EPA hearing delayed

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    By Lindsey Stimpson

    Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt”s Senate confirmation hearing scheduled to begin today, Sept. 18., has been postponed.

    “The confirmation hearings have been cancelled for this Thursday [because of the Hurricane],” said Lynne Parrish, spokesperson for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “Things have been really crazy around here, so [the hearings] will most likely be scheduled for sometime next week.”

    Following his presidential nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Leavitt planned to face the Senate Committee for Environment and Public Works today to begin the Senate confirmation process.

    President Bush nominated Leavitt to head the EPA in early August. Since accepting the nomination, Leavitt has been preparing extensively for what insiders expect to be a challenging and intense Senate confirmation hearing.

    Recently, however, the nomination has met increasing challenges. Senator John

    Edwards, D-N.C., is the most recent senator to voice his plans to place a hold on the nomination. Edwards joins Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who said last week that they plan to place a hold on the nomination.

    Placing a hold on a nomination is a procedural move that prevents the Senate from voting on a nominee, but allows the confirmation hearings to take place as scheduled.

    Senators Clinton, Lieberman, and Edwards said they would block the nomination because of concerns regarding an EPA report issued one week after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The report stated that the air near ground zero was safe to breathe. A recent investigation by the Inspector General of the EPA, however, said that White House officials, “convinced the EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones” in the original EPA report following 9/11.

    Although Governor Leavitt was not involved with the EPA in any way around the time of the controversial report, Senator Clinton said she would keep a hold on his nomination until the Bush administration answers her questions to her satisfaction.

    In a letter to President Bush, Senator Clinton called for individual names, “rationale for [the] editorial choices,” and records of “all communication between the White House and the EPA regarding the air quality in downtown New York City.”

    Responding to Clinton”s letter, the acting administrator of the EPA supported the original report, claiming that the agency put out the best information available at the time. The Bush administration defends its decision on the basis of national security concerns.

    Deputy Press Secretary for Senator Clinton, Amy Bonitatibus, said, “Senator Clinton plans to address her concerns with the post-9/11 report in the confirmation hearing [this Thursday].”

    Staff-person for Governor Leavitt”s, Kort Utley would not discuss specific issues or positions that Leavitt plans to address in his hearings. “Governor Leavitt is going to address specific issues [about his positions, views and actions] in the Senate Confirmation Hearings. Out of respect for that [confirmation] process, we”d prefer not to answer questions regarding specific issues until after that.”

    Senator Clinton told the Associated Press that she “holds no personal grudge against Governor Leavitt,” but that she wants “the administration [Leavitt] wants to join to take responsibility.”

    As Governor of Utah, Leavitt established an environmental policy that emphasizes balance. Leavitt”s philosophy, “Enlibra” is a Latin word meaning “moving towards balance.” Co-authored with former Oregon Governor, John Kitzhaber, D-OR., “Enlibra” combines environmental responsibility with economic efficiency.

    The National Governor”s Association adopted the policy. Federal, state, local and private entities also incorporate the policy to accelerate environmental progress.

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