Several disputed contamination cases in Texas in which Armendariz was involved helped stoke environmental concerns over fracking, a technique in which oil and gas producers inject water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressures to fracture rock so gas can come out.
In one case, the EPA issued an emergency order in 2010 accusing Range Resources of contaminating an aquifer west of Fort Worth and giving it 48 hours to provide clean drinking water to residents. Armendariz said he went around the state because it wasn't responding quickly enough. The order later was withdrawn after a state court ruled evidence that fracking had caused the contamination had been falsified.
"He was flat wrong," wrote more than two dozen lawmakers in a letter to Jackson sent Friday, calling for Armendariz' firing.
Armendariz' speech was made in Dish, a small town northwest of Dallas, where testing has shown some groundwater contamination and elevated toxic air pollution after operators began fracking.
Referring to how the Romans once conquered villages in the Mediterranean, Armendariz said, "...they'd find the first five guys they saw and they'd crucify them."
"And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not complying with the law," he said. "Find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and make examples of them."
Associated Press correspondent Angela K. Brown contributed reporting from Fort Worth, Texas.
Follow Dina Cappiello's environment coverage on Twitter (at)dinacappiello