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KERA's news coverage of environmental issues in North Texas, the state and beyond.

New EPA Director Takes Over Following Controversy

Deepwater Horizon Response
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Sam Coleman, Acting Administrator for EPA's South Central Region (Region 6)

EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz said he’s resigning effective April 30 because his continued service would distract from the agency’s important work.

Republicans targeted Armendariz last week over remarks made two years ago when he used the word "crucify" to describe his approach to enforcement. Armendariz was videotaped in 2010 while speaking to a group of citizens concerned about the fracking technique used in natural gas production.

Armendariz said his approach to compliance would be like Romans conquering villages, and that the agency would “crucify” the first five men they saw as examples.

In his resignation letter provided to KERA, Armendariz said he regrets his controversial comments. He said he accepted the administrator’s position over the five-state region which includes Texas because he wanted to “carry out policies protective of our environment” especially for those who lack an ally in government.

In a statement released by the agency EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson thanked Armendariz for nearly three years of service but did not indicate whether she requested Armendariz’s resignation.

Statement from Administrator Jackson:  " Over the weekend Dr. Armendariz offered his resignation, which I accepted. I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the Agency. We are all grateful for Dr. Armendariz's service to EPA and to our nation."

Environmental groups who have battled for stricter air and water standards are characterizing Armendariz’s departure as a major loss.

Ken Kramer, Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club said, “He brought a breath of fresh air – literally and figuratively – to Texas in his vigorous enforcement of the federal Clean Air Act.”

“He took the bold steps that have been needed for decades to move our state forward to achieving a clean and healthy environment for Texans,” said Kramer.

The EPA confirms that deputy regional administrator Sam Coleman will move into the administrator’s position held by Armendariz. Coleman oversaw the EPA’s emergency response following Hurricane Katrina and has directed superfund cleanup efforts.

Sam Coleman, Acting Administrator for EPA's South Central Region (Region 6)

Al Armendariz Resignation Letter 4.29.12

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.