Over the weekend, Environmental Protection Agency Region VI Administrator Al Armendariz resigned, following a conservative outcry after remarks he made in 2010 came to light, ones suggesting government officials should take lessons from ancient Romans and "crucify" people not complying with environmental laws.
"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," Armendariz wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "As importantly, they do not represent the work you have overseen as EPA administrator. 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. Therefore, I am offering my resignation, effective Monday, April 30, 2012."
Jackson said in a statement 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."
The 2010 video, publicized by frequent EPA foe Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., showed Armendariz saying that he gave the following analogy to his staff about his "philosophy of enforcement," which he acknowledged being crude and perhaps inappropriate, but shared anyway: "It is kind of like how the Romans used to conquer villages in the Mediterranean - they'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere and they'd find the first five guys they saw, they'd crucify 'em, and that little town was really easy to manage for the next few years."
Armendariz continued: "And so, you make examples out of people who are, in this case, not complying with the law. You find people who are not complying with the law and you hit 'em as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, there's a deterrent effect there. And companies that are smart see that. They don't want to play that game, and they decide at that point that it's time to clean up. And that won't happen unless you have somebody out there making examples."
Last Thursday White House press secretary Jay Carney noted that Armendariz had "apologized and made clear that those comments are an inaccurate way to characterize the work EPA does."
EPA Region VI covers Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and dozens of tribal nations, and Oklahoma's Inhofe was not convinced.
"With an election on the horizon," Inhofe said in a press release, "President Obama is pretending to be a friend of oil and natural gas, claiming he's for an 'all-of-the-above' approach, but Administrator Armendariz's comments reveal the true story: while President Obama has photo ops in front of pipelines in Oklahoma, his E.P.A. is working aggressively to 'crucify' oil and gas producers so they can end hydraulic fracturing, knowing full well that if you stop hydraulic fracturing, you kill domestic oil and gas production."
-Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce