In a 2010 video brought to light by frequent EPA foe Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., EPA Region VI Administrator Al Almendariz said that he gave the following analogy to his staff about his “philosophy of enforcement,” which he acknowledged being crude and perhaps inappropriate, but shared anyway: ”It is kind of like how the Romans used to conquer villages in the Mediterranean — they’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere and they’d find the first five guys they saw, they’d crucify ’ em, and that little town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”
Almendariz 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 ’em 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.”
The video conveys the full force of the petty, self-satisfied bureaucrat who conceives in grandiose terms of his job in a war on the industries he regulates:
Al Almendariz apologized for his remarks but remains employed by the EPA.
Republicans seized on the video as further support for their argument that the EPA has run amok, bullying citizens and trampling on the rights of property owners. (Recall that the administration lost a 9-0 decision at the Supreme Court on this issue.)
This also sheds additional light on President Obama’s energy policy, such as it is. We know the highlights by now: Impose 10 of 14 new taxes on oil and gas companies, block the XL Pipeline, make development of natural gas and oil fields as difficult as possible and give sweetheart deals to donors to promote ”green jobs.” (Americans for Prosperity is out with a new ad highlighting some of the administration’s energy boondoggles.) The administration distanced itself from the EPA official’s remarks, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that he perfectly embodies the ethos of his agency.
Republicans weren’t buying the White House’s rebuke. (Sens. Inhofe and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) excoriated the EPA for, as Cornyn put it, “burdensome regulatory overreach.”) Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas state officials also blasted the EPA.
As with many of the Obama team flaps, the administration will say that this is one bad apple and of no consequence. Except it is much more than one blabbermouth. It is indicative of the administration’s war on domestic energy developers and of Obama’s central dilemma: What policies and record can he run on? Certainly not his energy policy.