Earthjustice applauds today’s decision by the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee members who insisted on getting answers to important questions affecting the health of the nation’s communities and natural resources before voting on the confirmation of Utah Governor Michael Leavitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Senator Jeffords and his colleagues on the Environment and Public Works Committee took a stand against the Bush administration’s ongoing efforts to conceal their sorry record of dismantling our country’s most important environmental laws,” said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel. “No Senator should be forced to vote on a nominee to such an important post without full access to information and forthright answers to the Senators’ questions.”
Late Tuesday, Ranking Member Senator James Jeffords (I-VT) and all of the committee’s Democratic members sent a letter to committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) objecting to a committee vote on the EPA nominee’s confirmation while questions (including questions about the Bush environmental record, Governor Leavitt’s record in Utah, and the nominee’s positions on major issues facing the nation’s environmental agency) remain unanswered.
“Fortunately for those of us who drink the water and breathe the air in this country, nine members of the Senate’s environment committee believe that they need to know whether or not Governor Leavitt would uphold and enforce our environmental protection laws before voting on whether to put him into office,” said Mulhern. “Apparently, the Bush White House expected the U.S. Senate to turn a blind eye to Governor Leavitt’s record of weakening environmental laws — and this administration’s own record of gutting environmental laws — without getting any answers or assurances that this effort to dismantle our laws will stop.”
For the last two years, the Bush administration has refused to answer many questions by Senator Jeffords and other Environment and Public Works committee members about a long list of administration actions that are undoing the country’s long-standing national environmental protection laws. The refusal of Governor Leavitt to give the Senators meaningful answers to these questions and fully explain his positions on his own environmental record is, according to Earthjustice, ample reason for Senators to ask for a delay on the Leavitt vote.
“The Senators who refused to be placated by vague answers and meaningless assurances did their constituents, and their children and grandchildren, a real service today,” Mulhern added. “Regardless of party, all Senators have a constitutional duty to ensure that our nation’s laws will be upheld. By refusing to forthrightly and fully answer Senators’ questions, Mike Leavitt left unanswered the question of whether he will respect our country’s environmental laws.”