This week EPA administrator for Region 6, Al Armendariz, resigned. For many in the regulated community, seeing Mr. Armendariz leave is good news. Although that is not the opinion of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in Texas, who saw Armendariz as a savior. “He brought a breath of fresh air — literally and figuratively — to Texas in his vigorous enforcement of the federal Clean Air Act,” was a comment made by Ken Kramer, executive director of the Sierra Club.
Needless to say, those of us on the other side of the fence saw an individual who was extremely aggressive in attempting to interpret regulations which often did not have solid science behind them and often created solutions which were detrimental to the state’s economy and everyone involved with regulations – including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Armendariz grew up in El Paso in neighborhoods which were environmentally unprotected; thus his passion for the environment. And if you’ve seen those neighborhoods (or parts of West Dallas), you can understand his passion. Yet, as an appointed official he should have been finding ways to use that passion to make meaningful changes. Issuing statements such as, “Find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and make examples of them,” or making an analogy to how Romans once conquered villages, “They’d find the first five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them,” is not a way to build bridges.
Personally, I don’t want to see an individual who is in the back pocket of the regulated community. That is not good for us, or our children. I hope that Mr. Armendariz’s replacement will have the same passion for the environment, but be willing to find ways to have the regulated community participate in improving the environment. Crucifixion is not an option.