New EPA Chief Calls for Cleaner Air in 500 Days

Newly minted U.S. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt gave his first major speech yesterday, promising to embark on the “most productive period of air-quality improvement in American history.” The former Utah governor spoke of a 500-day plan for cleaner air but offered no details on it. (Instead, a leaked document detailed plans to relax regulation of mercury pollution from power plants; for more on that, see today’s Muckraker, above.) Leavitt said the plan would be built around President Bush’s controversial Clear Skies initiative and would include strict controls on diesel engines and ground-level smog. Environmentalists call Clear Skies a greenwashed gift to industry, and they expressed skepticism about whether Leavitt will be able to make any progress as part of an administration that has consistently undercut environmental protection.