John Suarez, the Bush administration’s pick for the job of enforcing the nation’s environmental laws, used to work closely with U.S. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, back when she was governor of New Jersey. Trouble is, that appears to be about his only qualification for enforcing EPA rules. That was the concern expressed by Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who saw Suarez’s nomination as another indication of President Bush’s lack of commitment to upholding strict environmental laws. Suarez spent three years as commissioner for New Jersey’s Division of Gambling Enforcement and seven as an assistant U.S. attorney, where he focused on white-collar crimes like mail fraud. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Jeffords (I-Vt.) said they feared that his experience would not qualify him to enforce complex environmental protections. A coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, sounded an even stronger note, saying Suarez was the least qualified person to be considered for the position in 15 years.
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