Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...
By Dean Scott
An Environmental Protection Agency regional official who had come under fire for 2010 comments in which he suggested the agency should “crucify” top polluters in the oil and gas industry has resigned, the agency confirmed April 30.
EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz, in an April 29 letter to Administrator Lisa Jackson, said that while he had expressed regret for the comments, continuing in the job “will distract you and the agency from its important work.”
Jackson has named Samuel Coleman, who served as EPA's senior federal official in New Orleans during the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as acting administrator to succeed Armendariz.
Jackson issued a statement April 30 stating that she had accepted the resignation and respected Armendariz's “difficult decision” as well as his “wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the Agency.”
EPAs Region 6 includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Native American tribal nations.
Armendariz’s resignation failed to satisfy Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who represent districts in Texas and other nearby states.
Reps. Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, and Pete Olson, all Texas Republicans, joined Reps. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), Steve Scalise (R-La.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in arguing that the resignation “does not address our longstanding concerns with the agency’s enforcement and regulatory decision-making in Region 6, particularly within the energy sector.”
The Region 6 administrator’s resignation “highlights our concern that EPA often fails to take a balanced and measured approach to policy and enforcement decisions,” the Republican committee members said in an April 30 statement.
The Republicans said they still expect answers to concerns they raised in an April 27 letter sent to Armendariz just days before his resignation, including details of his approach to enforcement and copies of memos between Region 6 and EPA headquarters that may have discussed how that enforcement strategy was coordinated.
The Republicans said the House energy committee would hold a hearing “in the near future” on the controversy.
The resignation also was not expected to curb criticism of EPA by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and other Republicans who have alleged the agency used heavy-handed enforcement and regulation, particularly in its handling of groundwater contamination linked to hydraulic fracturing.
Matt Dempsey, Inhofe's spokesman, told BNA that “this is still a broader problem with the agency in general” and that the senator's ongoing review of EPA's analyses of water contamination in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming would continue (81 DEN A-11, 4/27/12).
In a prepared statement, Inhofe said, “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.”
The Region 6 administrator's comments “revealed the truth about the war that EPA has been waging on American energy producers under President Obama,” Inhofe said.
In a May 2010 speech captured on video, Armendariz said the agency's “general philosophy” should be to “crucify” and “make examples” of the oil and gas companies that violate environmental laws to ensure that others comply.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which has tangled with EPA in recent years over air pollution and other enforcement issues, issued a statement applauding Armendariz's decision to step down but said the state commission “is under no illusions that this will change the direction of the EPA.”
The Obama administration “has been unwavering in its determination to impose new regulations and new costs on Americans and American industry, often without any real scientific determination that new laws will result in any environmental benefits,” according to the commission's statement.
The Region 6 administrator's “mistake was that he slipped and unveiled the EPA's questionable and draconian enforcement philosophy,” the commission said.
But environmental groups expressed disappointment in the resignation.
Ken Kramer, director of the Texas' Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, said Armendariz's resignation “is a major loss for Texas.”
The regional administrator “brought a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively, to Texas in his vigorous enforcement of the federal Clean Air Act,” he said.
“The only people who will celebrate this resignation are the polluters who continue to foul Texas air and the politicians who serve those special interests,” Kramer said.
By Dean Scott
Text of the Region 6 administrator's resignation letter is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=smiy-8tumwb.
Sen. Inhofe's floor speech April 25 discussing his investigation is available at http://bit.ly/Il81J2..
The video of Armendariz remarks in May 2010 is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WH9ctBMZLxc.
The letter of House energy committee Republicans to Armendariz is available at http://energycommerce.house.gov/news/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=9491.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)