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) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Trump budget slashes EPA funding | International hunting council disbands amid lawsuit | Bill targets single-use plastics Trump budget slashes EPA funding, environmental programs Overnight Energy: Trump credits economic progress to environmental rollbacks | Vote to subpoena Interior delayed by prayer breakfast | Dems hit agency for delaying energy efficiency funds 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 FischerLoeffler works to gain traction with conservatives amid Collins primary bid Bolton upends Trump impeachment trial  The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment unknowns await returning lawmakers MORE (R-Neb.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSusan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same 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 LandrieuA decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ MORE (D-La.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 MORE (D-Ark.) and Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (D-Alaska) — are embroiled in tough reelection fights, while others, such as retiring Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinTrump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer New Hampshire parochialism, not whiteness, bedevils Democrats Democrats must question possible political surveillance 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.