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EPA's Armendariz Resigns Days After "Crucify" Comment Surfaces

The resignation of Al Armendariz, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency for the Southwest region, was met with regret by environmental groups and relief in the oil and gas industry.

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Days after a 2010 video surfaced in which EPA official Al Armendariz described a push to "crucify" major violators in the oil and gas business, he has resigned, causing regret among environmentalists and relief in the oil and gas industry.

Armendariz served as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 6, which is based in Dallas. His resignation, confirmed to The Texas Tribune by the EPA, comes less than a week after the video clip surfaced. In the clip, he compared the way Romans tamed Turkish towns to the way the EPA could carry out enforcement actions.

"While I feel there is much work that remains to be done for the people of this country in the region that I serve, after a great deal of thought and careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that my continued service will distract you and the agency from its important work," Armendariz wrote in a letter Sunday to the EPA's head in Washington, Lisa Jackson.

In a letter to supporters and friends posted on The Dallas Morning News' website, Armendariz wrote that he had made the decision to resign himself. President Obama, he said, will "undoubtedly go down as the most environmental president we have ever had."

Environmentalists expressed regret. 

"I think it's a real loss that Dr. Armendariz resigned," said Ken Kramer, head of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club. "I think he's been a breath of fresh air in Texas with regard to EPA really exerting its appropriate authority to try to help Texans clean our air.  I believe Al Armendariz has been one of the best EPA regional administrators that we've had since that position was created in the 1970s, and I wish him well."

The oil and gas industry had a different reaction. "Mr. Armendariz had overstepped his authority many times against the state of Texas, [and] the oil and gas industry," said Alex Mills, president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, which had called for Armendariz's ouster last week. Armendariz's regulatory philosophy, he added, "is unexplainable. If that is a philosophy of everyone within the EPA and our federal government, the citizens of this country should be frightened. We were certainly frightened — the oil and gas industry — by his tactics."

The top EPA official, Lisa Jackson, accepted his decision and said in a statement, "I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the agency. We are all grateful for Dr. Armendariz's service to EPA and to our nation."

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