The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

Privacy Policy  

Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Mike Leavitt

June 14, 2004

Mike Leavitt
Hello, this is Mike Leavitt. I'm delighted to join you on "Ask the White House." Today I am in Ann Arbor, Michigan meeting with Governor Granholm and state and local elected officials to discuss the Great Lakes. I have also just presented a Clean School Bus Grant to the Ann Arbor Public School District, and tomorrow will announce nearly $76 million in grants to restore brownfields in our country to useable land. So . . . we have many things to talk about. Let's get started with the first question.

Bill, from NoVa writes:
Are you doing anything more about so-called brownfield sites?

Mike Leavitt
I’m so glad you asked. In 2002, President Bush signed bipartisan legislation to accelerate the cleanup of brownfields in our country. Tomorrow I will be announcing nearly $76 million in grants to 260 communities in 43 states. These grants will help turn eyesores into retail stores, fenced lots into future housing, brownfields into ballfields.

Check out the EPA website – – tomorrow for more details.

Mike, from Milwaukee, WI writes:
Why is the EPA and the Bush administration sitting by while the MMSD (Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District) is allowed to dump billions of gallons of raw sewage into Lake Michigan? There are many people in Milwaukee afraid to let their children swim in Lake Michigan now due to these horrific acts.

Mike Leavitt
I will be in Milwaukee tomorrow. I too am very concerned about sewage discharges into Lake Michigan. The overflows are unacceptable and Milwaukee needs to solve this problem. The solution will require money and time. We will continue to monitor the situation and enforce the law where violations have occurred.

Bruce, from Chicago writes:
Chicago's air quality violates federal air quality for both ozone and fine particle pollution. This is a really big deal for the 500,000 Chicago-area residents suffering from asthma. A significant portion of this problem comes from aging coal-burning power plants. For example, a 2001 study by

the Harvard School of public health determined that the nine aging coal-burning power plants in and around Chicago caused 315 premature deaths and 21,000 asthma attacks annually. Seven of these power plants were under active investigation for New Source Review violations by your

agency until November 2003 when the investigation abruptly stopped -- even before you received all of the company's records. Can you please tell me why your agency has stopped enforcing clean air protections?


Mike Leavitt
Bruce, we are making dramatic improvements in air quality in this country. Last year, ozone levels were at record lows and our progress continues. In April we implemented new, more protective ozone standards. In May we implemented the cleanest diesel standards on the planet. The black puff of diesel smoke we become a thing of the past. We are on track to implement the new standards for fine particle pollution by the end of the year. And the President has proposed Clear Skies legislation that will reduce emissions of SO2 and NOx from coal-fired power plants by approximately 70%. Congress has not acted and so we are proceeding with a Clean Air Interstate Rule that achieves similar air quality improvements. I challenge you to take a closer look at Bush Administration’s clean air accomplishments.

Willie, from Sacramento, CA writes:
Air Pollution. The portion generated by vehicles, according to recent reports, appears to come more from diesels (on-road and off-road)than from gasoline powered cars and light trucks. When will controls be placed on these dirty diesel engines?

Mike Leavitt
Willie, boy do I have good news for you … Last month we completed our Clean Diesel Suite of air quality improvements. All types of diesel engines – big trucks, bull dozers, automobiles, trains and tug boats – are making the conversion to clean fuel and clean engines. It is a clean air success story we can all be proud of.

Janie, from Key West writes:
Did you see the movie Day After Tomorrow? If you did, what did you think of it?

Mike Leavitt
Janie, I’m not a film critic and I don’t write movie reviews. I will tell you that at the Environmental Protection Agency we take climate change seriously. The Bush Administration has adopted a national goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18% over 10 years.

I will be speaking on Wednesday to the American Meteorological Society about an exciting initiative called GEOSS – Global Earth Observation System of Systems. It is an international effort to link the earth’s monitoring systems. The Bush Administration is a leading contributor. You can find out more by checking out the EPA website. That’s

Sick, from Maryland writes:
My yard is full of hundreds of dead and dying cicadas. They are really starting to stink, especially with all the rain we've been getting. I would like to know if they pose any kind of environmental danger or threat to humans or animals.

Mike Leavitt
Are those things ugly or what? It's actually been a fascinating phenomenon. Like most people I've been reading articles on it. These flying insects spend most of their life underground and during the spring of the 13th or 17th year, depending on the species, emerge from the ground. They are not poisonous and will soon be gone. I’m told that their decomposition is part of a natural cycle and poses no threats to human or animal health. Isn't nature remarkable?

Ben, from Jackson, TN writes:
What's it like being a Cabinet level member vs. being a Governor?

Mike Leavitt
I enjoyed being governor and I worried that I would miss it, but I haven't had time to miss anything. The issues at the EPA are interesting and complex. It is an agency full of devoted people who care passionately about the environment. As governor protecting the environment was part of my job, it has been a pleasant experience to devote myself to that task full time. I do miss my occasionally front row seat at the Utah Jazz games.

Jackie, from Illinois writes:
Why did President Bush dismantle the Superfund program? All Superfund cleanups in 2005 will be paid for by the taxpayers instead of by the guilty parties.

Mike Leavitt
Jackie, let me explain something that is commonly misunderstood. The Bush Administration supports and enforces the polluter pays principle. Where a polluter is identified that can pay, they pay. Over time about 70 percent of Superfund sites are cleaned up by the polluters without government funding. Other sites are cleaned up by EPA and in many instances the costs are later recovered. What is left are sites where the government cannot find a viable party responsible for pollution. In these limited cases we prioritize funding and rely on general tax revenues to assure protection of public health.

Andrew, from Arlington writes:
Hello, I was wondering where your views were in terms of the criminal side of enforcement of environmental statutes? Especially in light of "corporate accountability" and holding individuals accountable for corporate wrongdoing. Thanks, and keep up the good and selfless work of serving the public.

Mike Leavitt
Our primary objective is compliance. However, if people evade the law, we will bring the full force and strength of the agency to bear in assurance that federal standards are met. We have a strong and active criminal enforcement program that works to complement our civil enforcement.

Bill, from Maine writes:
Why did President Bush weaken New Source regulations? Statistics released by the Clean Air Task Force noted that the 51 power plants subject to New Source Review enforcement helped to cause the premature deaths of 5,500 to 9,000 people each year, many from respiratory diseases.

Mike Leavitt
The President has proposed a 70% reduction in pollution from power plants. His strategy is to require all power plants to clean up rather than litigating for decades during which nothing happens to clean the air. When combined with our improved New Source Review rules this will be one of the most productive periods of air quality improvement in our nation's history.

Curtis, from Washington, D.C. writes:
What creates the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico? What is EPA doing to manage this problem?

Mike Leavitt
Curtis, I just finished reading a book called Bayou Farewell. It's an excellent description of the problem and postures possible solutions. It's a complex combination of changes that result from our management of the Mississippi River drainage, the oil and gas infrastructe and several other things. The President has told me personally of his concern about this and recently has instructed all federal agencies to begin working toward solutions.

Pedro, from Brazil writes:
How does the USA try to reduce the emission of CO2 and other green-hose gases in relation to new technologies of clean energy?

Mike Leavitt
The United States has an active climate change program including research and development of new energy efficient technologies, as well as partnerships to reduce CO2 emissions from a number of sectors. The President has proposed a bold new vision for a hydrogen economy, and formed an international partnership with other countries to advance this vision. Here at EPA, we are developing advanced technologies with industry partners including Ford, International Truck, and Eaton to bring to market clean diesel and unique hydraulic hybrid vehicles.

William, from Denver writes:
What is President Bush doing to help the Great Lakes?


Mike Leavitt
Last month, the President issued an executive order that directs the Administrator of the EPA to head a federal task force designed to coordinate over 140 federal programs. This week I am in the Great Lakes region meeting with Governors, local officials and other stakeholders to discuss a regional collaboration of national significance that is also mentioned in the Presidents order. The idea is to use the money currently being spent better and to develop an agreed upon future plan among the states, federal agencies, local governments, NGOs, Tribal nations and our Canadian neighbors. The President also recommended a record amount in his budget to deal with a group of specific problems.

Mike Leavitt
Our time passed quickly. Thanks for your questions. Tomorrow I will be in Milwaukee and Chicago to meet with local elected leaders and stakeholders about President Bush's charge to improve water quality in the Great Lakes. I look forward to more interaction with you as we continue to make environmental progress in this country.

Return to this article at:

Click to print this document