EPA official apologizes after comparing his work to crucifixion

An Obama administration official apologized this week after a Senate Republican released a video in which the official compared enforcement of environmental laws to crucifixion.

“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,” Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz said in a statement that the Daily Caller obtained Wednesday night.

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“I am and have always been committed to fair and vigorous enforcement of those laws.”

The apology came several hours after Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a vocal critic of the EPA, released a 2010 video in which Armendariz stressed the importance of “making examples” out of companies that violate environmental laws. He compared his enforcement philosophy to that of Roman soldiers who crucified villagers in towns they wanted to conquer.

“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’m going to tell you what I said,” Armendariz says in the video.

“It is kind of like how the Romans used to conquer the villages in the Mediterranean — they’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere and they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. Then that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

Armendariz continued: “And so, you make examples out of people who are, in this case, not complying with the law. You find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them. There’s 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.”

Inhofe highlighted the comments Wednesday during a Senate floor speech.

“His comments give us a rare glimpse into the Obama administration's true agenda; no matter how much President Obama may pretend to be a friend of oil and natural gas, his green team constantly betrays the truth that the Obama administration is fully engaged in an all-out war on hydraulic fracturing, and indeed all fossil fuels,” Inhofe said.

Inhofe’s comments mark the latest attempt by Republicans in Congress to paint the Obama administration as the enemy of the oil and gas industry amid high gasoline prices. Republicans have sought to put the blame for prices at the pump on the president, bashing his energy and environmental policies.

Experts say federal policymakers have little control over gasoline prices in the short term, as they are tethered to oil prices, which are set on the world market.

Armendariz’s comments quickly got the attention of conservatives, who have long bashed what they call EPA’s overzealous regulatory agenda.

EPA, in a separate statement, said strong enforcement is essential to ensure the agency protects the environment.

“Strong, fair and effective enforcement of the environmental laws passed by Congress is critical to protecting public health and ensuring that all companies, regardless of industry, are playing by the same rules. Enforcement is essential to the effectiveness of our environmental laws, ensuring that public health is protected and that companies that play by the rules are not at a disadvantage,” EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Cynthia Giles said in a statement.

“The same holds true for companies involved in responsible and safe development of our nation’s domestic energy resources.”