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Whitman Resigns From EPA
By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP)--Christie Whitman, often at odds with the Bush White House over
environmental issues and a lightning rod for the administration's critics, resigned
Wednesday as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Whitman said in a letter to President Bush that she was leaving to spend
time with family.
``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, which I love
just as you do your home state of Texas,'' she wrote Bush.
With Whitman's departure as EPA administrator, Bush loses one of the most prominent women
in his Cabinet--a moderate former New Jersey governor selected by the president to help
soften his image as a political conservative, particularly on environmental issues.
Whitman had a history of clashing with the White House, starting with
the president's abrupt decision to withdraw from the Kyoto global warming treaty.
But in an interview on CNN Wednesday, she said, ``I'm not leaving because of clashes with
the administration. In fact, I haven't had any.
He's (Bush) always asked me to give him my best unadultered advice and I have done that.''
``I'm leaving now because it's the appropriate time to do it,'' she said.
With Bush's re-election campaign gearing up, the White House has told senior staff and
Cabinet members that if they are thinking of leaving the administration, this is the time
to resign; otherwise, they will be expected to remain aboard until after the 2004 election
if Bush wins a second term. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer announced Monday
that he will resign in July.
Three White House officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, insisted Whitman was not
forced out, but rather wanted to return home.
Bush will be under pressure to replace Whitman with a nominee who
will acceptable to his GOP supporters without alienating swing voters
who tend to be wary of Republicans on the environment.
Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., who has frequently clashed with the
administration over environmental issues, praised Whitman for her service. ``She brought
grace and leadership to the EPA at a trying time and did the best job she could under very
challenging circumstances,'' he said.
Whitman, a former New Jersey governor, said her resignation is
effective June 27. She met with Bush at the White House on Tuesday
afternoon to inform him of her decision, the agency said.
Whitman, in her letter, defended the administration's environmental
policies which have been under attack by environmentalists as a
series of rollbacks in protecting the nation's air, water and land.
``Our work has been guided by the strong belief that environmental
protection and economic prosperity can and must go hand-in-hand,''
she wrote. ``The EPA has built an enviable record of success that will
result in significant improvements to the state of our nation's
She pointed to initiatives to reduce pollution from off-road diesel
engines, a push to cut pollution from school buses and ``our
aggressive and effective efforts to enforce the nation's environmental
She said she was proud of the EPA work under her leadership.
Whitman, 56, joined the administration after seven years as governor
of New Jersey, where she made preservation a priority but never
managed to convince environmentalists she was one of them.
Critics said that in the name of attracting businesses, she compromised water pollution
protections and cut spending for state offices that prosecute environmental abuses by
industry. Whitman, an avid mountain biker and skier, insisted she retained needed
protections while eliminating red tape.
When the Bush administration took office, Whitman had only the briefest honeymoon. Within
the first three months, she had upset industry executives and conservationists,
disappointed moderates who like her and angered conservatives who don't.
``Christie Whitman must feel like her own long national nightmare is over,'' said Philip
Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, an advocacy group. ``No EPA
administrator has ever been so consistently and publicly humiliated by the White House.''
The conservation group Friends of the Earth wasted little time in urging her to resign,
saying that Bush's decisions on the environment had undermined her credibility. But
Whitman stood steadfastly behind Bush, even when their own disagreements became public.
As she did while New Jersey governor, Whitman frequently hit the road for official as well
as political trips around the country. But she said her goal was to spend weekends, when
possible, back home in New Jersey. ``It's important for my sanity,'' she said.
In the CNN interview, Whitman said she has ``no plans to run for any public office.''
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press.