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Senior EPA official resigns over 'crucify' strategy with oil industry

Saying he had become a distraction, a senior Environmental Protection Agency official who used the word "crucify" to describe how the EPA enforced laws in the oil industry resigned on Monday.

"My continued service will distract you and the agency," Al Armendariz said in his resignation letter to EPA chief Lisa Jackson.

"I regret comments I made several years ago that do not in any way reflect my work as regional administrator," Armendariz said in his letter.

Armendariz, who was head of the EPA's South Central office, came under fire from Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who was informed of the two-year-old video last week and launched an inquiry.


Inhofe on Monday welcomed the resignation but said the EPA's "crucifixion philosophy" continues.

"His choice of words revealed the truth about the war that EPA has been waging on American energy producers under President Obama," Inhofe said in a statement.

The EPA, in response to a request from msnbc.com, said that Jackson had accepted the resignation. "I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the agency," Jackson said in a statement.

In the video, Armendariz answers a question about enforcement policies. In the Middle Ages, he told the audience, the Romans conquered a village by taking "the first five guys they saw and they'd crucify them."

He added that the EPA, similarly, makes "examples out of people who are not complying with the law ... you make examples out of them, use it as a deterrent method.

"Companies that are smart see that and they don't want to play that, and they decide at that point that it's time to clean up," he added.

Armendariz had been speaking to residents of Dish, Texas, a town where some are concerned about potential environmental impacts from a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

A senior Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, told The Associated Press that Armendariz has received death threats since the video surfaced.

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