Op-Ed

Ky. voices: Ben Waide: EPA threatening energy producers

State Rep. Ben Waide, R-Madisonville, represents the House 10th District.
State Rep. Ben Waide, R-Madisonville, represents the House 10th District.

The Environmental Protection Agency Region VI Administrator Al Armendariz has been under the microscope this month since a controversial video surfaced online via Sen. James Inhofe. In the video Armendariz discussed his work "crucifying" oil and gas companies.

He even used an ugly analogy that compared regulatory enforcement to Romans conquering small villages. Armendariz's statements went far beyond simply a poor choice of words — they were polarizing and unprofessional.

Armendariz even admits in his speech to a general philosophy of going after companies with the intent to "hit them as hard as you can" and "make examples out of them."

To Armendariz's small credit, he did the right thing by offering his resignation. Yet the public and our elected officials are now asking the obvious bigger question: Does this video represent one bad administrator or does it symbolize a deeper problem with the philosophy of President Barack Obama's EPA toward energy producers?

Regrettably, I believe it is the latter.

The EPA's mission is to "protect human health and the environment." However, the agency has seemingly become a tool used by the Obama administration to further its own goals. The scientific objectivity of the EPA has been replaced with a biased political agenda.

Whether it's coal mines here in Kentucky or natural gas producers in places like Wyoming, Pennsylvania and Texas, the EPA is pursuing a regulatory agenda that ignores scientific fact in order to please its environmentalist constituents.

Here in Kentucky, the EPA has instituted new water conductivity rules on Appalachian coal mines. These new rules would require that runoff water coming from a mine be cleaner than some bottled water bought at the store. These rules are currently being challenged by Kentucky's governor, a Democrat, and regulators as being unnecessarily restrictive.

In Wyoming, Pennsylvania and Texas, the EPA has already been required to rescind sensationalized claims that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, had contaminated drinking water. Additional review found that the EPA's own science did not support their initial exaggerated claims.

The EPA is using unsupported findings to suggest widespread health and environmental concerns in order to gain greater government oversight over all sectors of energy production.

These highly publicized actions by the EPA are more than just a black eye for a once-respected government agency. They illustrate a transformation of the EPA's values and tactics. The agency is trying to intimidate and bully energy producers, and to do so without proper scientific justification.

These incidents, and now the embarrassment of the Armendariz video, could not come at a worse time for the country. The American economy is desperately trying to regain some of its strength and millions of people are still out of work. Yet the EPA clearly remains committed to hammering away at the American energy industry with accusations and new regulations.

All of this comes despite the fact that our energy industry is one of the few areas of the economy with the potential for real growth in the coming years.

We have an administration and an agency determined to intimidate or slow down energy development at any price. During hard times like these, American businesses and industries need the support of our government to encourage investment and growth. This should not only apply to the energy sector, but to all areas of the economy.

As we witness the transformation of the EPA, it's fair for Americans to ask: Will Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson keep going down this path? Will more industries and jobs be impacted by EPA policies?

Let's all hope that's not the case.

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