Sierra Club hires EPA official felled by 'crucify' comments

Al Armendariz Al Armendariz EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency official who recently resigned for saying the government should “crucify” bad actors in the energy industry will go to work for the Sierra Club to help its campaign against coal.

The Sierra Club announced on Friday that it was hiring Al Armendariz, who resigned on April 30 as EPA regional administrator for Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico after an uproar over his comment that the “general philosophy” of EPA's enforcement policy should be to “crucify” oil and natural-gas companies.

"This is an exciting day for clean-energy and public-health supporters in Texas,” said Bruce Nilles, senior campaign director for the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign, in a statement on Friday. “Al has worked closely with the Sierra Club for many years, as an environmental scientist and professor. He understands the critical importance of developing clean energy to create jobs, protect people, and protect air and water."

The hire will likely inflame an already heated debate among congressional Republicans, the Obama administration, and influential environmental groups like the Sierra Club. House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans have recently lashed out at the Sierra Club—the country’s largest environmental group—for its intensified campaign seeking to wean the country off not only coal and oil, but natural gas, too.

National Journal reported earlier this month that on the same day that Armendariz initially agreed to testify before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee regarding his comments, he was later at the Sierra Club’s Washington offices.Even though he was in town and met with the environmental group that day, Armendariz abruptly canceled his plans to testify less than 24 hours before the hearing and did not provide the committee with a reason.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., whose staff uncovered the 2010 video where Armendariz made the “crucify” comments, speculated at that time that Armendariz’s visit to the Sierra Club was for a job interview.

"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 at the time. “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.”

It appears as though Inhofe was right. Armendariz's lawyer, Danny Onorato, did not respond to requests for comment at the time about why Armendariz was at the Sierra Club.

Inhofe issued a statement on Friday congratulating Armendariz on his new job. “Dr. Armendariz follows numerous Obama administration officials who have come from or moved to radical Left and green groups—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,” he said.

Armendariz will be helping the organization with its "Beyond Coal" campaign, which it launched in 2002 in reaction to trends in the power market to build more than 150 new coal-fired power plants. The campaign’s goal is to retire one-third of the nation’s 500-plus coal plants by 2020. National Journal reported in May that the Sierra Club was doubling down on its efforts to combat new natural-gas production with a “Beyond Gas” campaign modeled after the "Beyond Coal" campaign.

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