Al Armendariz, the top Environmental Protection Agency official in the oil-rich Southwest region, resigned from his post, effective today [4/30]. It’s the latest twist in the never-ending and increasingly ugly fracking fracas.
A two-year old video had surfaced last week (and since pulled) featuring Armendariz comparing his “philosophy of enforcement” to Roman conquerors, who would find “the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”
Certainly, it’s incumbent upon regulators to apply the best standards of science in unmasking wrongdoers. But crucify? Especially on an issue in which politics play such a large role? Unfairly or not, these comments raise troubling questions about the degree to which the EPA is committed to independent scientifically grounded oversight, or whether personal or political agendas will drive policy.
Facts v hysteria
What’s really going on here from a science and political perspective? The unfolding fiasco has hardened the ideological battle lines over shale gas development, which has emerged as a politically charged litmus test issue. Hydraulic fracking, the central technique commonly used with almost no controversy for decades to extract deep reserves of oil and gas, is now a line in the sand, dividing stalwarts from both parties.