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The Environmental Protection Agency is again delaying a plan to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, saying it needs more time to propose the rule. The move comes amid intense pushback from business groups and Republican lawmakers who complain a recent slate of EPA proposals are chilling business investment and hindering the economic recovery. Late last month, the White House forced the EPA to abandon an air-pollution rule that business groups said would kill millions of jobs.

An EPA official said the agency is committed to the rule, which it is legally required to propose. “We are working on a schedule and will release it as soon as possible,” the official said. “This is EPA’s decision. It’s a complex rule. We just needed more time.”

The rule is expected to control greenhouse-gas emissions from U.S. power plants, possibly by limiting the amount of carbon dioxide a facility can emit. Some in the industry, particularly those whose utilities rely heavily on coal, have expressed concern that such a shift could be costly and cause electricity prices to rise. Business groups have also complained the EPA was rushing the rule and hadn’t engaged the industry in discussions.

“That EPA needs more time comes as no surprise. …The deadlines did not allow time for EPA to grapple with the far-reaching policy judgments implicated by setting greenhouse-gas standards,” said Lisa Jaeger, a partner with Bracewell & Giuliani LLP who represents parties subject to the rules.

This is the second time EPA has delayed the proposal, which was originally supposed to have been issued in July 2011 and then was pushed to the end of September. The EPA has not announced a new date, prompting concern among some environmental groups who worry the rule could suffer the same fate as the rule on ozone-causing emissions the White House jettisoned in August.

“We’re seeing a dangerous trend with the president first pulling the ozone rule and now this. We’re skeptical that politics didn’t influence this decision,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The EPA has been under incredible pressure from industry and antienvironmental members of Congress who are working overtime to block its efforts to protect Americans’ health and well-being.”

Administration officials said the ozone rule was discretionary, while the greenhouse-gas rule is required by a settlement agreement overseen by a federal court.

Republican lawmakers, who have cited the greenhouse-gas rule as one of 10 “job-destroying” regulations, welcomed the move.

“I am very pleased by today’s announcement that one of EPA’s most economically damaging rules will be delayed,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe said in a statement, adding that Republicans would work to block other EPA rules from coming into effect.

The Wall Street Journal, 15 September 2011