Jed Boal ReportingTomorrow Governor Mike Leavitt faces confirmation hearings on his nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency. The Governor has positioned himself as a moderate, but a Utah coalition of conservationists contends he has done more to damage than protect the environment.
When the President nominated Governor Leavitt to head the EPA, the Governor said he was leaving Utah's air, land and water better than he found it. A half dozen Utah environmental groups disagree and intensified their opposition today.
Governor Mike Leavitt's environmental record is under a microscope. He is not commenting heading into the hearing and says he will let the US Senate judge his fitness to serve.
Zach Frankel, Utah Rivers Council: “My guess is that in the committee hearing tomorrow, I think they're going to be looking for some blood and asking some tough questions."
A half-dozen Utah environmental watchdog groups sent a letter to the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. They hope Leavitt's record derails the nomination.
In Utah, they say he's weakened environmental regulations and agencies, ignored violations of environmental regulations, stifled public involvement and ignored public opposition to his projects, and ignored scientific analysis with regards to protecting public health.
Jason Groenewald, Families Against Incinerator Risk: “If he carries out the agenda at the national level that he has here at the state level, we'll be faced with an EPA that is nothing more than a toothless watchdog."
They contend the Governor has put industry ahead of public health, and displayed a button that reads "The Environment…Love It, or Leavitt"
Scott Groene, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance: “In anticipation of the senate confirmation hearing, Leavitt's record has been recast through a truckload of environmental Botox to be barely recognizable to those of us who work these issues."
They cite the Governor's efforts to push the Legacy Highway while ignoring EPA concerns about the route, closed-door negotiations in Washington to settle the dispute over rights-of-way across federal lands, thereby restricting public lands protection, and lax regulatory enforcement at MagCorp, the one-time largest toxic air polluter in the country.
The hearing tomorrow is slated to last a day or less. Then the full senate will debate the nomination; that's where it could become contentious. Four US Senators have put a hold on the nomination, but the governor has defended his environmental record, and says he is confident he will be confirmed by the Senate.