Bush To Select Whitman To Head EPA

Updated 9:25 AM ET December 22, 2000

By SCOTT LINDLAW, Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - George W. Bush has selected New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman to head the Environmental Protection Agency, choosing a passionate outdoorswoman to safeguard the nation's land, air and water, officials said.

In his presidential campaign, Bush faced criticism from Democrats and some conservationists for his stewardship of the environment in Texas, where he had been governor since 1995 until his resignation Thursday. Environmentalists argued he didn't fight pollution aggressively enough; During his second term, Houston became the nation's smoggiest city. Indeed, the EPA itself intends to review clean-air plans the state was forced to submit earlier this month because of persistent smog.

Bush contended the state's air improved on his watch, and said he was behind major air-quality improvement initiatives.

Whitman, 54 and a Republican, championed open-space preservation in New Jersey and refused to abandon an unpopular auto emissions test designed to reduce air pollution.

Critics said that to attract businesses, she compromised water pollution protections and cut spending for state offices that prosecute environmental abuses by industry.

Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said Whitman has a "mixed record on the environment, but on balance we believe the Sierra Club could work with her."

As head of an agency created by President Nixon 30 years ago, Whitman would have to decide whether to pursue Clinton administration environmental initiatives.

For instance, the EPA currently is seeking substantial new pollution controls on coal-fired power plants in the Midwest that pollute the Northeast. She has supported the EPA position.

Of great importance to the water industry, Gov. Whitman has been a national leader in advocating and simplifying privatization of water systems. New Jersey, in the Whitman administration has had the most aggressive program of legislative review and changes to permit the growth of contract operations and concession fee payments.

Further, many US private firms have headquarters in New Jersey, including American Water Works, United Water and Ogden Water with others such as U.S. Water, founded in New Jersey, and OMI having large staff facilities and projects in New Jersey.