Environmental Management: Democrats Use Leavitt Hearing to Vent on Bush's Environmental Record

Article excerpt

The official reason the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee met Sept. 23 was to hold a confirmation hearing on Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, a Republican nominated by President George W. Bush to succeed Christie Whitman as EPA administrator.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Leavitt's environmental critics may have little chance of scuttling his nomination, but Democrats used the occasion to voice their frustration at an administration they accused of undoing decades of environmental progress while undermining EPA's integrity and independence.

Republicans countered that the air is cleaner now than when Bush took office and that Democrats were merely indulging in partisan politics.

Leavitt responded calmly to the many hostile questions about the Bush administration's environmental record, assuring senators he favors balanced policies and would speak his mind to the president.

In his opening statement, committee chair Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., attempted to head off the expected attacks on the administration's policies by focusing attention on Leavitt's record of achievement as governor of Utah.

One of his most important environmental achievements as governor was putting together a multi-state agreement aimed at reducing the haze that has obscured the view of the Grand Canyon.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has personal ties to Leavitt's family, seemed to capture the mixed sentiments of many Democrats, who combined respect for Leavitt's abilities with a profound contempt for Bush administration policies.

"You've got a lot of guts taking this job, because you're in a big hole to start with," commented Reid. …