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

    Title; Associated Form; and OMB Number: Enterprise Military Housing; OMB Control Number 0703-XXXX.

    Needs and Uses: The information collection requirement supports relocation assistance to military members and their families. Data collected include information on community rental housing costs/availability and home finding services. https://www.Homes.mil/HEAT allows Service Members to remotely initiate contact with the housing office and request services and housing information. Rental property listing information may also be used to support the annual DoD survey used to determine Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA). Rental listing costs and amenities provide valuable information about the affordability of housing near military installations

    Affected Public: Individual or households; Business or other for-profit.

    Annu