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

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. INHOFE. Thank you very much. I appreciate the cooperation we have had.

First of all, as far as the comments the Senator from New Jersey made about Governor Leavitt are concerned, talking about the Legacy Parkway, let me just mention to him that the construction on the highway began only after Utah had the legal authorization to do so from the various States and the Federal agencies. The 2,000 acres of wetlands would be protected as a nature preserve.

But I think the most significant point, since he is criticizing the administration along with Governor Leavitt, is that all required Federal approvals for the Legacy Parkway project were issued by the Clinton administration after 6 years of study, public comment, and legal review. That was the Clinton administration.

Secondly, on the water quality report, first of all, the report they are quoting is from PIRG, which is another environmental extremist group. It is not part of the Federal Government. The truth is, the PIRG report relied on incomplete data to reach the findings for Utah. When the Utah data was corrected, Utah showed one of the lowest Clean Water Act noncompliance rates in the country.

For example, between January of 2000 and March of 2001, Utah's noncompliance rate placed Utah among the top 10 States with the lowest rates of noncompliance. Right now, 73 percent of the streams in Utah meet all Federal and State requirements. That is a 24-percent improvement over the time since Governor Leavitt took office. It is one of his greatest accomplishments, and here he is being criticized for it.

I have to go back and reread—I wish there were more time to do it. I certainly appreciate Senator Jeffords' comments when he said—and this is a quote—

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 some 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 [various matters].

Gov. Bill Richardson, a Governor with Governor Leavitt, said:

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

That is Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, one of his biggest fans.

We have talked over and over about the accomplishments of Governor Leavitt. He was the chairman of the National Governors Association. He is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, chairman of the Western Governors Association. Under his leadership, the visibility in the West has improved. There have been accolades all over the country
on the job he has done as the cochairman of the Western Regional Air Partnership cleaning up the air.

During his 11-year term, we already mentioned 73 percent of Utah streams currently meet all water quality standards compared to 59 percent 10 years ago. And it has all happened since Governor Leavitt took office.

I do not understand at this late hour that finally someone is coming and criticizing him. I have been critical of the debate so far because they have not really talked about Governor Leavitt, except in praising him, but they have talked about misrepresenting the Bush administration's environmental pro gress.

Now, I think something has to be said that, prior to his markup, committee Democrats submitted 400 questions to Governor Leavitt. And if you compare that to other administrations, when Carol Browner was up in 1993—remember that—she had only 67 questions that came from Republicans—not 400; 67. And, of course, for William Reilly there were just a handful of questions at that time.

Also, going back to the number of days it took between the nomination and actually becoming the Administrator, for William Reilly it was just 13 days; for Carol Browner, just 11 days; and for Governor Whitman, it was 13 days. Now, this has taken 55 days. And when Senator Lautenberg, a few minutes ago, said he has not had time to look at it, my gosh, if he did not need any more than 10 or 13 days for the others, what is wrong with having 55 days? It is certainly more than enough time.

We desperately need to have this man in this office. For weeks we have heard nothing about Mike Leavitt and everything about President Bush, and yet I would like to suggest to you that President Bush's record and accomplishments are second to none.

Let me quote Greg Easterbrook from an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. He is the senior editor of the very liberal New Republic. He doesn't say many good things about Republicans. He is a Democrat. He is very sympathetic to their causes.
He says 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."

Last night I went over all of the accomplishments of the Bush administration. The fact that the Clear Skies legislation is coming up and is going to be the largest mandated reduction in pollutants of any President in history, a 70-percent reduction in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide and mercury. On cleaner fuels and engines, there is the diesel rule. I am prepared to talk about these.

At this point I yield to the minority side for any comments they want to make because, quite frankly, I want to be in a position to respond. I appreciate Senator Jeffords allowing the senior Senator from Utah to have the last 10 minutes of our time. We will wait for other Members to arrive.

I yield the floor.


Mr. INHOFE. Let me take a minute or two, and then I will yield to Senator Bond. First of all, the Senator from California was talking about the dismal record in Superfund of this administration, and the fact that not enough money has been spent.
I want to suggest that there is no correlation between the money raised when they had the tax and the money spent on Superfund cleanups.

In 1996, during the Clinton administration, the tax fund was at its highest level. Yet money spent by the Clinton administration for cleanup was near a 10-year low.

To contrast that, in President Bush's 2004 budget, the money for actual cleanup is near a 10-year high, while the fund is at a low point. In fact, the 2004 request of the President is $1.38 billion, which is higher than 7 of the 8 years of the Clinton administration. So I don't think there is anything to that particular argument.

I also remind the Senator of this: When she talked about people praising the President for his environmental record, many of these people praising the President are not Republicans, they are not pundits. These are Democrats and liberals, who are giving him credit, such as Gregg Easterbrook, senior editor of the liberal New Republic magazine, as I have mentioned.

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