Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this hearing in a timely manner. The confirmation of the President’s nomination must be a top priority for this committee and the Senate. As we begin this hearing, I challenge my colleagues to focus on the results and achievements of our national environmental policy and not on penalties and politics. Our national environmental regulatory structure, abundant environmental mandates and administrative and judicial rulings, work together to protect our most precious resources, and have helped spur environmental recovery in many areas. But these same layers of laws have also created tremendous burdens for municipalities, businesses and the ongoing development and maintenance of our public infrastructure. We cannot simply wipe the slate clean and sweep away basic environmental rules; but we can - we must - develop an environmental agenda that protects private property rights while balancing environmental achievement with the need for continued economic progress.
Governor Leavitt hails from the western United States. No other geographic region in the country has felt the heavy hand of regulation more than the public land states of the west - be it in the form of forthcoming EPA mercury standards or the Department of the Interior’s Endangered Species Act. Governor Leavitt understands the complicated web of environmental rules and the impact that they have on health and property. As a Governor, he has worked hard to increase the well-being of the people in his state, and he has worked diligently to improve the state of the environment. Governor Leavitt understands the fundamental need to protect the environment from irresponsible actors. Just as important, though, he understands the need to protect the environment through policies and programs that generate results and that create incentives to improve land, water and air quality. He also knows that heavy handed action is not nearly as important as the results that can be achieved through cooperation and collaboration. The development of such Enlibra principles have received a bipartisan endorsement from the National Governor’s Association and deserve a great deal of attention.
As we begin deliberations on the nomination today, we do so in an environment that has improved greatly over the past several decades. In the last 30 years water quality has improved and emissions of the six principle air pollutants have been cut 48 percent. This progress comes even as the country has experienced a 164 percent increase in gross domestic product, a 42 percent increase in energy consumption and a 155 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled. This improvement has occurred over the course of thirty-four years, 22 of which came under the leadership of Republican Administrations. Echoing the other members of the committee, our nation lives today in a cleaner, healthier environment, far more clean than it was when President Bush first took office. As mentioned, the most recent EPA data shows that, SO2 emissions from power plants were 10.2 million tons in 2002, nine percent lower than in 2000 and 41 percent lower than 1980. NOx emissions from power plants are also lower, measuring 4.5 million tons in 2002. This is a 13 percent reduction from 2000 and a 33 percent decline from 1990 emissions levels. The Bush Administration’s environmental success will continue under Leavitt. Under his leadership, Utah now meets all federal air quality standards. Seventy-three percent of Utah’s streams currently meet federal water quality standards, compared to 59% ten years ago. This is a remarkable improvement since Governor Leavitt took office. In Colorado, the Bush Administration’s efforts to clean-up the Shattuck and Vasquez Boulevard sites deserve many thanks. The Administration continues to prove its commitment to the people of Colorado through responsible stewardship and active protection.
The evolution of environmental rules and regulations that control so many aspects of life must be realistic goals that are established through a course of open deliberation and sound science. The impact EPA has on individual lives is real, not fictitious. New laws and enforcement decisions cannot be taken lightly. I am pleased that President Bush’s approach has been one of reform - changing command-and-control mandates to innovative, market-based approaches that utilize cutting edge technology to bolster environmental benefits. I hope this type of strong, principled leadership will continue into the future, and challenge the new nominee to further these efforts.
Governor Leavitt carries all the necessary credentials to oversee our nation’s environment. He has not backed away from major issues and has been a proactive leader on many issues. Not only is he the nation’s longest serving Governor, he has experience as chair of the National Governor’s Association, the Western Governor’s Association - where he oversaw the Western Regional Air Partnership - and the Republican Governor’s Association.
Yet despite all these accomplishments, there is still room for progress. Senator Crapo and I have introduced legislation that would establish an independent office of the EPA ombudsman. This important position was critical to the successful removal of waste from the Shattuck Superfund site in Colorado. The legislation has already passed the Senate and I look forward to working with members of the House and the Administration on its enactment into law. I also believe that the President’s Clear Skies Initiative sets a strong tone for positive results. According to EPA figures, the proposal will reduce SO2 emissions by an additional 70 percent by 2018. I want to caution, though, that the Clear Skies proposal must be formulated in a way that does not bring about arbitrary change at the expense of western states’ interests.
The commitment President Bush has made to improving the environment is strong, clear and unquestionable. I look forward to working with members of this Committee and the administration as we work toward confirmation of this nominee.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.