By Randy Lee Loftis

ArmendarizDr. Al Armendariz, a Southern Methodist University engineering professor who has sharply criticized federal and state regulators for not cracking down hard enough on North Texas air polluters, has been named the Environmental Protection Agency's new regional administrator over Texas and four other states.

Armendariz, an El Paso native, has found fault with Texas’ efforts on Dallas-Fort Worth smog, saying the state’s programs did too little and that the EPA erred in approving them. In particular, he has targeted the giant cement plants in Midlothian south of Dallas and natural gas exploration in the Barnett Shale region west of Dallas, arguing in both cases that Texas regulators were too lax on major pollution sources.

As the top environmental official in the nation’s oil and chemical heartland, Armendariz will also play a role in carrying out the Obama administration’s initiatives on curbing greenhouse gases, enforcing pollution laws, and forcing reforms of Texas’ air pollution rules.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who has bluntly criticized some Texas environmental programs for not meeting federal requirements, offered Armendariz the job Wednesday night, and he accepted. While the post is officially a presidential appointment, it does not require Senate confirmation.

Texas environmentalists personally lobbied Jackson on Armendariz's behalf, arguing that the EPA needed an environmental advocate with strong scientific credentials to run the agency's regional office. The EPA's Region 6 oversees environmental programs in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico.