Senators seek more time to comment on coal plant emission standards
BISMARCK — A bipartisan group of U.S. senators wants the Environmental Protection Agency to allow extra time for public comment on proposed rules expected to be released next week for greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., led a letter sent by 47 senators last week to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling for a 120-day comment period on the draft rules.
The EPA released proposed standards for new coal-fired power plants last September and later extended the original 60-day comment period by an additional 60 days, until May 9.
“So it only makes sense to provide at least the same timeline from the outset for the existing plant rule,” the letter stated.
Also signing the letter were Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., John Thune, R-S.D., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Walsh, D-Mont.
The bipartisan coalition — 32 Republicans and 15 Democrats — urged the EPA to start the comment period as soon as the proposed rule is noticed in the Federal Register, “given the significant impact this rule could have on our nation’s electricity providers and consumers, on jobs in communities that have existing coal-based power plants, and on the economy as a whole.”
The EPA is scheduled to publish a final rule for existing coal-fired plants in June 2015, with states’ plans to meet those standards due by June 2016.
The proposed rules for new coal-fired plants would limit carbon dioxide emissions to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour, which is less than half the current average of about 2,250 pounds per megawatt hour for coal-fired plants, including North Dakota’s seven plants.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report estimating the EPA’s plans to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants will cost the U.S. economy an average of $51 billion per year through 2030 and force U.S. consumers to pay $289 billion more for electricity during that time.