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 McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyEPA chief upgraded official car to one with bulletproof seat covers Watchdog requests probe into relationship between top EPA aide and man investigating him GOP senators push back on calls to investigate Pruitt 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 FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Tariff fight could hit GOP in key Senate states Russia, China eclipse US in hypersonic missiles, prompting fears MORE (R-Neb.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel Overnight Defense: House to begin work on defense policy bill | Panel to vote Monday on Pompeo | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump appeals decision blocking suspected combatant's transfer The Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos 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 Loretta LandrieuSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Project Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible MORE (D-La.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.) and Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska) — are embroiled in tough reelection fights, while others, such as retiring Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law 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.