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Crucifying the Oil and Gas Industry

It is often said that the definition of the word gaffe in Washington-speak is when someone accidentally tells the truth. Al Armendariz, the EPA administrator for Texas and surrounding states, certainly made a gaffe when he said in a speech in 2010, that the best way to enforce environmental laws was to crucify a few oil companies so that the rest will fall in line. He noted that the Romans used this technique when they conquered a new town, crucifying the first five people they could get their hands on so that the place would be very easy to manage for the next few years. (I expect that that is actually a slander against the Romans, although they had no scruples against selling whole populations into slavery.)

Armendariz was, let us hope, using a metaphor. But his actions indicate that he is all too willing to act first and get, well, evidence of wrong doing, later. The New York Times reported on December 8th, 2010, that he had signed an emergency order:

Dallas-based EPA Regional Director Al Armendariz issued an emergency order yesterday against Range Resources Corp., charging that its drilling in the Barnett Shale contaminated at least two water wells with methane and benzene. The order gave Range 48 hours to provide clean drinking water to affected residents and begin taking steps to resolve the problem.

Armendariz’s order is not simply an action against the company, but a slap at regulators at the Texas Railroad Commission, whom he accused of not doing enough to help the people living near the drilling operations in the Fort Worth area.

Earlier this month, the EPA finally withdrew the order, having been able to produce no evidence whatever that Range Resources was in any way responsible.  (It might be noted in passing that while the emergency order was a major story in the Times, its withdrawal was not news fit to print. Nor is the news of  Armendariz’s recently revealed remarks.)

The United States, which invented both the petroleum industry, in 1859, and the transportation of natural gas over long distances by pipeline, in 1891, is on the cusp of what could be the greatest boom in energy production in its history, a boom that would not only reduce the price of energy—a major input into the struggling economy–but would greatly improve the country’s trade balance, help the dollar, and improve America’s foreign policy options.

The Obama administration, in thrall to the anti-capitalist environmental lobby, is doing everything possible to prevent it.