Earthjustice opposes the confirmation of Michael Leavitt to head the U.S. EPA. This is the first time Earthjustice has ever opposed any nominee to the post of EPA administrator. We are taking this step because, after a careful review of his public record on environmental matters, it is clear that Governor Leavitt is likely to try to weaken the laws that protect our water, air, and the public’s health.
The American people deserve an EPA administrator who is committed to defending and enforcing our nation’s critically important environmental protection laws. In contrast, Governor Leavitt has a track record of failing to enforce laws to protect public health and natural resources, of making backroom deals that have undermined decades of federal environmental law, and of ignoring science when it conflicts with his policy positions.
Under Governor Leavitt, the state of Utah has a poor record of environmental enforcement. Time and time again, Governor Leavitt and his agencies have looked the other way when major polluters violated federal and state anti-pollution laws. According to a recent EPA report, Utah is one of the three worst states in the country for enforcement of the Clean Water Act.
While Governor Leavitt speaks about his use of “balanced, open and inclusive approaches” to environmental protection, his record – unfortunately – tells a different story. As Governor, Leavitt struck a secret deal with the Bush administration to open six million acres of wild public lands in Utah to mining, oil and gas development, and bulldozing. Stunningly, his machinations (and those of the Bush administration) completely excluded the public from having any information or input on a decision that affects not only Utah but nearly 200 million acres of public land across the country.
In another case, Governor Leavitt threatened to sue the federal government to make it possible for Utah to bulldoze highways over tens of thousands of miles of cow paths and hiking trails through national parks, wildlife refuges, national monuments and wilderness areas. Acting in secret again, Governor Leavitt refused to make public any information on his plans to construct highways over these public lands. According to a 1993 National Park Service memo, these claims could affect 17 million acres of land and the impacts “could be devastating.”
Governor Leavitt’s nomination raises the strong possibility that his practice of using concealment and secrecy to weaken environmental protections will be institutionalized at EPA.
For all of these reasons, Earthjustice is opposing the confirmation of Governor Leavitt and advocating for President Bush to nominate an EPA administrator who will respect – and perhaps even advance – the environmental gains our country has made over the last four decades.