Lest you think MDN is a bit off the reservation when it comes to criticisms of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you might want to read about EPA Region 6 administrator Al Armendariz in an expose by Forbes magazine. Region 6 oversees Texas and surrounding states. Armendariz, a former professor at Southern Methodist University and appointed by President Obama in November 2009 to be Region 6 administrator, is caught on tape talking about his philosophy of “enforcement” and how to target oil and gas companies. He compares his approach to enforcement to how the Romans used to enter a village, find the first five men they could find and crucify them on the spot so the other villagers would be compliant. (See the embedded video below.)
Yeah, that’s the we-love-domestic-natural-gas-and-oil Obama EPA for you. Can’t you feel the love?
Two years ago Armendariz targeted Range Resources to be crucified (at about the same time the video below was filmed). Range, as you may know, was the first company to sink a Marcellus Shale gas well in western Pennsylvania in 2003. Armendariz’s office declared in an emergency order in 2010 that Range’s drilling activity had contaminated groundwater in Parker County, Texas. The outcome of that charge?
For a year and a half EPA bickered over the issue, both with Range and with the Texas Railroad Commission [TRRC], which regulates oil and gas drilling and did its own scientific study of Range’s wells and found no evidence that they polluted anything. In recent months a federal judge slapped the EPA, decreeing that the agency was required to actually do some scientific investigation of wells before penalizing the companies that drilled them. Finally in March the EPA withdrew its emergency order and a federal court dismissed the EPA’s case.
David Porter, a commissioner on the Texas Railroad Commission, wasn’t impressed. “Today the EPA finally made a decision based on science and fact versus playing politics with the Texas economy. The EPA’s withdrawal of the emergency order against Range Resources upholds the Railroad Commission Final Order that I signed concluding that Range is not responsible for any water contamination in Parker County. Al Armendariz and the EPA’s Region Six office are guilty of fear mongering, gross negligence and severe mishandling of this case. I hope to see drastic changes made in the way the regional office conducts business in the future – starting with the termination of Al Armendariz.”*
Strong words from the TRRC. Armendariz is now backpedalling big-time. He’s apologizing and promising to be a good boy. But the TRRC and others are right to call for his termination—especially in light of the video. Time for Armendariz to sample a little of his own metaphorical Roman medicine.
*Forbes (Apr 26, 2012) – EPA Official Not Only Touted ‘Crucifying’ Oil Companies, He Tried It