It’s not too often that a government agency compares its own tactics to that of the ancient Romans – especially when it comes to the practice of crucifying several residents of a village in order to gain control over its entire population.
Yet that is exactly how Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Al Armendariz described his agency’s strategy of targeting oil and gas producers.
Armendariz, who resigned Monday, was the head of the Dallas-based region 6 offices, which is in charge of EPA oversight in Texas and surrounding states. In a discussion two years ago with colleagues that recently surfaced, Armendariz said, “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.”
Armendariz’s rhetoric is not only shocking, it clearly validates what the EPA’s critics have been saying all along about the agency’s attitude toward energy companies.
In fact, in 2009 Armendariz told his colleagues to “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.”
It’s time for the agency to stop invoking strategies of the Roman Empire and start working on policies that are appropriate for the 21st century.
Armendariz’s office has already resorted to these intimidation tactics with at least one Texas energy producer. It alleged that Range Resources in Fort Worth contaminated the area’s groundwater. The EPA spent more than a year arguing these falsehoods until the Texas Railroad Commission conducted its own scientific study of the area and found no evidence to support the EPA’s claims. In fact, a federal judge reprimanded the EPA for accusing the company before having any evidence to do so, with Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter accusing Armendariz of “fear-mongering, gross negligence and severe mishandling of this case.”
Unfortunately, the attempted “crucifixion” of Range Resources is not an isolated incident.
There are several more examples that clearly show Armendariz, and more broadly the EPA, are gunning for energy producers in Texas.
The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), for example, is a regulation that requires energy power plants in 27 states to reduce emissions. And as Texas Gov. Rick Perry remarked, it is a “highly flawed, job-killing rule that was based on inaccurate and incomplete information.” CSAPR was such a clear sign of dramatic EPA overreach that the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered a delay of the rule until its legal merits were determined.
Armendariz’s Roman policy is further proof that, as Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has stated, “The EPA has systematically targeted Texas through burdensome regulatory overreach, putting politics ahead of facts and due process. Now we know they intend to crucify energy producers in our state.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Armendariz’s comments were “not representative of the agency; they don’t reflect any policy that we have; and they don’t reflect our actions over the past two years.”
However, Texas’ history with the EPA clearly tells a different story.
Brown is executive director of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, a coalition that is working for fair, responsible energy policies.