EPA chief resigns after outrage over comments saying EPA should figuratively “crucify” EPA offenders to set an example.
April 30 2012 – Baghouse.com News | A top EPA regional administrator resigned today over controversial comments regarding his views of how the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) should enforce its environmental regulations, saying that the EPA should do like the ancient Romans who would crucify conquered villagers to set an example. Al Armendariz, the administrator for the EPA’s 6th region tendered his resignation after his remarks draw the ire of various members of Congress and the media.
In his letter of resignation to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, he expressed his regret over his statements, and claimed they did not reflect his work as an EPA administrator, or the EPA’s views general. However, he acknowledged that with the controversy his continued work at the EPA cause an undue distraction, and therefore he felt it necessary to resign.
At a local government meeting in Texas in 2010, Armendariz liked his “philosophy of enforcement” of EPA policy to how the Romans would use crucifixion to intimidate recently conquered lands. “It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean,” he said. “They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years,” he added.
Armendariz went on to related that “you make examples out of people who are in this case not complying with the law … and you hit them as hard as you can” — to act as a “deterrent” to others. He went on to say that the oil and gas industry needed to be an “enforcement priority” for the agency. The oil and gas industry along with the power generation industry have been coming under increased pressure from new and tougher environmental regulations such as the Cross-State rule, Mercury MACT, NESHAPs, and more. Many companies will need to make extensive investments in pollution control technologies such as dust collection systems, air scrubbers and mercury capture systems to comply with the new rules.
In accepting his resignation, EPA Administrator Jackson reiterated earlier sentiments that the EPA did not agree with Armendariz comments or views as expressed in his speech. “I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the agency,” she said, thanking him for his service.
Critics Claim Remarks Are Evidence of Obama-EPA’s “Assault On Energy”
Critics of the EPA have taken the controversy as the latest proof that the “Obama-EPA” is playing partisan politics and is acting in bad faith to further the Administration’s alleged vendetta against the U.S. energy industry.
The controversy began earlier this week when Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a vehement critic of the Obama Administration (particularly on environmental issues) referenced the remarks in a speech on the Senate floor. Sen. Inhofe then proposed to launch an investigation into alleged politically-motivated bias on the part of the “Obama-EPA”.
Sen. Inhofe was not the only member of Congress to weigh in on the controversy. Several Republican lawmakers also expressed outrage and called for Armendariz to be fired including Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Pete Olson (R-Texas).
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), called the comments “enviro-fascism at its worst.” The EPA’s Region 6 includes Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reached out on Twitter, stating that the “Obama admin admits ‘crucify’ strategy for energy job creators.”
And Texas Gov. and recent Republican Presidential Primary candidate Rick Perry took the comments as “another reason to all-but-eliminate EPA” called the comments “unacceptable & offensive”.
Another top Republican, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), plans to question EPA about the remarks. “He’s writing to EPA to seek clarification and express outrage with comments that are clearly at odds with the president’s prior comments on domestic energy production and that are clearly anathema to the cause of job creation,” a spokesman for Issa said.
In addition to lawmakers, several business and trade organizations are taking aim at the EPA over the controversy. Energy in Depth, an oil-and-gas industry group, is also highlighting the comments over Twitter and on its website, providing updates on the controversy including the calls for GOP members for his resignation. Other groups including the Business Roundtable and the Institute for Energy Research also took to Twitter to vent their feelings on the matter, criticizing the EPA and the Obama Administration.
The White House Denies Link To Armendariz Controversy – Cites Record As Proof
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Thursday called the comments at odds with the administration’s record of promoting oil-and-gas development and EPA’s approach. He pointed to increased oil and natural gas production in recent years as proof.
“The president’s approach, his all-of-the-above approach to our energy needs, I think documents and proves that those comments do not reflect his policy or the approach that the EPA has taken,” Carney said.
Carney also reiterated that the regional EPA official has apologized for the remarks. “What he said is clearly not representative of either this president’s belief in the way that we should approach these matters, or in the way that he has approached these matters, either from this office here in the White House or at the EPA,” Carney said at a press briefing.
While the ousting of Armendariz from his position is likely to be sufficient to reassure most, it is not likely to be the end of the matter. Given the serious implications of these words from a top level EPA administrator (one of the most important regions, the oil-rich South and Southwest), the Obama Administration’s tough stance on environmental issues, and role the booming U.S. oil fracking industry has in the nation’s future, ensure this issue will not go away. Republicans are likely to use this experience as a part of a continuing rally against Obama’s energy and environmental agenda…a fight that does not have a clear victor in sight.