EPA official's crucifixion remarks are revealing

After days of media attention, EPA official Al Armendariz probably wishes he hadn’t paid much attention to Roman history.

SAN JOSE, Ca., April 30, 2012- Alfredo Juan “Al” Armendariz, the former regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, may have thought nothing of it when a video of a community meeting was posted on YouTube which pictured him indicating that the enforcement philosophy of the EPA, or his interpretation of the Gospel according to the EPA, is to make examples of non-compliant companies much the way the Roman Empire crucified random villagers to generate fear to bring about submission.

Although the comments, made in a speech in 2010 to a community gathering in Texas, were readily available on YouTube just days ago, the video has been taken down over “copyright infringement” issues according to David McFatridge. Also, Armendariz who recently resigned, had previously apologized to anyone he offended with his “poor choice of words.” 

Last Friday, Lisa Jackson, the current EPA Administrator, quickly distanced herself from Mr. Armendariz’s remarks and called them “inflammatory” and “wrong” as she explained, “They don’t comport with either this administration’s policy on energy, our policy at EPA on environmental enforcement, nor do they comport with our record as well.”  She promised to continue reviewing the issue.

Jackson went on to assure the public that while Armendariz compared the EPA enforcement tactics to the Roman legion’s problem prevention tactics, this was entirely false, “The EPA is not a conquering army, it does not wield dictatorial power, and it certainly was not granted the authority to crucify anyone…”  Well, that certainly is a relief. 

However, some stubborn politicians weren’t convinced. Sen. Jim Imhofe (R-OK), whose staff discovered the video, believes the remarks are quite revealing of the approach the EPA is currently taking toward oil and gas companies in his region. In addition, 26 Republicans in the House of Representatives from the energy rich South Central region Armendariz used to control were angered at his enlightened philosophy of enforcement.

These representatives sent a letter to Lisa Jackson last Friday stating that Armendariz’s words revealed a policy that seems to go “beyond the pale” and “betray a vindictive culture that is driven by ideology more than it is by science.” They stated that his remarks reflected a “petty, arbitrary and demagogic” environmental agency and made a request that Jackson remove him from his post.  

Armendariz’s words have definitely struck a sensitive nerve in the Republican party.  It is important to review some of the content of his words to know what the controversy entails.  Here is part of the transcript, according to The Blaze, which was one of the first to post the story: 

“But as I said, oil and gas is an enforcement priority, it’s one of seven, so we are going to spend a fair amount of time looking at oil and gas production.

And I gave, I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I said. It was kind of like how 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. That’s what these companies respond to is both their public image but also financial pressure. So you put some financial pressure on a company, you get other people in that industry to clean up very quickly.

So, that’s our general philosophy.”

So, when the EPA realized what Armendariz actually said, it must have been hard for them to put much spin on such words like “crucify” when linked to the “Romans” and the hope must have shifted to run with a simple apology and hope that would do the trick to make it all go away. Except it is not going away.

Actually, it may have been too much to demand Armendariz’s resignation or removal. It is a shame to have Armendariz removed over such revealing comments. He seems much more useful as an informant, kind of like a whistle blower that hasn’t really realized what purpose he has just fulfilled in enlightening the public.

What makes this fiasco of honesty so ironic is that the country just celebrated Earth Day the previous weekend. Earth Day is most likely the favorite holiday or the one day that enjoys most favored holiday status of the EPA. But all good celebrations usually come to an end at some point in time. History on Purpose looked at the holiday in awe because the EPA website had no recognition of John McConnell, the founder of the first Earth Day in 1970.

The EPA hero designated as the founder of Earth Day is Gaylord Nelson, the Wisconsin politician who believed that government would be the only power that could save Americans from the ravages of big time polluters. When considered in that light it is amazing just how far the EPA has come in a mere 40 years! It truly makes one wonder how much farther the EPA will go in the next 40 years.   

Environmental Protection Agency logo

Environmental Protection Agency logo


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Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member  at West Valley College in California.  He also currently writes a column on history and one on American freedom for the Communities at the Washington Times.


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