Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks Of Sen. Alexander - Mike Leavitt's Nomination To Be EPA Administrator

Posted on September 23, 2003

I rise today to commend President Bush for nominating Governor Mike Leavitt to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Governor Leavitt's hearing was this morning, and from all accounts he performed admirably, as I would expect him to do. He is a distinguished public servant that has worked diligently to address environmental problems in Utah and the Western states. I believe that the President has found the right person for the job of leading the EPA. The EPA administrator must establish realistic regulations that often require compromise and balance. In my experience, almost all of the issues that deal with our environment require a good sense of balance because there are so many competing interests. Governor Leavitt has demonstrated his ability to work with all groups affected by environmental regulation. He pulled together, for example, governors, tribal leaders, industrial leaders, and environmental activists to get behind a comprehensive plan to clear the haze obscuring the scenic views in the West including the Grand Canyon. For nearly 11 years, Governor Leavitt managed to bring together a diverse group of state and tribal officials, industrial leaders, and environmental activists who focused on developing a plan which has led to action that is clearing the air in the West. I would hope that a similar plan could be developed and implemented to clear the haze in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which is about two miles from where I live. It's the nation's most visited national park that also has earned the unwelcome distinction of becoming the most polluted national park in America. We can welcome the help of Governor Leavitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency in working with our governor, our federal delegation, and our communities in Tennessee, who are very concerned about this, to help get on a long term path to clear the haze in the Smokies and restore its natural beauty. This will require cooperation among the local, state, and federal governments, industry, and environmental activists. I believe that Governor Leavitt is the person to lead this effort. Governor Leavitt has demonstrated that he can do this by getting collaboration among these groups instead of polarization. As Governor, Mike Leavitt encouraged results-oriented environmental action. I strongly support his views that policy should encourage "outside the box" thinking in solving problems rather than just complying with federal programs. Our environmental problems are complex. They require evaluation of many strategies to achieve our nation's goals. The EPA administrator plays a crucial role in balancing our desire to protect the environment and our desire for jobs and prosperity. I believe we can have good jobs and strong industry, clean air and clean energy. The solutions are not easy and in many cases may require new technology. However, with Governor Leavitt's leadership, I believe we will be able to develop the solutions and partnerships to meet realistic environmental goals. The job of protecting the environment is a difficult one; one in which I take a great personal interest. The President has distinguished himself by making a number of superb appointments. He has made another such nomination, and I look forward to working with him in his role as EPA administration. May I add just a personal note? I was elected governor first in 1978 in Tennessee, and since then I've known more than 200 governors  probably have served with 80 or 100. Only a handful of those governors, some on each side of the aisle, Democratic and Republican, have really only understood the job. They have used that office to set a clear agenda, to develop a strategy to meet the agenda and then to persuade at least half the people that they're right. All three of those things are part of being a good governor. Those governors have transformed their states. Mike Leavitt is one of those governors. Because of that he was elected to be chair of the National Governors' Association. He wouldn't have been elected and wouldn't have succeeded in the job if he hadn't been able to work with both Democratic and Republican governors. He is one of the outstanding state leaders of the last quarter of a century. He has a great sense of balance. He's got an imaginative sense of what is possible, and he's got an excellent ability to persuade half of us he's right, which is a very important part of doing that job. So I am very, very pleased to see him coming to Washington, and I am delighted with President Bush's appointment. And I wanted to be among the first to welcome him here.