Mr. Chairman-and members of the committee, thank you for today's hearing on Governor Mike Leavitt's nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency. I can think of no better candidate for this important job.
Let me tell you about the Mike Leavitt I have known for almost 30 years. He is bright. He is eminently capable. And nobody works harder. Mike Leavitt listens before he acts. He consults before he commits. And above all, he is fair and honest.
In short, he is the perfect candidate for one of the toughest jobs in government. (And perhaps, the toughest job in government.)
And so, Mr. Chairman, it is with particular pleasure that I introduce Mike and Jackie Leavitt to you this morning, and I look forward to welcoming my friends to Washington for their more permanent stay after the Senate confirms Michael Leavitt as the Administrator of the EPA.
Mr. Chairman, let me state for the record that Michael Leavitt is one of our nation's most able public figures. Is it any wonder that after serving longer than any other sitting governor, he has maintained one of the strongest approval ratings ever by enjoyed a public official at his level? The governor has worked tirelessly tirelessly for the good of Utah. Yet, has found the time to serve as the Chair of the Council of State Governors, the Republican Governors Association, the Western Governor's Association, and the National Governor's Association.
The Committee will hear many critics of the President's environmental policies who I hope will be fair and will not use the nomination of Governor Leavitt as a soapbox to castigate our Chief Executive.
I don't think Governor Leavitt's stellar legacy and his careful stewardship of Utah's natural resources should be sacrificed on the altar of presidential politics.
With confidence, I would hold up Utah's environmental record to that of any other state in the Union.
While it is appropriate that senators engage in a reasonable debate about the current Administration's environmental policies, I would caution my colleagues to consider the environmental challenges faced by their own states before slinging mud at a state which under Governor Leavitt has become a model for beauty and for good management.
Mr. Chairman, I have already seen news articles and press releases highlighting some of the environmental challenges faced by Utahns. None of these challenges began during Governor Leavitt's administration and a number of them have no relationship at all to the responsibilities of running the EPA. All states have environmental challenges, so rather than create a laundry list of Utah's problems, we should focus on how Governor Leavitt has responded to Utah's challenges.
It is a simple matter for a policy maker to give lip service to environmental protection, and Governor Leavitt has been a consistent and public supporter for protecting Utah's environment. But actions speak louder than words. And, no action speaks louder than a willingness to allocate resources to an area of concern.
In Is 10 years as governor, Michael Leavitt has brought about a 41 percent increase in spending on environmental protection, and that's after adjusting for inflation. According to the Environmental Council of States, the average per capita spending on the environment is $51.80. Under Michael Leavitt, however, Utah has surpassed that average, spending $62.31 per capita on the environment. This is all the more impressive considering Utah has fewer taxpayers per capita because our families are larger than average.
When it comes to putting his money where his mouth is, Governor Leavitt also has shown his priorities on the total budget spent on the environment. The average state spends about 1.4 percent of its budget on the environment. Utah shines under Governor Leavitt's leadership by spending two percent of its budget on the environment.
Mr. Chairman, the greatest indicator of an administration's priorities is reflected in how money is spent. However the next question should be how effectively that money was spent.
I recall that before Governor Leavitt's first term of office, Utah routinely failed to meet national clean air standards. This was due in large part to the fact that the vast of Utahns live on a valley floor surrounded on all sides with mountains. These mountains are beautiful, but under certain weather conditions they can serve to trap emissions in the Salt Lake Valley. Governor Leavitt has helped our state overcome this obstacle to bring our state into consistent compliance with the EPA's air quality standards. He has also led initiatives in our state to preserve open space, improve our fisheries, and upgrade our municipal sewer systems.
Governor Leavitt also has been a leader in finding solutions to regional air problems by helping to promote the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission and the Western Regional Air Partnership. When Governor Leavitt took office, about 60 percent of Utah's streams met federal water quality standards, which is the current national average for states. Under his leadership, though, 73 percent of Utah's streams now meet the federal standards - a very significant improvement and well above the national average.
Mr. Chairman, I hope we can keep in mind that these were not the actions of a man who sought a nomination to head the EPA.
These were the actions of a man who loves the environment and who loves his state.
Governor Leavitt is a man who recognizes that a healthy environment is as important as a healthy economy. However else his detractors may try to spin - `, the numbers prove this to be the case.
The numbers also show Governor Leavitt is one heck of a manager. In five of his 10 years as Utah's chief executive, Utah has been ranked the best-managed state. USA Today recently concurred, calling Utah the best fiscally managed state in the country. Even after the extremely tough financial times faced by our states in recent years, under Governor Leavitt, Utah has maintained its Triple A bond rating.
Mr. Chairman, President Bush has done the nation a real service with this nomination, and I look forward to the positive impact that Governor Leavitt will have on this important agency.
Utahns know that Governor Leavitt took a clean, beautiful, and strong state and made it cleaner, more beautiful, and stronger. What more could we ask for in a nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency?
Again, I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. I know that you and the rest of my colleagues will be impressed with Michael Leavitt as a person and as a proven administrator. Thank you.