The April 29 resignation of Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator Al Armendariz is a classic tale of business regulation colliding with the interests of oil and gas -- but with a contemporary twist. A YouTube video forced the EPA official’s resignation and provided a prop for Republicans to reiterate claims that Obama administration policies are weighing down domestic oil and gas production.
Armendariz, a former Southern Methodist University professor, was appointed by the president in November 2009 to lead environmental enforcement in the EPA’s Region 6 . While speaking in the small town of Dish in northeast Texas in 2010, Armendariz made comments that would ultimately end his EPA career two years later.
If congressional Republicans had not discovered the YouTube video, Armendariz’s remarks would have, at least for the time being, remained entombed. He mostly likely would still be employed by the EPA.
Here’s what stirred the uproar: In the video, Armendariz compared the enforcement of environmental laws to Roman invaders crucifying some inhabitants of a civilization to send a clear message to those who were not chosen to die.
In describing his approach to enforcing hydraulic fracturing regulations, Armendariz said, “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.
“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 them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them. There’s a deterrent effect there.”
In a time of video cameras, cell phones with video capabilities and broad access to the Internet, Armendariz failed to absorb a basic lesson of 21 st century reality: Someone is always watching, and you have to live with your comments forever if you are recorded.
Armendariz’s faux pas, once discovered, was transformed into a political grenade. U.S. Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, a critic of the EPA and oil and gas regulation under Obama, linked to the Armendariz video on his YouTube channel on April 25.
"After his revelation that EPA's 'general philosophy' is to 'crucify' oil and gas companies, it was only right for Administrator Armendariz to