Texas oil and gas operators have, in some ways, born the brunt of the misguided and ill-informed policies towards the energy industry of the Obama administration and the EPA. Plaintiff’s Exhibit Number 1: In 2010, a senior Environmental Protection Agency official, Alfredo Juan “Al” Armendariz, who was in charge of the federal region of the EPA that includes Texas, in a speech in Dish, Texas, compared EPA policy to the Roman policy of crucifying troublemakers. This part of the speech was captured by an audience member and uploaded to YouTube. Specifically, “Al” said of the Romans: “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.” He compared this to the EPA’s policies of hitting a few oil companies as hard as possible to deter other energy companies from pursuing disfavored strategies.
Mr. Armendariz was appointed by President Obama in late 2009 to head the EPA’s Region Six, which includes the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, as well as 66 Tribal Nations, according to an EPA press release at the time. Regional Administrators, like Mr. Armendariz, are supposed to promote state and local environmental protection efforts and liaise with state and local governments.
Ultimately, poor Al resigned over the furor his remarks caused. Shortly after these remarks, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe took the Senate floor and announced an investigation into how Mr. Armendariz had been blocking hydraulic fracturing, or fracing. The Senator specifically cited the case of Range Resources as an example of this bullying “crucifixion” policy. The EPA faxed a letter in December 2010 to the company telling them an “imminent and substantial endangerment” to public drinking water had occurred in Parker County, Texas, arising from Range Resources operations. The EPA, outrageously, threatened the company with fines of up to $50,000 a day. Eventually this case went to court and, after more than a year, the EPA finally realized it had no evidence and the case was dismissed in April 2012.
Senator Inhofe has continued to lead the way on this scandal, and issued a statement saying, in part, “After his revelation that EPA’s ‘general philosophy’ is to ‘crucify’ oil and gas companies, it was only right for Administrator Armendariz to resign… – but his resignation in no way solves the problem of President Obama and his EPA’s crucifixion philosophy.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry’s office mirrored that sentiment, and said, “We urge the administration to replace him with someone who will work to protect our natural resources in a way that bolsters the economy, rather than vilifying our nation’s energy producers and imposing job-killing, high cost mandates that are passed on to consumers.”
Even the EPA’s own officials were running away from Mr. Armendariz’s comments. Although his statements were undoubtedly the truth about EPA policy, it seems now no one wants to be associated with that truth, even the Obama administration. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson called Mr. Armendariz’s statements “inflammatory but also wrong” in a statement last week. Unfortunately, few expect that Ms. Jackson and the Obama Administration will replace Mr. Armendariz with someone more balanced and fair to the oil and gas industry in Texas and other areas.
We can’t let the resignation of Armendariz obscure the bigger picture here, which is that we have a President and a federal agency that have announced and are pursuing a vendetta against the energy industry, while awarding many millions of tax-payer dollars to ill-conceived “green” projects of their friends and donors. If he’s re-elected, I suspect that the Prez will succeed in crippling the energy industry for a long, long time.
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