EPA chief won't attend public hearings on climate rule

Environmental chief Gina McCarthy won't be attending any of the four public hearings on the agency's landmark climate rule this week.

"That would be unprecedented," she said on a call with reporters to preview the public hearings.

The daylong hearings will last two days in each location. The EPA is expecting to hear comments from more than 1,600 people on the rules, which require states to cut carbon dioxide from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

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This is the second phase of engagement for the EPA, which did "historic" outreach leading up to the rules proposal on June 2, McCarthy said.

While some lawmakers and industry groups are calling for an extension to the 120-day comment period offered to the public to submit feedback on the rules, McCarthy said the agency doesn't intend to provide additional time.

The period is already twice as long as normal 60-day span mandated for every proposal. The EPA stressed that it treats every comment, regardless of the form submitted, equally.

People will have until Oct. 16 to submit comments by email, fax or letter.

While McCarthy won't attend the hearings, she stressed the importance of them in the overall process leading to the finalized rule.

"They are significant, which is why we wanted to do this call to call attention to it," McCarthy said of the hearings. "This is about documenting what is already happening and people re concerned about the change in climate."

"Listening to people right now is the most important thing for the EPA and country to understand what the American Public wants us to do as an agency," McCarthy said.

McCarthy wouldn't say if she planned to do outreach of her own this week, or planned to meet with any stakeholders on the rules.

"We will see how the week goes. We are focused on the comment period and getting the hearings accomplished," McCarthy said.