The Loyalist Leavitt

The AP reports that Bush has selected EPA chief Michael Leavitt to be secretary of Health and Human Services.
Bush praised Leavitt as a "fine executive" and "a man of great compassion." "He's an ideal choice to lead one of the largest departments of the United States government."
What, exactly, makes him such an ideal choice? His tenure in the Bush administration has not been without controversy, and Leavitt sure hasn’t done anything to get them off the EPA’s shitlist.

In fact, when Leavitt was nominated to lead the EPA, there was significant opposition from environmental groups. See the Earthjustice press release, a letter from Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Friends of the Earth, Mineral Policy Center, National Environmental Trust, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group opposing Leavitt’s confirmation to the EPA, a letter from Campaign for America's Wilderness, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, Mineral Policy Center, National Audubon Society, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Refinery Reform Campaign, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 20/20 Vision, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group opposing Leavitt’s nomination, and more can be found here.

Amidst reports of his poor record on the environment are some things that seem to make him a questionable choice, at best, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, whose motto is “Leading America to Better Health, Safety and Well-Being.”

From the Environmental Integrity Project, via Environmental Media Services:
He downplayed toxic releases reported by the mining industry - including releases of the neurotoxin mercury - by saying "in reality it is not pollution" (Deseret News, June 16, 1999; Mineral Policy Center)

He sponsored policy resolutions of the Western Governors' Association in 2000 and 2002 to oppose environmental regulation of the mining industry and to limit public access to information about the mining industry's toxic pollution, respectively (WGA Policy Resolutions 00-13 and 02-19,, Mineral Policy Center).


Under Governor Leavitt, water quality monitoring in Utah [was] well behind the national average for testing streams and rivers for water quality. The vast majority of Utah waters are not even monitored, according to EPA's most recent state water quality report (U.S EPA 2000 Water Quality Report to Congress).


Between 1995 and 2002, Utah's power plants slightly increased their emissions of nitrogen oxide - a pollutant linked to respiratory disease - while the rest of the country decreased such emissions substantially - by 21.8% on average - during the same period (U.S. EPA Toxic Release Inventory 2001).

While Utah has made progress in attaining the one-hour ozone standard, nearly half of the state's population live in a county that has not met clean air health based standards for one or more pollutant, compared to an average of 36.6% nationwide. Utah counties in nonattainment for criteria pollutants include: Particulate Matter (PM)-Ogden, Weber, Salt Lake and Utah counties; Sulfur Dioxide (SOx)-Salt Lake and Tooele counties; Carbon Monoxide (CO)-Provo and Utah counties. (U.S. EPA Green Book Nonattainment Areas for Criteria Pollutants, and Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Air Quality, PDF doc)
Despite his obviously and demonstrably unsuitability for this new position, though, he is viewed by the administration as an ideal candidate.
Leavitt, in the EPA job only a year, quickly won a reputation as a Bush loyalist. He also shares Bush's enthusiasm for technological and market-based approaches to fixing problems.
Right. Because loyalty is the best (and perhaps only requisite) qualification for any job with the Bushies.

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