Mike Leavitt approved as new EPA administrator

It's official. Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt will replace former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd-Whitman as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. After earlier attempts to block his nomination failed, Leavitt was confirmed to the post Oct. 28 by a vote of 88 to 8 in the U.S. Senate.

President George Bush says he is pleased with the Senate action. “Governor Leavitt is an exceptional leader who shares my commitment to reaching out across partisan lines to get things done. I know he will work closely with me to build upon my administration's initiatives to make our air and water cleaner, protect the land, and use technology to improve our environment while our economy grows and creates jobs. I thank Chairman Inhofe and Sen. Reid for their leadership in insuring Gov. Leavitt's confirmation,” Bush says.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which is responsible for moving the nomination through the Senate, says he thinks that Leavitt was “treated unfairly and unduly harshly” throughout the nominating process.

The Senate vote approving Leavitt as the next EPA leader was proof of his overwhelming bipartisan support, according to Inhofe.

“I don't think anyone is surprised by the vote, as Mike Leavitt is one of the most highly qualified and experienced individuals ever nominated for this job,” Inhofe says. “I would note that some of the members who blocked this nomination refused to speak their minds or cast their votes on the Senate floor today. To me, this shows a fundamental lack of respect for the nominee. I look forward to working with Gov. Leavitt when he assumes leadership at EPA.”

Marianne Horinko, acting EPA administrator, is equally pleased with Leavitt's confirmation, saying, “The Senate vote confirming Mike Leavitt is great news for the agency and for our mission of continued protection of human health and the environment. Mike is a thoughtful leader who will bring to EPA his strengths of collaborative environmental management, his commitment to air and water quality and land conservation and his dedication to insuring effective stewardship of our natural resources.

“From what I understand, he is expected to start here as early as the end of next week. I know Mike Leavitt is looking forward to coming here as much as we are looking forward to having him. I know he will be a great administrator, and I am pleased at the Senate vote,” Horinko says.

Not everyone agrees with Horinko's assessment of Leavitt, however.

Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, says, “I hope Gov. Leavitt gets the right message from this vote. Senators had no problem with him personally, and that's all it means. But if he reads 88 to 8 as an endorsement of the White House's catering to corporate polluters, he's in for just as rocky and embarrassing a ride as Christie Whitman had.”

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