Michael Kinsley once defined gaffe as the accidental telling of an embarrassing political truth. EPA official Al Armendariz has paid for his 2010 gaffe, captured on video and highlighted by Senator James Inhofe, with his job:
The Obama administration’s top environmental official in the oil-rich South and Southwest region has resigned after Republicans targeted him over remarks made two years ago when he used the word “crucify” to describe his approach to enforcement.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent Sunday, Al Armendariz says he regrets his words and stresses that they do not reflect his work as administrator of the five-state region including Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
They don’t reflect his work, eh? Then why would he be bragging about taking that kind of approach to enforcement at an EPA conference? Somehow, I’d trust the unguarded moment a lot more than the spin.
Thomas Pyle of the Institute for Energy Research, which pushes for policies that support domestic energy production, says that Armendariz’ original comments reflect the reality of those who have to deal with the EPA when pursuing exploration and extraction:
“Administrator Al Armendariz’s comments are representative of the arbitrary and punitive enforcement strategy that has developed at the EPA in the last three years. His resignation, while appropriate, does nothing to stop the regulatory assault on traditional energy producers currently led by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. A pattern of politicized rule-making and reckless scientific analysis envelop the agency, despite the damage-control efforts being coordinated at the White House.
“Words are important, but actions speak louder than words. And while Administrator Armendariz’s comments were reprehensible, the agency’s ongoing effort to intimidate and even bankrupt coal, oil and natural gas producers is far worse.”
Ask the Sacketts whether crucifixion is the rule or the exception. Armendariz’ departure may allow the EPA to spin a little longer, but the agency has “crucified” too many people for their approach to remain a secret. All Armendariz’ admission did was to corroborate the large body of evidence from inside the agency.
Update: Senator Inhofe says that this won’t stop his investigation into EPA enforcement practices:
“After his revelation that EPA’s ‘general philosophy’ is to ‘crucify’ oil and gas companies, it was only right for Administrator Armendariz to resign today – but his resignation in no way solves the problem of President Obama and his EPA’s crucifixion philosophy,” Senator Inhofe said. “In his letter to Administrator Jackson, Armendariz again pointed to his ‘poor choice of words’ as the reason for his resignation – but Armendariz was just being honest: his choice of words revealed the truth about the war that EPA has been waging on American energy producers under President Obama.
“We will continue our investigation into the situations surrounding EPA’s apparent crucifixion victims: the American people deserve to know why, in at least three separate cases, EPA tarnished the reputation of companies by accusing them of water contamination; then when the results of their study did not turn out the way they hoped, and they had no definitive evidence to make that link, they quietly walked back their accusations. We will get to the bottom of this – and we will continue looking into EPA’s actions on hydraulic fracturing beyond these three cases as well.
“Especially as Region VI holds some of the most immense oil and gas resources in the country – including in my home state of Oklahoma – I will be watching who President Obama appoints to replace Armendariz very closely.”
At least this gets the media off the administration’s back. Oh, wait …
Update II: Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) joins in:
The Obama Administration’s desire to punish job creators goes all the way to the top, and that’s the real issue. Excessive and overly burdensome regulations are hurting our economy and actually killing jobs. If President Obama’s regulators were listening, they’d know that Americans want a healthy economy where hard work is rewarded and everyone has the opportunity to play by reasonable rules and succeed.