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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Facing opposition from Republicans and many in the energy industry, the Environmental Protection Agency will likely delay proposing rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, expected in July, by at least a month, sources said.
"We would not be surprised if it does not come out at the end of July, if it slips by a month or so," a source at an environmental think tank, who works with states and federal agencies on strategies to tackle climate change, and wished to remain anonymous, said Thursday.
The EPA said late last year it would propose rules on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants -- known as performance standards -- in July. It plans to set rules on oil refineries in December.
The Obama administration has pledged to reduce U.S. emissions by about 17 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. The EPA's rules on greenhouse gases, which the agency began rolling out at the start of the year, are a major way for the administration to achieve that goal after Congress failed last year to pass a broad energy bill that included a "cap and trade" market system to curtail output of the gases.
But the EPA has taken on its heaviest load in years with upcoming rules on greenhouse gases and other pollutants, which could lead to delays.
Ahead of next year's presidential and congressional elections, Republicans in the House of Representatives have been trying to stop the agency from making rules on the gases, saying they will boost energy bills and hurt jobs by driving businesses overseas.
The EPA would not say if it was considering a delay. "We don't have anything to announce on this," an EPA spokesman said in an email.
An environmentalist said greens were watching the EPA closely to see if politics entered into the decision. "We would be concerned but not devastated," about a delay of a month or so, because EPA's workload is so heavy right now, said Frank O'Donnell, the president of Clean Air Watch.
But he said heavy opposition from Republicans and industry has already led EPA to delay rules on ozone and other air pollution issues, so a delay of longer a few months on greenhouse gases would be worrisome as the emissions will be even harder to tackle in the future.
Many in the energy industry say now is not the right time for greenhouse gas rules. Power industry lobbyist Scott Segal, of Bracewell & Giuliani, said that complying with the greenhouse gas rules, combined with other rules on pollutants, could affect the reliability of the electric grid.
It was unclear if a delay in the proposal of the greenhouse gases rules would affect date of their finalization. The EPA said in December that finalization of the greenhouse gas rules on power plants would come in May 2012 and on oil refineries in November 2012.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Marguerita Choy