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Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Last week due to recently revealed comments that were made in May of 2010, EPA Region 6 administrator Al Armendariz was forced to step down.  He had tried apologizing, and the White House spokesman said that it was not an indication of how the White House views regulation of the oil and gas industries.  Every outlet in the media is referring to the comments as harsh, over the top, and unacceptable.  What he said is not the most important issue, it is where and when he said it.  If these views are not the same as President Obama’s, why is he only now being forced to resign?

For those of you not familiar with this story, Al Armendariz was appointed by the President in 2009, after years of environmental activism, to serve as EPA administrator for the gulf region. This region contains the country’s primary production of oil and gas.  The video that was released shows Armendariz answering a question about the agency’s enforcement policies.  In Dish, TX in a public meeting Q&A he says…

“I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I said,” Armendariz said. “It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them,” Armendariz said.  “And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there,” he added.


It is certainly terrible that a government official said this, and he has followed through with policies that have been antagonistic to the oil and gas producers.  It is interesting that his statement refers to the EPA as the Romans, and I guess any business is the conquered Turks.  You can marinate on the visual there, but the real issue is that this statement took place 2 years ago in public.  Even in his comments, he refers to a meeting with staff where he said it before.  This was probably a common analogy that he used on a regular basis. It is certain that this statement, and the views he expressed were known to the administration.  What was their reaction to it 2 years ago?  If the head of the EPA or the President disagreed with what was said would Armendariz have continued in his job?  It seems that the only difference between 2 years ago, 1 year ago, 6 months ago, and now…is that WE know.

Despite being in office for over 3 years there are regular questions about where President Obama stands on the issue of energy policy.  With the recent increase in oil prices, he started saying publicly that he is in favor of an ‘all of the above’ policy.  This was John McCain’s campaign statement in 2008, implying that we should exploit all energy options.  Does Mr. Obama’s action, or better yet inaction, in dealing with the case of Armendariz match his embrace of the oil industry implied in the ‘all of the above’ rhetoric?

There is certainly an argument to be made for America to use less fossil fuels.  Many believe that it is the right way to go from a pollution, global warming and perhaps self reliance standpoint.  Some of the arguments against that stand would be higher costs and disruptions in current businesses.  The President seems to have decided to not make that argument, however.  I believe that we have a case of saying one thing in public, while acting very differently when the cameras are not rolling.  He would not be the first politician to do such a thing, but he is the one that is on the ballot this fall.

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