WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Inhofe charged Wednesday that the Environmental Protection Agency set out to “crucify” some oil and gas companies
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said the EPA targeted natural gas wells in Wyoming, Texas and Pennsylvania to create a public perception that hydraulic fracturing threatened drinking water. The agency's actions were part of the Obama administration's “all-out war on hydraulic fracturing,” the senator said in a speech on the Senate floor.
Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into a well to fracture rock and let oil and gas escape.
Cynthia Giles, the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said Wednesday, “Strong, fair and effective enforcement of the environmental laws passed by Congress is critical to protecting public health and ensuring that all companies, regardless of industry, are playing by the same rules.
“Enforcement is essential to the effectiveness of our environmental laws, ensuring that public health is protected and that companies that play by the rules are not at a disadvantage. The same holds true for companies involved in responsible and safe
Inhofe released a video clip from 2010 showing EPA official Al Armendariz, a regional administrator based in Dallas, talking about his approach to
Armendariz, speaking at a meeting, then gives what he calls an analogy.
“It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little 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 would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.
“So you make examples out of people who, in this case, are not complying with the law, you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them. There's a deterrent factor.”
According to media accounts of the 2010 town meeting, Armendariz was in Dish to address residents' concerns about air emissions from oil and gas drilling in the Barnett Shale in northern Texas. He also spoke about hydraulic fracturing at the meeting, although he does not specifically mention fracking in the video clip released by Inhofe.
In a statement released Wednesday, Armendariz said, “I apologize to those I have offended and regret my poor choice of words.
“It was an offensive and inaccurate way to portray our efforts to address potential violations of our nation's environmental laws. I am committed to fair and vigorous enforcement of our nation's environmental laws.”
Inhofe said Armendariz's comments at the meeting offered “a rare glimpse of the Obama administration's real agenda.”
The EPA has investigated possible groundwater contamination linked to wells in Texas, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.
In Parker County, Texas, the agency last month withdrew an emergency order regarding drinking water and agreed to work with a company that had been accused of causing methane contamination.
In Wyoming, in a case that the EPA claimed in December linked groundwater contamination to hydraulic fracturing, the agency has agreed to do more testing of water. And in Dimock, Pa., where natural gas drilling is prevalent, the EPA said tests of water from about 20 households showed the water is safe to drink.
The EPA has been working on a broad study about the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water; an initial draft of that study is expected by the end of this year.