By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will give the public until December to comment on its sweeping proposal to curb carbon pollution from the country's power plants after some industry groups and state officials pressed for more time.
Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's office of air and radiation, told reporters on Tuesday that the agency would give stakeholders an extra 45 days, for a total of six months, to give input on its plan to cut emissions from existing power plants, many of which are powered by coal.
"We hope this additional time will give those entities wishing to submit comments the time they need to engage with us, ask questions and ultimately provide input that will help ensure that, in the end, this plan is practical, flexible, and achievable," she said.
McCabe said the delay would not affect the agency's deadline to finalize the proposed rule by June 2, 2015.
A number of lawmakers from coal-reliant states sensitive to curbs on carbon pollution had called on the EPA for as much as an extra 120 days to comment.
McCabe informed U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, and Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, of the extension early Tuesday since both had requested additional time from the EPA.
Some industry groups skeptical of the carbon curbs said the EPA should use the extra time to make major changes to its proposal.
"Without significant changes, EPA’s proposal will threaten the availability of affordable and reliable electricity to American families and businesses," said Lisa Camooso Miller, spokeswoman for the Partnership for a Better Energy Future, a coalition of 160 groups that includes the National Mining Association, the American Petroleum Institute and chambers of commerce in dozens of states.
Scott Segalla, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, said the added time is warranted because the scope of the rule is unprecedented and because "it raises an almost unfathomable number of practical issues related to planning and implementation."
States have until June 30, 2016, to submit plans for how to comply with the EPA Clean Power Plan, a federal mandate that would set individual pollution-cutting targets for each state.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, editing by Ros Krasny and Cynthia Osterman)