The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

April 30, 2012

Top EPA official resigns over ’crucify’ comment

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s top environmental official in the oil-rich South and Southwest region has resigned after Republicans targeted him over remarks made two years ago when he used the word “crucify” to describe how he would go after companies violating environmental laws.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson sent Sunday, Al Armendariz says he regrets his words and stresses that they do not reflect his work as administrator of the five-state region including Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. Armendariz, who holds a doctorate in environmental engineering, apologized last week for his remarks. A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, told The Associated Press that Armendariz has since received death threats. His resignation was effective Monday, when he informed his senior staff. Sam Coleman, a career official who led the agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina and served as Armendariz’ deputy, took over as acting regional administrator.

“I have come to the conclusion that my continued service will distract you and the agency from its important work,” Armendariz wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the AP.  

Republicans in Congress had called for Armendariz’ firing, after Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe highlighted the May 2010 speech last week as proof of what he refers to as EPA’s assault on energy, particularly the technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

At a town hall meeting in Washington on Friday, Jackson had said only that she would continue to review the case, calling Armendariz’ words “inflammatory” and “wrong”. President Barack Obama appointed Armendariz in November 2009, at the urging of Texas-based environmental groups. He is one of the few Latinos in senior leadership at the EPA.

The regional administrator’s words “don’t comport with either this administration’s policy on energy, our policy at EPA on environmental enforcement, nor do they comport with our record as well,” Jackson said.

The EPA, perhaps more than any other agency, has found itself in the GOP’s crosshairs over its regulation of the gases blamed for global warming, steps it has taken to limit air pollution from coal-fired power plants, and its increased regulation of fracking, which is responsible for a gas drilling boom. Republicans, including presidential contender Mitt Romney — who has called for Jackson herself to be fired — have blamed the agency for high gasoline prices and clamping down on American energy.

Armendariz, who was based in Texas, frequently found himself at odds with the state government and the oil and gas industry, which are often aligned.

The scientist and environmental activist had long been frustrated by the government’s inability to clean up Texas’ notoriously polluted air, and he had called the EPA broken and testified on behalf of activist groups about just how badly the federal and state environmental agencies had botched things.

Environmentalists said Monday that it was Armendariz getting crucified for doing his job — enforcing the law.

“He took bold steps that have been needed for decades to move our state forward,” said Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The only people who will celebrate his resignation are the polluters who continue to foul Texas air and the politicians who serve those special interests.”

Several disputed contamination cases in Texas in which Armendariz was involved have helped stoke environmental concerns over fracking, a technique in which oil and gas producers inject water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressures to fracture rock so gas can come out.

In one case cited by Republicans, the EPA issued an emergency order in 2010 — an unprecedented action in Texas — accusing Range Resources of contaminating an aquifer and giving it 48 hours to provide clean drinking water to residents. Armendariz said he went around the state agency that oversees drilling because it wasn’t responding quickly enough. The order later was withdrawn after a state court ruled evidence that fracking had caused the contamination had been falsified.

“He was flat wrong,” wrote more than two dozen lawmakers in a letter to Jackson sent Friday, calling for Armendariz’ firing. “There was no contamination and his office failed to conduct appropriate or adequate science to support his claims.” The EPA has faced similar criticism for its analysis of potential drinking water contamination from fracking in Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

Armendariz’ speech was made in Dish, a small town northwest of Dallas, where residents’ concerns over the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing helped put the issue on the national stage.

Testing, which was urged by the EPA, showed some groundwater contamination and elevated toxic air pollution after operators began using a new method — a combination of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling — to extract once out-of-reach gas.

Referring to how the Romans once conquered villages in the Mediterranean, Armendariz said, “They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them.”

“And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not complying with the law,” he said.” Find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and make examples of them.”

 

1
Text Only
Business
  • Business US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

    Stocks edged mostly lower Wednesday, breaking a six-day winning streak, as investors were disappointed by the latest round of earnings from U.S. companies.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

    The number of Americans buying new homes plummeted in March to the slowest pace in eight months, a sign that real estate’s spring buying season is off to a weak start.

    April 23, 2014

  • 3M plant expansion to create 22 jobs

    An $18.7 million expansion at the 3M Co. manufacturing plant in Nevada will create 22 new jobs, a company official said Wednesday. “We started 43 years ago as a small manufacturer,” said Todd Cantrell, plant manager, in a meeting with employees. “We are now the largest 3M plant in the state of Missouri and one of the largest of all 3M plants.”

    April 23, 2014

  • First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

    First lady Michelle Obama has announced a new online effort to link soldiers leaving the military with jobs that match their skill sets.

    April 23, 2014

  • Advocates vow to revive Navajo junk-food tax

    Facing a high prevalence of diabetes, many American Indian tribes are returning to their roots with community and home gardens, cooking classes that incorporate traditional foods, and running programs to encourage healthy lifestyles.

    April 23, 2014

  • Feds seek $211K in fines from Minn. company

    Federal safety regulators are proposing $211,000 in fines for a Minnesota agriculture company that authorities say repeatedly failed to make sure workers weren’t exposed grain dust hazards in Montana.

    April 23, 2014

  • Business US stocks edge lower after a six-day rally

    The stock market slipped Wednesday after rallying for six straight days as investors worked through another round of quarterly earnings reports from U.S. companies.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GM, lawyers fight over bankruptcy protections

    General Motors Co. and a battalion of trial lawyers are preparing for an epic court fight over whether GM is liable for the sins of its corporate past.

    April 22, 2014

  • Comcast 1Q earns surge on upbeat NBC results

    Comcast Corp. said Tuesday that its first-quarter net income rose by 30 percent as ad revenue surged at broadcast network NBC, helped by the Winter Olympics in Sochi and Jimmy Fallon’s elevation as host of “The Tonight Show.”

    April 22, 2014

  • Valeant, Ackman make $45.6B Allergan bid

    Valeant Pharmaceuticals and activist investor Bill Ackman have unveiled details of their offer to buy Botox maker Allergan, proposing a cash-and-stock deal that could be worth about $45.6 billion.

    April 22, 2014

Poll

A Missouri Senate committee has adopted a state budget provision that would prevent public colleges and universities from offering in-state tuition rates to students living in the country illegally. Do you agree with this?

Yes.
No.
     View Results
Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
NDN Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers