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EPA official blasted over 'crucify' oil and gas comments

By Todd Sperry, CNN Senior Producer
updated 6:30 PM EDT, Thu April 26, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dallas EPA chief draws criticism for 2010 video
  • In video, Al Armendariz relates his strategy for dealing with energy firms that break rules
  • He notes the Romans would "find the first five guys they saw and crucify them"

Washington (CNN) -- The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency are distancing themselves from controversial remarks that surfaced this week by a regional administrator attacking the oil and gas industry.

In a video made in 2010, Al Armendariz, who heads the EPA's Dallas office, suggested his approach to dealing with noncompliant oil and gas companies is "like when the Romans conquered the villages in the Mediterranean, they'd go into little villages in Turkish towns and they'd find the first five guys they saw and crucify them."

Sen. James Inhofe, who posted the video online Wednesday, blasted the EPA administrator's comments on the Senate floor during a 30-minute speech attacking the Obama administration's energy policy. "His comments give us a rare glimpse into the Obama administration's true agenda," the Oklahoma Republican said.

The White House and the EPA were quick to clarify they didn't agree with Armendariz's remarks. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday, "The official's comments are inaccurate as a representation or characterization of the way the EPA has operated under President Obama."

The EPA released a statement on its website, saying, "It is deeply unfortunate that in a 2010 video an EPA official inaccurately suggested we are seeking to 'make examples' out of certain companies in the oil and gas industry."

Armendariz, appointed by President Obama in 2009, apologized for the remarks, "It was an offensive and inaccurate way to portray our efforts to address potential violations of our nation's environmental laws."

But Inhofe rejected the apology. "Administrator Armendariz apologized yesterday for his 'poor choice of words' when he admitted that EPA's 'general philosophy' is to 'crucify' and 'make examples' of oil and gas companies, but he did not apologize for EPA's actions towards its apparent crucifixion victims."

Inhofe added, "Take the word 'crucify' out of Administrator Armendariz's statement and nothing has changed: You still have a rogue agency following through on President Obama's 'general philosophy' to increase the price of gas and electricity."

The EPA did not respond to multiple attempts from CNN to answer questions regarding Armendariz's future with the agency, whether he'll face disciplinary action or if EPA Chief Lisa Jackson has spoken with him directly.

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