EPA's Whitman Resigns, Says She's Proud of Accomplishments

May 21, 2003
Yesterday afternoon, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman met with President George W. Bush at the White House and tendered her resignation as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), effective June 27.

"Our work has been guided by the strong belief that environmental protection and economic prosperity can and must go hand-in-hand, that the true measure of the value of any environmental policy is in the environmental results it produces," Whitman wrote in her letter of resignation. " I am pleased that the EPA has built an enviable record of success that will result in significant improvements to the state of our nation's treasured environment."

Citing actions to reduce pollution from nonroad diesel engines, the Clean School Bus USA initiative, EPA's Watershed Initiative, the plan to clean up the Hudson River, the enactment of brownfields legislation and EPA's response to the attacks of Sept. 11, Whitman said she is proud of the agency.

"The people who serve our country as employees of the EPA are as dedicated and as committed a group as can be found in federal service," wrote Whitman. However, she added, "as rewarding as the past two-and-a-half years have been for me professionally, it is time to return to my home and husband in New Jersey."

National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Executive Vice President Michael Baroody says Whitman's "commitment to constructive cooperation and decided move away from counterproductive confrontation" should serve as a model for government regulators everywhere.

"Unlike many regulators who fail to see the forest for the trees, Governor Whitman grasped historys immutable lesson that significant environmental improvements occur only when an economy is vital and growing," adds Baroody.

Members of the environmental lobby were quick to respond to news of Whitman's resignation with, at best, faint praise. Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust says Whitman "must feel like her own long national nightmare is finally over."

He adds, "No EPA administrator has ever been so consistently and publicly humiliated by the White House. Even though Gov. Whitman achieved two important victories cleaning up the PCBs in the Hudson River and starting a process to reduce diesel emissions the White House listened more often to industry lobbyists than to its EPA administrator."

Rodger Schlickeisen, president, Defenders of Wildlife, used Whitman's resignation as an opportunity to attack the Bush administration's environmental policies. Noting Whitman "appears to have occasionally bucked the anti- environmental tide all around her," he adds, "This administration has compiled a horrifying track record, not just ignoring the environment, but aggressively working to undermine decades of laws that protect our air, water, wildlife and land."

NRDC Advocacy Director Gregory Wetstone didn't mince words in his criticism of Whitman and the Bush Administration's environmental policies. It was during Whitman's tenure as EPA administrator, he claims, that the Clean Air Act was undermined; key enforcement officials resigned due to EPA's "lack of commitment" to enforcement; factory farms were given "a free pass" to pollute air and water; the administration opposed initiatives to reduce global warming; the administration moved to reduce the number of waterways protected by the Clean Water Act; and EPA sought to "weaken" the Clean Air Act with the "Clear Skies" initiative.

"As head of the agency charged with protecting the public from pollution, Gov. Whitman presided over a White House-driven effort to undermine crucial environmental laws. Although there have been a few exceptions, Whitman's tenure at EPA has been a disaster for public health and our environment," he complains.

He calls her accomplishments, such as the tough rules on diesel pollution and a decision to clean up the Hudson River, "small steps forward on a train speeding backward."

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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