On April 25 a video came to light showing EPA official Al Armendariz speaking to colleagues about aggressive and controversial methods of EPA enforcement. On Monday, just days after the uncovered video began circulating; EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson accepted Armendariz’s resignation.
In November 2009, Armendariz left his teaching post at Southern Methodist University when appointed by President Obama to lead resource rich EPA Region 6. This area includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Armendariz quickly gained a reputation in Texas and the region as an over-zealous regulator.
Today, many elected officials are wondering just how many companies Armendariz has wrongly targeted over the years. This is because although recently released, Armendariz’s comments caught on tape were actually made back in 2010.
Here are some of his shocking remarks:
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.
And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is 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 of people. So you go out, you look at an industry, you find people violating the law, you go aggressively after them. And we do have some pretty effective enforcement tools. Compliance can get very high, very, very quickly.
The Obama administration will certainly want to sweep this issue under the rug and move on, but some on Capitol Hill are already calling for an oversight investigation. Republicans say they can point to several examples of oil and gas companies that were unfairly subjected to intimidation from Armendariz and his team. One example is a Fort Worth-based drilling company, Range Resources, which has been involved in natural gas extraction. The company faced unsubstantiated allegations of water contamination during Armendariz’s time as EPA administrator.
It’s still unclear how Armendariz’s resignation will play out in Washington, but pressure has been steadily mounting for changes at the EPA. Businesses large and small have grown impatient with all the new environmental red tape coming from the current administration. More and more business leaders are coming forward each day vocalizing their concerns, especially as the economy continues to struggle.