Louisiana congressmen say EPA official's rhetoric went too far

04 27, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

Two U.S. House members from Louisiana said Thursday that a high-ranking Environmental Protection Agency official should give up his job after release of a 2010 video in which he suggested the agency "crucify" pollution law violators to deter others. The official, Al Armendariz, the EPA Dallas regional administrator whose oversight duties include Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma, apologized for the "offensive and inaccurate way to portray our efforts to address potential violations of our nation's environmental laws." He said he's always been "committed to fair and vigorous enforcement of those laws."

Before his apology, Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, called his comments "enviro-fascism at its worst" and urged him to resign.

Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, also spoke out.

"From issuing an offshore drilling moratorium to subsidizing exploration and production in Brazil to threatening tax increases on domestic energy companies - the president has made his intentions clear: restrict, manipulate, and regulate domestic energy companies into extinction," Landry said. "The video footage of Dr. Armendariz is further proof the Obama Administration wants nothing more than to kill our fossil fuel industry."

Landry, who once held up a sign "drilling = jobs" during an Obama speech, said "for the sake of American families and businesses, I am not only calling for the firing of Dr. Armendariz but also that of his boss - President Barack Obama." Presumably, he was suggesting the firing of Obama occur on Election Day.

Cynthia Giles, the EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance, responded with a blog post:

"It is deeply unfortunate that in a 2010 video an EPA official inaccurately suggests we are seeking to 'make examples' out of certain companies in the oil and gas industry," Giles wrote. "We, and the official involved, regret the statement, for which he has apologized. It does not reflect our record over the last three years."

"Inevitably, some will try to imply that the unfortunate and inaccurate words of one regional official represent this Agency's policy. Rest assured that they do not - and no honest examination of our record could equate our commonsense approach with such an exaggerated claim.'

In the video of the 2010 speech that went viral through the efforts of Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., long an EPA critic, Armendariz shared the analogy he had made to his staff about his "philosophy of enforcement, which he admitted was crude and perhaps inappropriate. He began by noting that his agency has limited resources to regulate the five states and dozens of native American nations covered by Region 6 of the EPA.

"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 and they'd crucify them. Then that little town was really easy to manage for the next few years."