EPA’s Armendariz and the Demonstrative ‘Crucifixion’: A Case in Point

by Mario Loyola

As Charlie noted below, EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz has “resigned” after video surfaced of him waxing lyrical on his desire to “crucify” particular oil-and-gas companies pour encourager les autres:

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. 

Nonsense. His words about “crucifying” oil-and-gas companies describe his work at EPA perfectly. As I argued in the The Weekly Standard  almost a year ago, Armendariz should have been fired just for his role in the shameful persecution of Range Resources Corp.

Quick summary: In late 2010, Range Resources, a Texas natural-gas company, was hit with an emergency order for supposedly contaminating a residential well west of Fort Worth. The company immediately demonstrated that it had no possible connection to the presence of natural gas in the residential well. EPA staff conceded as much but it nonetheless pressed on with the crucifixion, suing the company for millions of dollars in fines for refusal to comply with the original order.

As I reported here at NRO just a month ago, EPA was finally persuaded to drop its action against Range, probably out of concern that a federal court might strike down its statutory authority to crucify oil-and-gas companies altogether. That was wise, because EPA already got what it wanted from persecuting Range. The company had to spend $4.2 million defending itself against a totally arbitrary action that could have come down on virtually any oil or gas company. And the industry has taken note.

In fact, as a demonstration meant to instill fear in the oil-and-gas industry, the crucifixion of Range Resources worked precisely as Armendariz intended. It must have been with heavy heart that the Obama administration accepted his resignation.  

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