EPA’s ‘Crucifixion’ of Energy Sector Exposed

Rich Trzupek is a veteran environmental consultant and senior advisor to the Heartland Institute. He is the author of the new book Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry (Encounter Books).


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For those of us in industry who have watched the agency grow in power and arrogance over the decades, there wasn’t anything all that surprising about somebody suggesting that the EPA uses threats and intimidation against the regulated community. We all know, from long and bitter experience, that’s how the EPA works. What was remarkable is that it was an EPA official admitting it.

Al Armendariz, EPA Region 6 administrator, was caught on tape urging the troops attending a 2010 meeting to be ruthless in their dogged pursuit of dirty rotten polluters (aka: anybody in the private sector). “You make examples out of people who are in this case not complying with the law … and you hit them as hard as you can,” he said. But it was the spectacularly inappropriate analogy Almenadariz utilized to underline the point that really caught the public’s attention:

“It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean,” he said. “They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

Yet, as spectacularly inappropriate as that analogy was, it was also dead-on accurate. When the EPA undertakes an enforcement initiative against one industry sector or another, it goes for the jugular. We’ve seen it time and time again. The initial “crucifixions” take the form of crushing fines against a handful of supposed bad actors, which serves to send a singular message to the rest of the companies in a particular industry sector: resistance is futile. It doesn’t matter whether the administration in power is Republican or Democrat. It’s an EPA thing. Congress has handed the EPA a tremendous amount of power over the years and the Agency isn’t at all shy about wielding it.

Consider the Clean Air Act, for example. Under the Clean Air Act the EPA has the authority to levy fines of up to $25,000 per day for each violation. Those violations don’t have to (and frequently don’t) have anything to do with emitting more pollutants into the air than are allowed by applicable regulations. If the EPA finds that a company didn’t file the right paperwork at the right time, or failed to keep a required record in exactly the right form, or committed a host of other environmental sins that don’t have anything to do with protecting the environment, they can wield their $25,000 per day per violation cudgel to get what they want. And what they want is revenue, both as an end for its own sake, and as a tangible means to “prove” to enviro-activists and Congress that they are doing their job. As I detailed in my book Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry, the more complex regulations become, the more opportunity the EPA has to pick meaningless nits and jack up enforcement revenue.

It’s all about the price point, as is the case with any protection racket. If the target is a big corporation, you have to load up a lot of alleged violations such that the possible penalty is huge, and then hit them with a settlement offer that makes just a little more fiscal sense than the company deciding to lawyer-up.

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  • Ken

    If the American captialist system and industry implode, the EPA will have the biggest hand in it, especially under this administration!! You know the one who said "energy rates woulds necessarily skyrocket". Obama could not get Cap-and-Trade through Congress, so he will do it stealthily using the EPA. Another example of his disdain for the American system of government!!

  • Rifleman

    Osha is the same way, and something many people don't realize is that there's no right to a jury trial with the epa, osha, or irs. The same people who insist terrorists waging war on the USA, and who fall under military law, get civilian jury trials, are fine with denying juries to US citizens in disputes with federal agencies.

  • Spider

    We now have the most anti-business president in history. He makes Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson look like staunch conservatives mainly because he has now allowed gas prices to increase more than any other president. This in turn increases the price of everything. Has anyone been to the grocery store lately? This was Houseins plan all along even he and his political appointees have said so. The EPA is just one of the many anti-business tools he has at his didposal. Why no one took him at his word during the last election cycle is a complete mystery to me.

    • truckwork

      Absolutely.

      What Senator Obama did to Joe the Plumber was the first sign to me that this man was more dangerous than Al Capone. If he could destroy a citizen and he wasn't President, think what he could do with the legitimate power of the Office of the President! And now we know.

      What the EPA did to the Sacketts in Idaho is just a simple example of what these bureaucRATS will do to anyone who crosses their path. I just can't wait for Obamacare! (sarc:off).

  • StephenD

    This is just a precursor to the power that will befall the Health and Human Services Secretary if Obamacare isn't revoked. Kathleen Sebelius will actually have the power to decide life and death issues for American citizens.
    We all recognize the need for rules in order to safeguard our land and ourselves from unscrupulous actors. This doesn't have to take the form of a virtual army nor does it take the mountains of regulations heaped upon American Businesses. It is time to be more American to America. Give us a chance to dig out from the disaster of the last several years. Roll back the regulations to what is necessary only.
    November can’t come soon enough!

  • SoCalMike

    This EPA war against American energy producers has been going on for over 40 years.
    Middle East and multinational oil producers want domestic American competition reduced or eliminated.
    Talk about Oil Whores? The EPA along with Democrats and environmentalists are the best friends multinational oil has. It's amazing Inhofe said anything. Republicans are too afraid to fight because they are cowards without a spine so this won't go anywhere.
    When Alec Baldwin opened his mouth accusing others, he had no clue he was engaging in what Freud called "projection."

  • Marti

    I have screamed and yelled at my Representatives for years about the EPA to no avail.
    The EPA is the biggest job killer in the country, it should be completely defunded and gotten rid of. It has destroyed the lumber industry in the Pacific nortwest and hundreds of jobs in other industries.
    It is now on it's way of destroying the energy industry.The EPA has become Facist in it's dealings. It's time someone cracks down on it and other job destroying agencies.

  • Douglas Southgate

    Pardon the quibble, but Dr. Almendariz's makes a confusing reference to the crucifixion of Turks by Romans. The first Turk didn't set foot in Anatolia until a few centuries after the division of the Roman Empire. The only "Romans" to confront Turks directly were the Byzantines. However, the latter rarely had the opportunity to cement their conquests of Turkish territory by terrorizing the locals for the simple reason that battle lines in Asia Minor almost always shifted against them.

    Dr. Almendariz's comment suggests that he has thuggish predilections. Apparently, he's also unconcerned about displaying his ignorance of history in such a public way.

  • Pyeatte

    Our politicians have betrayed us, and it is time to demand they right the wrong they have unleashed on the freedoms of the American people. When the people have no recourse, history shows they eventually go to guns as their only option. The Congress must gain control over the out-of-control bureaucracies before something bad happens.

  • intrcptr2

    Only problem with his analogy; there were no Turkish villages in the Med when the Romans ruled… (Let us ignore the small fact of Romans not ruling like this in the first place)

    Where in the hell do we find these idiots? And why is it they are the ones we pick to run the bureaucracy?

  • Gilbert EngAmerica

    It is clear the EPA is interfering with businesses. The regulatory overreach that we experience in the US isn't harmful to business both present and future. What is clear is that the lack of a developed and symbiotic relationship between EPA Regulatory policy and Business Operations has not only caused a major divide between the two but has in fact cost both sides time, labor and most of all money to enforce or comply (http://bit.ly/zIfsUf ). Therefore, going forward it would be imperative that each side works with each other to form the best implementation and compliance methods possible. Without the acknowledgement for the need of something like this, we're going to run into problems everywhere we go with the economy.