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 McCarthyWhite House details environmental benefits plan for disadvantaged communities Tom Brady to Biden: '40 percent of the people still don't think we won' Clean electricity standard should be a no brainer amid extreme climate impacts 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 FischerLawmakers introduce bill allowing higher ethanol blend in gasoline after ruling Lobbying world On The Money: May jobs report to land at pivotal moment in Biden agenda | Biden, top GOP negotiator agree to continue infrastructure talks Friday MORE (R-Neb.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampJoe Manchin's secret Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Effective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests 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 LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE (D-La.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorBottom line Everybody wants Joe Manchin Cotton glides to reelection in Arkansas MORE (D-Ark.) and Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary MORE (D-Alaska) — are embroiled in tough reelection fights, while others, such as retiring Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinEx-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa We need a voting rights workaround Romney's TRUST Act is a Trojan Horse to cut seniors' benefits 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.