Bush Taps Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to Head EPA

In a move that immediately (and predictably) generated strenuous objections from enviros, President Bush yesterday nominated three-term Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R) to take the helm at the U.S. EPA. Bush praised Leavitt as a consensus-builder and pointed to his bipartisan work with 13 governors and 13 tribal leaders to improve air quality in the Grand Canyon. Like Bush, Leavitt wants to shift pollution control from the feds to the states, and he favors voluntary environmental protections rather than mandatory ones. Industry leaders are pleased as punch with Bush’s pick; environmental advocates are not. Enviros say Leavitt has a weak record on protecting Utah’s land, water, and air, and they fear he will further loosen federal environmental protections. Jim Angell of the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund said Leavitt’s nomination represented “a dramatic lurch rightward,” noting that former EPA Administrator Christie Whitman was more moderate, though she was often overruled by the administration. Leavitt must be confirmed by the Senate before taking office.