Free Markets, Free People

A government of bullies? NC man questioned by armed EPA agents after sending email to EPA

You want a chilling effect?  You want to see overt government intimidation?  Check this out:

An Asheville businessman is left with more questions than answers after a May 2 visit to his home by two armed special agents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accompanied by an Asheville police officer, apparently to question him about what the EPA interpreted as a “cryptic and concerning” email.

The incident is under investigation by the office of Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

Larry Keller, who runs a computer consulting business from his Asheville home, sent an email April 27 to the EPA in an attempt to reach Al Armendariz, EPA regional administrator for Region 6. Two days earlier, a video from 2010 was posted on YouTube in which Armendariz said his enforcement philosophy was to “crucify” officials from big oil and gas companies.

The video became a sensation on blogs and on Twitter, and on many conservative news websites. After seeing it, Keller told Carolina Journal, he was troubled by the comments and just wanted to express his concerns to Armendariz, a public official whose salary is paid by taxpayers. “I wanted to know why someone in his position would say what he did. I wanted to question his reasoning and principles. It’s all about freedom of speech,” Keller said.

An Internet search for Armendariz’s contact information directed him to email David Gray, director of external affairs for EPA Region 6. Keller sent the following email: “Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello? -Regards-Larry Keller.”

Armendariz resigned April 30, after the ensuing national uproar over his comments. The EPA agents arrived at Keller’s home May 2.

Keller told CJ that Special Agent Michael Woods asked if he had sent an email to an EPA employee. At first, Keller said no, but then remembered the email to Gray. At that point, Woods produced a copy of the email and asked if it was the email he sent.

The second agent said Keller’s choice of words could be interpreted in many different ways and asked if Keller thought the content was suspicious in any way. Keller said he didn’t have anything to hide and the email postscript had his company logo and website address.

It “could be interpreted in many different ways”?  Really?  Read his email again – “Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello? -Regards-Larry Keller.”  That email is why these two thugs, and I have no reservation calling them that, showed up.  They were there to intimidate.  If you don’t believe that, read this:

The discourse quickly became adversarial, Keller said. When Keller asked for a copy of the email, Woods said it was impossible because the investigation was not yet concluded.

At that point, Keller heard his wife arriving home and asked the agents to stay so his wife could meet them and “see what all the fuss was about.” Woods said they had to get going and the trio started toward the back staircase, Keller said.

Keller had asked for the agents’ business cards, but after initially saying they had them, they later told Keller they were “out of cards.” He insisted they give him the name of their supervisor, and Woods wrote the name and number on a piece of paper, Keller said.

Keller said he followed them outside and noticed a police cruiser parked in the neighbor’s driveway. The agents left without acknowledging his wife, Keller said. He also learned after contacting the Asheville Police Department that another officer had remained in the cruiser throughout the interview.

This is what government has come too?  First, why are “EPA agents” armed?  Want someone armed and think the situation warrants that?  Take a local police officer with you. 

Note that they refused to leave evidence of their visit by giving Keller the business cards he requested. 

Finally, when Keller said he wanted them to stay so his wife could hear what they were saying, they quickly retreated and left.

Keller is justifiably angry and trying to get answers. 

He’s asking for a thorough review of EPA protocol and has emailed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson almost daily since the incident, but has yet to receive a response from her.

It appears that Keller’s emails to Jackson and to Michael Daggett, the assistant deputy inspector general for the EPA, were forwarded to Patrick Sullivan, assistant inspector general, office of investigations organization.

In his emailed response, Sullivan defended the EPA’s actions, saying a thorough review of the facts failed to find “any unprofessional behavior by EPA OIG personnel” and that the agents had acted in accordance with “established Federal law enforcement policies and procedures.”

Or “situation normal, we were well within our rights to roust you, attempt to intimidate you and question your intent.”

This should unsettle even the most complacent among us.  And it deserves to be elevated to a national level.

This sort of behavior by government is … unacceptable!


Twitter: @McQandO

15 Responses to A government of bullies? NC man questioned by armed EPA agents after sending email to EPA

  • “Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello? -Regards-Larry Keller.”
    Obviously, saying “hello” is now a keyword for an implied threat.  Perhaps made worse by the “we can” instead of an “I can” .. or “Yes We Can”

    • Watts Up With That recently posted a list of weather related terms that triggers interest by the Homeland Security monitoring system.  In addition to obvious threatening words such as blizzard, hail and hurricane, it included the word Help, so perhaps you are correct…Hello may be on the watch list for EPA.   Amusingly it also included the word “lightening” which could trigger a visit by the Dept of Cosmetics Security if your email discusses hair coloring.

      • That traced back to the London Daily Mail.
        The one “word” that made me laugh … “2600”  … the name of a computer hacker magazine (I haven’t seen one in 15 years)

  • Welcome to Obama’s America,  Agencies run amok.

  • The more responsive and transparent government Obama promised.

  • Disarm all these bureaucracies.  TODAY.  There are PLENTY of armed LEOs to go around.
    Arm the citizenry instead.  A government thug should be a little balked at knowing he may be coming on the property of an armed citizen.  Makes for politeness.

  • There’s a whole lot of arming going on – armed EPA agents, armed wildlife agents, armed health agents.    Pretty troubling really, WHY do these people need to be armed?  What POSSIBLE reason does an EPA agent have to be armed, a health agent to be armed (and I can make half decent arguments for the wildlife agents, but they I recall that being far and few between when growing up).
    How is this NOT indicative of a problem?

  • I read the article at the link pretty closely and I am not particularly alarmed, nor is my outrage level raised beyond the usual when hearing about government actions.  Where is the evidence the two EPA agents were armed? The only witness was Mr. Keller, whose objectivity is not clear to me. I am sure the accompanying police officer was armed. Perhaps he was for the EPA agents’ protection. Just what does the word ‘agent ‘ mean in this context?

    As for the email in question I, too,  find it a bit odd. Who is the ‘we’ he mentions and why does he want to ‘say hello’? Perhaps I have seen too many episodes of the Sopranos, etc. but I can see where someone whose job it is to consider such things could consider ‘ say hello’ to be another euphemism in the class of  ‘take care of him’, ‘take him for a ride’, ‘pay him a visit’, etc.

    At one time I worked for a governmental environmental organization. In addition to our other duties we visited peoples’ homes to investigate complaints or follow up on correspondence. We wer not armed. There were some areas where we were required to have a police escort for our own safety.

    To summarize, I am too lazy to jump to a conclusion without more information. 

    • I simply believe they had absolutely no business there in the first place, armed or otherwise.

    • Well, IF they are legitimate (and we may assume they are….) this should provide evidence….
      EPA Special Agents
      EPA Special Agents are sworn federal law enforcement officers with statutory authority to conduct investigations, carry firearms, make arrests for any federal crime and execute and serve any warrant. On National Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15, of each year we remember three Special Agents, who gave their lives carrying out their duties to protect the environment.
      Not to upset the families involved, but none of them died using their firearms ‘protecting the environment’.   Read for yourself, the only one involved in a fire arm related death could have been Barney the local trash collector in the wrong place at the wrong time facing an armed robber.   The only thing the EPA had to do with the crime is that he worked for the EPA.
      After reading their site, I’m MORE bothered – arrests for any Federal crime? Serve ANY warrant?  This is the freaking EPA we’re talking about here.  Exactly how much armed EPA “law enforcement” do we need running around loose?

      • 100%.  NOBODY needs EPA shock troopers.

        • This expansion of authority to do EXACTLY the same job as other Federal (REAL) Law Enforcement agencies like the FBI is nothing more than kingdom building on the part of someone at EPA (or their friends in Congress) who didn’t want to have to borrow firepower or warrant authority.

    • Really Tim?  The ‘we’ he mentions are himself and the Al A guy he was writing about.  Is it that hard to see?  I could easily see me writing an email to Bruce for your information so that we can say hello and maybe grab a beer.  You may be too lazy to jump to a conclusion, but I’m too tired of these kinds of stories.

  • Why anyone would think it’s perfectly reasonable to for the Environmental Protection Agency (read those words, slowly if necessary, and consider their meaning) to have ARMED agents is beyond me.  Why should I NOT be outraged that this collection of individuals have been given LIFE AND DEATH authority to carry out ENVIRONMENTAL LAW, because THAT is what it means to be armed.