Al Armendariz, EPA official, resigns over ‘crucify’ comment

A Cabot Oil and Gas natural gas drill is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site in Springville, Pa., on January 17, 2012.

Al Armendariz, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s top official in the South and Southwest region, has resigned following an outcry about his use of the word ‘crucify’ to explain how the agency enforces the law, the Associated Press reported.

According to CBS News, Armendariz used the verb at a Dish, Texas, government meeting in May 2010. A video of the event showed him explaining that the EPA makes examples of companies that don’t comply with environmental laws to deter other firms from polluting.

Armendariz likened the approach to how the Romans controlled rebellious villages during the Middle Ages, CBS News reported. They’d "take the first five guys they saw and crucify them," he said at the meeting, according to CBS News. Then the town would be "really easy to manage for the next few years.”

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On April 25, Armendariz issued a letter of apology, CBS News reported.

"I apologize to those I have offended and regret my poor choice of words,” he said. “It was an offensive and inaccurate way to portray our efforts to address potential violations of our nation's environmental laws. I am always and have been committed to fair and vigorous enforcement of those laws."

However, Republicans in Congress had called for Armendariz' firing, after Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe mentioned his comments last week, the AP reported. Inhofe said Armendariz’s words proved that the EPA was launching an assault on energy production, especially hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said today she had accepted Armendariz’s resignation, Fox News reported. "I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the agency," she said.

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