The New York state study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, relied on research from a former Environmental Protection Agency official who compared enforcing environmental regulations to “Roman crucifixions.”
Former EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz may have resigned from the Obama administration in 2012, but his research was included in the Cuomo administration’s environmental study on fracking.
The Cuomo administration released its final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on fracking earlier this month. The SGEIS included findings made last year by the state Department of Health that fracking shouldn’t be allowed in New York.
Interestingly enough, the final SGEIS’s bibliography included a citation for a 2009 study conducted by Armendariz on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental group.
The study was published in January 2009, while Armendariz worked at Southern Methodist University, only eight months before being appointed to head up EPA’s region 6 — which covers the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas as well as 66 American Indian tribes.
Armendariz’s study is titled “Emissions from Natural Gas Production in the Barnett Shale Area and Opportunities for Cost-Effective Improvements” and details what regulations can be put in place to curb methane emissions from shale gas development.
Armendariz was appointed by President Barack Obama in November 2009 to head up the EPA’s region 6 office in Dallas, Texas. The Huffington Post reports that his nomination was backed by Texas-based environmental groups. Indeed, the Houston Chronicle called Armendariz “the most feared environmentalist in the state.”
But it wasn’t long before the “feared” environmentalism became embroiled in scandal. In 2012, Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe released video footage of a speech Armendariz gave in 2010, just after joining the EPA, where he compared enforcing environmental laws to how the Romans used to “crucify” people in Mediterranean villages.
“The Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean,” Armendariz said in the video. “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.”
“And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law,” he said. “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. And, companies that are smart see that, they don’t want to play that game, and they decide at that point that it’s time to clean up.”
“And, that won’t happen unless you have somebody out there making examples of people,” Armendariz added. “So you go out, you look at an industry, you find people violating the law, you go aggressively after them. And we do have some pretty effective enforcement tools. Compliance can get very high, very, very quickly.”
While leading the EPA’s efforts in the South Central U.S., Armendariz was criticized for making accusations against the drilling company Range Resources that it was contaminating drinking water. Armendariz even issued an emergency order against Range for allegedly contaminating water sources in Parker County, Texas.
But Armendariz was wrong and the EPA never found any evidence of drinking water contamination in Parker County. The EPA eventually withdrew its emergency order and a federal court threw the case out.
Armendariz now works for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign — the Club is largely opposed to coal power as well as hydraulic fracturing.
The Cuomo administration’s fracking study has already come under criticism for relying on research from “fringe activists who helped hasten the [fracking] ban in New York,” according to a report by the petroleum industry-backed group Energy In Depth.
EID notes the Health Department’s 184-page report relied on “reports that were financed and produced almost entirely by professional opposition groups.” One paper, for example, was authored by researchers with explicit ties to environmental groups. All three peer-reviewers of the study “failed to disclose their personal opposition to shale development,” according to EID.
Cuomo’s office did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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