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Utah Gov. Leavitt Confirmed as EPA Chief
(Beyond Pesticides, October 31, 2003)
Associated Press reported on October 28th that the Senate confirmed Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, filling a four-month vacancy with a lopsided vote that did not reflect the efforts by some Democrats to turn his nomination into a referendum on President Bush's environmental policies. By a vote of 88-8, senators backed Bush's choice of the Utah Republican to head the nation's lead agency for enforcing environmental rules, according to AP. Mr. Leavitt said he will start the job at EPA on Nov. 6, a day after he resigns as governor. His first task, Leavitt said, will be to earn the trust and confidence of EPA's 18,000 employees.

Despite weeks of Democratic efforts to block or delay the vote, only eight voted against Leavitt. One, Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, led the charge against the nominee on the Senate floor. "Despite his commentary about balance and stewardship, Gov. Leavitt's record ... reveals a disturbing tendency to place shortsighted economic gain of regulated industries above protecting the long-term health of the public,'' Senator Lautenberg said. "The last three years have been the darkest hour of our nation's commitment to environmental protection since EPA was created. This White House has repeatedly foisted its penchant for secrecy and cover-up on the Environmental Protection Agency.''

For their efforts to delay the nomination, Jeffords won the EPA's promise to provide estimated benefits, not just costs, of his legislative plan to cut power plant pollution, which is competing with a Bush proposal. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., won a White House promise to take additional action over two years to protect New York City residents potentially exposed to harmful World Trade Center rubble.

Others who voted against Leavitt, all Democrats, were Sens. Barbara Boxer, California; Jon Corzine, New Jersey; Mark Dayton, Minnesota; Richard Durbin, Illinois; Jack Reed, Rhode Island; Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia; and Charles Schumer, New York. Four Democrats didn't vote: Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Edwards, Lieberman and Kerry.

Environmentalists are challenging the new Administrator to improve the administration's record. League of Conservation Voters president Deb Callahan made the following statement: "Governor Leavitt's first challenge as the new EPA Administrator will go a long way towards determining his credibility. Yesterday, 13 states and 20 cities filed suit against Bush Administration changes in the Clean Air Act that will allow polluting power plants to increase the amount of harmful, air-borne chemicals emitted in neighborhoods nationwide. These public officials - Republicans and Democrats alike - are fighting for the health of their citizens, not corporate bottom lines. During his testimony, Governor Leavitt did not provide any clear answers regarding the Bush Administration's changes to the Clean Air Act. We are anxious to see Governor Leavitt provide real leadership on this issue."