Al Armendariz, administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 6 office in Dallas, resigned from that agency on April 29, following a firestorm that was created when sensational remarks he made at a 2010 town hall meeting were made public last week by Sen. James M. Inhofe, (R-OK) last week.
Prior to being appointed to the the EPA position on November 5, 2009, by President Barack Obama, Armendariz was a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering for eight years at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. As regional administrator for the EPA, Armendariz oversaw that agency’s work in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and in 66 Tribal Nations. During his tenure he has often been at odds with the energy-producing industry, which has repeatedly claimed that the Agency is handcuffing their work due to clean air and other regulations intended to promote the public health.
He has been replaced at the EPA by Sam Coleman, acting administrator for Region 6. Coleman, the EPA’s senior federal official in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. For his work during that catastrophe, Coleman was awarded a Meritorious Presidential Rank Award in 2009.
The remarks for which Armendariz was forced to resign became public just last week, when Sen. Inhofe discovered a YouTube video of Armendariz telling a town hall meeting that he likened his style of EPA enforcement to the way the Roman Empire conquered villages. In the video, Armendariz was seen saying: “I was in a meeting once, and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting, but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I said. It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they would crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. So, that’s our general philosophy.”
Armenariz went on to day: “You make examples of people who are, in this case, not in compliance with the law. You find people who are not in compliant with the law and you hit them as hard as you can, you make examples out of them. It’s a deterrent factor. And companies that are smart see that and they don’t want to play that, and decide at that point it’t time to clean up.”
The video has since been taken down from the popular video site.
Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, took the senate floor Wednesday to announce an investigation into what he described as the EPA’s “crucify them” strategy to keep the oil and gas industry in line with the agency’s guidelines.
According to the Daily Caller, a right-leaning news website, Inhofe, whose primary backers include the coal, oil and gas industries, included this in his concluding remarks on the Senate floor: “The Obama administration has done everything it possibly can to destroy domestic production of oil, gas and coal.”
In his resignation letter, delivered to EPA head and Obama cabinet member Lisa Jackson, Armendariz noted that “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 accepted the Armendariz resignation, and in a statement noted that, “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.”