Bush picks Utah Gov. Leavitt to head EPA


Associated Press
King 5 News

WASHINGTON - President Bush has picked Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, an advocate of shifting environmental regulation to the states, to become head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior administration official said Monday.

Leavitt, a three-term Republican governor, would succeed Christie Whitman, a former New Jersey governor who held the post of EPA administrator for the first 2 1/2 years of the administration before resigning in May.

The EPA post has been a lightning rod for critics of the administration's environmental policies. Bush, on a Western trip to talk about timber policies and wildfires, was expected to announce Leavitt's nomination late Monday.

Leavitt, 52, has championed the idea of increasing environmental cooperation among federal, state and local officials.

Over the objections of environmentalists, he advocated a major highway extension through wetlands near the Great Salt Lake. The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals halted the project, saying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not pay enough attention to wildlife or look at alternatives before approving it.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a former Republican senator, also had been mentioned as a candidate for the EPA post. Kempthorne confirmed earlier this month that he had talked with White House officials about the job shortly after Whitman's resignation.

As governor, Leavitt has made several environmental arrangements with the Bush administration, most recently settling a long-standing dispute over ownership of roads across federal land. He has also negotiated several exchanges of state and federal land, some of them questioned by Interior Department auditors.

Administration officials described Leavitt, the nation's longest serving governor, as a leader on environmental issues with a record of improving air and water and conserving land. He has been co-chair of the Western Regional Air Partnership, and officials said he was instrumental in bringing together states, tribes, environmentalists and industry to address the problem of brown haze over the Grand Canyon.

Leavitt also oversaw his state's preparations for and hosting of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and since then has served on a presidentially appointed advisory committee on homeland security.


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