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Shutdown Could Set Back (Slightly) New EPA Rules Shutdown Could Set Back (Slightly) New EPA Rules

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Shutdown Could Set Back (Slightly) New EPA Rules

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A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on September 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, will be one of two plants in the region to be shut down, affecting 380 employees. The Evironmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Obama administration have been taking major steps to get coal-fired power plants into compliance with clean air regulations.(JEFF SWENSEN/Getty Images)

The coal industry has already claimed one victory this week with the withdrawn nomination of Ron Binz, and it may stand to gain -- if only marginally -- from the government shutdown as well. The shutdown, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, could delay the implementation of tightened standards for new power plants.

The forced cutback of employees, the agency said in an email, would delay the rules' publication in the Federal Register, which in turn would set back the 60-day comment period and required public hearing before the implementation of new regulations.

 

Still, any delays are likely to be insignificant, said former EPA air official Jeff Holmstead. "If the disruption has an impact, it's likely to be on lower priority things," Holmstead said. "[EPA staffers are] part of a process that takes years, so a government shutdown of a few days or a few weeks doesn't really have a big impact. ... On a rulemaking of this size, EPA almost always extends the rulemaking anyway."

The agency also cited the fact that staff members affected by the shutdown would be unable to answer public questions on the new regulations, and a lengthy shutdown could interfere with the 11 planned public listening sessions on the issue. But since the rules have already been made public, Holmstead said, "that's not really a significant part of rulemaking at this point."

Amy Harder contributed to this article.

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