Idaho Governor mentioned for EPA job - Kempthorne named in story as a leading candidate to succeed Whitman

Dan Hansen
Spokesman-Review Staff writer


Citing unnamed sources, the New York Times reported Thursday that Idaho's governor is a leading contender to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mark Snider, spokesman for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, downplayed the reports but declined to say whether his boss would accept the post if it's offered. Reporters are the only ones talking about the possibility, Snider said.

"The governor's not lobbying for the position, he's not seeking the position," Snider said.

"He has a job to do in Idaho, and nobody from the (Bush) administration has been in touch with him about the position."

The White House must find a replacement for EPA head Christie Whitman, who announced last month that she'll step down June 27.

Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, is considered a moderate on environmental issues. She struggled to shape her vision for the agency in a White House that considers many environmental rules anti-business. She drew jabs from both business and environmental groups.

Kempthorne's anti-regulatory positions would be more in line with the Bush administration.

He has sought to limit EPA's leadership in cleaning up the Silver Valley Superfund site, for instance.

And while it's not an EPA issue, Kempthorne supported Idaho's opposition to Clinton-era rules setting roadless areas in forests off-limits to logging.

"I always thought that the administrator of the EPA should be an advocate for the environment, and I don't think that's the role Dirk Kempthorne has filled either as governor or as a senator from Idaho," said Barry Rosenberg, executive director of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance.

A past mayor of Boise, Kempthorne served in the U.S. Senate for six years starting in 1992. He was elected governor in 1998 and re-elected in 2002. He has said he won't run again in 2006.

"He's essentially a lame-duck governor and politicians are already eyeing the position," said Jim Weatherby, a political science professor at Boise State University.

Kempthorne's early departure would move Lt. Gov. Jim Risch into the governor's mansion.

Risch is expected to make a bid to be Kempthorne's successor, and an early appointment to governor could help that bid, Weatherby said.

Other potential EPA candidates mentioned by the New York Times include Tom Skinner, EPA's Midwest regional administrator, and Josephine Cooper, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.


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