Majority of Senate backs climate rule extension

More than half the Senate called Thursday on the Obama administration to extend the deadline for public comment on a contentious Environmental Protection Agency proposal to impose new limits on carbon emissions from power plants.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyOvernight Energy: EPA stands firm on fuel standards EPA decides not to weaken car efficiency rules Top Republican urges regulators to back off MORE, 53 senators — including 10 Democrats — proposed a 60-day extension in light of the complexity and scope of the regulation, which would put the total comment period at 180 days, or half a year.

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“This extension is critical to ensure that state regulatory agencies and other stakeholders have adequate time to fully analyze and comment on the proposal,” the lawmakers wrote.

Perhaps the single most controversial regulation offered up by the Obama administration, the rule for existing power plants is the centerpiece of the president’s initiative to counter the effects of climate change.

The rule was formally proposed in June, and would require power plants to slash their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, reducing harmful pollutants in the air and improving public health.

When proposing the rule, the EPA decided to allow stakeholders 120 days to comment, which is longer than the normal 60-day period typically set for regulations.

But industry groups and many congressional Republicans have assailed the rule as part of a “war on coal.”

The appeal for an extension, led by Sens. Deb FischerDeb FischerTrump’s Cabinet picks raise hopes for infrastructure package GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election No. 3 GOP senator: I'll still vote for Trump MORE (R-Neb.) and Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampTrump flirts with Dems for Cabinet Trump meets with Dem senator amid Cabinet speculation Dem senator shares Trump Tower elevator with Naked Cowboy MORE (D-N.D.), is meant to ensure interested parties have at least 120 days to analyze the proposal and steps that would have to be taken to comply.

“While we appreciate EPA granting an initial 120 comment period, the complexity and magnitude of the proposed rule necessitates an extension," the letter states.

"It is also important to note that the challenge is not only one of commenting on the complexity and sweeping scope of this rule, but also providing an opportunity to digest more than 600 supporting documents released by EPA in support of this proposal," the letter adds.

Several of the Democrats who signed on to the letter — including Sens. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.), Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (D-Ark.) and Mark BegichMark BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide MORE (D-Alaska) — are embroiled in tough reelection fights, while others, such as retiring Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (D-Iowa), face less political pressure to push against the rule.

Fischer and Heitkamp led a coalition of 47 senators in calling for a similar extension in May.