EPA regional chief resigns over 'crucify' comment

By Michael P. Tremoglie | Apr 30, 2012


DALLAS (Legal Newsline) - Al Armendariz, the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 6 administrator, resigned Sunday after remarks he made in 2010 became public.

Armendariz said then that his philosophy of the EPA's enforcement mission is to use a strategy analogous to the Roman Empire's punishment of crucifixion.

He told an audience at a meeting, "It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean. 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."

Armendariz, whose full name is Alfredo Juan Armendariz, is a professor at Southern Methodist University's Lyle School of Engineering in Dallas. He was asked by President Barack Obama to serve as the Region 6 administrator in January 2010. The region includes the states of Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

"The mastermind behind a radical job-killing agenda in Texas met the fate he tried to impose on energy sector employers across the State," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

"Texas looks forward to working more productively with his successor to both promote economic development and preserve our environment -- hopefully with less litigation and more cooperation."

Armendariz said in his resignation letter Sunday that he regretted his comments. He told EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson:

"For the past 2 and 1/2 years I have been honored to serve as your administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 6. I entered this position, and into your administration, determined to Work on behalf of the American people to enact and carry out policies protective of our environment and the health and Welfare of our citizens, in particular for those disadvantaged Americans Who, more than anyone, lacked an ally in government to Work for their safety.

"As I have expressed publically, and to you directly, I regret comments I made several years ago that do not in any Way reflect my Work as regional administrator. As importantly, they do not represent the Work you have overseen as EPA administrator. I take great pride in having built a career based on integrity and hard Work. These are the principles that guide me personally as well.

"While I feel there is much Work that remains to be done for the people of this country in the region that I serve, after a great deal of thought and careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that my continued service will distract you and the agency from its important work."

Jackson said in a statement Monday, "Over the weekend Dr. Armendariz offered his resignation, which I accepted. I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the Agency. We are all grateful for Dr. Armendariz's service to EPA and to our nation."

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking member of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works, was not mollified. He also issued a statement Monday.

"After his revelation that EPA's general philosophy is to crucify oil and gas companies, it was only right for Administrator Armendariz to resign today - but his resignation in no way solves the problem of President Obama and his EPA's crucifixion philosophy," he said.

"In his letter to Administrator Jackson, Armendariz again pointed to his 'poor choice of words' as the reason for his resignation - but Armendariz was just being honest: his choice of words revealed the truth about the war that EPA has been waging on American energy producers under President Obama.

Inhofe said that he will continue to investigate "why, in at least three separate cases, EPA tarnished the reputation of companies by accusing them of water contamination; then when the results of their study did not turn out the way they hoped, and they had no definitive evidence to make that link, they quietly walked back their accusations. We will get to the bottom of this - and we will continue looking into EPA's actions on hydraulic fracturing beyond these three cases as well."

He also remarked that he will be wary of whom President Obama appoints as Armendariz's replacement. He said, "Especially as Region VI holds some of the most immense oil and gas resources in the country - including in my home state of Oklahoma - I will be watching who President Obama appoints to replace Armendariz very closely."

Dr, Kenneth P. Green is the resident environmental scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He has a doctorate in environmental science and engineering from UCLA.

"I do not think that there is any question that most regulators view themselves as adversarial to the regulated community," he said. "The environmental regulators, in particular, seem to view the regulated as malefactors who are maliciously polluting, rather than people who are just providing a product or service. I suspect that the revelation of his view of industry is quite common in both state and federal environmental protection departments."

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