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Nomination of Michael O. Leavitt to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. INHOFE. First, Madam President, I do rise in strong support—strong support—of Mike Leavitt to be confirmed as Administrator of the EPA. I think this vote is long overdue. But for those who have watched this nomination closely, we have seen a spectacle that does not reflect favorably on this institution.

Governor Michael Leavitt is a kind, courteous, and decent person. Everyone who knows him loves him. Very rarely do you see that in politicians—other than the Presiding Officer, of course. But everyone seems to love Mike Leavitt. He is that kind of a person. Yet from day one his nomination has been delayed and obstructed by partisanship and Presidential politics.

I watched this play out with real disappointment because the process surrounding these nominations has never succumbed to such pressures. Today, we are going to move beyond this obstacle and show to the American people what everyone in this debate well knows; that is, Governor Leavitt enjoys overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans.

This process, which has dragged on now for over 50 days, has been somewhat perplexing to me because my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have nothing but the highest praise for Governor Leavitt.

The other day my good friend, Senator Jeffords, the ranking member on this committee, said:

First of all, it has nothing to do with the qualifications of Mr. Leavitt. I will vote for him and I am hopeful that at the same point I will be able to do so. I look forward to that. I consider him a friend. I have worked with him in the past on matters of education. The issues are not related to his qualifications.

I say to my good friend from Vermont, I appreciate that testament very much.

Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat Senator from Nebraska, who is a former Governor who served with Mike Leavitt, wrote a strong letter of support for Governor Leavitt. He said in his letter:

But beyond his record of achievement for the citizens of Utah, I have also found Governor Leavitt to be easy to work with, open to new ideas, and willing to make sensible compromises to reach shared goals. I believe nearly everyone—if not everyone—with whom Governor Leavitt [has] worked in the NGA [National Governors Association] would state they had a favorable impression of him. As we know all too well, such a record is important for any federal position, but particularly one such as this, where there needs to be much coordination with our State governments. .    .    .

Still quoting Democrat Senator Ben Nelson:

I wholeheartedly support Mike Leavitt's nomination to serve as EPA Administrator. He is eminently qualified for the position; but even more than that, he has both the personality and the desire to be successful at the job.

As the preceding quotes show, those who have worked with Governor Leavitt hold him in the highest regard. Those who have seen his dedication and commitment to solving environmental problems all support him.

Last week my committee received a letter from Governor Bill Richardson, with whom I used to serve over in the House, the
Governor of New Mexico—another Democrat Governor. This is what he said about Governor Leavitt:

He has worked effectively with other Governors regardless of party. Obviously the same willingness and ability to work collaboratively with other elected and appointed environmental officials is crucial to the effectiveness of any EPA

Mike Leavitt is a consensus builder and can bring people together.

Again, these are things that Democrats say about him. Many have heard me recount the details of Governor Leavitt's long distinguished career in public service, but considering the circumstances, I think they are worth recounting again. His resume is absolutely stellar. He was the chairman of the National Governors Association, the Republican Governors Association, the Western Governors Association. His record on environmental accomplishment reflects his experience. Just look at the facts:

Utah meets all Federal air quality requirements. That is very rare. Utah meets all Federal air quality requirements. This was not true when Governor Leavitt was first elected. Visibility in the West has improved dramatically, largely as a result of
Governor Leavitt's service as cochairman of the Western Regional Air Partnership and vice chairman of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission. The Commission has made over 70 recommendations, improving visibility at 16 national parks and wilderness areas in the Colorado plateau.

During his 11-year tenure, Governor Leavitt made great strides in improving Utah's water. The State's watersheds are now among the cleanest in the Nation. Thirty-seven percent of Utah's streams currently meet Federal water quality standards compared to 59 percent 10 years ago, a 24-percent improvement since Governor Leavitt took office 11 years ago.
Currently, 60 percent of the Nation's streams meet this standard.

I return briefly to the process behind this nomination, because I hope we won't repeat it at any time in the future since it was unprecedented. Let there be no question that Governor Leavitt was subjected to a double standard. First, prior to Governor Leavitt's hearing, the minority demanded that Governor Leavitt answer nearly 100 prehearing questions. That was unprecedented.

Second, prior to his markup, committee Democrats submitted nearly 400 questions to Governor Leavitt. The Democrats submitted nearly 400 questions to Governor Leavitt. The volume, again, is unprecedented.

Let's compare this to the nomination of Carol Browner. In 1993, she received a mere 67 questions from Republicans. Even
Governor Christie Whitman, in 2001, received approximately only 100 questions from the Democrats. Let's look at how long it took to approve previous nominees to head the EPA. In 1989, the first President Bush nominated William Reilly.
The Senate received his nomination on January 20. The EPW Committee, the committee I chair, had a hearing on January 31 and then reported him to the floor on February 2, the same day he was confirmed by the Senate. All told, the nomination took just 13 days.

How about Carol Browner? The Senate received her nomination January 20. The EPW Committee actually had a hearing for
Ms. Browner on January 11, 9 days before she was officially nominated. She was reported out by the EPW Committee on January 19, 8 days after the hearing. She was confirmed by the Senate on January 21. From the time of her hearing to the day she was confirmed, just 10 days.

Governor Whitman faced a similar path. She was confirmed by the Senate just 13 days after nomination. Let's repeat that:
Bill Reilly was 13 days; Carol Browner, 10 days; Whitman, 13 days. Governor Leavitt has now waited 55 days. Some on the other side argue that comparisons of timing with previous nominees is unfair. In their view those nominations were made at the beginning of a new administration, so there is no environmental record to judge. I find this very interesting.

Here the other side is essentially admitting that the nomination is about President Bush, not about Mike Leavitt because they are talking about President Bush's record. I think that is very unfair. It has nothing to do with Mike Leavitt. For weeks we have heard nothing about Governor Leavitt and everything about President Bush. We have heard that under President
Bush the air is dirtier, more kids are suffering from asthma attacks, respiratory diseases; precious lakes, rivers, streams, and forests are more polluted, and big oil's campaign contributions are corrupting national environmental policy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is all false, empty rhetoric extremist groups use to raise money. They conveniently ignore the fact that President Bush has proposed the most aggressive Presidential initiatives to reduce pollutants, a 70-percent reduction. No President in history has proposed such a thing. They ignore the fact that he introduced the landmark brownfields legislation which my friend from Vermont and I were very active in getting through.
They ignore that according to EPA, air quality has improved since President Bush took office.

Let me mention a couple other things since it seems to be that we have President Bush's record in front of us as opposed to Governor Leavitt. First, there couldn't be a better record of any President than the current President Bush.

Greg Easterbrook, senior editor for the very liberal New Republic magazine, not a Republican, writing for a liberal publication, writes that "most of the charges made against the White House are baloney," made for "purposes of partisan political bashing and fund-raising." He also contends that "Environmental lobbies raise money better in an atmosphere of panic, and so they are exaggerating the case against Bush." In his view, President Bush's new rules for diesel engines and diesel fuel "should lead to the biggest pollution reduction since the 1991 Clean Air Act amendment." Air pollution, he writes, continues to decline under President Bush.

That is not a conservative Republican talking. That is not anyone connected with this administration. That is the other side that is normally critical of Republicans and conservatives.

I am very familiar with the Clear Skies Act. I am anxious to get the act before the Senate and hopefully Congress will consider it, too. That is a 70-percent reduction in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and mercury. It represents the largest pollution reduction initiative ever proposed by any American President.

Clear Skies uses a cap and trade system. This limits the total amount of emissions from the utility industry and allows them to determine how to achieve these reductions. The bill thus far has been held up by environmental extremists who are playing politics with the issue of CO2. It is unfortunate because this bill will provide immediate health benefits to the American people and reduce acid rain.

Air quality has improved immensely over the last 30 years and has continued since the Bush administration took office. Clear Skies will continue that trend.

Cleaner fields and engines: This administration is a consistent advocate of tougher controls on harmful air pollution caused by diesel engines. The diesel rule, a rule requiring new heavy duty trucks and buses to run cleaner, will cut harmful pollutions by 95 percent. When fully implemented, the controls proposed in the rule will reduce 2.6 million tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions each year, and soot or particulate matter will be reduced by 110,000 tons a year.

Diesel retrofit is a voluntary partnership program with State, local, and industry to reduce mobile source emissions by retrofitting diesel engines. Commitments made to retrofit over 130,000 diesel engines in trucks, buses, locomotives, and construction equipment will eliminate more than 200,000 tons of harmful pollution from the air.

The Clean School Bus Act USA: This new program highlights the Bush administration's commitment to reducing environmental health risks to kids. The program ensures that by 2010, every public school bus in America will be cleaner by encouraging the installation of effective emissions control systems on buses, replacing older buses with newer ones and eliminating unnecessary school bus idling. With community, industry and school district commitments, the program would deliver approximately 150,000 retrofit vehicles in more than 20 school bus programs.

Cutting emissions from nonroad, heavy-duty vehicles: This is construction, agricultural equipment, and industrial equipment. On April 5 of 2003, the EPA, under President Bush, issued a proposed rule that will result in dramatic pollution reductions from nonroad, heavy-duty diesel engines.

The nonroad program will prevent over 9,600 premature deaths, 8,300 hospitalizations, 16,000 heart attacks, 5,700 children's asthma-related emergency room visits, 260,000 respiratory problems in children, and nearly a million workdays due to illnesses.

Cleaner air through smart enforcement: The EPA and the Department of Justice recently settled environmental cases by using smart enforcement and compliance tools to address the most significant problems and achieve the best environmental results. Settlements included: Virginia Electric Power Company, they will spend $1.2 billion to reduce air pollutants, along with $13.9 million to offset the impact of past pollution activities.

The settlement with Archer Daniel Midland, which had quite a bit of public attention, will mean installing and implementing sweeping environmental improvements at their plants nationwide, totaling an estimated $335 million. Also, Archer Daniel Midland will spend $6.3 million on supplemental environmental projects, including retrofitting diesel school buses.

The ALCOA settlement commits them to installing pollution controls and will provide $2.5 million to fund environmental projects, including $1.75 million to the Trust for Public Lands.

Lion Oil Company will spend more than $21.5 million to install state-of-the-art pollution control technologies throughout its refinery. Additionally, the company will pay $348,000 in civil penalties and spend more than $450,000 on supplemental environmental projects.

It goes on and on.

These settlements that took place under the enforcement policies of President Bush far exceed those under the Clinton
administration, in both numbers of settlements and the amount of money involved.

On the budget, the President's fiscal year 2004 budget proposal continues significant funding for cleaner air:

$617 million to improve air quality by meeting national ambient air quality standards, reducing air toxics, and acid rain—up
$2 million from last year;

$326 million for the Coal Research Initiative on cleaner coal technologies, including $150 million for the President's clean coal power initiative. These funds will support public-private partnerships to research efficient clean coal technologies, which we need and can have and must have to keep America machine ready;

$7 million in new EPA funding for States to conduct air toxics monitoring;

$7.2 billion for mass transit, up $479 million from the previous year.

They are all up from the Clinton administration. People say President Bush doesn't have an environmental administration.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Federal energy score cards: Agencies documented their progress in meeting the various requirements on score cards submitted by the Office of Management and Budget in January 2002. The most relevant findings include: In fiscal year 2001, 10 agencies purchased 632 gigawatt-hours of electricity generated from renewable resources—that is what they are always talking about—which is more than 3 times the amount reported in fiscal year 2000.

In other words, the renewable resources reported by this administration are 3 times the last year of the Clinton administration.

Eleven agencies implemented renewable energy projects during fiscal year 2001, including 60 solar projects, 7 wind projects, and 9 geothermal projects.

In fiscal year 2001, agencies invested more than $130 million of direct expenditures in energy efficiency.

The President's fiscal year 2003 budget proposal continues significant funding for cleaner energy: $7.1 billion in tax
incentives over 10 years for investments in energy-efficiency and renewable energy sources, including more than $3 billion for consumers to purchase hybrid and fuel cell vehicles.

A lot of criticism has come to this President, but he will push the fuel cell program because he has a commitment to it.

One hundred fifty million dollars is in the budget for a FreedomCAR research initiative, a new Department of Energy partnership with automakers and researchers, with a long-term vision of hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles; $1 million for the Department of Transportation to improve fuel economy standards.

That is $940,000 more than under the Clinton administration.

Cleaner water, protecting water supplies: In response to the terrorist acts of September 11, the Bush administration continues to work with States and local communities to protect America's 168,000 public drinking water systems and 16,000 public waste water systems from terrorist attacks.

You know, in the committee that I chair, Environment and Public Works Committee, we have passed out the nuclear security bill and waste water security, and last Thursday the Chemical Security Act. They will be coming to the floor and they will become a reality.

Under the President's leadership, we are doing our job. We can single out one thing the President has done that nobody else has been able to do, which is in the area of brownfields.

Fulfilling a campaign pledge, President Bush worked with us to enact historic, bipartisan brownfields reform legislation, which he signed on January 11, 2002.

The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act enacted vital reforms that had been widely sought for years, giving States and local governments greater flexibility and resources to turn environmental eyesores into productive community assets. It reformed important elements of the law that had discouraged private investment in cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields.

You have brownfields in every American city. They are in the process of being cleaned up now, thanks to the policy of this President.

This legislation will significantly increase the pace of brownfields cleanups. President Bush's fiscal year 2004 budget proposal provides $210.7 million—more than twice the level of funding prior to the passage of this legislation—in support of the brownfields program, $180 million of which is for grants for States, tribes, local communities for cleanup, site assessments, and revolving loan funds.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Trust for Public Land, and others endorsed the administration's brownfields proposal. In fiscal year 2003, the brownfields program has solicited grant applications and is in the process of reviewing more than 1,300 responses. The agency plans to reward these grants by the fall of 2003.

Again, nothing in the previous administration—the Clinton administration—even addressed brownfields. It was all done by this President.

Madam President, it goes on and on. I think the environmental enforcement record has been unprecedented.

The environmental extremists tie enforcement success to the amounts of funds collected, legal actions initiated, and enforcement office staffing positions, and cite a reduction of fines collected, a 40-percent drop in criminal prosecutions, a 25-percent drop in civil cases, and a reduction in enforcement office staff.

The success of the Bush environmental enforcement record can be measured in both the amounts collected in civil penalties and a number of criminal judgments, but also, and more importantly, in smart enforcement achieving actual environmental results through enforcement efforts focusing on significant noncompliers.

The fiscal year 2004 budget request includes $503 million for the EPA enforcement office. This is the largest amount ever requested for environment enforcement, and $21 million more funding than fiscal year 2003.

The EPA's 2004 budget proposes an additional 100 positions in the enforcement program above the administration's 2003 request.

So you can see that none of these accusations are true. It reminds me so much of what Hitler did prior to World War II—called the big lie. If you tell a lie and say it with conviction over and over again, sooner or later people will believe it. I think that is what has been happening.

Smart enforcement: Overall, in the last two fiscal years, EPA and the Department of Justice enforcement has obtained $8 billion in environmental remediation, state-of-the-art controls, and safeguards through enforcement of existing laws. This is the best consecutive 2 years of enforcement of any prior administration on record, including the Clinton administration.

In fiscal 2002, the EPA Compliance Assistance Centers provided environmental technical assistance to more than 673,000 businesses and individuals to help them comply with environmental laws.

Fiscal year 2002 saw a 26-percent increase of company self-disclosures of possible environmental violations.

From fiscal year 2000 to fiscal year 2001, the EPA and the Department of Justice enforcement nearly doubled the amount spent by violators on pollution controls and cleanups from $2.6 billion to $4.4 billion.

The POPS Program—persistent and organic pollutants—was an agreement the President was able to get. There are seven key types of pollutants under this program. The 12 chemicals in the POPS treaty, including DDT, PCBs, and dioxins, are some of the most persistent and dangerous chemicals ever manufactured. They are known to cause cancer, reproductive disorders, and immune system disruptions in both humans and wildlife. We nearly lost the bald eagle because of one of these chemicals. Because they are so mobile and accumulate in the food chain, absent international action, they will continue to be a risk to all.

This agreement will restrict and eliminate these chemicals, including DDT, PCBs, and dioxins, that are some of the most persistent and dangerous chemicals ever manufactured.

Again, President Bush announced his support for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and legislation has passed the committee. That was never addressed by any previous administration. That is just this administration. Environmental extremists and their liberal friends in the press have you believe this President does not have a good environmental record when he has the best record of any President in history. No President has ever been as good as George W. Bush.

Again, that should not even be a discussion right now, but due to the fact we have the nomination of Mike Leavitt coming up and they refuse to talk about his record and instead talk about the President's record, I thought it was necessary to tell the truth about that record.

It is also interesting, there are six holds—so people understand what we are talking about, a Senator can put a hold on a nomination to keep that person from being confirmed. Of the six holds, four of those people are running for President of the United States. That ought to tell you something about the political motivation.

Madam President, may I inquire as to the time remaining on this side?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has 15 minutes.

Mr. INHOFE. I was going to get into another subject, but I have been informed we have two or more speakers coming down who wish to use that 15 minutes. I was going to talk about what we are going to be dealing with this coming Wednesday—this hoax called global warming. I will not do that now, Madam President. I suggest the absence of a quorum.


Mr. INHOFE. I would like to ask my good friend from Florida: At the very beginning of his remarks, he said the money isn't there. I wanted to make sure he was aware, which I think he is, that the Bush request for 2004 is the second largest request since the date he mentioned being on the floor in 1980. I was not here until 1984. But right now his request is $1.38 billion. I first ask if the Senator is aware of that.

Secondly, as far as the tax is concerned, we have never left the idea of polluter pays. Right now, polluter pays. In 70 percent of the cases, if there is a polluter who can be identified, the polluter pays. The problem you are coming up with, when you talk about the tax—which expired in 1995 under the Clinton administration, and President Clinton did not ask for its reinstatement or for a tax—is that that is not polluter pays. That takes care of some orphan cases, either general funds or that tax.

Is that fair, to have businesses paying into a fund that pays for pollution cleanup that they didn't cause? That is a bad policy to do that. I wanted to be sure we were talking about the same thing.

Mr. NELSON of Florida. I thank the Senator from Oklahoma. He is my friend, and he knows I love him. We can engage in this kind of dialogue with a smile on our faces because we are personal friends. But I have a significant difference of opinion with the Senator from Oklahoma. This Administration has not devoted the resources necessary to clean up the many orphaned sites in Florida that depend upon the now almost bankrupt Superfund trust fund.

In each one of these cases I have indicated, two in Escambia County, one west of Orlando—I could take you through the other orphan sites in the State of Florida—the only source of revenue we will have to clean up these sites is the American taxpayer, unless we reimpose the fee that was part of the deal that was struck in 1980 with the oil companies.

I would just say in response to my good friend that if the administration is requesting additional general revenue, then I say hooray for the administration. But, that is not going to solve the problem of hundreds of these sites around the country.
You have to have that source of revenue, particularly with the dire financial condition this country is facing, where this country is going into bankruptcy by our deficit financing each year to the tune of a half trillion dollars. We are just not going to be able to get the funds to clean up these sites that are so personal to the communities in which they are located.

Mr. INHOFE. I appreciate my friend, because he is my friend, yielding further. The point I want to get across is that according to EPA figures—this was true back in the previous administration also—70 percent of those cleanups are paid for by the polluter. It is inaccurate to imply that they are not doing it. When you let a tax expire, as they did in 1995—again, this is not a partisan thing because that happened during the Clinton administration—that is a tax on businesses that has nothing to do with polluters. These are not polluters who are paying this tax. They could be anyone out there. But the fact is that this administration is making the request for $1.38 billion and the fund is there.

You can talk about Florida all you want. I ask my friend from Florida if he is aware that the most devastating Superfund site in America is in my State of Oklahoma. No one else is even close.


Mr. INHOFE. No one is more concerned about devastating sites than I am. I would say this. We are going to correct it. We are in the process of cleaning it up. A lot of the funding is not going to be coming from the Superfund that is in place right now. Nonetheless, it is going to be cleared up. The point is this. It was a tax that expired during the Clinton administration.
The Clinton administration did not want to renew it and never made an effort to. This administration has never made an effort to renew it because it is wrong. It is bad public policy to pass a tax for people to pay for pollution cleanups that they didn't cause. It is as simple as that.

I thank the Senator for yielding for questions.


Mr. INHOFE. I think I probably misunderstood the Senator. Did you say that the polluter pays policy has disappeared, is not in existence now?

Mr. DURBIN. Virtually gone.

Mr. INHOFE. Are you aware that 70 percent of the cleanups are paid for by the polluter today?

Mr. DURBIN. The Senator knows better than that I do that when you stop taxing the polluting industry, you stop creating a fund to clean up the sites. The Superfund toxic sites are, frankly, just sitting there. Nothing is being done because the money is not being collected in the Superfund for enforcement.

The reason is, this administration said we are going to have a hands-off policy when it comes to the polluting industry. Any money going into Superfund has to come from the general tax fund, and then as a consequence of their budget there is no money in the fund. So this Superfund approach is a dream come true for polluting industries. This is the first President, Democrat or Republican, to turn his back on the responsibility of polluting industries to clean up toxic waste and, frankly, it appears that Governor Leavitt wants to continue that policy.

Mr. INHOFE. Will the Senator yield further?

Mr. DURBIN. I would be happy to yield.

Mr. INHOFE. Is the Senator aware that the tax to which he is referring went out in 1995 during the Clinton administration; it was not requested to be renewed at any time during the remainder of the Clinton Presidency, nor has it since that time?
Secondly, the reason is that the policy that you should pass a tax on business to pay for pollution cleanup that they had nothing to do with is not a fair policy.

Mr. DURBIN. I say in response, and my time is probably running out, there was an adequate balance in the Superfund to go forward during the Clinton administration because of the collections from these polluting industries. Now that that Superfund is virtually bankrupt and without funds, what the Bush administration has said is we would not dare ask the polluting industries. Instead, we ask every taxpaying family and business in America to pay for Superfund cleanup. That is fundamentally unfair.

Why should ordinary taxpayers face the responsibility of pollution and toxic waste created by an industry? The Superfund, which has been supported by Democratic and Republican Presidents, and rejected by this President, I think was a fair approach. Because this President will not fund it and because he will not come back and ask for the polluting industries to pay, there is no money for the Superfund cleanup.

What do we have left? We have the stern policy from the administration and a new administrator who says he supports it.
The result of it? More toxic waste sites in my State, perhaps in the Senator's, that are there to endanger public health. How can that possibly be in the best interest of America?

Mr. INHOFE. If the Senate will yield further?

Mr. DURBIN. I would be happy to yield.

Mr. INHOFE. The policy is what I was trying to get to. First, it is a fact that the tax ran out during a Democratic administration, that of President Clinton. Secondly, the policy to say let's pass a tax on any business out there, or any industry out there, whether or not they pollute anything, and they have to pay for whomever is polluting, when today 70 percent of the cleanup—these are the figures—are being paid for by those who are polluting, it is a polluters' pay policy that is working today.

Mr. DURBIN. I will reclaim my time and say to the Senator, if I am not mistaken, the period of time when the tax was not reinstated was a period of time when the Republicans were in control of Congress.

Stepping aside from that for a moment, the Senator from Oklahoma is gifted in this area, understands it better than most and understands how little is being done today because there is no money in the Superfund to pay for the toxic cleanup. So as a consequence, this administration neither puts the revenue in the budget nor reinstates the tax on polluters and basically says we are going to turn a blind eye to toxic waste sites across America, which endanger the water supply of communities all across the board.

How can that be right for our children or the families who are unwittingly being exposed to this kind of pollution? That is the kind of policy which we need to oppose and, frankly, it is the kind of policy which I am afraid Governor Leavitt supports and that is why I cannot support his nomination.

I yield the floor.

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