House GOP wants to haul EPA official before Congress over 'crucify' comments

“[T]he Committee anticipates that it will request your presence at a hearing in the near future to examine enforcement priorities and practices of the agency,” the committee Republicans wrote to Armendariz in a letter Friday.

The letter notes that the committee invited Armendariz to testify at a field hearing in Texas last year, but EPA clean air chief Gina McCarthy testified in his place.

The lawmakers suggest that they would consider subpoenaing Armendariz if he declines to testify.

“As this will be our second request to have you appear before our Committee, and in light of the seriousness of the concerns that need to be addressed, the Committee is prepared to use all authorities at its disposal to ensure your attendance,” the letter says.

The letter also seeks information about the agency’s enforcement practices.

“While you have apologized for these comments, there is genuine concern that your comments reflect the agency’s overall enforcement philosophy,” the letter says. “The recently dismissed enforcement action against Range Resources is a concrete example of this concern. In light of this concern, we seek to examine how enforcement policies are being developed and implemented in your region.”

EPA officials have insisted that Armendariz’s comments do not reflect the agency’s enforcement philosophy.

Armendariz apologized for the comments Thursday, shortly after Inhofe brought them up.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson called the comments “disappointing” Friday. But she declined to say whether the official would be fired or face any disciplinary action, saying the agency "will continue to review" the situation.

A steady stream of Republicans have called on Armendariz to resign or be fired. Seven House lawmakers pressed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to fire Armendariz in a letter Friday.

Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) introduced a House resolution later Friday calling on Armendariz to resign over the comments.

Inhofe released a 2010 video Wednesday of Armendariz comparing his enforcement philosophy to that of Roman soldiers who crucified villagers in towns they wanted to conquer. He made the comments after calling the oil-and-gas sector an "enforcement priority."

“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.”

The video was removed from YouTube on Friday.

EPA’s enforcement division works with the Department of Justice and other agencies to bring civil and criminal legal actions against companies accused of violating environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.