Al Armendariz, Ousted EPA Chief, Leads Sierra Club's Drive to Chase Customers from TXU

Categories: Buzz

armendariz.jpg
Al Armendariz left the EPA, not the fight.
Every week, managing editor Patrick Williams disappears into his office and reemerges a cranky, nicotine-addicted, third-person-referring superhero we like to call Buzz.

Let's kick this off with a couple of truisms: It's hard to keep a good man down, and be careful what you wish for.

We're looking at you, friends of fossil fuels and foes of the Environmental Protection Agency. Y'all were feeling pretty pleased with yourselves last April when you bagged Al Armendariz, then administrator of the EPA's South Central Region, which includes Texas. That's when Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma got his hands on a 2-year-old video of Armendariz explaining his enforcement philosophy. Talking about how to make the best use of the EPA's limited resources, he compared the process to the Roman practice of crucifixion: Nail up a few guys right away when you conquer a village and the rest of the natives get accommodating.

OK, so it was a fair takedown by the right. You can't say words like that and survive as a appointed bureaucrat. (Only elected politicians can be that honest, unfortunately they seldom choose to be so.) The right rejoiced. Armendariz was no longer in the government.

He was, however, free to say and do whatever the hell he pleased, like take charge of the Texas portion of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, those litigious warriors against coal-fired power plants. This month, the Texas campaign unveiled a new, unique effort that specifically targets North Texas' Energy Future Holdings, one that basically encourages a consumer boycott of the financially troubled company's retail electric arm, TXU. At beyondtxu.org and on Facebook, the Sierra Club is urging customers to switch electric companies, thus pressuring EFH to shutter two coal-fired plants.

See also:
- Former EPA Chief Al Armendariz Said Frackers Lit a Well on Fire, So the Frackers Lawyered Up
- EPA Regional Chief Al Armendariz is Accused of "Crucifying" the Energy Industry in Texas

Now, consumer boycotts of massive private businesses are not the sort of thing government bureaucrats generally encourage. But Armendariz isn't a government employee anymore, is he? That's our point.

Environment and energy are serious subjects, so Buzz felt compelled to call up Armendariz and ask him a serious question about this new campaign: "So are you all like, 'How you like me now, bitches?'"

Yeah, we are and always be 12 emotionally. Armendariz is, sadly, more grown up.

He laughed. "No. I wouldn't characterize it like that."

He really wouldn't. We tried hard to get him to. But Armendariz understands that the stakes of climate change, clean air and water supplies go beyond his own career. "I'm proud of what we're doing, but it's not because of anything personal," he said. In fact, Armendariz, who has a background in the gas industry, said his personal contacts with industry folks were not that bad when he was with the EPA. The politicians and trade industry lobbyists were the pot-stirrers. (That's how they get paid, but then, that's how Buzz gets paid, too.)

So Armendariz wouldn't crow, but that doesn't mean we can't. Hey, Jim Inhofe, remember that other old saying about tents, pissing and the proper placement of your foes? No? Look it up, pal.


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25 comments
wmreed1
wmreed1

The irony is thick here. Sierra Club led the charge that created EFH with the LBO of TXU back in 06. It appears that the enviros ane termites.

mcdallas
mcdallas

We're told: Coal is bad.  Natural gas is bad.  Oil is bad.  Nuclear is bad.

But, wind is good.  And solar is good.

Unfortunately, wind and solar can in no way, ever, meet the energy needs of our society.

Am I wrong?

If not, then why can't we work to make the sources that DO work, become accepted within reason (that is, accept them with proper, MANAGEABLE rules that allow profits)?!?!?!?!

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

This just out in the Star-Telegram:

"The International Energy Agency's latest report forecasts that coal will become the world's dominant fuel, with global burning of the fossil fuel rising by 1.2 billion tons over the next four years. That's the equivalent of adding the existing coal consumption of the U.S. and Russia combined."

http://tinyurl.com/avgyae9

Yer guy needs to go worldwide, it seems.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Armendariz is an ideologue who is right where he should have been all along.

James080
James080

Ironically, Al's efforts to stop the use of coal to generate electricity directly benefits natural gas producers, who provide the most economical substitute fuel.

Kunda
Kunda

@mcdallas One day last month wind energy provided 25% of our Texas energy. Usually that number is at 10%. That's only the beginning, now that the transmission lines needed to carry West Texas wind power are nearing completion.  Germany has set a goal of 60% solar energy.  Germany. If the Texas Public Utility Commission would finish the task assigned to it by Texas law, we would be well on our way to meeting all our peak usage needs (hottest part of the day) with solar which is most available during, yup, the hottest part of the day.  We have not seriously begun to tap our energy conservation potential. It is my understanding that about 50% of our generated energy is wasted.

kduble
kduble

@mcdallas Yes, you're wrong. We could run the entire economy off hydrogen fuel cell. Wind would be separating the hydrogen, so indeterminacy wouldn't matter. This is just one of many ideas. Open up your eyes.

A-nony-mouse
A-nony-mouse

@holmantx

That growth of coal is not seen as a good thing by the IEA. The next line of the article reads: 

"The International Energy Agency says the rest of the world should learn from the American experience of how to reduce coal use and lower the carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

"Europe, China and other regions should take note," van der Hoeven concluded."

 And frankly, after seeing pictures of the horrible pollution and smog in Beijing, I'm perfectly fine with the idea that the US is reducing its use of coal fired power plants.

d-may
d-may

@holmantx Actually, if you ask people in the EPA or industries, Armendariz was actually seen as a pretty effective administrator. You can imagine how pleased petroleum engineers would be while talking to him about chemicals and toxicity. He was a scientist first, not a sales guy or a lawyer like most administrators. Ironically, his lack of PR experience is what ended up getting him in trouble. 

And you know how much conservatives value PR experience. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@James080 Actually, coal provides the most heat per unit of fuel than all the other fossil fuels.

It's just yucky.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@James080 yeah, great.  I don't understand why he hasn't gone to the LNG lobby.  T Boone will don his green hat if there's a dollar in it. 

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Kunda @mcdallas you're mistaken, wind power generates only 8-10%% of the time.  It's worthless.  We have no way to store that small, intermittent sum of energy.  For what we've spent on wind, we could have shelved all our old dirty coal plants and replaced them with much cleaner new natural gas plants.  Wind has polluted TEXAS.  Face the facts, we have scarce resources, and keep the coal plants running, cause wind is so unreliable. 

By the way, one day last month, our power demand was less than 1/2 what it is in Summer.  Your facts are false and misleading.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@A-nony-mouse @holmantx I didn't say it was.  And I have traveled all over this planet.  Texans who decry air quality would come stumbling back from Bangkok SOBBING and kissing this holy Texas ground for what we have.  It's a joke.  At 35,000 feet over Bangkok and not a cloud in the sky . . . you can't see the ground. Their rivers are dead.  And Mexico from orbit in the Spring looks like the country is on fire - same with South America.  They burn vast areas to make way for human use.  Only a few western European boutique countries beat us in pollution control, and that is because they rely upon the third world for what they need.

And what this guy who wrote the piece does not say is:

Energy Future Holdings said it lost $3.36 billion in 2012, the fourth annual loss for the Dallas-based power company in the past five years.  In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, the company said that its heavy debt burden could lead the company to file for bankruptcy or even liquidate, should lenders and noteholders demand accelerated repayment.

so hang in there.  Buut as the author of this piece says - beware of what you wish for - brownouts in the summer - no A/C.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@dallas.l.may @holmantx He crudely revealed an ideology that drove his regulatory oversight.  That is not what he was paid to do and he became a liability to the Left as a result, so he was fired by the Left.

James080
James080

@holmantx @James080  

We have a 500 year supply of coal. Maybe figuring out how to use it in an ecologically friendly way would make sense. Nahhhh.

Kunda
Kunda

@scottindallas Way too many over-reaching, broad-brush "you statements," Scott. I leave you to your forum. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@schermbeck @James080 @PatrickWilliams @holmantx @A-nony-mouseThe major climate bill introduced last week by two key liberal senators would not only impose carbon fees on major energy sources and oil refiners, it would also effectively end President Barack Obama's research and development into "clean coal." The Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development would be eliminated under the Sustainable Energy Act introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

James080
James080

@PatrickWilliams@holmantx@A-nony-mouse 

All the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign will actually do is shift coal use from EPA regulated US based facilities to unregulated, and likely obsolete, coal burning facilities in Mexico, India, China and beyond.

If avoiding CAGW is the real goal, forcing US coal producers to export their product instead of using it locally is....counter productive in the long run.

Really, its no different than closing Exide-like businesses in the US and instead exporting spent auto batteries to Mexico to be recycled outside the purview of OSHA, EPA and the Sierra Club. The Rio Grande and prevailing winds will just bring the lead pollution home to the US.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@PatrickWilliams @holmantx @A-nony-mouse We are all environmentalists however, property-mounted wind and solar cannot even power your air conditioner in the summer, and since both are intermittent and we have yet to invent a method to effectively store electricity (use it or lose it), those alternative sources can only supplement power derived from fossil fuels.  I wish it weren't so.  Some day we'll be there but government cannot order invention by decree.

I like gas and I have no sympathy for the Wall Street bunch who bought EFH on the basis of $12/MCF natural gas and it dropped to $2.83 because of the invention of new fracking tech and the new yields off shale gas fields.  It's called placing a private sector bet and losing.  They don't need to be bailed out.  Those owners need to go under and the deal restructured around the new market price for gas.

But watch state government intervene and try and set electricity prices (by re-regulation).

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@PatrickWilliams @holmantx @A-nony-mouse the fact is that the debt was used to pay the financiers big cuts on the deal.  The company will go bankrupt and we'll still be left to pick up the pieces.  Because it's the most central of the utility that is in danger.  It's a good reason to either closely regulate or wholly socialize utilities, cause if they screw up, it's left to us to pick up the pieces.  

These aren't like an auto dealers, computer/IT firms, manufacturers or anything else.  I DO believe in free markets for those markets, but we've been taken for a hundred billion + dollar ride. 

PatrickWilliams
PatrickWilliams moderator

@holmantx@A-nony-mouseHey, Mr. Holmantx, allow me to introduce myself. You can call me Patrick.

You're right, of course: beyondtxu is going after a wounded animal with EFH. That's perhaps unkind, but it's pretty smart: pick your targets well and husband your ammo. Kinda like that Roman strategy, isn't it?

And as James080 points out in the comments, targeting coal does benefit gas producers who, ironically, were the most vocal of Armendariz's critics. I guess he really isn't taking this personally.

How much of the enviros success vs. coal is due their strategy or litigation and agitation and how much is due to low natural gas prices is a question that I'm afraid we might get an answer to when gas prices eventually rise. I suspect the Sierra Club understands that, and it helps explains some of their hard push for wind and solar.

Personally, I'm a stalwart environmentalist ... as long as my air conditioning works. Stalwart means I'm willing to pay more to keep cool. How much more, before I start asking where the coal plants are? We'll see.

Texas Tribune, btw, has some great stuff about the bleak prospects for new coal in Texas today.


schermbeck
schermbeck

@holmantx@dallas.l.mayIt wasn't an ideology, it was Rudy Giuliani's strategy as a prosecutor of criminal activity, which is what the Q& A was about. And it's funny how if you Google up his name, all the outrage about him is from "Lefties" like yourself...

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@scottindallas @James080 @holmantx Coal is more efficient with regard to BTUs.

The major climate bill introduced last week by two key liberal senators would not only impose carbon fees on major energy sources and oil refiners, it would also effectively end President Barack Obama's research and development into "clean coal." The Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development would be eliminated under the Sustainable Energy Act introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@James080 @holmantx We have even more stone, but we're not in the stone age anymore.  We have many fuels, natural gas is cheaper and more efficient than coal currently.  If coal can be made cleaner, there's hope, but then again, there's no reason to think that technology only advances.

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