Must everything be bigger in Texas?

Stefany Quirico

Texas’ largest power company, Luminant, announced Monday that it filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency because of a new regulation that would force the giant to shut down several of its facilities and eliminate about 500 jobs. This comes at the heels of President Barack Obama’s $450-billion plan to create jobs and boost the economy.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is designed to protect the health of Americans and the well-being of the environment by significantly cutting smoke stack emissions in 27 of the highest polluting states by January 2012. According to the EPA, the reduction of emissions will result in the prevention of as many as 34,000 premature deaths, 400,000 aggravated asthma attacks and 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks per year starting in 2014.

Despite the projected health benefits, the rule has encountered widespread criticism, especially in Texas. In fact, at a hearing Tuesday in Austin, state power companies and members of commissions questioned the inclusion of Texas in the new rule, according to The Texas Tribune.

Luminant spokesman Allan Koenig said that the new requirements are “simply not achievable in five months,” according to The Associated Press. Electric companies across the state have asked the EPA to extend the deadline, claiming that the modifications necessary to comply with the regulations would require them to cut back on production and, as a consequence, lay off workers.

Luminant’s decision to discharge employees can be seen as a response to President Obama’s job generating plan. The move appears to be a continuation of the never-ending political games that have taken a hold of American politics in the past few months.

Only hours after the company’s announcement, Gov. Rick Perry accused the Obama administration of “[continuing] 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” in a press release.

Decreasing production, and thus laying off workers, is not necessary to meet the new EPA regulations. Power-generating agencies could instead switch to cleaner coal and invest in new equipment to decrease emissions. Let’s not forget the basic economic principle, which is that technology is the catalyst of growth.

Furthermore, increased energy costs are inevitable, and we will all be affected by them. The rule is an important step toward a more sustainable environment and a healthier population, and we can expect higher energy costs to be offset by cuts in healthcare and environmental cleanup expenditures.

Finally, the environmental and health benefits of decreasing smoke stack emissions are definite. The EPA estimates that the new regulation will cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 73 percent and 50 percent respectively. These emissions are linked to acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer and various respiratory diseases.

The rule makes sense and is fair. As its name implies, the exceedingly high rates of smoke stack emissions in one state negatively affect the health and environmental conditions of its neighbors because pollution is not contained by state borders. Thus, if other states can comply with the environmental regulations established by the EPA, there is no reason why we shouldn’t do the same.

Everything is bigger in Texas, but smoke stack emissions can be the exception.

Quirico is an economics and international relations junior.