AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Monday asked President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to prevent or delay implementation of stricter pollution standards, saying they will have an "immediate and devastating" effect on the state.
The standards have stirred up Texas' largest energy companies, which say they don't have adequate time to meet the deadlines without shutting down plants and jeopardizing the reliability of Texas' electric grid. Implementation of the rules starts Jan. 1.
In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Perry said the implementation of the Cross State Air Pollution Rules will have an "immediate and devastating effect on Texas jobs, our economy and our ability to supply the electricity our citizens, schools and employers need."
Perry released the letter as he tries to shore up support among conservatives in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
The White House said the new standards will save lives.
"We stand behind common sense, vital Clean Air Act protections for public health and clean air," White House spokesman Clark Stevens said. "This rule will prevent over 34,000 premature deaths each year and ensure that American families aren't suffering the consequences of harmful air pollution generated far from home."
The new clean air rules are designed to significantly reduce smog and soot pollution by requiring 27 states, including Texas, to decrease smokestack emissions. The new guidelines apply to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, which mostly come from coal-fired plants.
Texas has 19 coal-fired power plants - more than any other state - and plans to build nine more. It is one of the few states still adding coal-fired plants and releases more air pollutants than any other state. Most other states are building generation plants that use sources other than coal, particularly natural gas.
On Sept. 12, Texas' largest electricity producer, Luminant, said it would shut down two coal-fired power units and lay off hundreds of workers if the new rules were enforced, even after the EPA offered to help the company meet the tougher standards.
"Mr. President, you have recently proclaimed that your administration is committed to creating jobs," Perry wrote. "These rules do not create jobs. They are a job killer in Texas, and they must be stopped."
Texas, faced with a growing population, few new energy sources and hot summers, has been vocal in its opposition to the regulations since they were announced in July. The state has asked a federal appeals court to review the rules.
Perry has used the new rules as fodder in his long-standing accusation that the EPA under Obama meddles in state affairs, lays down expensive regulations during tough economic times and is forcing companies to cut jobs to offset the cost of complying with environmental rules.