WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Inhofe said Monday that it was “only right” for a key Environmental Protection Agency official to resign for comparing the agency's enforcement approach to Roman crucifixions.
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said the resignation wouldn't slow his investigation of the EPA's actions in three states where the agency linked natural gas drilling to water contamination. Inhofe has called on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to explain the agency's enforcement moves in cases in Texas, Wyoming and Pennsylvania.
The resignation of Al Armendariz — the top official in the EPA region that includes Oklahoma and Texas — came less than a week after Inhofe publicized the administrator's two-year-old comments at a public hearing about natural gas drilling in Texas. In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Inhofe said Armendariz had offered a rare glimpse into the Obama administration's agenda for policing oil and gas companies.
A video clip released by Inhofe last week showed Armendariz answering a question at a town council meeting in 2010 about how the agency would enforce environmental laws pertaining to oil and gas exploration. Armendariz compared it to Romans invading a town and crucifying some people to make examples of them.
The video led some Republican members of Congress to call for Armendariz's resignation, and a House committee sought his appearance for a hearing in Washington. Jackson, who heads the EPA, and the White House declined to offer much of a defense for the administrator when asked last week about the comments.
According to The Associated Press, Armendariz submitted his resignation Sunday night in a letter to Jackson saying, “As I have expressed publicly, and to you directly, I regret comments I made several years ago that do not in any way reflect my work as regional administrator.
“As importantly, they do not represent the work you have overseen as EPA administrator.”
Inhofe has accused the Obama administration of waging a war on fossil fuels and charged last week that the EPA targeted hydraulic fracturing — in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into a well to free oil and gas from rock formations — as a way to slow the boom in energy exploration in the United States.
Inhofe said Monday that Armendariz was “just being honest” with his crucifixion comments and that his resignation “in no way solves the problem of President Obama and his EPA's crucifixion philosophy.”
Inhofe said he would continue pressing the EPA for answers on why the agency had accused three companies of contaminating water but then “quietly walked back their accusations” when they had no definitive evidence.
Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement that Armendariz “brought a breath of fresh air — literally and figuratively — to Texas in his vigorous enforcement of the federal Clean Air Act.
“He took the bold steps that have been needed for decades to move our state forward to achieving a clean and healthy environment for Texans. … The only people who will celebrate this resignation are the polluters who continue to foul Texas air and the politicians who serve those special interests.”
Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, said, “While I support Mr. Armendariz's decision to resign, I also challenge the EPA to go even further to root out this troubling trend of hostility toward oil and gas production, in order to achieve our goal of powering our nation with affordable and stable sources of American-made energy.”