EPA region head resigns after crucifixion comment

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 30, 2012 2:38 PM
EPA region head resigns after crucifixion comment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A regional Environmental Protection Agency chief based in Dallas resigned on Monday after a 2010 comment surfaced in which he compared his enforcement of energy companies with crucifixion.

Al Armendariz, who was the chief of EPA's Region 6 office, sent a letter of resignation to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson late on Sunday, which she accepted on Monday.

"I have come to the conclusion that my continued service will distract you and the agency from its important work," Armendariz said in the letter.

A link to a video of a talk Armendariz had given in May 2010, in which he compared his strategy on energy companies that had broken the law to that of Romans taking over towns, had been circulated by lawmakers including Senator James Inhofe, a Republican.

The conquerors would "find the first five guys they saw and they'd crucify them," he could be heard saying in the video. "And that town was really easy to manage for the next few years."

The comment was made at a town council meeting in a small Texas town.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have battled the EPA this year, introducing bills that would slow or stop agency rules on pollution from power plants and oil and natural gas drilling.

The Republicans say the rules will lead to shutdowns and higher energy costs for consumers as they struggle to recover from the weak economy. The measures have faced an uphill battle in the Democratic-led Senate.

Still, as businesses and Republicans have complained, the EPA has delayed several of its rules. This month the EPA delayed until 2015 part of a rule that requires natural gas drillers that do hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to add equipment to tackle air pollution.

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The Sierra Club, an environmental group that has fought the building of new coal plants, was unhappy with the resignation.

"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," said Ken Kramer, the director of the Sierra Club in Texas.

(Reporting By Timothy Gardner; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Maureen Bavdek)