WASHINGTON – A top environmental official whose “crucify” remarks about oil and gas companies prompted calls for a congressional hearing has stepped down, according to media reports.
Dr. Alfredo Armendariz was the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s region 6, which includes New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.
His remarks about the EPA’s regulatory approach made him a political lightning rod when they were broadcast on a videotape earlier this month.
“I have accepted Dr. Armendariz’s resignation and respect the fact that he came to this difficult decision because he did not want to distract from our Agency’s critical work. We are all grateful for his service to EPA and our nation,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement. His resignation was effective Monday.
Armendariz told a group that his regulatory philosophy was to “make examples” of companies suspected of polluting the environment to deter others from following suit. “It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean,” he said. “They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years … So, that’s our general philosophy.”
When Congressional Republicans got wind of the comments, they called for Armendariz to testify on Capitol Hill. “I think he should testify,” Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Lone Tree), a member of the Natural Resources Committee, said Friday in an interview. “I’d like to hear what he has to say.”
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) last week also called for the beleaguered EPA official to explain his comments to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
President Obama appointed Armendariz to the post in November 2009. On his biography, Armendariz said that he was dedicated to helping communities “most vulnerable to harm from polluters.” But his controversial remarks made him a whipping boy for critics of the Obama administration.
The EPA announced that Deputy Regional Administrator Sam Coleman has agreed to serve as Acting Regional Administrator.