Western Governor May Handle Problem

Published online: Aug 11, 2003
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It may be that Pres. George W. Bush's newly appointed administrator of the EPA may handle one of the stickiest problems facing the western United States.

It was announced this afternoon that Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt will head the agency following the resignation of Christine Whitman, a former New Jersey governor, who held the position for two- and one-half years.

Leavitt, who oversaw the 2002 Olympics, working closely with homeland security, has sought cooperation between federal, state and local officials on environmental issues.

But one of Leavitt's biggest challenges may be to handle the entangled Ninth Circuit Court ruling favoring the Endangered Species Act over the EPA and its regulations over already approved crop-protection products used around Pacific Northwest rivers.

A letter sent last week by the Agriculture Committee of the House, asked Bush to step in and settle the matter of what agency has final say over regulation of programs for crop-protection products being used, mainly around the Columbia and Snake rivers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Environmentalists have sued the EPA, claiming the Agency has failed to comply with consultation provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

The EPA, according to the Washington State Potato Commission, has already approved the 25 chemical products used on potatoes as safe around the Northwest's rivers.

Leavitt has been working closely with the Bush Administration, making several arrangements to solve public access over federal lands. He also negotiated several exchanges of state and federal land, some of which have been questioned by the Interior Department.

Leavitt, the nation's longest-serving governor, has been a leader on environmental issues with a record of improving air and water and conserving land. He is co-chairman of the Western Regional Air Partnership. Officials say he was instrumental in bringing states, tribes, environmentalists and industry together to solve the problem of brown haze over the Grand Canyon.

Bush's staff also spoke with Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a former Republican senator, about the position.