Leavitt Sworn In As EPA Chief

Nov. 6, 2003
Saying there are two words balance and stewardship at the heart of his environmental policy, former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt was sworn in Nov. 6 as the 10th administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Leavitt, who immediately began a vigorous schedule of meetings with agency staff and management, pledged to seek collaboration in the application of a "balanced set of environmental principles" to protect the nation's environment.

He might have quite a fight on his hands, starting with his boss, President George W. Bush.

Earlier this week, lawyers at EPA told the New York Times that because of changes to the Clean Air Act set to take effect next month, the agency will drop investigations into 50 power plants for past violations. More stringent rules were in place when the investigations began. For more information about the changes to the New Source Review Program, see "EPA Opens Can of Worms With New Source Review Rule Changes."

According to one source at EPA, changes in the New Source Review Program, and the decision to drop the investigations, could mean that the utilities could avoid making as much as $20 billion in pollution-control upgrades. The change in the program says that as much as 20 percent of the cost of replacing a utility's essential production equipment can be spent and the owner will still be exempt from installing any pollution controls.

Since several states and environmental groups have vowed to file lawsuits over the changes, Leavitt might have signed up for more than he bargained for. But, say friends and foes, if anyone can walk the narrow line drawn between the Bush administration and environmentalists, it's Leavitt.

Prior to leading the agency, Leavitt served as Utah's 14th governor and was a national leader on homeland security, welfare reform and environmental management. Six times during his administration, independent public policy analysts ranked Utah among the best-managed states in the nation.

As a pioneer of collaborative environmental management, Leavitt helped clean up the air over the Grand Canyon. He served as vice-chair of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission and co-chair of the Western Regional Air Partnership. These efforts resulted in 70 recommendations to improve visibility on the Colorado Plateau and a regulatory commitment and strategies to dramatically reduce sulfur dioxide levels in 13 states.

Leavitt also led his state during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the most environmentally sensitive games ever. Organizers achieved net zero air emissions, zero waste and full compliance with all safety and environmental regulations. One-hundred-thousand trees were planted as a lasting legacy of the environmental accomplishments.

As a thought leader on environmental management, Leavitt co-authored, with former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a balanced environmental philosophy known as Enlibra. Enlibra, derived from Latin roots, means "moving toward balance" and emphasizes collaboration over confrontation.

Leavitt's goals for EPA are: to leave things better than he found them; to plant seeds for the next generation; and to give it all he has.

Born Feb. 11, 1951, in Cedar City, Utah, Leavitt graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and business from Southern Utah University. After earning his degree, he eventually became president and CEO of a regional insurance firm, establishing it as one of the top insurance brokers in America. He is married to Jacalyn S. Leavitt; they are the parents of five children.

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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