Sometimes a small incident says volumes about a large government agency. In this case the Environmental Protection Agency.
Around 1.45 PM on May 23, Ashville, North Carolina resident Larry Keller was in the midst of an international call which he had to cut short in order to answer his front door. He found two armed agents of the EPA who were accompanied by an Ashville Police officer.
According to a May 24 news story in the Ashville Tribune, a weekly newspaper to which I am a contributing columnist, the agents had blocked his and his neighbor’s driveways with their cars. They had driven all the way from Raleigh to confront him.
What had he done? The unannounced visit had been occasioned by news that Dr. Al Armendariz, a regional EPA administrator whose 2010 lecture had been videotaped and been released by the office of Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) on April 25th. In the lecture, Dr. Amendariz had said that the agency’s “general philosophy” was to “crucify” oil and gas producers.
He compared the agency’s “philosophy of enforcement” to the way, as a Wall Street Journal editorial reported, “Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. “They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them, And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. The point is to ‘make examples’ of alleged lawbreakers.”
The case in point had been Range Resources, a driller who had been exonerated of charges of water pollution as the result of fracking. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the reference to executions “raise(d) questions not only about” not only Dr. Arnendariz’s comments “but the EPA’s larger impartiality and judgment.”
Keller, who describes himself as “a bit of a political activist” had emailed the EPA Director of External Affairs, Dr. David Gray, saying “Hello Mr. Gray. Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello?”
That was enough to dispatch two armed agents to his front door. He was told by one agent that “…my choice of words in the email could be interpreted in many ways.” They did not identify themselves, but asked if he had ever been arrested. He responded swiftly that he had not. When he asked for a copy of his email, they refused to provide it because “the case was still under investigation.”
His wife arrived home and the agents did not want a witness so “They left in a big hurry.”
The Ashville Tribune by Catherine Hunter quoted Keller who described their attitude as “accusatory” reporting that he compared “their tactics to those of Nazi Germany SS methods.”
Keller contacted the agent’s supervisor, Michael Hill, and was told that the incident with Dr. Armendariz “had prompted so many emails and calls that authorities in Washington, DC ordered an investigation.”
Keller’s email inquiry to contact Dr. Armendariz was treated as a threat when it clearly was not. Since when is trying to contact an EPA administrator a crime?
“I want the world to know,” said Keller, “the government is reaching into the privacy of our homes and computers. I’ve never been so offended by the power of government in my life.”
Do we really want an EPA that uses such tactics against a citizen who has merely indicated an interest in contacting one of their administrators to comment on what he had said during a lecture?
Do we really want an EPA whose working “philosophy” regarding the oil and gas industry is to “crucify” it in order to regulate it and, as we know, is trying to thwart drilling, as well as to end the coal industry that provides an energy resource that produces one half of all the electricity in the nation?
It is, as noted, just one small incident, but it reflects the way the EPA functions in a presumably free society. Over the years I have read of many incidents in which the EPA has asserted powers to impede the most innocent actions of citizens and it is long past the time when this agency is reined in by Congress.
The only option at this point is to rid the nation of the Obama administration, crack down on the EPA, and rid us of the threat it poses in its efforts to deny entire industries from providing the energy the nation requires and attacks our agricultural and ranching communities for practices that reflect its normal operation.
As they used to advertise horror films, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” An EPA that operates on the basis of intimidating its chosen enemies and that seeks to intimidate citizens inquiring about it, is reason enough to be afraid.
© Alan Caruba, 2012