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Excerpt

The following is from the February 20, 2010, edition of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Al Armendariz, associate professor of environmental and civil engineering in SMU's Lyle School of Engineering, retains his appointment with SMU while serving as the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 6 Administrator.

February 22, 2010

FORT WORTH -- Al Armendariz has long been at odds with Texas environmental regulators.

He remembers the date clearly -- May 23, 2007. He was an assistant professor at SMU, watching a webcast as state regulators voted on an air pollution plan.

Just before the vote, a group of representatives from the oil and gas industry spoke up, using numbers Armendariz instantly felt were wrong. He thought the regulators had miscalculated how much ozone-forming pollution was coming from natural gas compressor engines in North Texas. The plan was approved anyway.

"It was amazing that that kind of error could happen," Armendariz said this month during a talk with a group of neighborhood activists concerned about gas drilling in Fort Worth.

Nearly three years later, Armendariz is still trying to convince state regulators that their math is wrong -- and they're still pushing back.

But now Armendariz is doing his questioning from a much stronger position than during Republican President George W. Bush's tenure.

Back then, he was a critic on the outside. Today, he's an insider in a position of power after Democratic President Barack Obama appointed him in November to be the regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. That makes Armendariz the point man in Texas and four other states for the administration's ambitious overhaul of policies and gives him oversight authority over state officials.

To Texas environmental activists and community leaders raising questions about the impact of natural gas drilling, Armendariz is a hero. They view him as the scientist who stood up to the oil and gas companies and challenged the industry view that drilling isn't creating significant environmental problems.

Read the full story.

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