Monday feels like forever ago when Al Armendariz resigned as an EPA Regional Administrator after his “crucify” oil and gas company comment zipped around the internet. Today, both the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal tackle what his comments mean for the agency.
First the Washington Post’s editors:
The most reasonable interpretation is also among the most disturbing — that Mr. Armendariz preferred to exact harsh punishments on an arbitrary number of firms to scare others into cooperating. This sort of talk isn’t merely unjust and threatening to investors in energy projects. It hurts the EPA. Mr. Armendariz was right to resign this week, while EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson denied that his comments reflected the agency’s approach. Yet the question will remain: Is an aggressive attitude like the one Mr. Armendariz described common among EPA officials?
Maintaining the legitimacy of the EPA’s broad regulatory authorities requires the agency to use its powers fairly and, in so doing, avoid the impression that its enforcement is capricious or unduly severe. Mr. Armendariz’s comments violated the latter principle.
They also mention the abuse EPA reaped on Mike and Chantell Sackett who only wanted to build a home an already developed subdivision. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the agency can’t strong-arm people “into ‘voluntary compliance’ without the opportunity for judicial review.”
In the Wall Street Journal, columnist Kimberly Strassel tells the story of how Armendariz worked closely with extreme environmentalists in Texas to attack energy producer Range Resources. EPA later reversed course and rescinded the order. Her conclusion: “The White House is hostile to fossil fuels, yet it has been unable to get Congress or the public to act. So it has unleashed the EPA to crack down on those industries.”
Both these columns make the same point: The “crucify” remark reminds us that EPA is out-of-control.