EPA Regional Chief Al Armendariz is Accused of "Crucifying" the Energy Industry in Texas

When President Obama appointed SMU prof Al Armendariz to the EPA regional post in Dallas back in 2009, it was to the sound of collective groaning from the energy industry and Republican politicos. Only months before, he'd authored a study citing oil and gas production as a major source of air pollution in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And now he was supposed to regulate them?

Ever since, everyone from the industry right on down to the chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Railroad Commission of Texas and Gov. Rick Perry has looked for an excuse to call for his head.

Then came the video above, which should be set to a soundtrack of knives sharpening.

The video surfaced Wednesday on U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's YouTube channel. In it, Armendariz recounts a vivid metaphor he once used in a talk with his enforcement team.

The Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they'd find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.

And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is 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. So you go out, you look at an industry, you find people violating the law, you go aggressively after them. And we do have some pretty effective enforcement tools. Compliance can get very high, very, very quickly.

That's what these companies respond to is both their public image but also financial pressure. So you put some financial pressure on a company, you get other people in that industry to clean up very quickly.

Whitehouse spokesman Jay Carney noted the comment was "an inaccurate way to describe the work the EPA does," and added that Armendariz has since apologized.

In a Forbes opinion piece, writer Christopher Helman says Armendariz has already stormed the metaphorical Turkish town and nailed one of its inhabitants to a cross. That inhabitant: Fort Worth-based Range Resources. The crime is a flaming water well out in the middle of nowhere, and the tale is the subject of this week's cover story.

Some thirty minutes from Weatherford, out in rural Parker County, Steve Lipsky's water well just wasn't pumping right. Turned out, his well was suffused with natural gas -- so much of it, in fact, that a service tech attached a PVC pipe to it and lit the gas escaping along with the water.

The Railroad Commission got involved and, before long, so did the EPA. After conducting some testing, for the first time in the history of Texas oil and gas, the EPA issued an endangerment order to Range Resources, accusing the company of contaminating Lipsky's water with two nearby gas wells whose horizontal wellbores ran beneath his property.

The EPA threw that book at Range. But several years later, we're still no closer to understanding just what happened deep underground. Did Range contaminate Lipsky's well? Or was Range wrongly accused? Read the story, "Fire in the Hole," and decide for yourself.

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79 comments
dagny
dagny

Money is our means of exchange.  We choose to exchange money for air conditoning, without which life in Texas would be neither healthy nor safe.

Robert
Robert

Wow, would have never guessed the subject would explode in the comments like this, starting to drift of subject too :(

ILUVUSA2
ILUVUSA2

Just another of b.o.'s boy toys on the down-low?

RUSK NATIVE
RUSK NATIVE

frack Obama

Donasyman
Donasyman

 It is unfortunate that Armendariz used such inappropriate language, however we need people in the EPA who will are doing the job that they were hired to do, protect the health and safety of the citizens of this country against the oil industry who cares only about money!

Embarassed American
Embarassed American

Ban him from gov't and teaching.  What a typical appointee of this embarssing administration.  Shame on you Obama!!  Go buy your Government Motors Volt because you'll have the time to start contemplating what parts of Indonesia you want to visit in it.

claytonauger
claytonauger

You're actually the embarrassing one because, among other things, you can't spell. And we know that if Gov. Perry said this about illegal immigrants, you would have given him a standing O. It's just enforcement of white collar environmental crimes you object to.

cp
cp

Excuse me, but what in the world is wrong with punishing corporate lawbreakers???

jones2371
jones2371

ABOLISH the EPA now.  Clearly, they have lost perspective on their role in MY country.  And SMU regents/administration, why do you hire people who, if they had unchecked power, would kill the largest manufacturing sector in this country?  Don't you think that's a little suicidal for your endowed gifts and prospects for future technical degree seekers?  Fools.

Observist
Observist

SMU should fire anyone who might do something extreme if they had unchecked power... because, you know, once someone is employed by a university, they become omnipotent. 

The irony is thick.  You want to abolish the EPA because you're concerned about what people would do with unchecked power. 

Better'ncoal
Better'ncoal

Not to lose my liberal cred or anything, but when XTO or Devon make a real effort to ensure their fracking contractors case their wells properly and tote their fracfluids away properly, asswipes like Range make the whole industry look evil.  Refusing to case your wells and dumping your flowback to an open pit is the problem.  EPA should have stood their ground here, literally and not backed down with some lame settlement with Range.  PS:  Sunset the goddamn Railroad Commission already!!  

Skeptical skeptic
Skeptical skeptic

A transparent false conservative. A liberal trying to make conservatives look bad. 

cp
cp

aka troll...

Mandmknowles
Mandmknowles

Armendiaz should have been fired. The apology was a lame attempt at CYA. The fact that he has not been fired indicates that his verbal attack is in keeping with the Obama Administrations sentiments toward not just oil and gas companies but the economic engine for job creation and prosperity to our region . Echos of the Hunger Games!

cp
cp

No, he should not have apologized because he had nothing to apologize for!

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I'll say it this way: Texas industry as a whole needs to get in line. If it takes a public crucifixion of an old wackjob like Harold Simmons, then so be it.

MattL1
MattL1

This guy is 100% right. If regulation is to be effective, non-compliance has to carry with it real consequences. The industry is going to use every tool in its arsenal to get around environmental regulations, so the regulators have to be willing to do the same to ensure compliance. That's how the game works. 

claytonauger
claytonauger

And the Congressional critics of EPA are just as articulate!

jones2371
jones2371

Like Hank Johnson or Sheila Jackson Lee???

Eddie
Eddie

What a flaming liberal chili eater. Beaner.

engmofo
engmofo

You go Eddie ,let everyone know just what a prick you are........

Eddie
Eddie

Someone needs to crucify this little liberal spic...upside down. On the other hand, congrats to this pepper gut. This makes the fifth...SIXTH fire the Sambo administration has had in four weeks. Keep it going you liberal turds. Crucify this little beaner.

Donasyman
Donasyman

 Eddie, You have revealed yourself as a racist; shame on you! 

kiefo
kiefo

Anyone believe Jay Carney's claim that Armendariz's whacked out, tree-hugging, fundamentalist, leftist agenda is not identical to Obama's?

TXsharon
TXsharon

It's a GOP witch hunt! Guess who really gets crucified in fracking shale gas extraction? http://t.co/Wx0iPdv4

The shale oil & gas fracking victims in EPA Region 6 stand by Armendariz and the Obama EPA!  We cry out to you for help for you are our only hope! 

pak152
pak152

 wow! a truly unbiased and objective report thanks Txsharon ;-)

TXsharon
TXsharon

I'm the voice of the Citizens of the Shale. For whom do you speak? 

The Credible Hulk
The Credible Hulk

"Self-deprecating": I don't think that term means what you think it means, jonesy.

Back to National American University with you until you can think right.

Observist
Observist

Yet another reference to high school social status!  You seem to be having trouble with the transition to adulthood.

jones2371
jones2371

You're a self-deprecating liberal dolt who was a missfit in school.  I know who you are.  I've met you and your friends.

Edgar
Edgar

"Citizens of the Shale"...is that a breakway republic, and did they vote you queen?  Are you a prophet?

Josey Wales
Josey Wales

This pencil-dick doesn't look like he could crucify anybody. He looks like the kid that was bullied in high school, got a little power, and now wants to act like a tough guy. I'm all against polluters, but this clown is over the top.

Ducdoc
Ducdoc

You couldn't be more right. I'm sure somone has a picture of this Geek hanging by his underware from the coat hook on the backside of his locker door when he was in school.Just another beta male from the Obama-tard admin. They all look very similar. { Pickle Smootchers ]

Observist
Observist

And you sound like the bully in high school who is all resentful that the little smart kids he used to bully now have the power & prestige.

dallasmay
dallasmay

Republicans are right. Fat cats should be allowed to do whatever they want -regardless of who they hurt. The biggest, meanest, dirtiest player should be allowed to win. That's the way the free market works. Right, Repubs? 

No, it's not. We need strong regulations (aka laws)  to make sure that the worst offenders can be brought to justice when they hurt people. 

james
james

a well spits fire at a humans home where it never did before. we've had earthquakes in and around dallas where we've practically never had them before. so if folks can PROVE that these criminals poisoned their water and their family...10 years from now after an earthquake swallows a town....maybe they'll have to quit poisoning any more water or erasing any more towns. meanwhile law enforcement busily tilts at a windmill called DRUGS to make themselves look impo'tent.

pak152
pak152

 no one has been able to prove that fracking causes the 'earthquakes' I suspect that in many cases people are now looking for these low level quakes

"USGS’s studies do not suggest that hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” causes the increased rate of earthquakes. USGS’s scientists have found, however, that at some locations the increase in seismicity coincides with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells."http://www.doi.gov/news/doinew...

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

PakThis past Fall, gas industry reps told the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force that the industry now concedes that the injection well process for storing the contaminated flowback water does indeed cause the seismic activity. In fact, he further stated that when they see that the activities begin, they pull back on the injection process in order to reduce the seismic activity. So, at this point, it is true that there is no third party data to prove that 'fracking' causes earthquakes but for the industry to admit to the other is BIG, really BIG.

Who knows what other effects the shale gas industry is causing... It won't be known until independent studies are conducted, or some years in the future when Mother Nature and/or our overall health results reveal the truth.

This entire topic takes me back over the past 40 years to cigarette ads, smoking studies, revelations about the industry in general and then............

The air quality has already shown us the results over the past 5 years, I guess now it's the human toll that is beginning to tell the tale.

pak152
pak152

 so darrd2010 what is your ultimate goal? is it to prevent any drilling at all by imposing onerous regulations that no one could meet? or is it to ensure that drilling can take place safely?how often have you visited a drilling site? actually gone on the platform? watched what they drilling crews do?

pak152
pak152

 do you have a link?and what happens if the  'independent' study comes back and refutes your contentions?

Guest
Guest

Gee, does any one at all remember the Super Conducting Super Collider?

It was located in the Waxahachie / Cleburne area because of a lack of seismic activity over the past 20MM years minimum.

pak152, you need to go back to your freshman statistics class, (assuming that you have anything past a GED) and revisit the concepts of causality and correlation.

Well drilled --> Well Fracced --> Well Flowback --> Flowback disposal in an Ordivician limestone formation against a prior continental margin with high residual stresses --> Activation of dormant faults -->  low energy seismic events with hypocenters in the flowback fluid disposal zone.

Hmm ... Wait a minute ... let me think ... Hmm ... could be? ... you know, I think that there just may be not only a correlation but also a causal link between well fraccing and the low energy seismic events in Johnson County and other areas where disposal wells are injecting into the Ellenburger formation.

Paul
Paul

 The HQ for the collider was located near Waxahachie.  The tunnel itself was located in Johnson and Ellis Counties.

Both counties are known for being seismically stable for at least 20MM years.

If we do not dispose of the flowback water in the Ellenburger formation, where do you suppose that we dispose of it?

The amount and rates of flowback water injected into the Ellenburger formation is quite large.

The Ellenburger formation is used because the RRC rules for disposal wells limits the wellhead injection pressure to approximately 0.5 psi per foot of depth to the injection zone.  The Ellenburger is also massive.  It is sometimes referred to as the Ordivician Ocean.

The higher the wellhead pressure, the greater the injection flowrate.  The greater the flowrate, the fewer the disposal wells needed.  I do not believe that there is an economic alternative to flowback disposal in the Ellenburger.

Given the geological circumstances of the Ellenburger, the 0.5 psi per foot limit on wellhead injection pressures may be too high as it may allow fracturing of the formation (due to its nature and make up and the residual stresses present.) or the activation of dormant faults in what is considered to be a continental margin.  Some geologists consider that in addition to being a continental margin, it may actually be on overthrust zone with significant folding present.

Additionally, as gas is withdrawn from the Barnett formation, the principal stresses in this zone will change.  This change in principal stress may also activate dormant faults.

As the gas from the original set of fractures from the original well stimulation is depleted, the refracturing of the wells will result in additional flowback water to be disposed of.

I do not believe that there is adequate mapping of the faults in the Barnett and Ellenburger.  We are obtaining this mapping from the low energy siesmic events that are occurring.

In regards to your comment about causality, if I were to build an injection well to the Ellenburger and start injecting massive quantities of liquid, then it is possible that low energy seismic events could occur.

That fact is that pretty much the only economic way to dispose of the flowback water from Barnett wells is into the Ellenburger.  Hence the causal link.

Have a nice day.

Edgar
Edgar

Yeah, you're quite the logician yourself.  There's no direct link between fracking and quakes.  There's possibly a direct link between disposal "in an Ordivician limestone formation against a prior continental margin with high residual stresses" (nice one - two points!) and lubrication of fault lines.  It does not follow that there's causation between flowback and placement of a disposal well on or near a fault line.  Fracking can be accomplished without injection, and it can also be accomplished with injection away from faults.  I believe that was the point he was trying to make. By the way, the collider was very close to Waxahachie, and not so close to Cleburne.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

I see nothing wrong with his words. So what is the problem here? That is how you get compliance. It's the only way to get industry like Range Resources, Chesapeake, XTO, Chief, et al to wake up and take notice.It's too bad that no one has done it with Harold Simmons yet, the King of Nuclear Waste out in West Texas. But I guess that's okay.

Eddie
Eddie

 Of course you don't, you're a leftist liberal Marxist like Sambo. That "angry" Sambo.

Edgar
Edgar

Even Amendariz acknowledged it was over the line.  Why?  Because this practice violates the rule of law, which is the most powerful and sacred resource this country has.  If you hate industry, sure, you might feel tempted to crucify a non-compliant company.  But that's shortsighted on your part.  If the rule of law breaks down, everyone loses, including anti-industry environmentalists.  Is it your bloodthirst that explains your irrationality, or were you just being snarky?

rhody
rhody

That's how you get compliance?  Be careful what you wish for fool!

Jay
Jay

So you're OK with selective enforcement of the law? How specifically would you choose which companies to crucify? Would the political affiliation of the owner/CEO of the company matter? Would the EPA (of a Democratic administration) target companies owned by Republicans, and ignore those owned by Democrats? Would the EPA crucify a company that makes campaign contributions to the DNC, or hires Democrat lobbyists in Austin and Washington, DC? Selective enforcement.......sounds like an idea whose time has come.

Justin
Justin

What seems selective is how much you understand and are aware of the operations of the EPA and what is done and how things are done.  Now there is no selectivness to how any of this processed it is done through following the regulations as they govern us to do so.  The fact is also remember that this agency was first established by the Repubs, now what I find is funny is that this agency creates some impedement to industry based on ensuring that our future is bright instead of pleek, and I mean literally.  So why is that the Repubs want to take the action of inacting this agency back and removing it from existence simple, MONEY!  There is only the lack there of that creates some desire to remove a public health agency from its existence which is clearly sad and now a great man feels forced to resign because of this being deemed as insensitive to the repubs and created some level of controversy but he would rather resign then let anything be taken away from the work of the EPA!

cp
cp

He just named off a few companies. What seems selective to me is the dearth of enforcement. 

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