An Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator has resigned after comments surfaced from 2010 in which he compared enforcing laws against polluters to Roman conquerors who crucified foes.
Al Armendariz, who had led the EPA office based in Dallas since 2009, sent a letter of resignation to agency Administrator Lisa Jackson on Monday. Jackson said she accepted the resignation.
"My continued service will distract you and the agency from its important work," Armendariz wrote to Jackson. The comments "do not represent the work you have overseen as EPA administrator."
In videotaped remarks from a 2010 meeting in Dish, Texas, Armendariz said he told staff members enforcing environmental laws to follow the example of the Romans, who would subdue Turkish towns by crucifying the first five people they ran across. "And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years," he said.
Armendariz called for a similar approach to get companies to obey environmental laws: "You make examples out of people who are not complying with the law," he said.
The environmental engineer apologized last week for his remarks. A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, told the Associated Press that Armendariz has since received death threats.
Sam Coleman, a career official who led the agency's response to Hurricane Katrina and served as Armendariz's deputy, took over as acting regional administrator.
The video was highlighted last week by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who said the comment showed President Obama intended to shut down U.S. energy exploration.
The "resignation in no way solves the problem of President Obama and his EPA's crucifixion philosophy," Inhofe said a statement, vowing to continue to investigate the agency.
Tension between Obama and U.S. energy producers has increased in the past year, as he delayed an oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast and pushed to end tax breaks for the industry.
Jackson, speaking to reporters last week, said Armendariz's comments were disappointing and wrong.
"They are not representative of the agency, they don't reflect any policy that we have, and they don't reflect our actions over the past two years," she said.
Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, said, "The only people who will celebrate his resignation are the polluters who continue to foul Texas air and the politicians who serve those special interests."