SENATOR HARRY REID’S STATEMENT

Hearing on the nomination of Governor Leavitt, to be Administrator of the EPA

September 23, 2003

 

I would like to welcome Governor Leavitt and his family to this hearing.  I’ve known Governor Leavitt and his family for years. Myron Leavitt, in fact, has served ably as a Justice on the Nevada Supreme Court since 1998.  

 

When I first heard about the Governor’s pending nomination to run EPA, one question immediately came to mind.  Why would you want the job?

 

When the Bush Administration took office in 2000, I was fortunate to serve as this Committee’s ranking member. We had a proactive agenda for the Committee.  We wanted to work on a WRDA bill and a wildlife bill. But our positive work for the environment quickly shifted to defending gains made under the Clinton Administration.

 

Right out of the gate, the Administration moved to rollback . . .

 

·      pesticide standards that protect children from harmful chemicals;

·      a strong arsenic standard to remove poison from our drinking water;

·      lead standards to remove a known hazard to children ...

 

         You name it, if it protected the environment, if it protected public health, the Administration moved to roll it back. When it largely succeeded in rolling back the positive policies of the last Administration, this Administration got to work on rolling back established environmental laws - many of which were bipartisan efforts written by Republican Presidents. 

 

The most significant of the recent rollbacks is the plan to effectively repeal the new source review provision from the Clean Air Act. This provision embodies the commonsense notion that as our utilities upgrade their facilities, they should install the most modern pollution controls available. This is no arcane matter: whether those upgrades are clean or dirty means the difference between a healthy future or chronic disease and death for many Americans.

 

New Source Review was wisely maintained by the President’s father when he wrote the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.  He understood the tradeoff and stood on the side of the people and clean air.

 

The current Administration - by moving to effectively repeal this provision - stands on the side of polluters not the people.

 

The rollbacks have been so many, so constant, that I can’t understand why you would want this job.

 

I do want to let you know, and the members of the Committee know, of an issue of great importance to me. In March, Senator Daschle proposed Dr. Gregory Jaczko to the White House for the open Democratic seat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  A month later, he received a rejection letter with no explanation.  The White House should have been elated with Dr. Jaczko’s recommendation.   Dr. Jaczko’s has a doctorate in physics, has worked as a professional staff member on this Committee, is the science policy advisor in my office, and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University.  Additionally, Dr. Jaczko has been a lead negotiator on issues implicating the NRC, including the Price-Anderson Act and nuclear power plant safety.  On the safety issue, he negotiated a bipartisan compromise reported unanimously from this Committee last year.  That compromise represents the most comprehensive and sweeping reforms of the NRC in years.  In the age of our new security concerns, the White House should have swiftly acted to send up Dr. Jaczko’s name.  Instead they’ve shelved it. Until his nomination comes off the shelf and arrives in the Senate, I’ll maintain a hold on all non-military executive branch nominees.  And if this nomination is reported from Committee, I will have a hold on your nomination.

 

I wanted to let you know about that, and explain my reasons for it in advance. It is critically important to have well-qualified individuals on the NRC to protect the public.  I hope that message gets through to the Administration.

 

I wish you luck as your nomination proceeds, urge you to answer the questions my colleagues will put to you, and convince the Administration to release EPA documents long-sought by the Committee.