Thursday, September 15, 2011

Judge Brian Lee Declaration on Coal Plant shutdown

Attached is a letter that Titus County Judge Brian Lee has submitted regarding Luminant's lawsuit against the EPA. It is my understanding that Judge Lee has initiated the budget workshop this Friday, Sept. 16, beginning at 9 am. and my gratitude to him for recognizing and taking action to address the economic crisis that our county is facing because of obama's EPA mandates.
From what I am hearing, our commissioners are not receptive to making any major cuts to their own budgets or salaries, so it's very important that we taxpayers turn our in numbers Friday morning and again on Monday at 10 a.m. for the second hearing on an increased county tax rate of 11%.
The county's annual budget is $10 million dollars with an additional $3 million being paid annually for interest on the "loop" project. The press release from Luminant on Monday has left no options except to cut the spending and prepare for next year. Our commissioners now receive $54,017 in salary with a $15,600 travel allowance and taxpayers also pick up the tab for hospitalization and dental insurance, adding an additional $9,300.00.  
It's time for those advocating a tax increase, our commissioners, to remember that they work for us, the taxpayers. If they choose to ignore the economic crisis we are all facing and most have felt since 2008, we the voters will remember. It's time to make serious county budget cuts starting with the commissioners.
Budget Workshop, 9 a.m. this Friday at the courthouse.
2nd public hearing on 11% tax increase, Monday, Sept 19, 10 a.m. at the courthouse.
Barbara Bruechner, Mt. Pleasant Tea Party


Luminant Generation Company LLC, et al.



Environmental Protection Agency, et al.


Case No. 11-1315

Declaration of Judge Brian P. Lee
1.                  I am the County Judge for Titus County, Texas and was elected to the position in November, 2010. In addition to certain judicial responsibilities, a County Judge in Texas serves in an important administrative role for the County. I am responsible for drafting the County budget, and I preside over the Commissioners Court, which oversees the budget and the business of the County. Thus, I am very familiar with the County’s budget, services, and revenue.
2.                  I am providing this declaration to support Luminant’s motion to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) by describing the harm that rule will cause Titus County unless the Court acts to stay the rule. The information included in this declaration is based on my personal knowledge and my years of experience as a businessman and civic leader in the County.
3.                  I have lived in Titus County since 1983, working first for a local businessman and then owning and operating several of my own businesses. In 1987, my wife and I built the El Chico Restaurant and operated it for 20 years. Since 2003, I have owned and operated The Space Place, a five location self storage facility. I am also part owner of LMP Concrete, a locally owned ready mix plant.
4.                  I have previously been elected to the Mount Pleasant City Council and the Titus Regional Medical Center Board of Managers. I have served as a volunteer with The Chamber of Commerce (Board), Titus Regional Medical Foundation (Vice President), Habitat for Humanity (Treasurer), Industrial Foundation (President), and the Industrial Development Corporation (nominated by City Council).
5.                  I attended Baylor University where I earned my Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting in 1980. I received my license as a Certified Public Accountant while working for Ernst & Young in Dallas immediately after college.
6.                  Titus County’s largest taxpayer is Luminant, which runs the Monticello power plant and associated mines. Luminant announced on September 12, 2011 that it will stop running two of the three power generation units at the Monticello plant and will also close the Thermo and Winfield lignite mines, because it cannot comply with CSAPR and still operate those facilities.
7.                  If Luminant is forced to close those operations, it would be devastating to Titus County. It would be the perfect storm of higher taxes, higher unemployment, and  higher utility rates. In the three decades that I have lived here, we have never had to suffer through something like that.
Higher taxes or fewer services (or both)
8.                  Titus County raises most of the funds for its services through an ad valorem tax on property and equipment. In 2010, Luminant paid $3.3 million out of the approximately $9.5 million collected countywide pursuant to the ad valorem tax.
9.                  Unfortunately our County is already having to significantly increase taxes because of a number of factors, including the 2010 decision by Pilgrim’s Pride to move its executive offices to Colorado. The tax implications of that are still working their way through the system, but they are already reducing our tax revenue.
10.              If CSAPR forces Luminant to shut down facilities, we are going to face unprecedented reductions in property values and, therefore, tax revenues. That will drive the need to raise taxes even higher, in a time when the county is already struggling to recover from the nationwide economic recession and the loss of a major employer in the area.
11.              However, we may have to cut services as well if the tax increases cannot keep pace with the property value reductions driven by CSAPR. The ad valorem tax provides 67% of the money used to fund County services. The majority of the County’s budget is devoted to law enforcement through the sheriff’s department and County jail.  Additional services include, but are certainly not limited to, providing maintenance to roads and bridges, the County Clerk, automobile registration, and the County Court. I am not sure what services we would need to cut first or which employees we would need to lay off, but the cuts will not be easy and they will certainly harm the County residents who rely on the services.
12.              We’re currently at the end of our budget cycle, and due to property devaluation that has already occurred, we are postponing plans to expand the county offices, which have not been remodeled or updated since the early 1990s.  Expansion is needed because of the growth in population we have experienced during that time.  These offices house voter registration, auto registration, tax collection, the district court, and child and adult probation.  Due to the uncertainty caused by the EPA rule, projects like these will have to be shelved indefinitely.

Higher unemployment
13.              The closures at Luminant will significantly impact jobs in the area. Luminant is a major employer that provides some of the community’s best, highest-paying jobs. There are no employers in the area that are positioned to be able to provide replacement jobs for those Luminant employees.
14.              The loss of those jobs will have a “ripple” effect that is hard to calculate, but that is very real. We are in the midst of a similar event because of the Pilgrim’s Pride relocation mentioned above. When we lost all of the company’s executive officers, the businesses in the area saw significant reductions in sales. In addition, the housing market suffered reduced prices and there is a glut of houses for sale.  These reduced housing prices will continue for several years. That also means that new houses are no longer being built by our tradesmen.
Higher utility rates
15.              As a businessman, it is obvious to me that we are going to end up paying more for our electricity if Luminant is forced to cut back the supply of energy. If the supply goes down and the demand stays the same (or increases), the law of supply and demand dictates that we are going to be seeing higher energy prices.
16.              In addition, I am concerned that we are going to experience more power reliability problems. This summer’s heat wave resulted in repeated warnings from the State that we need to conserve energy so that we do not lose power. If there is less generating capacity available because Luminant is not operating some of its generating units, those problems are likely going to be worse.
17.              This is a tough time for our community. Just a few years ago, we thought that Luminant was going to be significantly expanding its power plant. Now we are looking at just the opposite, unless this Court stays CSAPR.
I, Brian P. Lee, declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed this ____ day of September 2011.

                  Judge Brian P. Lee

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