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EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz on environmental justice, Texas' (and the GOP's) war against his agency, and the recent environmental summit in Corpus Christi

Photo: Greg Harman, License: N/A

Greg Harman

Al Armendariz

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas



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The political rhetoric is unfortunate because it sometimes gives the impression that people have to chose sides, that they have to decide whether they want to work with the state of Texas or whether they want to work with the federal EPA. And it's very unfortunate because whether it's community groups, other agencies, or regulated industry, they really do have to work with everybody. They have to have a good relationship with state government. The state is their primary regulator, the TCEQ has primary environmental regulatory responsibility.

But that brings up the question of enforcement. Even in Corpus, your agency has found that five of six major refineries here are high-priority violators. What kind of tension does that create  between the two regulators?

There's certainly tension at the political level. There's, I think, some unfortunate rhetoric that comes from the heads of some of the agencies in the state of Texas and by people in the governor's office. But at the staff level we still have very good working relationships with people of TCEQ, people with the Railroad Commission, the General Land Office, and we still do get a lot done collectively. But it would be better if the political apparatus that runs the state agencies and is in charge in Austin didn't take — well, let me say this: It would be great if they would tone down the rhetoric. Because then it's easier for staff of these state agencies to more effectively engage with EPA. So rather than forcing their staff to choose sides or forcing industry to choose sides or forcing communities to choose sides — one of my goals is to try to have good relationships with all these state agencies, to try to repair relationships where they need to be repaired. I think that makes everybody more successful.

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