In response to a disturbing video brought to light this week exposing a top Obama EPA appointee's description of his "crucify them" enforcement strategy to punish oil and gas companies, Republican members of the Energy and Commerce Committee are launching an investigation into the agency's enforcement policies. Members are concerned that the Obama appointee's comments reflect an overzealous enforcement philosophy inconsistent with genuine protection of American families and communities, while also undermining jobs and the economy. Members of the committee sent a letter today to EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz seeking detailed information about the agency's enforcement practices and requesting his presence at a future hearing to explain his inflammatory comments.
"In statements you made in 2010 which were highlighted by Senator Inhofe in an April 25, 2012 letter to Administrator Jackson, you described an enforcement philosophy that raises significant concerns about environmental enforcement both in your region and across the agency, including with respect to energy production," wrote the members. "While you have apologized for these comments, there is genuine concern that your comments reflect the agency's overall enforcement philosophy. The recently dismissed enforcement action against Range Resources is a concrete example of this concern. In light of this concern, we seek to examine how enforcement policies are being developed and implemented in your region."
The committee previously invited Armendariz to testify at a field hearing in Texas last year, but EPA chose to fly DC-based Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy to Houston to testify in his place. This time, committee members will not accept a substitute witness, writing, "the Committee anticipates that it will request your presence at a hearing in the near future to examine enforcement priorities and practices of the agency. We note that you declined to attend the field hearing our Committee conducted in March 2011 in Texas. However, you stated at that time that you would be willing to make yourself available in the future to discuss your office's work. Committee Staff will be in contact with you with regard to the scheduling of the hearing. As this will be our second request to have you appear before our Committee, and in light of the seriousness of the concerns that need to be addressed, the Committee is prepared to use all authorities at its disposal to ensure your attendance."
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) uncovered the alarming video of Armendariz earlier this week in a speech on the Senate floor, invoking outrage from the American public. In the video, Regional Administrator Armendariz 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 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 would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years." The video has since been taken down by its original poster.
Members signing the letter included: Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Brian Billbray (R-CA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bob Latta (R-OH), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Brett Gurthrie (R-KY), Gregg Harper (R-MS), Pete Olson (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), David McKinley (R-WV), Joe Pitts (R-PA), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), John Sullivan (R-OK), Sue Myrick (R-NC), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Tim Murphy (R-PA), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Lee Terry (R-NE) and Steve Scalise (R-LA).