Story highlights

The 2010 comment by Al Armendariz drew protests from Republicans

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson accepts Armendariz's resignation

The White House and the agency call the remark inaccurate

Armendariz says he regrets his comment

Washington CNN  — 

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s office in Dallas has resigned over comments he made in 2010 that became the focus of political condemnation last week.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Monday that she accepted a letter of resignation from Al Armendariz.

“I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the agency,” Jackson said in a written statement.

In the letter dated Sunday, Armendariz said he regrets his comments, adding that they did not reflect on his work or the work of the EPA.

The controversy erupted last week when a video surfaced showing Armendariz saying in 2010 that his methods for dealing with non-compliant oil and gas companies were “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’s office told CNN it uncovered the video while preparing for a blistering half-hour Senate floor speech that Inhofe delivered Wednesday. In the speech, the Republican from Oklahoma criticized the Obama administration’s energy policies and cited Armendariz in particular.

“His comments give us a rare glimpse into the Obama administration’s true agenda,” Inofe said.

After the video went viral, Armendariz quickly issued an apology. But Inhofe rejected the apology, and the White House and EPA dissociated themselves from the administrator’s remarks.

“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 said.

“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,” Inhofe added.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday that “the official’s comments are inaccurate as a representation or characterization of the way the EPA has operated under President Obama.”

In a statement posted on its website, the EPA said it was “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 was on a leave of absence from his job as a professor at Southern Methodist University while he served with the EPA. He was appointed by Obama in 2009.

The remarks surfaced at a critical time for Obama’s re-election campaign. The administration’s energy policies have been targeted by critics, including Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who blame the president’s policies for higher oil and gas prices.

On Friday, a letter signed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Republican members requested clarification of Armendariz’s enforcement strategies and policies while leading the agency’s Region 6 office.

The committee said it “will use all authorities at its disposal to ensure Armendariz’s attendance” at an upcoming hearing.

CNN’s Tom Cohen contributed to this report.