The EPW Committee today also approved four pieces of legislation:
S. 1643, a bill to exempt certain coastal barrier property from financial assistance and flood insurance limitations under the Coastal Barriers Resources Act and the National Flood Act of 1968.
S. 1066, a bill to correct a technical error from Unit T-07 of the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System.
S. 1663, to replace certain Coastal Barrier Resources System maps.
S. 1669, to reauthorize the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act.
Sen. Inhofe’s opening statement for the business meeting is attached.
CHAIRMAN JAMES M. INHOFE
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
OCTOBER 15, 2003
I want to welcome everyone to the second business meeting to consider the nomination of Gov. Mike Leavitt to be the next EPA Administrator. Unfortunately, the last time we tried this, we didn’t have enough members present for a quorum. Now I don’t want to revisit all of the reasons behind that—I think the Republican members of this committee described them quite well during the previous markup. Instead, I want to explain again, and very briefly, why we have such an excellent nominee before us.
As I’ve said numerous times, not one member of this committee has disputed Mike Leavitt’s qualifications for this job. We are all familiar with his resume—longest serving governor, chairman of the National Governor’s Association, chairman of the Western Governor’s Association. It’s quite accomplished, and quite long, so I won’t outline it in detail here.
Certainly no one denies that he is temperamentally suited for the position. We’ve heard from Democrats, governors and Senators alike, that he’s someone you can work with. It’s very hard not to like Mike Leavitt.
Because this nomination has become a proxy fight over the Bush Administration’s environmental record, Mike Leavitt’s accomplishments often get obscured or overlooked. But the people of Utah know first hand what he’s done for the state. It’s a fact, for example, that Utah now meets all federal air quality standards. That was not the case before Gov. Leavitt took office.
I also feel obliged each time we get into a forum like this to say a few words about the Bush Administration’s environmental record. I think it’s important to provide some context to the relentless attacks on the President.
I would like to submit for the record an op-ed in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times by science and environmental writer Gregg Easterbrook.
Mr. Easterbrook is a senior editor of the liberal New Republic, certainly no friend to the Bush Administration. While I don’t agree with everything in the piece, on the whole Mr. Easterbrook makes the case that criticisms of President Bush on the environment are baseless.
He writes that “most of the charges made against the White House are baloney,” made for “purposes of partisan political bashing and fund-raising.” He also contends that, “Environmental lobbies raise money better in an atmosphere of panic, and so they are exaggerating the case against Bush.”
In his view, President Bush’s new rules for diesel engines and diesel fuel “should lead to the biggest pollution reduction since the 1991 Clean Air Act amendments.” Air pollution, he writes, continues to decline under President Bush.
I have no doubt that Mike Leavitt will be an exceptional EPA Administrator. But even as we move forward in this committee, Gov. Leavitt faces obstacles on the Senate floor. It’s no surprise that many of those who have announced holds on Gov. Leavitt are running for president.
I am fully confident that an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the Senate supports Mike Leavitt. It’s wrong that the presidential ambitions of a few senators could sacrifice a nominee with a proven record of environmental accomplishments. Let’s report Mike Leavitt out of committee and put an end to presidential politics so the full Senate can vote on his nomination.
I think William Ruckelshaus, who headed EPA in 1970 under President Nixon, said it best: “I don't remember any administrator ever being held up like this for reasons unrelated to his qualifications as administrator. Holding up the confirmation of somebody who will be confirmed doesn't make any sense because that agency needs somebody there to lead it and guide it.”