We’ve followed the travails of Luminant, the Texas energy giant that is laying off 500 Texans due to new EPA regulations set to take effect on January 1, 2012. Luminant has fired off a scathing letter to the EPA, posted here, in which the company rips the agency and notes that the rule is not based on sound science and will do nothing to clean up the air. Take a couple of minutes and read Luminant’s letter and you’ll get a sense of just how unfair the EPA’s actions have been, and how unresponsive the agency has been to the company’s, the state of Texas’ and everyone else’s concerns about the regulations.
Also not concerned about jobs and the Texans who lose them is Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Texas branch of Public Citizen. That’s Ralph Nader’s group. They’re supposed to be consumer advocates. They’re supposed to be the voice of the little guy, unless, I guess, the little guy works in an industry that Public Citizen doesn’t like. Smith testified (link goes behind a pay firewall) before the Texas Senate’s Natural Resources Committee on the EPA regs. And he tossed Luminant’s older workers under the regulatory bus.
Smith, in reviewing progress Texas has made in fighting air pollution in the past, said it always took external federal pressure to get the state to take decisive action to clean up its air and water. When it did, he added, the costs and job losses involved were always less than anticipated.
Besides, he said, 53 percent of 1,700 Luminant workers worried about losing their jobs are retirement age, he said.
“Attrition is a large solution to this problem. If you’ve got 1,700 workers and 53 percent of them are at or beyond retirement, it may be time to suggest that retirement’s an appropriate solution to part of this problem,” he said.
“We’re going to fire 500 . . . workers and say it’s okay?” asked a surprised Sen. Troy Fraser, (R-Horseshoe Bay) the committee chair.
Sen. Kevin Etlife (R-Tyler) fired back:
“There are no other jobs for these people,” Eltife said of his East Texas constituents. “It’s time for a reality check. Governments can no longer bail anybody out. They’re all broke.
“You go tell these people that they can’t feed their family or send their kids to school. It’s not that easy to sit in this building and say, ‘Oh, it’s time for retirement.’ It’s just not. This is not the time. There are people without work. People cannot get work. These 500 people – let’s go meet with them and see if they’re ready for retirement and whether they can replace their jobs with one comparable,” Eltife said.
“I understand that problem, senator, and I’ll be happy to come and visit with the folks in your district,” Smith replied.
I’m sure these Texans forced out of work for an unfair, overbearing regulation that will do nothing at all to clean up the air (read the Luminant letter for more on that) would love a visit with Smitty, too. People like him have turned the EPA into a jobs death panel.