WASHINGTON -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), the frontrunner in the GOP presidential primary, said that the Environmental Protection Agency's air pollution regulations are to blame for the loss of 500 energy-related jobs in Texas, calling the rules emblematic of President Obama's regulatory "red tape."
“The Obama Administration continues to put up road blocks for our nation’s job creators by imposing burdensome regulations based on assumptions, not facts, that will result in job losses and increased energy costs with no definite environmental benefit," said Perry in a statement Monday. "Yet again, this administration is ignoring Texas’ proven track record of cleaning our air while creating jobs, opting instead for more stifling red tape. As expected, the only results of this rule will be putting Texans out of work and creating hardships for them and their families, while putting the reliability of Texas’ grid in jeopardy.”
Perry is referring to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), which is designed to help curb the air pollution that has come to mark the eastern United States. The new regulations scheduled to go into effect in 2012 will cut millions of tons of soot and smog emissions from power plants in 27 states at a cost of less than $1 billion per year to utility companies.
Perry's announcement comes hours after Luminant, the largest power generator in Texas, announced it would be closing two of its coal-fired power units and laying off 500 workers to comply with the EPA's new regulations -- a move projected to cut the Dallas-based company's generating capacity by 1,200 megawatts. Luminant has also announced a lawsuit targeting the new regulation, which would force it to curb emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide at power plant smokestacks. The company aims to push back the deadline for compliance.
“We have spent the last two months identifying all possible options to meet the requirements of this new rule, and we are launching a significant investment program to reduce emissions across our facilities,” Luminant CEO David Campbell said in a statement on Monday. "However, meeting this unrealistic deadline also forces us to take steps that will idle facilities and result in the loss of jobs.”
The new regulations will improve air quality for an estimated 240 million Americans, preventing a projected 30,000 premature deaths and up to 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, as well as hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma and other respiratory ailments.
EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy responded to Luminant's announcement in a statement on Monday.
The Cross State Air Pollution Rule will prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths and thousands of asthma attacks by ensuring Americans do not have to breathe pollution emitted by facilities in other states.
Prior to announcing this important rule, EPA did extensive outreach to industry to ensure there were an array of compliance options, and in recent weeks, we have continued to work specifically with Luminant, making the Administrator, Deputy Administrator and EPA technical staff available to assess their needs and continue to ensure they have options to meet these important new standards – including exploring additional flexibility for the company and encouraging more reliance on technologies the company has already installed. As recently as yesterday EPA offered to share additional information that shows the potential for a no-shut down, no-layoff solution for statewide compliance. It is unfortunate that company leadership rushed to a decision that needlessly puts their workers' jobs at risk.
This administration agreed with the previous administration's 2005 decision that these facilities threatened the health of Americans living downwind, and this action by Luminant represents an abrupt change of direction. Since the Bush Administration, these facilities have made business decisions to comply with a rule that is very similar to what we announced in July - staying within pollution limits without needing to make serious investments in pollution controls at several facilities.
Today, rather than continuing their previous efforts at complying with important health safeguards, and despite EPA's repeated pledges to work with them in finding an agreeable path to cutting pollution, they made the choice to lay off workers and idle facilities.
It is not EPA's role to tell private corporations which business decisions to make, but we firmly believe that there are better
alternatives for Luminant. We remain committed to working with them, and sharing additional information, to find ways forward that protect health and save the jobs of Luminant's workers.
Perry's finger-pointing comes amid growing hostility toward EPA regulations, with Republican presidential pledging to cut the agency's federal funding and strip it of the tools to address emissions. GOP presidential candidates are further expected to cite Luminant as an example of the sort of job-killing regulatory regime they've had to fight back against since Obama took office, as well as a means of discrediting Obamas’ approach to job creation.
It won't be the first time the EPA has come under attack from GOP hopefuls. HuffPost has compiled a slideshow highlighting presidential candidates' positions on the EPA -- who would you vote for?
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who's leading a lawsuit to block the EPA from limiting carbon emissions at power plants, wants new environmental regulations shelved until the economy picks up. In a speech on Monday, he called for a moratorium on all regulations until the economy picks up. Anna Greenberg, Democratic pollster with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, warned that Perry's candidacy could pressure other Republican hopefuls to adopt even more extreme positions. "There is no evidence that a general electorate favors eliminating the EPA or environmental regulations in general," Greenberg told HuffPost in an email. "I do think that as the Republican presidential candidates are pushed even farther to the right by the entry of Rick Perry into the race, it makes it harder for them to appeal to general election voters."
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has dubbed the regulatory agency the greatest threat to American jobs. "Every time liberals get into office, they pass an omnibus bill of big spending projects," Bachmann said in a recent CNN debate. "What we need to do is pass the mother of all repeal bills ... that will get rid of job killing regulations. And I would begin with the EPA because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the 'Job Killing Organization of America.'" Bachmann has suggested that she would eliminate the EPA were she to be elected to the White House. But that hasn't stopped her from petitioning the regulatory agency for direct financial help or aid, HuffPost's Sam Stein and Jason Cherkis first reported.
Jon Huntsman has called for a moratorium on environmental regulations until the economy picks up. And, in last week's Iowa Republican presidential debate, he called for an end to the "EPA's regulatory reign of terror." "We don't make things anymore in this country," he said. "We need to start making things in this country. And in order to do that, we need serious regulatory reform, not just repealing Obamacare, but ending the EPA's regulatory reign of terror." During his time as governor of Utah, he was an outspoken proponent of cap and trade, but he has since backtracked on the position, telling Fox News that such measures could cripple an already beleaguered economy. "Everybody talked about it. At least a lot of people did," Huntsman said. "Every governor was talking about dealing with emissions back many, many years ago only to find that with the economic implosion, we can't afford anything that is going to put any kind of hamper on economic growth."
Presidential hopeful Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, has vowed to effectively gut the EPA within a month of being elected, handing environmental regulatory duties over to an "independent commission" to be headed by oil and gas executives.
Newt Gingrich has also called for the total elimination of the agency, suggesting it be replaced with a new organization that would work more closely with businesses and push for the integration of more science and technology. "What you have is a very expensive bureaucracy that across the board makes it harder to solve problems, slows down the development of new innovations," Gingrich said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Ron Paul, when asked about the role of the EPA in an interview with Grist from a few years ago, called the regulatory agency "completely unnecessary." From the interview: Environmental protection in the U.S. should function according to the same premise as "prior restraint" in a newspaper. Newspapers can't print anything that's a lie. There has to be recourse. But you don't invite the government in to review every single thing that the print media does with the assumption they might do something wrong. The EPA assumes you might do something wrong; it's a bureaucratic, intrusive approach and it favors those who have political connections.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has opposed the regulation of carbon dioxide and other gases contributing to global warming. On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, he said the federal agency shouldn't have the authority to cap greenhouse gas emissions. "I think we may have made a mistake, we have made a mistake is what I believe, in saying that the EPA should regulate carbon emissions," he said. "I don't think that was the intent of the original legislation, and I don't think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies."