Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Texas EPA Official Al Armendariz Resigns After ‘Crucify Them’ Controversy

Photo courtesy of EPA

Al Armendariz is the regional administrator for the EPA.

Days after a video surfaced of him making controversial remarks about enforcement, the regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Al Armendariz, has resigned.

In a letter to the head administrator of the agency, Lisa Jackson, Armendariz says that he has “come to the conclusion that my continued service will distract you and the agency from its important work.” He also said that the “comments… made several years ago… do not in any way reflect my work as regional administrator.” Armendariz said his resignation is effective today.

Jackson issed a statement saying that she accepted the resignation. “I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the Agency. We are all grateful for Dr. Armendariz’s service to EPA and to our nation,” Jackson said.

The remarks that got him in hot water surfaced after Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe talked about them in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday morning, and called for an investigation.

In the video, Armendariz, an El Paso native and former professor at Southern Methodist University, says that his philosophy of enforcement is to make a big example of lawbreakers. “It was kinda like how the Romans used to conquer those villages in the Mediterranean,” he says in the video. “They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them. And you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

He went on:

“You make examples out of people who, in this case, are not complying with the law. Hit them as hard as you can and make examples out of them. There’s a deterrent factor. Companies that are smart see that, they don’t want to play that. And they decide at that point that it’s time to clean up.”

Aremendariz apologized for the comments Thursday, but Republicans and industry figures were still calling for his head and the White House distanced itself from his comments.

Armendariz’s resignation will likely be welcome news to many in the oil and gas industry in Texas, as well as state regulatory agencies like the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Railroad Commission of Texas (which oversees drilling in the state), which have had, at times, a contentious relationship with the EPA.

Ken Kramer, Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, emailed the following statement today:

“The resignation of Dr. Al Armendariz as Region 6 EPA administrator is a major loss for Texas. He brought a breath of fresh air – literally and figuratively – to Texas in his vigorous enforcement of the federal Clean Air Act. He took the bold steps that have been needed for decades to move our state forward to achieving a clean and healthy environment for Texans. Dr. Armendariz was one of the best Region 6 EPA administrators who have served since the post was created in the 1970s. The only people who will celebrate this resignation are the polluters who continue to foul Texas air and the politicians who serve those special interests.”

You can watch the video of his remarks below:


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