AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who resigned after using the word “crucify” to describe his approach to violators says recent court decisions striking down federal pollution rules are delaying the inevitable.
Al Armendariz, who was the Obama administration’s top environmental official in the oil-rich south before resigning in April under pressure from Republicans, says the EPA will simply rewrite and reapply cross-state air pollution rules on coal plant emissions. The state has sued the EPA on those issues, and some Texas politicians regarded recent court decisions opposing EPA actions as major victories.
The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that Armendariz, speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Saturday, said the court decisions don’t show the EPA was wrong.
“They point out to me the importance of getting the president to appoint justices on the federal judiciary that will follow the law,” Armendariz said.
In August, a federal appeals court ruled that the EPA violated the Clean Air Act by rejecting the state’s flexible permitting program. That decision forced more than 100 industries, including some of the nation’s largest refineries, to work directly with the EPA to get operating papers.
By a 2-1 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the EPA’s rejection of the program and told the agency to reconsider it.
Armendariz was a professor at Southern Methodist University when President Barack Obama, at the urging of Texas-based environmental groups, appointed him as the EPA’s regional administrator for Texas and other states. Armendariz, who was based in Texas, frequently found himself at odds with the state government and the oil and gas industry, which are often aligned.
Congressional Republicans began calling for Armendariz to be fired this year after Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe highlighted a May 2010 speech by Armendariz as proof of what he refers to as EPA’s assault on energy.
Referring to how the Romans once conquered villages in the Mediterranean, Armendariz said, “… they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them.
“And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not complying with the law,” he said in 2010. “Find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and make examples of them.”
Armendariz, now employed with the Sierra Club, said he had apologized for a poor choice of words but didn’t back off the philosophy.
“I do stand behind the concept of my comments,” he said Saturday. “When you find someone who is violating the law, you do, within the boundaries of the law, vigorously prosecute.”
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