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EPA Said to Plan Delay in Draft Carbon-Dioxide Rules

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to delay draft greenhouse-gas emissions limits for power plants, according to two people briefed on the discussions.

The EPA faced a July 26 deadline to propose carbon-emissions standards for electric utilities under an agreement with three environmental groups, 11 states, the District of Columbia and New York City.

Federal regulators are now seeking a two-month extension from parties to the settlement to evaluate information from companies affected by the rule, according to one of the people, who said the delay isn’t expected to alter the May 26 deadline for making the rule final. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made.

“We have nothing to announce,” EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said in an e-mailed statement.

The emission regulations would have the biggest effect on utilities that mostly burn coal to generate electricity, such as Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power Co. and Southern Co. in Atlanta.

The possibility of a postponement was reported yesterday by the National Journal.

The agency is acting after the Senate failed last year to act on House-passed legislation to cap carbon-dioxide releases.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA could regulate emissions contributing to climate change under the Clean Air Act.

Court Settlement

The same year, the governments and environmental groups filed suit in an attempt to force the agency to include greenhouse gases among pollutants restricted for power plants. The settlement halted the petitioners’ case, which was pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Republicans and some coal-state Democrats are trying to block the proposed EPA rules, which they contend would raise energy prices and cost jobs. Advocates say the rules would spur clean-energy innovation.

The Republican-led House voted to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. The Democratic-controlled Senate blocked a similar proposal.

The EPA is also drafting greenhouse-gas standards for oil refineries, set for release by December 10.

The parties to the power-plant settlement include the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, both of New York, and the San Francisco-based Sierra Club. The states in the settlement were New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Massachusetts.

Final refinery rules must be released by November 10, 2012.

Electric utilities account for 63 percent of industrial greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Petroleum refineries account for 6 percent of the total, according to the EPA.

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