Let there be no mistake about how the Obama administration views its regulatory role. America's oil and gas producers are under siege from agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and it's hitting consumers in their pocketbooks.
According to one of President Obama's top appointees at the agency, this is deliberate. EPA Region 6 administrator Al Armendariz instructed his enforcement staff to apply a rather brutal "general philosophy" when dealing with the fossil-fuels industry. "It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean," Mr. Armendariz explained at a meeting in 2010. "They'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they'd find the first five guys they saw, and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years."
Mr. Obama appointed Mr. Armendariz to run the EPA's efforts in the south-central region of the country, which includes the oil-rich states of Texas and Oklahoma. Sooner State Republican Sen. James M. Inhofe took to the Senate floor Wednesday to announce an oversight investigation into how Mr. Armendariz was implementing this strategy to block hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is the most promising technique for extracting domestic oil and gas resources.
Mr. Inhofe thinks Range Resources Corp. is the most outrageous example of an innocent rounded up by the EPA to send a message. The firm uses fracking to provide affordable and clean energy, which undercuts the Obama administration's push for windmills and solar panels. On Dec. 7, 2010, EPA faxed a letter to Range Resources asserting the agency had "determined that an imminent and substantial endangerment to a public drinking water aquifer has occurred" arising from the company's operations in Parker County, Texas. This letter was sent at 4 p.m., after a press conference and media blitz by agency staff meant to blame fracking for dangerous conditions at a wealthy landowner's private well.
EPA threatened $50,000 per day in fines and demanded immediate compliance. The company pointed out that the presence of natural gas in water wells in the area is because of geology, not drilling. High levels of methane were found naturally in water long before the company had any operations in the area. A federal district judge and a state agency agreed there was no imminent danger because the well had been shut down.
When the case landed before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year, judges during oral arguments kept asking Justice Department and EPA representatives, "Where was the due process?" for the company. The agency realized it couldn't win, and the case was dismissed on April 2.
EPA issued no press release highlighting the fracking exoneration. "They hope they can admit they were wrong quietly," Mr. Inhofe said. "But we're not going to let them get away with it." Americans might not be happy should they learn by November that such sordid tactics are contributing to their pain at the pump.
The Washington Times
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