I can't begin the hearing this morning without saying how great it feels great sitting here as the Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. I've served on this Committee since coming to the Senate and this chair is the most comfortable one I've sat in, Senator Smith. We've served together as co-chairs of the Ethics Committee, but I could get used to this chair.
I am happy to have my first hearing as Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee to be the consideration of the nominee for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. This agency has a great responsibility to the American people. It has a very successful 30 year record of improving the quality of our air and water.
And, during the last eight years, under the Clinton Administration, we have made some fine progress. The recent diesel/sulfur rule, for example, will greatly improve the air quality. I would hope that you, if confirmed as the new Administrator of the EPA, would be committed to taking us forward in environmental protection, and not roll back the important gains we have made.
Governor Whitman, you have had a distinguished career as Governor of New Jersey and I'm pleased that you are willing to take on the challenge of protecting both the health of our citizens and the environment.
It is also my hope that we can work closely together, not only on national environmental issues, but on those problems unique to my state of Nevada, as well as those unique to the west. There are a number of members on this Committee from my part of the country. We have big states, fewer people, but still have many urban environmental problems.
I know you have visited the west, so you know how beautiful it is and how important it is to protect the resources we have. I hope you will come to Nevada and see first hand, not only the beauty, but the challenges we face in preserving that beauty.
Governor Whitman, I look forward to hearing from you and now recognize Senator Smith for his opening statement.