Monday morning federal headlines – August 29

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Federal agencies are open today, with unscheduled leave and telework policies in place, the Office of Personnel Management announced. Several government buildings remain closed, though, because of power outages caused by Hurricane Irene. The General Services Administration reports two buildings in Maryland, two in Massachusetts, and one in North Carolina are without power. Locally, the H. Wiley Federal Building in College Park and the FRC Building in Silver Spring, Md., were closed as of last evening. (Federal News Radio)
  • FEMA is suspending payments to projects from previous disasters, to pay for its response to Hurricane Irene, the Associated Press reports. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has less than $1 billion available for federal disaster assistance. So, FEMA is temporarily halting payments to rebuild structures in Joplin, Mo., and other long term projects. It’s a process called “immediate needs funding.” The agency says its placing priority on the current disaster and the people who need immediate aid. The move is expected the keep the federal disaster relief fund solvent. FEMA will still pay people eligible for individual storm assistance. Ten states, the District and Puerto Rico have applied for federal emergency assistance since last week.
  • The General Services Administration has renewed a more-than 52,000 square-foot Treasury Department lease at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, The Washington Business Journal reports. Treasury will continue to occupy three floors of the building under the 10-year deal. The building, which was built in 1964, is 90 percent leased. It was built in 1964. Treasury has other offices too — at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue and 1801 L Street, Northwest. (Washington Business Journal)
  • A major federal union is urging the Congressional “super committee” to stop cuts to federal pay, benefits and workforce sizes. The American Federation of Government Employees sent a letter to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) who co-chairs the 12-member committee. AFGE wants all proposals that hit feds in the pocketbook to be taken off the bargaining table. (Federal News Radio)
  • A federal appeals court has voided a truck safety rule the government has been trying to establish since 2003. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit tossed a requirement that commercial carriers use electronic recorders to track drivers’ hours. The court said the Transportation Department failed to ensure the rule would not be used to harass vehicle operators. The court acknowledged accuracy problems with paper logs truck drivers have been filling out since the 1940s. Several trucking groups had sued DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration over the rule. (
  • For the past month, the National Transportation Safety Board has been conducting a survey of the amateur-built aircraft community. They want to know how those homemade planes are built and operated so investigators can better understand the safety issues. More than 5,000 owners, operators and builders responded to the survey, which will remain open until August 31st. Of the approximately 224,000 general aviation aircraft in the country, about 33,000 are classified as E-AB, or experimental-amateur built. But, NTSB investigators said that this group has experienced more accidents recently than any other segment of general aviation. The NTSB is working with the Experimental Aircraft Association to improve that record. (NTSB)
  • The Energy Department is backing a really big mirror. It is guaranteeing most of an $852 million loan to build something called a parabolic trough concentrating solar power plant. The 250 megawatt plant will be built in Riverside County, California. Next-Era Energy Resources will construct the generator and Credit Suisse will make the loan to be backed by the federal government. The company estimates the project will generate 800 construction jobs and 47 permanent jobs to operate the plant. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that, when completed, the new plan will increase parabolic mirror generating capacity by 50 percent. (Energy Department)
  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence wants to know … what happens next? It has launched a research program to help forecast what it calls “significant societal events.” Events might include political or humanitarian crises, mass violence, economic instability or severe shortages. One theory is that big events often follow big changes in communications, consumption or population movement. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency is seeking research proposals from industry and academia. (ODNI)