The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it will extend the comment period on its proposed Clean Power Plan for 45 days. The plan was released in June and is the EPA's first-ever effort to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants.
Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, said the agency is stretching the comment deadline from Oct. 16 to Dec. 1. According to a Huffington Post article, McCabe told reporters the EPA has seen a "strong amount of interest" and, therefore, aims to give more time to stakeholders. So far, the EPA has received over 750,000 comments and even held public hearings on its Clean Power Plan in July.
"We want the best rule possible, and we want to give people every opportunity to give their ideas and contributions," explained McCabe. Despite the extension, she said, the EPA still expects to finalize the new rules by President Barack Obama's June 2015 deadline.
The EPA's announcement comes about a week after 53 U.S. Senators sent the agency a joint letter requesting a 60-day extension of the public comment period.
"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 senators wrote. "It is also important to note that the challenge is not only one of commenting on the complexity and sweeping scope of the rule, but also providing an opportunity to digest more than 600 supporting documents released by EPA in support of this proposal."
At least two signers of the letter – U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb. – have publicly welcomed the 45-day extension.
"It's good for all sides that the EPA listened to the bipartisan group of senators that Senator Fischer and I led by providing more time to review these complex new rules so states, utilities and others potentially impacted by them can comment on them,’ says Heitkamp in a press release from the two senators.
Environmental groups have also praised the EPA for allowing more time. Liz Perera, the Sierra Club's climate policy director, says in a statement, "Already, the EPA has shown unprecedented outreach to engage with states, and extending the deadline will only allow for more comments and helpful input to be considered as the EPA finalizes the plan."
David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says in a separate statement, "It's critical that EPA adopt the strongest, most effective standards to curb dangerous carbon pollution from power plants. The brief extension â�¦ allows for more public input without compromising the president's deadline for EPA to finalize these first-ever climate pollution limits by next June."