EPA urged to alter comment periods for rules impacted by shutdown

By Erin Voegele | February 05, 2019

Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works are urging the U.S. EPA to reopen and extend comment periods for all pending regulatory decisions impacted by the partial government shutdown, including its wood heater rule.

On Feb. 1, the group of senators, led by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., sent a letter to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler asking him to reopen public comment periods for all pending regulatory decisions, extend those what are currently open and reschedule all public hearings that were cancelled due to the recent government shutdown. “For parts of the 35-day government shutdown, many of the federal websites that collect public comments were unavailable or inaccessible, preventing the American public from receiving the normal amount of time to review and comment on new regulations,” they said in a statement.

“Regulations.gov had identified dozens of rules with comment periods, which were active or closed during the shutdown, including high profile rules such as EPA’s proposed amendment to the wood heater rule,” the senators wrote. “Now that EPA has reopened and employees are resuming their efforts to process regulations, we urge you to reopen all closed rules, reschedule all public hearings and extend all public comment periods so that everyday Americans are able to continue participating in our democratic processes. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

In addition to Carper and Duckworth, the letter was signed by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

On Nov. 30, the EPA published its proposed rule to amend new source performance standards (NSPS) for residential wood heaters in the Federal Register, officially opening a 45-day comment period. That comment period closed Jan. 14. The Pellet Fuels Institute submitted comments on the proposal focused on its efforts to eliminate the inclusion of minimum pellet fuel requirements in the NSPS.

A separate advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) related the 2015 NSPS for residential wood heaters was also published in the Federal Register on Nov. 30. That ANPR is subject to a 75-day comment period that is scheduled to close Feb. 13.