The top federal official overseeing environmental policy in the nation’s Oil Belt has resigned after saying his regulators should “crucify” oil companies that violate the law to make an example of them.
Al Armendariz submitted his resignation Sunday (April 29) as the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator of Region 6, which covers Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
|Based in Texas, Armendariz frequently found himself at odds with the state’s government and oil industry.|
The resignation took effect Monday (April 30).
Armendariz came under fire last week for newly publicized comments he made in 2010 at a local Texas government meeting. Armendariz suggested that regulators approach their job like the ancient Romans did in crushing rebellion.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) cited the remarks, shown in a recently posted YouTube video, to support his longstanding contention that EPA is anti-energy and anti-business.
‘You Make Examples Out of People’
The comments drew fire both for their seeming endorsement of a slash-and-burn enforcement policy and for the words chosen.
The remarks came during a 90-minute speech to residents of Dish, TX, amid a discussion over the natural gas drilling method known as fracking (hydraulic fracturing).
Armendariz tells his audience about a “crude” and “maybe inappropriate” analogy he once used to describe his enforcement philosophy.
“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, “And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not complying with the law. Find people who are not complying with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and make examples of them,” to act as a “deterrent” to others.
In a statement released Thursday by EPA, Armendariz said: "It was an offensive and inaccurate way to portray our efforts to address potential violations of our nation’s environmental laws. I am and have always been committed to fair and vigorous enforcement of those laws.”
The same day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the comments “entirely inaccurate as a characterization of the work EPA does.”
|EPA official Al Armendariz resigned over what he had called a “crude” and “maybe inappropriate” analogy.|
“What he said is clearly not representative of either this President’s belief in the way we should approach these matters or the way [the President] has approached these matters,” Carney added.
On Friday, dozens of lawmakers called for Armendariz’s firing.
In his resignation letter to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Armendariz said he was proud of his record at EPA but had “come to the conclusion that my continued service will distract you and the agency from its important work.”
Jackson said in a statement that the EPA was “grateful for Dr. Armendariz’s service to EPA and to our nation.”
Sam Coleman, Armendariz’s deputy, has been named acting administrator for EPA’s Region 6.
EPA has been the No. 1 regulatory target for critics of the Obama administration. Republicans, including presidential contender Mitt Romney, have blamed the agency for high gasoline prices and accuse it of trampling small businesses.
Nowhere has the battle been hotter than in Texas, where Armendariz was based. The state has been locked in a long-running lawsuit with the agency over Texas’s emissions permitting program.