Industry is Trying to Get Dr. Armendariz Fired…Again. Give Him Some Love

by jim on April 27, 2012

How controversial is it to want to make examples out of bad actors?

If you’re a judge or a prosecutor, you’re often applauded for going after repeat offenders in a way that will send a very strong signal to others who might be doing the same thing or contemplating it. But if you’re an EPA Regional Administrator gong after environmental criminals? Then you’re a power-hungry red-eyed socialist devil out to destroy American capitalism.

So it goes in the latest attempt by industry to smear Dr. Al Armendariz, one of the most knowledgable Regional Administrators in the country and a real burr under the oil and gas industry’s saddle. Apparently someone on Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe’s staff was dumping old video when they came across a short presentation by Dr. Armendariz in 2010 where he explains how he makes use of the limited enforcement capabilities and resources he has at his disposal. His solution? Take the worst actors violating the law and make an example out of them so dissuade others. Here’s what he said,

“In terms of manpower, you’re right. I am limited in the number of enforcement staff I’ve got. I’ve got about 150 people to do enforcement. I’ve got five states. So we’re limited in terms of where we can go and what we can do. But as I said oil and gas is an enforcement priority. I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement. It’s probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate, but I’ll tell you what I 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. 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.” 

That was in 2010. But because the industry thinks it has some political momentum coming out of the recent Range Resources settlement, the good Senator from Fossil fuels digs up this two-year old piece of video, takes it out of context and proclaims it a brand new reason to fire Dr. Armendariz. Then their flunkies in the media like this Forbes columnist or Glenn Hunter at D Magazine this morning, repeat the line verbatim without necessarily filling you in on the date of the speech, the context of the answer, or the exact full-length quote in hopes of ginning up some kind of Astroturf controversy that results in Armendariz having to resign. Not going to happen.  But it does show the desperation and great lengths the industry will go to in order to oust Armendariz, someone who knows them well and is trying to keep them honest in their own backyard. Remind EPA head honcho Lisa Jackson how valuable it is to have someone like Dr. Armendariz running Region 6 – e-mail her at jackson.lisap@epa.gov

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