EPA’s Regional Administrators Love Activism, Litigation

armendarizThe suspicions of Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe were correct: Rather than sitting before the House Energy and Commerce Committee three weeks ago to explain the ways he “crucified” oil and natural gas companies, instead Al Armendariz – who cancelled his appearance at the last minute – met with the Sierra Club for a job interview.

This time the recently resigned EPA’s Region 6 administrator will eagerly attack another fossil fuel, joining the litigious environmental group as part of its “Beyond Coal” campaign. If there was any question that Armendariz unfairly regulated the gas and oil businesses under his authority in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and other neighboring states, the Sierra Club announcement left no doubt.

“I know how important it is to transition to cleaner sources of energy that don’t pollute the air that our children breathe,” he said, “and I’m proud to be working on a campaign with a proven track record for success.”

Inhofe proved prescient in remarks to National Journal on June 7th.

“Rather than testifying in the House and being accountable for carrying out the Obama-EPA’s ‘crucify them’ agenda, it appears Mr. Armendariz may have had a job interview with the Sierra Club,” Inhofe said. “With such an impressive job-killing resume, it would be no surprise if the Sierra Club is recruiting him for their ‘Beyond Gas’ campaign designed to ‘prevent any new gas plants from being built’ and to end natural gas production in this country.” 

Okay, so the Sooner senator mis-prognosticated about which attack agenda that Armendariz would focus. Nevertheless he noted that whether eco-activists are toiling in the government or for environmental pressure groups, they have a common mission.

“Dr. Armendariz follows numerous Obama administration officials who have come from or moved to radical Left and green groups,” Inhofe said in a statement on Friday. “It’s as if there is a revolving door between the White House and organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress.”

As NLPC reported in April when Armendariz’s “crucify” remarks were revealed by Inhofe, the former Southern Methodist University professor often worked on behalf of green activists, including Environmental Defense, WildEarth Guardians, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action, and Dallas-based Downwinders at Risk. That information was not disclosed on his EPA bio, nor was his past collaboration with Sierra Club, which the organization’s Bruce Nilles divulged on Friday.

And once again Inhofe accurately explained the relationship between the Obama administration and green groups. An examination of the work histories of the other EPA regional administrators shows extension backgrounds in environmental activism, litigation, or both:

Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding served as executive director of Rhode Island-based Save the Bay for nearly 20 years. He recently praised EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for her implementation of greenhouse gas standards on coal-fired power plants, despite the fact that the new regulations would lead to the destruction of coal-mining communities like those in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck was senior environmental associate with New York Public Interest Research Group and was executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. Her bio states she “worked with the New York State Legislature to pass a number of the state’s most far-reaching environmental laws….”

Region 3 Administrator Shawn Garvin rose up through the ranks of EPA, earlier serving as a special assistant to the regional administrator, and “earning numerous EPA gold, silver and bronze medals.” Prior to that he was an aide for then-Sen. Joe Biden.

Region 4 Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes-Fleming has an extensive background in law enforcement and prosecuting criminals, but no apparent specialties in environmental activism. 

Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman is a veteran attorney who has litigated environmental cases as part of the University of Maryland Environmental Law Center, as counsel for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and as senior assistant attorney general in the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Last August she joined dozens of environmental activists outside her Chicago office to celebrate the expected implementation of EPA’s Mercury Air Toxics Standard, which was released in December.

Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks, a lawyer, was executive director for the Idaho Conservation League and is author of Before Earth Day: The Origins of American Environmental Law, 1945-1970.

Region 8 Administrator James Martin was senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund and also headed the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado School of Law. NLPC reported in May that Martin is so extreme on the global warming issue that he believes, “You could have a convention of all the scientists who dispute climate change in a relatively small phone booth.”

Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld – a former employee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare – was the director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment before joining EPA. In that role a plastic bag ban and a 2020 zero waste goal were among the accomplishments he was proud of enough to put in his bio.

Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran, an attorney, was previously executive director of Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and before that was city attorney for the City of Port Townsend and director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Land Use. He was also a member of Seattle’s Green Ribbon Commission, former chair of the Land Use and Environmental Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association, and past president of the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials, the national association of local air agencies in the United States.

With a litigious bunch like that, many with historical ties to aggressive green groups, perhaps President Obama might consider saving taxpayers some money, eliminate the positions, and subcontract the regulation out to groups like Sierra Club and Environmental Defense directly. No one would notice the difference.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center.