ICYMI: Armendariz Ditches Congressional Hearing For Rendezvous With Sierra Club

June 7, 2012

Today’s National Journal reports former Regional Administrator for EPA Region 6 Al Armendariz was in Washington, DC yesterday for a meeting with the Sierra Club. Late Tuesday afternoon Armendariz abruptly canceled his appearance at yesterday’s Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing, giving no stated reason for his change of plans.

While Armendariz ditched his plans to testify, it appears he kept his ticket to DC so he could make his date with the Sierra Club. "The fact that Dr. Armendariz was just blocks away and still refused to testify at our hearing raises even more questions. If he had time on his schedule to meet with the Sierra Club, it is even less clear why he was unable to fulfill his prior commitment to testify,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).

This is now the second instance where Armendariz has failed to appear at a committee hearing while remaining in close proximity. The committee previously invited Armendariz to testify at a field hearing in Houston last year, but EPA chose to fly DC-based Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy to Texas to testify in his place. That same morning, Armendariz tweeted he was attending an Environmental Justice event in Houston.

While Armendariz dodged yesterday’s hearing, Republicans are not letting him off the hook. Energy and Commerce Committee leaders still want Armendariz to explain his last-minute cancellation. Members sent Armendariz and EPA letters yesterday requesting information and documents relating to the factors that led to his decision to cancel his testimony. To view those letters, click here.

EPA Official Felled by ‘Crucify’ Comment Dodges House Hearing, Meets at Sierra Club
National Journal
By Amy Harder
June 7, 2012

It’s not clear why Al Armendariz, recently removed from a top post at the Environmental Protection Agency for saying that the government should “crucify” bad actors in the energy industry, abruptly canceled plans to testify before a House panel on Wednesday.

But it is clear that he was in Washington that day and met with someone—at the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental organization.

On Wednesday afternoon, when a reporter visited the Sierra Club’s Washington headquarters just a few blocks from Capitol Hill, Armendariz’s name was written on the sign-in sheet as having been the last person to visit the office. The visit apparently came only a few hours after Armendariz had infuriated Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee when he canceled his scheduled testimony on EPA enforcement issues without offering a reason.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune told National Journal on Wednesday in an interview that he hadn’t met with Armendariz but that he knew the former regional administrator at EPA was going to be in town.

”I knew we were going to be talking to him. I personally haven’t, but he’s been a long-time champion for public-health protections,” Brune said. “We expect him to have a long career in public health, so we’re happy to talk with him.” Brune said he didn’t know that Armendariz had canceled his planned appearance before the Energy and Commerce Energy and Power Subcommittee.

A lawyer representing Armendariz, Danny Onorato, did not respond to a request for comment. EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said that because the agency no longer employs Armendariz, EPA officials “did not advise him on whether or not to testify.” The Sierra Club also didn’t offer information about who there met with Armendariz.

Republican leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to Onorato and EPA on Wednesday, asking why Armendariz canceled and requesting all communications between Armendariz and the agency about his invitation to testify.

”Why, several weeks after he had agreed to testify, did he retain counsel and withdraw?” Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said at the hearing on Wednesday, which went on without Armendariz. “The EPA did not make a witness available to appear alongside Dr. Armendariz today. Did the Obama administration urge him not to appear? ... Congress and the American people deserve answers about this administration’s policies and practices, and we intend to get them.”

Armendariz resigned as EPA’s regional administrator for Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico on April 30 after an uproar over his comment that EPA’s “general philosophy” with its enforcement policy should be to “crucify” oil and natural-gas companies.

The comments were made in 2010 but only became public this spring when aides to Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., discovered them in a YouTube video. After Inhofe turned the video into a national controversy over EPA’s enforcement strategy, it took less than a week—and an off-putting comment by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson—for Armendariz to resign.

Armendariz’s visit to the Sierra Club could be particularly galling to House Energy and Commerce Republicans, who just last week released a statement blasting the organization for what they purport is a “none of the above” energy campaign. …