Environment

The Environment Protection Agency will delay releasing its final rules for carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.

The first round of rules—regulating new power plants—was expected this week, while final rules about modified and existing power plants were scheduled for June. But EPA Air Chief Janet McCabe said today the rules will be pushed back and finalized together sometime this summer.

The delay is partly because of extensions to the comment period, and partly to make sure all the rules work together and address overlapping issues.

“We think these additional few weeks will give us the time we need to review the extensive public comments on all three proposals—more than 4 million in total—and finalize a suite of rules that takes into account any and all of these cross-cutting issues,” McCabe said.

The EPA’s proposal restricts greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, due to concerns about the effects of these gases on human health and climate change. It will disproportionately affect coal-fired power plants, because they emit the most carbon dioxide.

Right now, the rule is structured to allow states to create their own plans to meet set emissions goals, and McCabe said that’s the agency’s preference. But she added that the EPA will also propose a federal plan, so states can decide how they want to proceed.

“But we also know that setting out a federal plan is an important step to ensure that our Clean Air Act obligations are fulfilled,” she said. “At the same time, we believe that many states will find it helpful to look at a federal plan proposal as they begin to develop their own compliance plans. Indeed, they have told us this very thing.”

The Clean Power Plan has been a target for Republican lawmakers, and now that the GOP controls both houses of Congress, many expect steps to attempt to dismantle the pending regulations. New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said in the past that stopping the regulation of carbon dioxide would be one of his top priorities.

Delaying the release of the final rules means that Congress won’t be able to take action on the measures for several more months. But McCabe denied that the delay is politically motivated.

“This is all about the best policy outcome and the appropriate policy outcome for this set of really important environmental and public health standards,” she said.

Here are the comments Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet submitted on the Clean Power Plan.