Politics
Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe (Photo: AP) Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe (Photo: AP)  

Inhofe to investigate EPA official’s ‘crucify them’ approach to oil and gas companies

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe took to the Senate floor Wednesday to announce an investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency’s “crucify them” enforcement strategy to keep oil and gas producers in line.

Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, highlighted a recently discovered 2010 speech by Obama-appointed Region 6 EPA Administrator Al Armendariz, in which the EPA official described the agency’s enforcement philosophy.

“Oil and gas is an enforcement priority, it’s one of seven, so we are going to spend a fair amount of time looking at oil and gas production. And I gave — 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,” said Armendariz, according to Inhofe.

“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,” Inhofe quoted Armendariz saying. “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.”

Watch Armendariz’s comments here:

YouTube Preview Image

Inhofe said Armendariz’s words offer a “rare glimpse” into the Obama administration’s mindset, and pointed to examples of the EPA allegedly employing the strategy against natural gas producers in Parker County, Texas, Pavilion, Wyoming, and Dimock, Pennsylvania.

“In all three of these cases, before these investigations were complete, EPA made headline-grabbing statements either insinuating or proclaiming that hydraulic fracturing was the cause of water contamination,” he said, according to prepared comments, explaining in all three instances the agency later walk back their proclamations quietly.

The Oklahoma senator is launching an oversight investigation into the EPA’s handling of the three cases through the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“Against the backdrop of recent events, and Administrator Armendariz’s admission that EPA is out to crucify natural gas companies, it’s clear that EPA did not base these three studies on sound science or engage in the proper scientific process; the agency has been using questionable authorities while usurping the rightful regulatory authority of states,” he said announcing the investigation Wednesday. “EPA clearly went through with these investigations based on preconceived conclusions with the explicit goal of tying potential environmental harms to hydraulic fracturing.”

Inhofe sent a 16 question letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson Wednesday quizzing the agency on its handling of the aforementioned Parker County, Texas case — in which the EPA issued an emergency order against the Range Resources drilling company for methane contamination in water wells only to quietly reverse their decision 15 months later.

“EPA needs to be held accountable,” Inhofe said on the floor. “The American people deserve to know exactly why EPA pushed ahead with such intensity to capture alarmist headlines, and then, when their investigations didn’t pan out the way they had hoped, they were forced to reverse their claims.”

According to Inhofe, it is imperative that the EPA answers for their apparent hostility to oil, gas and coal producers.

“[T]wo things are clearly incontrovertible,” he concluded. “1) the Obama Administration has done everything it possibly can to destroy domestic production of oil, gas and coal. And 2) the Obama Administration now is successfully carrying out its admitted plan to ‘boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe’ and make energy prices ‘necessarily skyrocket.’ Fortunately for the American people, they have yet to fully achieve their goal and we have got to stop them.”

Follow Caroline on Twitter