Leavitt Nominated to Head EPA; Utah Issues in Spotlight

Leavitt Nominated to Head EPA; Utah Issues in Spotlight

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(KSL News) After weeks of speculation, Governor Mike Leavitt has been named as the nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

The announcement was made in Denver by President Bush yesterday afternoon.

The nomination thrusts Utah's environmental controversies and the way Leavitt has handled them into the national spotlight.

Speaking after the announcement, the Governor portrayed himself as an environmental moderate and took credit for a cleaner environment in Utah.

He promised a similar commitment to the nation.

"I'll leave it a better place than I find it," he said. "I'll plant seeds for a future generation. And I'll give it all I have."

Leavitt's predecessor at E.P.A. was Christie Whitman, also a moderate former governor and friend of President Bush. She quit, reportedly in frustration at having to defend some of the President's less popular environmental decisions.

Leavitt will now undergo confirmation hearings in the Senate.

Upon his return to Utah after the nomination announcement, Governor Leavitt said that he is ready for the challenges ahead, both in the confirmation process and working to protect America's environment.

Leavitt says that while he is sad to be leaving Utah, his appointment as EPA administrator will continue the work he began on environmental issues here.

Leavitt's name was first mentioned for the EPA's top job when Whitman announced she was leaving earlier this year. At that time Leavitt said he was not interested in the post. President Bush then reportedly offered the job to Leavitt twice before the Governor decided to accept the nomination.

Some who don't feel that Leavitt should take the EPA post are members of the environmental community.

While Governor Leavitt says that he is leaving Utah's environment in better shape than he found it -- many disagree -- and fear what will happen at the national level.

Critics point to Leavitt's handling of the Legacy Highway, Magcorp pollution, an ill-fated trade of state lands in the San Rafael Swell, and a recent deal over the definition of roads and wilderness areas in Utah as measures of his poor environmental policy.

But others say that Leavitt's work on securing trust land in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and fighting against nuclear waste in the state make him the perfect candidate to head the EPA.

Leavitt will face his environmental critics when he addresses the Environmental Council of States at their annual conference today.

If Leavitt is confirmed by the Senate, Lt. Governor Olene Walker will take over the state's top job and finish off Leavitt's term as governor, which ends after the election of 2004.

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