OPINION: Editorials Consider EPA’s “Crucify” Episode A Cautionary Tale

May 4, 2012

Editorials in today’s Wall Street Journal and Washington Post add to the growing chorus of concern that President Obama’s EPA is an out of control agency. Al Armendariz, the agency’s now-former Regional Administrator for the energy-rich South Central Region 6, resigned earlier this week after an astonishing video resurfaced exposing his aspiration to “crucify” America’s oil and gas companies. While congressional and public outcry quickly removed Armendariz from service, he should not be soon forgotten. The committee will be continuing its oversight efforts to determine how pervasive Administrator Armendariz's views are at the agency. As the Washington Post editorial board explains, “The agency’s officers must have a clear sense when to deploy its mighty  power and when to exercise discretion. That’s true for the sake of the economy and to ensure that the EPA will be able to continue its necessary work for years to come.”

The EPA is earning a reputation for abuse
The Washington Post
Editorial

Maybe Al Armendariz— until Monday, one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s top administrators — didn’t mean his comments to sound quite how they did. But they didn’t sound good. In a 2010 speech, now circulating online, Mr. Armendariz compared his “philosophy of enforcement” to ancient Roman soldiers’ practice of crucifying random victims in recently conquered territory.

The most reasonable interpretation is also among the most disturbing — that Mr. Armendariz preferred to exact harsh punishments on an arbitrary number of firms to scare others into cooperating. This sort of talk isn’t merely unjust and threatening to investors in energy projects. It hurts the EPA. Mr. Armendariz was right to resign this week, while EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson denied that his comments reflected the agency’s approach. Yet the question will remain: Is an aggressive attitude like the one Mr. Armendariz described common among EPA officials?

Maintaining the legitimacy of the EPA’s broad regulatory authorities requires the agency to use its powers fairly and, in so doing, avoid the impression that its enforcement is capricious or unduly severe. Mr. Armendariz’s comments violated the latter principle. Another recent, high-profile miscalculation on the part of the EPA violated the former. …

The lesson for Ms. Jackson and her boss, President Obama, from these two episodes is clear: The agency’s officers must have a clear sense when to deploy its mighty power and when to exercise discretion. That’s true for the sake of the economy and to ensure that the EPA will be able to continue its necessary work for years to come.

To read the article online, click here.

The 'Crucify Them' Presidency
The Wall Street Journal
By Kim Strassel

Al "Crucify Them" Armendariz resigned from the Environmental Protection Agency this week, for the mistake of telling it like it is. All he leaves behind is an entire administration of Al Armendarizes.

EPA chief Lisa Jackson was quick to assure the public that her regional administrator—who was caught on video describing his desire to "crucify" oil and gas companies—was not "representative of the agency." Mr. Armendariz's views, she said, "don't reflect any policy that we have, and they don't reflect our actions over the past two years." At least she didn't say it under oath.

The Armendariz story matters precisely because he is the model Obama regulator. Hamstrung by both public opinion and Congress, President Obama has turned to these types to enact his broader agenda.

The regional EPA administrator was no rogue appointee. Rather, "there are Armendarizes all throughout this administration" says Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, who first drew attention to the "crucify" video. They were chosen for a purpose.

Consider the broader tale of Mr. Armendariz, lost in the wake of the sensational video. Prior to being appointed by President Obama in late 2009 to serve as EPA's point man for south-central states, Mr. Armendariz was at Texas's Southern Methodist University. His then-résumé showed a scant three years of private-sector experience, with far more time devoted to his work as an adviser to the militant fringe of the environmental community.

Mr. Armendariz's expertise—take note—was working with groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and "Downwinders at Risk" against hydraulic fracturing. Among his achievements: a cameo appearance in "Gasland," the anti-drilling propaganda film, as well as authoring a 2009 study making the wild claim that gas drilling was the cause of more air pollution in Dallas than even cars.

In other words, he was a perfect general for Mr. Obama's war against natural gas. The White House is hostile to fossil fuels, yet it has been unable to get Congress or the public to act. So it has unleashed the EPA to crack down on those industries.

The bonanza in natural gas has nonetheless been tricky for the feds, since hydraulic fracturing regulation is technically left to the states. The agency's solution has been to invent enforcement actions out of existing federal law to harass drillers.

Mr. Armendariz was on the front lines. By early 2010, the EPA boss was already making his "crucify them" comments at a public-meeting-cum-activist-rally in Dish, Texas. At this gathering, Mr. Armendariz also bragged that one of his "really special moments" had been getting the overall chief of EPA enforcement, Cynthia Giles, to watch "Gasland." He lamented that he did not have a "Way of Life Act" that he could enforce—to deal with the "truck traffic," "noise," "water use" and "waste pits" associated with natural-gas drilling. Though he reminds the crowd that the laws he can use, like the Clean Water Act, aren't exactly "toothless."

To read the entire article online, click here.