EPA Official Has History of Unfair Attacks on Oil and Gas

Apr 26, 2012

Last night, Region 6 EPA Administrator Al Armendariz released an apology for comparing his agency regulating oil and gas companies to Roman centurions crucifying villagers:

I apologize to those I have offended and regret my poor choice of words. It was an offensive and inaccurate way to portray our efforts to address potential violations of our nation’s environmental laws. I am and have always been committed to fair and vigorous enforcement of those laws.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said EPA doesn't crucify oil and gas producers. "Clearly, there is not an effort of the nature that you talk about," said Carney.

If you missed it yesterday, watch the video. It’s astounding. We enter the mind of a government official weiling enormous power.

Armendariz wasn't just talking the talk. Five months after talking about crucifixion, his office went after Texas-based natural gas producer, Range Resources. In 2010, EPA accused the company of contaminating drinking water through hydraulic fracturing and ordered them to supply drinking water to two local homes. At the time, Armendariz said, “We are worried about the families' safety. It was incumbent for us to act quickly.” He also feared natural gas would leak into homes causing fires. The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates natural gas production in the state disagreed and called the order “unprecedented.”

Armendariz jumped the gun, because fifteen month later, EPA rescinded the order. Karen Harbert, President of the Institute for 21st Century Energy called it “at least the third case where EPA rushed to judgment against unconventional oil and natural gas development only to find the scientific facts didn't support its rhetoric.”

Range Resources wasn’t the first time Armendariz unfairly attacked oil and gas producers. Shortly after the video zipped around the blogosphere, Energy In Depth wrote about some anti-energy research Armendariz put together in 2009 that “found” that “the oil and gas sector likely has greater emissions [nitrogen oxides [NOx] and volatile organic compounds [VOCs] than motor vehicles” in the Dallas-For Worth region.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) found Armendariz’s report wanting. From the executive summary (sorry, it gets kind of geeky) [emphasis mine]:

[T]he report depicts an incomplete picture of the entire Barnett Shale EI [emissions inventory].

When attempting to place Barnett Shale E&P emissions in perspective, the author combines NOX and VOC emissions to create an unrealistically large number that exaggerates the relative significance of these emissions with regards to ozone formation in the DFW nonattainment area.

The report’s oversights in EI development result in misleading conclusions regarding potential control strategies.

Most importantly, the report ignores data demonstrating that, despite the dramatic increases in Barnett shale gas production since 2000, the long-term trend shows that ozone design values measured in the DFW area have been decreasing.

This is a disturbing pattern. What we’re learning from this story is that EPA has on the payroll a regional administrator with a history of unjustified attacks on oil and gas producers. Armendariz is part of EPA’s problem. The agency looks for enemies to “make an example” of instead of working with industry to balance environmental protection with energy development. Such an attitude doesn’t help tap into America’s energy resources, and it doesn’t create jobs. 

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