Texas Coal Company Announces 500 Layoffs, Sues to Block EPA Regulation

It was sadly ironic that Texas energy company Luminant announced it would lay off 500 employees on the same morning that President Obama unveiled legislation designed to promote job growth. The company said that a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency will force it to cease operations at two electricity generating plants, and close three coal mines.

“We have hundreds of employees who have spent their entire professional careers at Luminant and its predecessor companies,” Luminant CEO David Campbell said in a news release. “At every step of this process, we have tried to minimize these impacts, and it truly saddens me that we are being compelled to take the actions we’ve announced today.”

The company cited the EPA’s new cross-state pollution rule as the impetus for the decision, and noted that it had worked to identify other means of reducing emissions, but that “meeting this unrealistic deadline also forces us to take steps that will idle facilities and result in the loss of jobs,” Campbell said.

Campbell also announced that the company has filed a lawsuit against the EPA in an effort “to achieve [EPA emissions] goals without harming critically important Texas jobs and electric reliability.” The suit seeks to block the cross-state pollution rule for Texas companies, and to grant a stay to Texas companies to prevent them from having to comply with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions standards by the existing January 1, 2012 deadline.

But though the company called the regulation unrealistic policy, it also said that it will seek emissions reductions. ”Luminant supports continued efforts to improve air quality across the state and nation,” the company’s release stated. “Since 2005, for example, Luminant has achieved a 21 percent reduction in SO2 emissions, while at the same time increasing generation by 13 percent.”

Faced with potential economic damage from the cross-state pollution rule and other EPA regulations, other groups have also spoken out for environmental solutions that do not imperil the nation’s economy.

In Missouri, for instance, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity established a state-level coalition to push for “reasonable environmental regulation that continues the pursuit of cleaner air while balancing economic priorities.” While clean coal has problems of its own, the emphasis on economically sound environmental policies seems to be gaining steam as the EPA steps up its regulatory efforts.

Even groups generally on the political left have spoken out against those regulations while still noting the importance of environmental concerns. The president of the St. Louis chapter of the AFL-CIO, a member of the Missouri clean coal group, called on the EPA to “consider a balanced approach that gives us cleaner air without sacrificing jobs and increasing energy prices.”

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